2009-10 Conference Primers: #13 – CAAPosted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2009
Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Old Dominion (14-4)
- Northeastern (13-5)
- George Mason (12-6)
- Virginia Commonwealth (12-6)
- James Madison (11-7)
- Hofstra (10-8)
- Georgia State (9-9)
- Drexel (8-10)
- Delaware (6-12)
- Towson (5-13)
- UNC-Wilmington (5-13)
- William & Mary (3-15)
- Charles Jenkins (G), Hofstra
- Matt Janning (G), Northeastern
- Cam Long (G), George Mason
- Gerald Lee (F), ODU
- Larry Sanders (F), VCU
6th Man. Sherrod Wright, George Mason
Impact Newcomer. Rashanti Harris, Georgia State
- The CAA returns 73 percent of last year’s starters (44 of 60).
- Last season the CAA sent five teams to the postseason.
- Fifteen of the league’s top twenty scorers return.
- ESPN ranked George Mason’s recruiting class #1 amongst mid-majors.
- Six teams finished with 18 or more wins last season.
- VCU’s Larry Sanders already picking up nation preseason honors here, here, and here.
Predicted Champion. Old Dominion (NCAA Seed: #9). The Monarchs return six players who made 13 or more starts last season, including All-CAA Gerald Lee, who is my vote for preseason POY. Lee stepped up as a leader last season, especially late in the year at the CAA tournament. Along side Lee forward Frank Hassell gives them probably the best one-two punch frontcourt in the league. Guard Darius James is poised for a breakout season and was deadly from 3-pt land last year, so his growth could be the key to ODU being the league’s most balanced squad. Add freshman stud Josh Hicks to the mix and you got a whole lot of talent walking into CAA arenas this season. Will it be the right mix of talent and experience to run through the competitive CAA regular season? Head coach Blaine Taylor has lived in the shadow of George Mason and VCU lately despite winning 119 games over the last five years. This is his best squad on paper since 2005.
- Northeastern. The Huskies could have a big year. They return four starters, including third year captain Matt Janning. Janning will be at the top of many CAA statistics this year, but will it be enough to help the Huskies come out of the CAA as champion? They don’t have as good a frontcourt as the teams they will need to beat to win the CAA, but their experience could pay dividends late in the year. Guard play will be huge for them, as Chaisson Allen is a stud defender and they need him to have a big year. They tend to fade off in the closing weeks of the season, can they get over the hump this season?
- George Mason. On paper they look young, but the Patriots arguably have the most talent in the league. The only problem is a lot of it could be raw talent that coach Jim Larranaga will try to bring together all season long. They have been very successful recruiting lately, beating some local BCS schools for top talent. Junior Cam Long becomes the teams “seasoned veteran” this year and has posted excellent shooting numbers over the years. He didn’t exactly strike anyone as a floor general last season and he will need to this year if Mason is to contend in March for the automatic bid. The Patriots had great freshmen seasons from Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius, but can they fill the void left by graduating players? They have a hidden gem in redshirt freshman Kevin Foster and with Larranaga’s defensive scheme they will always have a chance in the CAA, but the youth could be a factor that they can’t overcome.
- VCU. Larry Sanders becomes the new face of the Rams after Eric Maynor (now playing for the Utah Jazz) graduated. They will greatly miss Maynor this season and it also a huge loss to see head coach Anthony Grant flee to Alabama dollars. Sanders will be a force to reckoned with this year but I just have to wonder who will do most of the scoring. The offense ran through Maynor last year and some of the guys who profited from his game last year will find it more difficult getting shots off. New head coach Shaka Smart will have his work cut out for him and be eager to make a name for himself. No one in the league has a player that can match up with Larry Sanders and if he works on his game outside of the paint the Rams could be the surprise team in the CAA this year.
Top 5 RPI Boosters:
- Nov. 19, 2009 – George Mason at Villanova, Puerto Rico Tip-off, ESPN2
- Nov. 21, 2009 – Oklahoma at VCU
- Dec. 8, 2009 – Dayton at George Mason
- Dec. 12, 2009 – Creighton at George Mason
- Dec. 19, 2009 – Old Dominion at Georgetown
Key Conference Games:
- Jan. 30, 2010 – ODU at Northeastern
- Feb. 6, 2010 – ODU at VCU
- Feb. 13, 2010 – George Mason at ODU
- Feb. 24, 2010 – Hofstra at Northeastern
- Feb. 27, 2010 – Northeastern at George Mason
- Eric Maynor was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft and was the first CAA player selected in the draft since since ODU’s Cal Bowdler was taken 17th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 1999.
- Did you know George Mason has a 16-game home court winning streak which is 8th-longest in Division I?
- Georgia State freshman Rashanti Harris was the #2 ranked center prospect in the nation on scout.com.
Fun With KenPom. This is a defensive-minded league, with half of its teams last year ranking in the top 100 in the country in defensive efficiency. The league typically has three or four teams in the KenPom top 100 ratings, which means the top teams can compete at the highest levels of basketball on a given night and most will see some kind of postseason action.
NCAA Tournament History. The CAA is 18-30 (.375) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and of course nobody will ever forget the crowning achievement of George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006. VCU, George Mason and ODU have traded off automatic bids the last several years, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon unless Northeastern can sneak in this year. One thing is for certain, BCS teams hate seeing a CAA squad lined up against them in the first round. Last year, UCLA barely survived VCU and the same Rams took out Duke in 2007. Mason had its run in 2006 and UNC-Wilmington took out #4 seed USC in 2002.
Final Thoughts. The CAA as a whole missed a lot of opportunities to make noise in the world of college basketball last year. This season should be different with most of the league’s starters returning and you’d have to expect the league will fare better in out of conference play. Senior heavy mid-major teams are always dangerous in March and there’s enough in this conference that it can win some games at the Big Dance to make the conference interesting this year. Two bids is not totally out of the question this season, as ODU probably has the best shot at an at-large bid if they fall early in the conference tournament. Your not going to see a potential NBA 1st round pick come out of the conference this year, but expect at least one or two teams to get an upset early in the season.