With conference play set to begin, Virginia has established itself as the class of the Atlantic 11, a bimonthly reader poll of the top 11 men’s basketball teams from among the 27 Division I men’s basketball programs in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The Cavaliers are 10-1, including a pair of true road wins, after their comeback victory at Cal last week and are ranked third in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings.
Virginia received 26 of 28 first-place votes to retain its stranglehold on the top spot in this week’s Atlantic 11 poll, which featured fewer voters than usual on account of the holiday. Maryland, which went 12-1 during its pillow-soft nonconference schedule, received one first-place vote and is second, followed by Virginia Tech, VCU and Georgetown.
A winner of nine straight, George Mason remains in the sixth position after receiving one first-place vote, which I’ll allow, at least until Dave Paulsen’s bunch loses again.
To the pith, which includes six variations of the same Grayson Allen joke . . .
1. Virginia (10-1) 278 points (26 first-place votes) | Previous: 1
Next: Wednesday at No. 6 Louisville, Saturday at No. 20 Florida State.
Voting U-Va. No. 1 in the poll is becoming as commonplace as Redskins fans rooting for Dallas. (Chris Olson)
The Cavaliers traveled back three time zones — and, given the game’s low scoring — about seven decades to play Cal. (Michael Freeman)
Who would have thought that the ACC would have two of the top-5 teams in the Atlantic 11 entering conference play? (Jordan Tobin)
Good thing London Perrantes’s old high school teammates drove from L.A. to Berkeley for the U-Va. away game because Tony Bennett was about one missed Marial Shayok three-pointer from asking them to suit up. (Kate Gaziano)
My New Year’s resolution is to have a hairstyle as amazing as the average Virginia basketball player. (Sean McLernon)
The Cavs are hoping their ACC opener is a Finger Lickin’ Good Time at the KFC Yum! Center as they face Louisville on Wednesday. (Brian Hoysa)
2. Maryland (12-1) 232 points (1) | Previous: 2
Next: Tuesday vs. Illinois, Sunday vs. Nebraska.
Maryland hoping that Big Ten basketball is a little softer than Big Ten football. (Mike Doughten)
The Terps are off to a quick 12-1 start, which is a bold move when you think about how their nickname is closely associated with the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race strategy. (Sean McLernon)
Coach Turgeon’s son plays at Gonzaga College High School, which probably could have beaten recent Terps opponents St. Peters, Howard and Jacksonville State. (Chris Olson)
Time for Maryland to lay off the cupcakes and step up to full blown triple-layer chocolate cake. (James Schneider)
You know you have a cupcake schedule when you schedule schools that have state in the name, but aren’t actually state schools. (Jared Kotler)
Will Mark Turgeon’s 12 Scheduled Cupcakes of Christmas become a College Park holiday staple? (Michael Freeman)
The new year is coming and that means traditional rivalry matches against Illinois and Nebraska. (Paul Frampton)
3. Virginia Tech (10-1) 218 points | Previous: 3
Next: Wednesday vs. UMBC, Saturday vs. No. 5 Duke.
Virginia Tech is surprisingly dangerous after jumping to a 10-1 start, which means Duke’s Grayson Allen is hurriedly teaching his teammates his “legwork” for their upcoming game against the Hokies. (Kate Gaziano)
The Hokies usually struggle when conference play begins, but luckily for them, Grayson Allen won’t be on hand to trip them up. (Michael Freeman)
Virginia Tech with an impressive 10-1 nonconference schedule. Here’s hoping they don’t trip over their first ACC opponent in Grayson Allen and Duke. (Jared Kotler)
The Hokies winning 10 of their first 11 games is almost as impressive as coach Buzz Williams’s new Twitter avatar with him and Santa Claus. (Sean McLernon)
Suspension may mean they get a kick out of upcoming home game against Duke. (Paul Frampton)
Hokies open the ACC season against Duke on Saturday. Better break out those soccer shin guards, boys, Grayson Allen might be on the loose. (Chris Olson)
Look for the Hokies to roll on New Year’s Eve when Duke takes a TRIP to Blacksburg with Grayson Allen finally disciplined on the bench. (Brian Hoysa)
4. VCU (9-3) 186 points | Previous: 4
Next: Tuesday vs. Howard, Friday at George Mason.
Rams all-time leading scorer Eric Maynor is being inducted into the VCU Hall of Fame. He already has a place in my heart for what he did to Duke that one time. (Chris Olson)
Wins over Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe should prepare them for upcoming A11 games against Howard and George Mason. (Paul Frampton)
5. Georgetown (8-4) 172 points | Previous: 5
Next: Wednesday at Marquette, Saturday vs. No. 17 Xavier.
