While the blog’s CAA preview does not come out until the end of the out of conference season, I am beyond delighted to be able to share Alan Dvorkis’ thoughts on each CAA team below. For those not familiar with the name Alan Boston, he has made a career watching college hoops, and has been acknowledged as “almost frighteningly smart” by former Vegas bookmaker Scott Schettler. He has followed this blog for the last year and is seemingly continuously working to make me less of an idiot as well, all of which I am tremendously grateful for, and the only reason I’d let a Penn guy write on these electronic pages. Without further ado, Alan:
I mentioned that I would give a CAA preview a shot, from a gamblers perspective. I am Alan “Boston” Dvorkis. I have earned a living exclusively by betting on college sports, mainly basketball for the last 26 years. But why this blog? After all, the only attachment I have to Drexel is my dearly departed close friend Sally Soloman, who taught chemistry at Drexel for many years. Still, I learned to love college basketball, while attending the University of Pennsylvania from 1976-1980. I was fortunate enough to see the Big 5 bloodbaths that ALL were played on a neutral court*, The Palestra. It was amazing. There were even double headers. One admission paid for both. Yes, perhaps I am a bit of an old school romantic. I enjoyed 45 second shot clocks. I do not like the 3 point shots. I loved when college hoops was played out in old gyms, like the snake pit, where the students were on top of the floor. Now, big money has ruined the once wonderful game. With big money, comes all this ridiculous conference realignment so I must check and see who is even in the CAA before I write my thoughts. Here is my attempt at succinct brilliance.
College of Charleston – Tricky call as their new coach was not hired until August. Still, Earl Grant has terrific pedigree as he was a long time assistant to one of the top 3 coaches in the country, Gregg Marshall, he was then an assistant to another great coach Brad Brownell, so I am sure he will do fine. This team disappointed the last 2 yrs, so I think the coach will eventually be a big upgrade. With 2 returning seniors in the backcourt, Stitt at the point and Baru. I do not think this team will drop off from last year, even though the coach has minimal time to put his stuff in. This is a very good program, that with this coach, I think will be at or near the top of the CAA within 2 years, that is, if the league still exists. This year, Charleston will finish in the upper half, with the top spot, not entirely out of the question.
Delaware – I was happy to see Monte Ross finally have some success. He seems like a quality human. However, his success came more from having athletes, than from x’s and o’s. The problem with relying on athletes, especially when you’re a mid major, is that you eventually play someone more athletic and you are left with no way to win. With only 1 starter returning and the likely upgrade in recruiting that comes with NCAA bid not yet relevant, unless Coach Ross remembers his Phil Martelli roots and uses some of the beautiful offense that Martelli’s teams run and that Ross’ teams used to run, this team with one scholarship senior and a freshman point running the show will struggle for sure. Bottom half of the league likely.
Drexel – Well, I am a big Bruiser fan, so I shall not shit on him like many are ready to. He is just a jam up human and a good, not great coach, but if I had a son who played hoops I would be honored to have Bruiser coach him. I know, it is all about the winning now. You have to make the tournament to get the big bucks. At least if Bruiser makes the tournament – and this team can – it wont be with shady recruiting, with false promises or paid off AAU coaches. Last year Drexel was a lock to make the tournament until a myriad of players missed 50 games to injury. With ever changing lineups, chemistry was lacking. Bruiser also butchered a couple of end games, but it was the injuries that destroyed what could have been an amazing year. Remember this team dominated Arizona, (the team I have rated number one this year) for a good part of the game. Then after losing to Arizona the next night, under impossible conditions beat Alabama in a trillion overtimes. I am told that Abif is done and someone else too [Major Canady], but his name is not Lee or Allen or Williams, so hopefully that will be it. There is still plenty of talent here. Yes, it is tough to win with a freshman point guard, but if this team defends like a typical Bruiser team and does not have any more injuries, I think they will win the CAA.
