And we’re back for the sixth edition of the suds themed, swashbuckling CAA preview. As always it’s belated, but since Drexel is waiting until halfway thru the season to giveaway schedule magnets, at least we’re not the most belated thing in town. Comments are welcomed below. Here’s to a good and healthy season this year for all CAA players and teams from states 2 thru 49.
College of Charleston – The Alchemist Pub & Brewery – Heady Topper – Want to be picked number 1? First, play in the championship game the year prior, and don’t lose any significant players. Then, have the other team in that game get completely gutted. The Cougars are experienced, can score from inside and out and can defend. By far they are the most complete team in the conference, and the easy pick to be the CAA favorite.
Potential trouble games: @Drexel Jan 5, Elon Feb 22
Towson – Burley Oak Brewing company – Bulletproof Tiger – The number two spot is up for grabs. It’s tough to trust any of Towson, Northeastern, Hofstra, W&M or Elon which would seem to be the group of candidates. We look to the Baltimore area at the top of that mix. The returning third place team in the Colonial lost a lot by way of John Davis and Arnaud Adala Moto to graduation. However, the maintain their record as the most motivated, physical and defensive team in the league aside from perhaps C of C. Zane Martin has shown great progress from his freshman to sophomore year and the inconsistent Mike Morsell can single-handedly win games when he’s on. Add to that 4 seniors getting significant minutes, and in a lukewarm CAA, that may be enough to break into the top 2.
Potential trouble games: @W&M Jan 13, @Drexel Feb 8
Elon – Long Trail Brewing Company – Triple Bag – Since their entrance into the CAA in 2014, Elon’s conference record has been: 6-12, 7-11 and then 10-8. Related, but not, here’s their national rankings in percentage of shots taken from three: 110, 23, 11. This year they are second. They don’t even shoot the three well, but good Lord will they take them. Matt Matheny has a philosophy and a culture and he’s deployed it. Their growth as a program looks to continue this season, one year prior to opening up a new arena down at Elon. If buying CAA stock, investing in Elon may be a year late, but still a good buy. They’ve overcome the loss of point guard Luke Eddy nicely and next year will likely be in the conversation for that top spot.
Potential trouble games: @ Hofstra Jan 7, @ W&M Feb 1
William and Mary – 10 Barrel Brewing – Night Ryed’r – Razor’s edge separates W&M and Northeastern. Two reasons to choose Shaver’s crew: A senior point guard, and a top 10 in the country effective field goal percentage. Pick something and do it well. It works in basketball as well as it works for ones career. Tony Shaver picked shooting, and despite losing CAA superstars in Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon (along with Whitman, and Malinowski) the bombing just continues. With the ball in the hands of David Cohn, who is perhaps the most underrated player in the CAA, he has 4 passing options out there with him at times: Three guys who shoot 40% or better from deep and big man sophomore Nathan Knight who likely would be the starter even if Whitman and Malinoski had stayed. He’s a player who is going to haunt CAA coaches for years to come. Living by the three will cost this team a game or two it should win, and lack of defense keeps them from being picked higher, but no coach is looking forward to the Tribe coming up on the schedule right now. They can beat anyone on any night.
Potential trouble games: @ UNCW Jan 27, vs Charleston Feb 24
Northeastern – Trillium – Upper Case – This beer works out perfectly for the team. Boston’s finest brewery (apologies, not apologies to breweries in JP and schools in Chestnut Hill) for the team that is always in the upper case. Bill Coen’s teams have always had high floors, so even in a high turnover year following the key loss of TJ Williams as well as Alex Murphy, the Huskies aren’t looking at the bottom of the pack. As far as the ceiling for Coen’s squad? Well, he’s danced, so the top is as high as they want it to be. The freshman who got significant minutes last season are looking experienced this year, senior Devon Begley has always been a glue guy for the team and USD transfer Vasa Pusica has provided much needed perimeter shooting. If they want to compete for the top they need more from Jeremy Miller as this team is running small and young. Still, with Coen guiding them they were one of the more successful CAA teams in out of conference play and are likely to give a good fight night in and night out.
