Vertrail Vaughns (11) drives against James Madison in their win on Feb. 12, putting 12 points on the board. Photo by: Peter Flint

The last time I wrote a breakdown, the George Mason University men’s basketball team was coming off a huge Homecoming win. How things have changed since then. The national media attention has grown with mentions on ESPN. The Patriots have the nation’s largest consecutive win streak. Articles appear in The Washington Post and The Washington Times more than weekly, and more respect is seen in the Associated Press and Coaches’ Polls.

Finishing another week of winning, the Patriots went into Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond with intentions of winning their first game there since the 2005-06 season. The Old Dominion Monarchs were just coming off an 11-point win at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Patriots one-upped ODU with a 20-point beat down of the Rams. After both losses, VCU dropped into a share for second place in the Colonial Athletic Conference with ODU and Hofstra University. With all the recent negatives the Rams have undergone, they still have a team that will be dangerous in the CAA tournament and possibly but, not very likely, the NCAA tournament.

VCU’s frontcourt is strong, providing for the team’s top two leading scorers. Senior forward Jamie Skeen leads the Rams with 14.6 points per game, rebounds at 7.7 per game and leads the VCU starters with a 52.8 percent field goal percentage. Skeen, at 6-foot-9 is also a defensive presence in the paint leading the team in blocks (31) and rebounds (207). Junior forward Bradford Burgess has been a key contributor for the Rams this season as well, averaging 13.8 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game. Burgess is also second on the team in 3-point percentage at 38.7% from behind the arc.

The backcourt includes talented guards, senior Joey Rodriguez, senior Ed Nixon, and freshman Rob Brandenberg, who have each started every game of the season together. Rodriguez is always a threat from deep range, averaging 36 percent with 150 attempts, leading the team in that category. Averaging 10.7 and leading the team in assists (124), he can score from nearly anywhere on the floor and can drive in similarity to Villanova’s former point guard and Herndon native, Scottie Reynolds.

Nixon averages 7.6 points per game as a starter and is one of the Rams’ primary defenders. His best performance of the year came in a loss to the Tennessee Volunteers at the beginning of the season in which he scored 16 points. He later tied that mark with another 16-point performance against UNCW. Brandenberg has been a solid addition to the Rams in this his first year in Richmond. He had a career night against William & Mary, scoring 22 points while shooting 50 percent from three. He would later match that with a 23-point performance against Georgia State.

Only two weeks until the CAA tournament tips off in Richmond and still nothing is settled in conference play. One thing’s for sure. The CAA has made great strides as a conference and has received higher recognition in recent years.

The talent at the top of the CAA should make for a competitive tournament as usual. Don’t miss next week’s breakdown of the George Mason Patriots and their run at creating more madness this March.