Around the CAA – Conference Tournament Edition

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As we enter the Madness of March, our eyes turn and look from Boston to Charleston for a leader.  Which team will represent the CAA and give the conference a chance for a nice paycheck?  Here’s where they stand:

Drexel – Injuries to Miles Overton and Kari Jonsson have limited a team that the coaching staff had already accused of lacking depth.  Truth be told, while the offense looked good enough to contend with the top of the league, the defense has been sorely lacking even with those guys.  It’s too much, too soon to ask for anything beyond a Friday win out of this Drexel team.  The staff has shown the ability to develop a big man with Austin Williams this year, and has two 4-year starters at the guard position.  A foundation was built in Philadelphia this year.

Upside:  Playing on Saturday

Delaware – Credit needs to be given to Martin Inglesby as he has taken the least talented – by far – team in the league and managed to avoid last place.  Up to this point of the season, he’s shown himself to be the best on-the-court coach of the freshman coaches – and his strength should actually be recruiting.  It’s a great sign for the future.  In the present, Ryan Daly is a great hustle kid who gets after it, but he doesn’t have the game to be the centerpiece of a D-I team.  And he is by far the best player on this patchwork squad.
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Upside:  They got to go to Charleston, and Charleston isn’t in Delaware

Hofstra – Very similar to Drexel, this team became very short when the injury bug bit midseason as they lost Eli Pemberton for a game and a half and key piece Rokas Gustys missed four contests.  Healthy now, the problem is a defense that ranks 305th in efficiency.  Joe Mihalich may not like worrying about his defense, but with the unforgiving baskets in the North Charleston Coliseum his team is unlikely to be able to turn games into shootouts.  His two senior guards and all conference level forward should be able to get the Pride past a weak Friday night opponent, but when they square off against UNCW in Round 2?  That’s a much tougher ask.

Upside:  Playing on Saturday

James Madison – It’s tough to knock out a senior laden team in this tournament, and they got the opponent that they wanted for Friday.  Louis Rowe has pressured the Dragons in both contest and Drexel’s guards were unable to respond.  He’ll be going to that well again with a more experienced, deeper team than his opponent.  Not a bad combination for this time of year.  If they make Saturday they’ll face off against a young Charleston team that could be looking past them.  It’s a stretch, but…

Upside:  Playing on Sunday

Northeastern – It’s been six seasons since one of Bill Coen’s squads didn’t win at least one game in the CAA Tournament.  While injuries have beaten up a Huskies team that was short in experience to begin with, Now missing Devon Begley as well as Jeremy Miller, TJ Williams will have an awful lot of weight on his shoulders.  Look for a rockfight on Saturday against a Towson team that wants to play that game, and trouble is on the horizon for Bill Coen’s streak.

Upside:  Playing on Sunday

William and Mary – Coach Shaver has had quite a run in the tourney and he may enter this game with the strongest pair of seniors in the conference: Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon.  Dixon has shown the ability to have one of those games, taking over the floor and willing an opponent away.  And while he has had his moments in the CAA Tournament, he’s never had one of those games in March.  It’s his last chance, and no team wants to be the team standing in his way.  The supporting cast hasn’t been good enough this season has not translated defensively.  Still, in an arena known for being hard on shooters, this team got the draw that they wanted with an Elon team that shoots from distance as much as the Sons of Shaver.

Upside:  Playing on Monday

Elon – The best, least talked about team in the CAA.  Matt Matheny isn’t doing it overnight, but he is methodically fielding a team that seems to do slightly better each year.  Seemingly without notice the Phoenix have played much better defense this year than in years past, and it has made all the difference.  No longer do they live and die with the outside shot.  Still, the young Elon team has to face off with two stud seniors in their first game.  It almost seems unfair.  Seibring, Santa Ana and Dawkins are an exciting core to bring back next year and the process will continue – trust it.

Upside:  Playing on Monday

Towson – Pat Skerry’s squad has done this run without a superstar.  Arnaud William Adala Moto has taken a step back, Mike Morsell took a midseason benching to heart, and the supporting cast seems to just be there to beat you up.  They run into a couple problems here:  John Davis was quietly their best player and he was lost due to a gunshot to the knee that he received after staying in Philadelphia following their game at Drexel.  Additionally, physical, beat-each-other-up teams have never fared particularly well in the CAA Tournament. Just ask Bruiser Flint.  The model is flawed.

Upside:  Playing on Sunday

College of Charleston – The home team does three things well:  Defend, penetrate, and take care of the basketball.  If they only do two of the three well on a given night they may be beaten by a good opposing effort.  If they do all three…  good luck.  With the fans behind them* they are a heavy favorite to be playing on Monday night, and with a Friday night opponent in the first round and an opponent that has sustained injuries in the second only a fool would bet against that.  Still, low and slow beat-you-up basketball, similar to Towson, ins’t a great model come tourney time.  They can’t overlook their Saturday opponent.

Upside:  Playing on Monday

UNCW – The champ is here.  This year teams will certainly need to beat this worthy champ to be the champ.  The only CAA team in the league who is in the top 64 nationally per Kenpom.com may put as many as four players on the All Conference Teams.  They can score on anyone in any way, from NBA-range threes to putbacks.  They have depth.  They pressure, and they also take care of the ball.  What they don’t do is defend well enough to overcome a bad shooting night.  This 24-5 team is just 5-4 when shooting under 30% from distance.  They are going to know very quickly if the North Charleston Coliseum is as tough to shoot in as the locals say it is.  Things may get dicey.

Upside:  Playing on Monday

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