Potential trouble games: @ W&M Jan 18, @ Delaware Feb 8
Hofstra – Bell’s Brewery – Hopslam – There’s a real question as to which contending team will give up more points this year, Hofstra or William and Mary. In past years Hofstra has had enough offense to outpace their effortless at times defense. This year, Rokas Gustys is back alongside veteran guards Eli Pemberton and Justin Wright-Foreman (who is now #1 in the country in % of minutes played, an honor previously held by both Drexel’s Kurk Lee and Delaware’s Ryan Daly this season, as CAA coaches are trusting their benches less and less). There’s real questions as whether that’s enough “Guns Around Gustys” (great band name) to get the job done. Ominously, their strongest metric thus far this season is free throw defense, which doesn’t seem to project well going forward. They’re no longer the fastest team in the conference. They’re no longer the best offensive team in the conference. This team needs to find what they do quick, because their floor isn’t as high as the Husky’s.
Potential trouble games: @Elon Feb 8, @UNCW Feb 10
Drexel – Stone Brewing Co – Ruination IPA – Think you’ll beat em? Wrong. Think you’ll lose to em? Wrong. Think anything about them? Wrong. Zach Spiker’s second year has been a bumpy one. Newcomers Tramaine Isabell and Alihan Demir are headaches for defenses and headaches on defense. Troy Harper is a little bit of both. Only three regular players have made it on the court for all 14 games, which make the up and downs somewhat understandable. That fact and that this is only Spiker’s second year masks that this is a somewhat experienced team, relying on upperclassmen to get the job done. They have put too many miles on Kurk Lee’s tires in the early season and are Austin Williams foul trouble away from being completely unable to defend. The upside is there though: They have the conferences best win, and starting this weekend they should have all of their regular guards back for the first time. After a few weeks together, this team could be writing a new and exciting story. This is the team with the highest upside in the bottom half of the conference.
Potential trouble games: @JMU Jan 20, vs Elon Jan 25, @Hofstra Feb 17
Delaware – Smuttynose Brewing Co – Daily Brett – Martin Inglesby has second year headaches of his own. He only has three upperclassmen who get regular minutes. One of them, Eric Carter, has been better than serviceable, but just lost his backup, St. Bonnie’s transfer Derrick Woods, who was released due to violation of team rules (so one of the first differences between Monte and Martin is that there are rules now). Exciting freshman Ryan Allen has picked up some of the slack and should continue to flourish. Combining the eye test and metrics, Drexel and Delaware haven’t had much to separate them this year, but Drexel is gaining players back while UD just lost Woods, and now freshman Kevin Anderson (injury) as well. The rebuild continues.
Potential trouble games: @Northeastern Jan 20, @Towson Feb 15
UNCW – DuClaw Brewing Co – Quick Start My Heart – The two remaining teams, UNCW and James Madison are both just bad right now. Just plain bad. But since this is being written late and UNCW already has a win, they are the new favorites for ninth place. With a breakneck pace and Devontae Cacok, if you show up without the desire to play that day, this team has the ability to just run you. Ty Taylor and senior leader and point guard Jordon Talley are both effective guards to compliment Cacok, but past that is… nothing. CB McGrath has his work cut out for him, and it doesn’t sound like early reviews from the beach are all that favorable. If they get into a half court game, they’re in trouble against almost any CAA team. It’s looking like a long road back for the champs.
Potential trouble games: @Delaware Jan 7, @JMU Feb 8, vs C of C Feb 17
JMU – Lagunitas Brewing Co – The Down Low Ale – Not great in the burg right now. The defense was at least decent in Louis Rowe’s first season at the helm. That senior laden team is gone and so is what defense there was. With a 273rd ranked strength of schedule (Kenpom) they weren’t exactly up against world beaters either. On the other side of the ball, while upperclassmen Mosley and McLean can stretch the floor a bit, the Dukes are struggling to get the ball inside and score it. They have 5 freshman getting regular minutes and don’t lose a lot this offseason so they may take a step for the long term by eating their Wheaties this year. Louis Rowe’s second year of the rebuild is a lot like most coaches first year – not surprising after he inherited so many seniors last season, so giving him some time to develop culture and players both may be fair here.
Potential trouble games: @Drexel Feb 1, @W&M Feb 11