JMU guard Kamiah Smalls drives up the court in a game earlier this season.

With less than a month until the CAA tournament, it’s time to check in on the conference standings. A clear top tier is beginning to form as JMU continues to separate from its peers. Here are the updated CAA power rankings with nine games to go in the regular season.

1. JMU (19-4, 11-1 CAA), previously No. 1

JMU entered the season as the preseason favorite to win the conference title, which is looking more and more likely by the week. The Dukes cruised by Hofstra on Sunday, smacked the College of Charleston 76-35 on Friday and will face UNCW at home Sunday. As the season goes along, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on head coach Sean O’Regan’s rotations to see which role players emerge with larger roles and which take a backseat.

2. Drexel (16-5, 8-2 CAA), previously No. 2

The Dragons have won eight games in a row thanks to the conference’s best defense in points allowed per game (48.1). Drexel thrives off its stingy defense and doesn’t lose to bad teams —  four of their five losses are to teams that are currently leading their respective conferences. Its two CAA losses are to Towson and JMU, the second and third-best scoring offenses in the conference, respectively. The Dragons topped Delaware 58-41 on Sunday and will be big favorites over Hofstra and Northeastern this week.

3. UNCW (15-7, 8-3 CAA), previously No. 4

The Seahawks have won four in a row and appear to be entrenched in the top half of the conference after a rocky start. UNCW is fourth in the CAA in point differential (+4.7), points per game (67.5) and points allowed per game (62.9). Head coach Karen Barefoot’s team plays Towson in a pivotal game on Friday before taking on JMU on Sunday. With a win over the Tigers, the Seahawks can improve their seeding ahead of the upcoming conference tournament.

4. Northeastern (15-7, 5-6 CAA), previously No. 5

Northeastern is the biggest wild card in the CAA this season. The next few weeks will reveal whether the real Huskies are the team that got off to a blistering 12-1 start with the third-best point differential in the CAA (+5.4) or the team that’s 3-6 since. Northeastern has been blown out by JMU and gave Hofstra its only CAA win thus far, but took Drexel down to the wire and knocked off Towson. The Huskies face Delaware on Friday and Drexel on Sunday in games that should reveal whether Northeastern is a contender or pretender.

5. Towson (13-9, 7-4 CAA), previously No. 3

Towson appears to be closer to the middle of the pack than conference contention after a discouraging 77-68 loss to Northeastern on Sunday. The Tigers are 2-4 in their past six games after jumping out to a 5-0 start in CAA play. As noted in previous weeks, Towson’s average point differential (tied for fifth in the CAA at +0.1) suggests this team might not be ready for a serious run at the conference title. Towson has a chance to regain momentum with games this week against UNCW and the College of Charleston.

6. Delaware (10-12, 5-5 CAA), previously No. 7

Delaware’s second 17-point loss to Drexel in less than a month came Sunday and snapped a four-game winning streak. The Blue Hens are out of the CAA cellar, but as the pair of games against the Dragons would suggest, this team isn’t a contender to win the conference, though Delaware hosts this year’s CAA tournament. A pair of home games against Northeastern and Hofstra gives the Blue Hens a chance to continue their ascent to .500 overall and a winning in-conference record.

7. William & Mary (11-11, 4-7 CAA), previously No. 6

William & Mary continued its slide and has dropped its past four games after a promising start to CAA play. The Tribe ranks sixth in the conference in points per game (63.9) and seventh in points allowed per game (63.8), and appears to be headed for a first-round CAA tournament game as one of the bottom four seeds in the conference. William & Mary plays Elon on Sunday in a game that could determine postseason seeding.

8. Elon (8-14, 3-8 CAA), previously No. 8

Elon picked up its biggest CAA win of the year Sunday as it romped the College of Charleston 72-52. The Phoenix snapped a seven-game losing streak but are still a long ways off from the team that won the CAA tournament last season. It’ll be an uphill climb for the Phoenix to avoid a first-round game, but a win against William & Mary would be a step toward doing so.

9. College of Charleston (7-16, 3-9 CAA), previously No. 9

The College of Charleston picked up a much-needed 79-77 win over William & Mary on Friday before falling to one of the worst teams in the conference by 20 in its loss to Elon on Sunday. With a win, the Cougars would’ve put themselves in position to get back into the conference mix. Instead, it will be difficult for the College of Charleston to claw out of the bottom of the CAA. The Cougars were blown out by JMU by 41 on Friday and face a tough opponent Towson on Sunday and will likely be in a similar position in the power rankings this time next week.

10. Hofstra (7-16, 1-10 CAA), previously No. 10

Hofstra is firmly entrenched at the bottom of the CAA at two games back of ninth place with seven games to go in the regular season. The Pride have lost four in a row and are getting outscored by a CAA-worst 7.3 points per game. It’s unlikely Hofstra will top Drexel on Friday and Delaware on Sunday, so the Pride could still be at the bottom in next week’s power rankings.

Contact James Faris at farisja@dukes.jmu.edu. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

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