At Georgetown, throwback games don’t refer to vintage jerseys, but rather Jim Boeheim’s anguished sideline face. (Michael Freeman)
The Hoyas have won six games in a row, which is as sure a sign as any that it is December and not March. (Sean McLernon)
Don’t look now, but the Hoyas have won six in a row and their 6-foot-10 center is bombing threes. (Chris Olson)
Nothing like an old fashioned Big East battle between Syracuse and Georgetown. Good thing they broke up the league to give us iconic matchups like Georgetown-Creighton instead. (Jared Kotler)
6. George Mason (10-3) 126 points (1) | Previous: 6
Next: Friday vs. VCU.
We’ve gone through almost half the season and I still can’t tell if George Mason is good. (Jared Kotler)
The winning streak reaches nine and this is the hottest Patriots team since Tom Brady discovered the air needle. (Michael Freeman)
The only Mason who is on a bigger winning streak this season is my mother-in-law’s Airedale “Mason,” who pulled the ham off the table on Christmas Day without anyone noticing. (Chris Olson)
George Mason may not have beaten anyone who will make the NIT, but they’ve won nine straight, and that’s more than good enough for the bottom half of the A11. (Kate Gaziano)
7. Old Dominion (7-4) 100 points | Previous: 8
Next: Thursday vs. William & Mary, Saturday vs. Rice.
The football team was in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The basketball team’s next road trip is to Huntington, W. Va., where there aren’t even Popeyes restaurants. (Chris Olson)
William & Mary challenge the Monarchs on Thursday evening. New PBS drama or local college basketball matchup? (Brian Hoysa)
The Stith Brothers have the chemistry of a Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly collaboration, except with more athletic talent and fewer fart jokes. (Sean McLernon)
Ye Olde Rivalrey Time when the Tribe come to visit the Monarchs. (Paul Frampton)
Monarchs took their Atlantic 11 turn at beating Howard, which is tied for second in the MEAC with a 3-9 nonconference record. (James Schneider)
8. George Washington (8-5) 94 points | Previous: 7
Next: Friday at Saint Joseph’s.
Colonials fell to the Hurricanes in what was sure to be — thanks to global warming — the team’s last-ever trip to Miami. (Chris Olson)
The GW basketball team caught up with the rest of their peers who spend winter break in Miami and come back feeling pretty beat up. (Jared Kotler)
9. Towson (8-5) 36 points | Previous: NR
Next: Saturday vs. UNC-Wilmington.
Fun fact I learned this week: Mike Morsell is a star basketball player for Towson and not, as I assumed, the name of an adorable child character in a Charles Dickens novel. (Sean McLernon)
Mike Morsell had a tasty 19 points in the win over Iona in Las Vegas. (Chris Olson)
10. Richmond (6-6) 29 points | Previous: 9
Next: Saturday at Davidson.
Richmond hasn’t won two in a row in over a month. The last time an arachnid acted this erratically was in that really bad “Spider Man 2.” (Michael Freeman)
It seems silly to use this space for pith during a week in which Richmond forward Grant Golden collapsed during a game and underwent a cardiac ablation procedure to deal with an accelerated heart rate. Here’s wishing Grant a full recovery and a speedy return to the court. (Sean McLernon) (Golden is set to reunite with the Spiders on Wednesday.)
11. UMBC (9-3) 22 points | Previous: 10
Next: Wednesday at Virginia Tech.
Their last three games have included two one-point decisions and a double-overtime win, but Cardiac Retrievers sounds like the worst-ever dog breed. (Michael Freeman)
Nothing says a bump in TV ratings like a double overtime game between UMBC and The Citadel! (Jared Kotler)
Had I known UMBC’s mascot was a retriever named True Grit, I’d have given them some votes back in November. (Brian Hoysa)
The double-overtime Citadel vs. UMBC game was the greatest dog mascot vs. dog mascot matchup since the March 2015 Butler vs. Georgetown game. (Kate Gaziano)
Huge “local” tilt against Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Don’t worry if you can’t drive the 300 miles to get to Blacksburg. The games are broadcast on D.C. radio stations for some reason. (Chris Olson)
Dropped out: William & Mary
Also receiving votes: William & Mary 15, American 7, Hampton 5, JMU 4, Loyola 3, Mount St. Mary’s 3, Navy 2, Howard 1, UMES 1.