Elon – From the Southern Conference, which sadly has basically disbanded comes the Phoenix. Matt Metheny a long time assistant to the terrific Bob McKillop has done a very good job here. Last year was his best year, and with it, his first recruiting class graduated. So with many seniors gone, he is left with one returning starter. If senior point guard, Austin Hamilton is healthy, it will ease the losses. Hamilton started at the point as a freshman but injuries have stunted his playing time. It reads like he is healthy, if he is, it should keep them out of the basement but still in the bottom half of the league.
Hofstra – This seems to be peoples dark horse, but in spite of both the fantastic Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksleyin who came with Mihalich from Niagara now being eligible and in spite of the excellent track record of Joe Mihalich, I still think they are a year away from winning the conference. The only 3 players that return from last year were all starters and Mihalich is an excellent recruiter, so the talent level is way up, and it all adds up to a contender, but I feel just not quite enough to win the league. Mihalich has surprised me before.
James Madison – 2 years ago, JMU won the conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament and save Matt Brady’s job. Last yr, 6 seniors graduated from that team, to be replaced by 6 freshman, then Andre Nation, their best player was suspended a total of 17 games and of course they struggled. Well Nation is back [suspended for the first 5 games]and he is a beast. Junior Ron Curry moved to the point last year and did well. The 6 frosh were thrown to the wolves and will be the better for it. Like Hofstra this team has a good upside but I think they are a notch below the top tier teams.
Northeastern – Bill Coen is terrific. This year he returns all 5 starters and gets his best player Quincy Ford back from injury. Ford played in only one game last year. Their point guard TJ Williams started every game as a freshman. He was excellent and should be that much better this year. Coen always gets the most out of what he has and this year he has an experienced team that has talent. He will get absolutely the most out this team but they too must avoid injuries. If they stay injury free, they will battle for the top spot.
Towson – What a job by Pat Skerry. From 1 win to 18 wins followed by last years home run 25 wins. They lose their top 4 scorers including a freak named Benimon. He is irreplaceable. They also need a new pg who will be a juco or a frosh. The school is investing in hoops. They built a new facility, told Skerry he had all the time he needed and they were rewarded with an unbelievable year in 2014. They will drop off this year, but he is recruiting at a high level, so the program is strong. They will be low to middle of the pack this year, but after this year, they will be a threat every year until they go to a bigger league.
UNCW – Wow. I was wrong. Buzz Peterson was a disaster. Even hiring the brilliant Eddie Beidenbach as his lead assistant last year did not help. Now UNCW has hired a Rick Pitino assistant, Kevin Keatts. I doubt he will be very good, no matter, it is sad to see this once strong program fade. The talent there is down. I doubt Keatts will be an x’s and o’s genius and he will need talent to press all over the place to overcome his lack of schemes. Last place is likely this year. He is a good recruiter, so they will not be down long.
William & Mary – I often wonder what would Tony Shaver do, if he had Duke like talent? Scratch that, it would be unfair. What if he had Harvard like talent, I mean The New Amaker Harvard like talent (yes, an intentional dig)? He would be top ten for sure. Well he has to deal with William & Mary talent, a strong academic school that will not relent as Harvard did. Only 2 starters return, but one of them is Marcus Thornton, possibly the greatest to ever play at W&M. So Shaver has some talent. He also has several who played many minutes last year. He has a couple who are returning from injury. He has a potential future star at point in redshirt freshman Michael Schlotman. He lost 3 starters but he still has talent and Shaver does not need much to win. A definite threat for the title.
So Drexel, Northeastern, William & Mary will be top 3. College of Charleston 4. UNCW last. The others in between. Hope at least a few sentences have relevance. I am not much of a previewer as I know the relative strength of a program but not the nitty gritty. Nevertheless, I said I would write something, so here it is. Enjoy this blog. It is excellent. Enjoy the hoops, even if the powers that be attempt to ruin.
*Note from Dragons Speak: Only a Penn guy can call that court entirely neutral!