Friday, March 4, 2011

Previewing the Madness: The CAA Tournament

The CAA is one of the most interesting and entertaining mid-major conferences to follow. Every year, it seems like there are four or five teams in the mix for the conference title in February, and come Selection Sunday there are always teams sitting on the bubble, hoping to hear their name.

This year was no exception. George Mason may have pulled away late in the year, but that should take nothing away from the terrific seasons had by Old Dominion, VCU, and Hofstra. Its a long shot, but if VCU or Hofstra can spring an upset and make a run to the title game, there is a chance that three team from the conference can dance. Weak bubble or not, that's phenomenal for a league like the CAA.

Where: Richmond, VA

When: March 4rd-7th

Final: March 7th, 7:00 pm ESPN2

Favorites: George Mason Patriots

Don't be fooled by conference affiliation, George Mason is a very good basketball team. They are also a bit unique. Their point guard Andre Cornelius is the resident sharpshooter. Cam Long, the team's leading scorer, and Luke Hancock, a 6'5" small forward that leads the team in assists, are the playmakers on the wings. Mike Morrison is a big body around the rim while Ryan Pearson is a 14.8 ppg scoring threat as a face-up power forward. Obviously, the Patriots have quite a bit of versatility of the offensive end of the floor. More importantly, Mason hasn't lost since January 8th, a streak of 15 straight games.

  • Other Contenders: Old Dominion is the Pitt of the CAA. They are big, they are physical, they defend, and their best offense at times is to throw the ball at the rim and go get the rebound. Hofstra is led by Charles Jenkins, who is nearly a 24 ppg scorer. He's good enough to put the Pride on his back and carry them to the tournament title if he gets hot. And while the Rams have been struggling down the stretch, I am also a fan of VCU. They are a poor man's Louisville, as they press, they zone, and they take a lot of threes.
Sleeper: Drexel Dragons

I like this Drexel team. They are similar to Old Dominion in that they have a number of athletes, they defend hard, and they crash the glass. Its a typical Bruiser Flint team. They don't really have all that much shooting -- Chris Fouchs is shooting just 32.6% from three -- and when they struggle, it is because they struggle to score. Regardless, this is a tough team that will be a tough out .

  • Deeper Sleeper: James Madison has a couple of potential NBA talents, including Denzel Bowles, but the team to keep a watch on is Northeastern. They were very young coming into the season, but they were led by Chaisson Allen, a senior guard that has played a lot of important minutes in his time. After losing the first eight games of the CAA season, the Huskies rebounded, finishing the year on a 7-4 run, including a win over UNC-Asheville.
Players to Watch:
  • Denzel Bowles, JMU: Bowles, a transfer from Texas A&M, has all the talent in the world. He's an NBA player. That's why he can average 18.2 ppg and 9.0 rpg. But there are times when he just doesn't seem to care. Effort is the key with him.
  • Chad Tomko, UNC-Wilmington: Tomko is a statsheet stuffer. a 5'11" senior, Tomko averages 17.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.9 spg, and hits 37.6% of his threes. He's not the carry-the-team-to-a-title kind of talent that Charles Jenkins is, but his game is worth the watch.

No comments: