RTC Conference Primers: #11 – Colonial

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC Correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association and the MAC.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Old Dominion (15-3)
  2. VCU (14-4)
  3. George Mason (13-5)
  4. Hofstra (11-7)
  5. James Madison (10-8)
  6. William & Mary (9-9)
  7. Northeastern (8-10)
  8. Delaware (8-10)
  9. Towson (8-10)
  10. Drexel (6-12)
  11. UNC Wilmington (3-15)
  12. Georgia State (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • Charles Jenkins (G) – Hofstra (20.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • Chaisson Allen (G) – Northeastern (13.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.6 APG)
  • Joey Rodriguez (G) – VCU (12.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.9 SPG)
  • Frank Hassell (F) – Old Dominion (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
  • Denzel Bowles (F) – James Madison (20.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG)

Sixth Man

Cam Long (G) – George Mason (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)

Impact Newcomer

Mike Moore – Hofstra

While Blaine Taylor and ODU are the early favorites in the CAA, they can also do damage against quality non-conference opponents.

What You Need to Know

  • A league record six CAA teams made the postseason last year. For the conference to match that number this season, squads such as Northeastern and William & Mary will need to retool on the fly after suffering heavy losses, and up-and-comers such as James Madison and Delaware will need to take a big step forward in 2011.
  • The aforementioned James Madison Dukes and Delaware Blue Hens both lost at least 20 games in 2009-10 and combined to win just seven conference games, but hopes are high for both programs. James Madison has the most explosive offensive duo in the CAA with Texas A&M transfer Denzel Bowles and Julius Wells, both of whom averaged over 15 PPG last year. Delaware returns its top seven scorers, including an explosive duo in its own right with seniors Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson.
  • The predicted struggles of UNC Wilmington and Georgia State could end up costing the Colonial Athletic Association an NCAA Tournament berth in March. Both teams had a final RPI in the mid-200s last season and neither team should be much improved this season. The Colonial desperately needs its bottom-level teams to avoid dragging down the conference’s overall RPI in order to successfully secure two NCAA Tournament bids.

Predicted Champion

Old Dominion (NCAA Seed #9) – The CAA’s defending champions have the potential to be even better this season with four starters returning, including senior forward Frank Hassell and breakout candidate Kent Bazemore. Even with the loss of leading scorer Gerald Lee, Old Dominion is still a physical team that wins with defense under coach Blaine Taylor, who has led the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances. This year should be no different.

Top Contenders

  • VCU (NCAA Seed #12) – Last season, the Rams had to replace their head coach in Anthony Grant and a NBA first round pick in Eric Maynor. Not a problem as VCU won 27 games and reached the postseason for the fourth straight year. Now in his second season, head coach Shaka Smart has to replace yet another NBA first round pick in center Larry Sanders. But this year’s VCU Rams squad is filled with quality perimeter players, including Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon and Bradford Burgess. If VCU can turn some of last season’s close losses into wins, the Rams could sneak themselves into the NCAA Tournament.
  • George Mason (NIT) – The Patriots are a talented team that should be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth all season long. Senior Cam Long is a Player of the Year candidate, and he’s complemented by a deep roster that features a handful of potential double-digit scorers. George Mason may be a year away from being the CAA’s best team, but expect to see Jim Larranaga’s group back in the postseason.
  • Hofstra (NIT) – The Pride will go as far as senior do-everything guard Charles Jenkins can take them. Jenkins is hands down the best player in the conference and should capture his second straight Player of the Year award barring injury. But Hofstra will need wing Nathaniel Lester and forward Greg Washington to take some of the scoring burden away from Jenkins in order for the Pride to make any serious noise this season. The biggest concern for Hofstra is how will first-time head coach Mo Cassara handle his post.

Top RPI Boosters

  • Nov. 12 – Georgetown at Old Dominion
  • Nov. 12 – James Madison at Kansas State
  • Nov. 18 – Hofstra vs. North Carolina (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
  • Dec. 29 – George Mason at Dayton
  • Dec. 30 – Old Dominion at Missouri

Key Conference Games

  • Jan. 5 – Hofstra at George Mason
  • Jan. 15 – Hofstra at Old Dominion
  • Jan. 22 – Old Dominion at VCU
  • Feb. 5 – George Mason at Old Dominion
  • Feb. 15 – VCU at George Mason, ESPNU
  • Feb. 26 – VCU at James Madison

Digging Deeper

Two of the Colonial’s more successful programs, Hofstra and Drexel, each had to overcome a tumultuous offseason. The Pride went through three head coaches in a little over a month, as Tim Welsh initially replaced the Fordham-bound Tom Pecora. Welsh, however, was soon arrested for drunken driving and subsequently resigned. Hofstra replaced the experienced Welsh with the inexperienced Mo Cassara. Drexel’s offseason was marred by an offseason robbery incident that garnered national headlines and involved Jamie Harris and Kevin Phillip. Both players were kicked off the team, but the saga created a cloud that still hangs over embattled head coach Bruiser Flint.

NCAA Tournament History

The CAA stands a modest 19-31 (.380) all-time in the Big Dance. George Mason‘s Final Four run in 2006 remains the conference’s crown jewel of postseason success, but other schools have had chances to stick out their chests as well. Putting aside the Patriots’ success that year, CAA teams have nine upsets over teams seeded #5 or higher.

Final Thoughts

Can the Colonial Athletic Association receive multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament like it did in both 2006 and 2007? In 2008 and 2009 the league failed to meet that goal as its sole representative didn’t even win a single Tournament game in either year. However, that changed last season as Old Dominion upset Notre Dame in the 1st Round. With the impressive collection of talent returning at the top of this conference, the CAA could see multiple bids and multiple wins in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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