O26 Primers: CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC TourneysPosted by KDoyle on March 4th, 2011
RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.
As we near the weekend, more of the higher profile Other 26 conferences are beginning their postseason tournaments. In the east, the CAA, MAAC, and Southern Conference all get going with matinee affairs between Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington in the CAA and UNC-Greensboro and Davidson in the SoCon. Out west, the West Coast Conference kicks off their first round in what looks to be a very competitive tournament with St. Mary’s recent struggles and the resurgence of Gonzaga.
Colonial Athletic Association
The Favorite: Behind Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, George Mason has dominated the CAA and is the clear favorite to win the league. Old Dominion will be a tough challenger for the Patriots though.
Dark Horse: There have been many instances throughout the year that Virginia Commonwealth looks to be just as good as George Mason, but ending the year losing four straight games in the CAA will not instill confidence in many people. The Rams’ ability and talent is clearly there, and if they can string some wins together they can win the CAA championship.
Who’s Hot: George Mason winning 14 straight CAA games makes them easily the hottest CAA team.
Player to Watch: One of the most decorated players in Hofstra basketball history, Charles Jenkins is the best player to don a CAA uniform this year. The senior from Queens, NY is averaging 23.2 points per game.
First-Round Upset: William & Mary over James Madison. After having a very successful 2009-10 season, the Tribe has largely struggled this year, but is entering the CAA tournament having win two of three games. They have also split the season series with JMU this season winning the last game 73-67 and losing the first one 84-79.
How’d They Fare? Old Dominion, as a #11 seed, defeated Notre Dame 51-50 and then fell to Baylor in the second round.
Interesting Fact: The last time the CAA sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament was in 2007 when Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion went; it appears as if the CAA will be a multi-bid conference this year.
The Favorite: While Fairfield is definitely the favorite, they cannot be anointed as the obvious choice for the champion of the MAAC just yet. Iona and Rider are both legitimate contenders that will make their names heard in the tournament.
Dark Horse: Iona is the dark horse due to three players: Michael Glover (18 pts, 9.2 reb), Scott Machado (13.7 pts, 7.4 assists), and Kyle Smyth (10.4 pts 2.3 3PT made). Plus, the Gaels also defeated Fairfield 74-69 in their last regular season game.
Who’s Hot: Iona experienced a rough stretch in the middle of their MAAC schedule by losing four straight games, but since then have won seven straight games with a victory over Fairfield.
Player to Watch: I can guarantee you that Siena’s best guy Ryan Rossiter preferred acting as a role man for the past few seasons rather than the focal point this season because as an underclassman Siena flourished. The Saints have struggled this year, but Rossiter has not. The senior forward is easily the best big man in the MAAC alongside Michael Glover of Iona.
First-Round Upset: Manhattan over Siena. It has been some time since the Jaspers made their presence felt in the MAAC—you would have to go all the way back to the Bobby Gonzalez years—and while Manhattan will not be winning the MAAC this year, they have a fighter’s chance against Siena. They have already beaten Siena 84-81 earlier in the season and George Beamon is one of the best scorers in the league.
How’d They Fare? As a #13 seed, Siena lost to Purdue in the first round. This was the last Siena team that found great success in the NCAA Tournament. In 2008 the Saints defeated Vanderbilt and then in 2009 they beat Ohio State.
Interesting Fact: In the last seven NCAA Tournaments, the MAAC has four Tournament victories. Two wins have been in the Play-in game, and the other two have been by Siena as a #9 and #13 seed.
The Favorite: The Southern Conference has been one of the most competitive conferences in the country this season, but it is hard to argue against Andrew Goudelock and the College of Charleston. The Cougars have shown they are vulnerable at times, but they are still the favorite to win the league.
Dark Horse: Wofford has the experience of being in the NCAA Tournament last year and boast one of the best players in Noah Dahlman. The Terriers are entering the tournament on a five game winning streak, but have lost both games to Charleston this season.
Who’s Hot: By virtue of winning eight of nine games in the Southern Conference, Western Carolina is one of the hotter teams in the SoCon. They finished first place in the North Division in the SoCon and received a first-round bye in the conference tournament as a result.
Player to Watch: Andrew Goudelock has been the face of the Southern Conference this year and is on the draft radar of many NBA teams. The senior from Georgia is averaging a conference best 23 points a night.
First-Round Upset: There is not a game that sticks out as a potential first-round upset, but it would not surprise me if N.C. Greensboro got by Davidson.
How’d They Fare? As a #13 seed, Wofford lost to Wisconsin 53-49.
Interesting Fact: Aside from Davidson’s magical run to the Elite 8 in 2008, the Southern Conference has not won a game in the NCAA Tournament since 1997 when Chattanooga advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins over Georgia and Illinois.
West Coast Conference
The Favorite: For the majority of the season, St. Mary’s was the class of the West Coast Conference. The Gaels compiled a great non-conference record along with racking up many wins within the WCC, but three straight losses to San Diego, Utah State, and Gonzaga has all of a sudden left St. Mary’s on the outside looking in. As a result, Gonzaga is the favorite heading into the conference tournament having won seven straight conference games.
Dark Horse: San Francisco has flown under the radar for much of the year behind Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, but the Dons are 10-4 within the WCC and picked up the three seed entering the conference tournament. San Francisco defeated Gonzaga earlier in conference play and has continued their solid play throughout much of league play.
Who’s Hot: Mark Few’s Bulldogs were on a roll in the second half of their non-conference schedule, but losing three straight games in the early part of their WCC schedule had them sitting at just .500 with a 3-3 record. Since then, Gonzaga has won nine straight WCC games.
Player to Watch: No one shoots the basketball from long range or distributes it to his teammates quite like St. Mary’s senior guard Mickey McConnell. McConnell’s shooting precision cannot be matched by many as he connects on nearly 50% of his three-point shots, shoots 90% from the line, and averages just over six assists a night.
First-Round Upset: There are only two games in the WCC’s first round and neither have the true potential for an upset. With Loyola Marymount playing Portland and San Diego playing Pepperdine, it is hard to see the Lions or Toreros coming out on top. San Diego’s fluke win over St. Mary’s may give them confidence entering the tournament though.
How’d They Fare? St. Mary’s and Gonzaga both won their first round games with the Gaels upsetting Richmond and the ‘Zags beating Florida State. St. Mary’s then went onto beat Villanova in the next round while Gonzaga was handled easily by Syraucse.
Interesting Fact: The last team to win a game in the NCAA Tournament not named Gonzaga or St. Mary’s was San Diego in 2008 when the Toreros upset Connecticut.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, the following conferences will begin their tournaments: the Big Sky, the Summit League, and the Sun Belt.