Friday, March 3, 2006

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

The Colonial Athletic Association was the best mid-major conference in the country outside of the Missouri Valley. They had six teams finish with double-digits win in conference play, and had a great race for the regular season title. UNC-Wilmington and George Mason eventually tied for the championship at 15-3, while Hofstra finished one game back at 14-4. Old Dominion, Northeastern, and Virginia Commonwealth were all in the mix as well. The league tournament is wide-open and each of the aforementioned six are capable of making a run.

Favorites and Contenders: Like the Missouri Valley, the Colonial is going to be an extremely exciting conference tournament that can not be prediction. For that reason, we are going to group all the teams with a chance to win the title together, starting with the favorite. I don't care that they are the #2 seed by virtue of tiebreaker, George Mason is the team to beat in the CAA. They had won 8 in a row and 14 of 15 before losing the next-to-last game of the season at Hofstra, which knocked them out of sole possession of first place. They are the most efficient offensive team in the league and also have the best scoring defense. Five players average in double-figures for the Patriots, including forward Jai Lewis, who is a beast down low. Tony Skinn and Lamar Butler form a very solid backcourt, while Will Thomas is a nice complement to Lewis in the post. Folarin Campbell can do a variety of things well. UNC-Wilmington received the #1 seed. They have won 10 of 11 and 13 of 15 overall. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the conference and also are very solid offensively. The backcourt duo of T.J. Carter and John Goldsberry is one of the best in the league, while forward Todd Hendley is the main man up front. UNCW is deep and balanced, and has several role players capable of stepping up and producing. Forwards Mitch Laue and Beckham Wyrick are two very solid frontcourt performers. Hofstra is, like GMU and UNCW, one of the hottest teams around. They have won 10 of 11 and seem to be hitting their stride. The Pride lead the CAA in scoring offense in conference play by almost four points per game, while their defense sometimes seems to not show up. Antoine Agudio and Loren Stokes comprise the best wing duo you will find in the conference. Both are excellent scorers who can carry the Pride on any given night. Carlos Rivera is a decent point guard who can shoot the ball, while Aurimas Kieza is a solid forward who is primarily a long-range shooter. Adrian Uter is an excellent presence in the paint, as he is one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the league. Old Dominion seems to be playing their best basketball of the year currently too. They have won four in a row and six of seven, all in convincing fashion. The Monarchs came into the season as a heavy favorite, but did not live up to expectations. However, they can still salvage their campaign with a nice run in the CAA Tourney. Alex Loughton, an excellent scorer and rebounder, is one of the best big men in the league, while Arnaud Dahi and Valdas Vasylius are two forwards that put the ball in the basket. Isaiah Hunter provides most of the offensive production from the perimeter, and Drew Williamson is a solid point guard who plays defense and distributes the ball well. Northeastern has won four in a row, and could be primed for a couple of wins in the Tournament. They were second in the CAA in scoring offense in conference play, and also lead the conference in rebounds, blocks, and assists. The Huskies are led by one of the best players in the conference, Jose Juan Barea. He is atop the conference in assists and is second in scoring. Shawn James is the nation's best shot-blocker by a landslide, and the lanky big man can also score and rebound on the interior. Aaron Davis and Brian Kelly are two more solid scorers on the perimeter. Virginia Commonwealth is the opposite of the rest of the contenders currently, as they have lost four of their last seven, and are reeling. They like to get into passing lanes and shoot the long-ball, as evidenced by the fact that they lead the CAA in steals and three-point percentage. Nick George is one of the best forwards in the conference, but has been somewhat inconsistent lately. B.A. Walker provides balance from the perimeter, while Jesse Pellot-Rosa is a solid all-around player in the backcourt. The Rams are deep and balanced, but are not playing their best basketball of the season right now.

Sleeper: While no one outside the top six really has a shot at winning the title, Drexel would be the team that could make a run. They have played close games against pretty much everyone in the league, and do not get blown out often. Dominick Mejia and Bashir Mason form a very good backcourt that can score, distribute, and play solid defense. Kenell Sanchez is another good player on the wing, while Frank Elegar anchors the post.

Prediction: This tournament is going to be one of the most exciting and wide-open ones in the country. There are up to six teams with a shot at winning the tournament. To raise the stakes even higher, at-large bids are going to be up in the air during the tourney. George Mason looks solid, while UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra likely need a run to the title game to lock up an invitation. I foresee the Patriots winning the tournament as the #2 seed. They have the most balance in the conference, and they have several players that can beat you. Therefore, Hofstra might get left out of the Field of 65. On the other side of the bracket, I like Old Dominion to knock off Northeastern and then upset top-seeded UNC-Wilmington. However, their momentum won't be enough to defeat George Mason in the final. The Patriots are playing too well not to get the automatic bid.

No comments:

Post a Comment