Alan Boston is back to offer his expertise and analysis for this year’s CAA tournament. We welcome his writings all year long, but in particular with the wide open field and the seemingly random series of games played, appreciate him painting a picture of each teams seasons to date:
Delaware vs Hofstra- The shit show they call NCAA basketball continues. Or does it? Guess we will find out half hour before game time when we see both teams hopefully appear on the court. These two teams played back on Jan 15 and 17. In game one Delaware fed the high post, which is the proper approach to attacking the Hofstra match up zone. Although they were only 4-17 from deep, they got good looks from inside, and murdered Hofstra on the boards. They ran out to a big lead and won easily.
As is typical of the back to back games we’ve seen scheduled this year, the reverse played out in game two. Hofstra led 13-0 and 39-19. Delaware, showing a resiliency that has been consistent throughout the Inglesby tenure, had a shot to win, before losing 68-67.
Hofstra was the preseason favorite to win The Colonial. They began the season with some impressive games, most notably almost winning in St Bonny followed by winning in Richmond. They completely fell apart after they blew a 19 point lead at home to Northeastern. If Mihalich were at the helm I would guess they would find their way back to Hofstra caliber, but Farrelly has not got much out of this bunch since the Northeastern heartbreak.
As usual Delaware lost players to transfer and injury. Inglesby has done a sneaky amazing job, each and every year. Sadly, it has gone unappreciated. If nothing else, both these teams will be fresh. Delaware will also be at 100% health, an anomaly for sure. Hofstra last played Feb 14th losing twice to JMU. Delaware last played at the end of January(!!), sweeping then struggling Elon. Hofstra will be the favorite but Delaware outplayed them earlier, is healthier now and certainly has a big edge in coaching.
Blue Hens 68 – Dutchmen 62
Elon vs James Madison- I thought Elon would threaten to win the Colonial this year. A combination of an early season injury to the appropriately named stud Butler transfer Jerald Gillens-Butler and the fucked-up world we live in, led to a shockingly horrific start. Last year, Mike Schrage did an incredible job with a very young team. They ran great offense that got increasingly intricate as the year went on. They are a joy to watch.
James Madison made a terrific hire, snagging the long-time successful coach Mark Byington from Georgia Southern. It did not take long for Byington to get the max out of a roster that had a terrific point guard, Matt Lewis and a smattering of talent from schools all over the country. Unfortunately, Matt Lewis was lost for the year. In their only game sans Lewis, they lost at home to Drexel.
Earlier in the year, James Madison had little trouble in the home win over Elon and used a late 9-0 run to come from behind to win the road rematch 70-61. However, both those games were with Matt Lewis. Starter Kris Wooten missed both for Elon. Wooten played 14 minutes in Elon’s easy win over the Zane Martin-less Towson. What was most impressive in that game was Elon outrebounding Towson 38-26 while allowing only four offensive rebounds against a physical Tiger team.
Elon has turned it around with five straight wins. Schrage is terrific. His team is riding a huge wave of confidence. Props to Byington for turning things around but the loss of Lewis is immense. The Phoenix rise, nah, scratch that.
Phoenix 78 – Dukes 69
Drexel vs College of Charleston – This was Drexel’s year. Everyone returned from last year. They are all Spiker’s recruits. Certainly, they would threaten to win the league.
Drexel has improved, playing to their highest power rating under Spiker, which sadly, would have been considered a down year during the first ten years of the Flint admin. But that’s not the situation that Spiker walked into, and so this year is a program high for any recent season.
Any chance College of Charleston had to contend for a crown this year came to a halt when top player Galloway went down with a season ending injury in December. I admit, I am a big fan of Earl Grant, but I am not so sure he has done such a great job the last couple of years. No matter, the team has almost returned to the pre Galloway level, so he has pulled some good strings this year.
These two met in beautiful Charleston (Sorry West Philly, I would not have used the same adjective) post Galloway injury. In game one a back and forth affair ended with Zep Jasper making three free throws with .3 seconds left to give Charleston a 61-60 win. In game two, in spite of Drexel winning the rebounding battle 30-22 and making all 15 free throws, the Cougars rode a red hot Brenden Tucker and swept the series 73-68. Sweeps were not common in the back to backs situations this year, particularly when you are the inferior team.
Drexel snuck in a game on Feb 26th beating JMU, sans Matt Lewis. Charleston has not played since Feb 14th. Drexel’s play improved after their trip to South Carolina. They will certainly be the favorite and if they are at level when last seen, most would expect them to win. However, I must take note that Spiker is still their coach and Earl Grant remains at Charleston. I would hate myself more than I already do, if I went with the logical better team when the coaching battle is likely to be won on the other bench.
Cougars 70 – Dragons 68