Checking in on the… Colonial

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2008

Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the CAA.

Power rankings:

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

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Checking in on the… Colonial

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2008

Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA).

Power rankings:

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

Teams doing well

Hofstra: So far the Pride have been the surprise of the CAA posting a league-best 6-1 record.  After losing a lot of scoring from last year’s team this team was difficult to project.  They haven’t really beaten anybody worthwhile on the out of conference slate but they had a pretty decisive victory over Towson on Saturday to start off 1-0 in the conference.

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2008-09 Season Primers: #12 – Colonial

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2008

Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA).

Predicted order of finish:

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

WYN2K.  Last season was a letdown for the CAA faithful after two seasons of multiple bids and tournament wins over historical powerhouses to becoming a single bid conference with that team losing in a first round rout.  The 2006 and 2007 NCAA tournament victories from George Mason and VCU have set the bar for this conference so that now just getting to the NCAA tournament and avoiding a blowout isn’t the criteria for a successful season anymore.  Last season George Mason looked as if they were riding that magic carpet again, running through the CAA tournament and snagging that automatic bid after a rollercoaster season, only to be sent home early from the Big Dance by the three point onslaught of Notre Dame.  This conference returns 65% of its starters and has some exciting freshmen and transfers entering the mix, but are they poised for another successful March?

Predicted Champion.  VCU (#10 Seed NCAA).  Tough call this season, as always in the competitive CAA, but the pick has to go VCU. Last season the Rams were atop the conference standings all season, only to stumble in the conference tournament. The selection comes mostly because of the experience of head coach Anthony Grant and reigning conference MVP Eric Maynor, whose slaying of Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament might have just been a preview of things to come as he enters his senior year.  Sophomore Larry Sanders is another name to watch for this Rams squad as a defensive force in the front court.  Last season Sanders only started half of the season’s games yet led the team in rebounding (5.2) and blocked shots (3.0).  Speaking of Maynor…

 

Others Considered. Not to be overlooked are the Huskies of Northeastern who return their entire starting lineup and top nine scorers from last season including Matt Janning who could challenge Eric Maynor for conference MVP.  Old Dominion and George Mason have been very successful programs for the conference in recent history as both are well coached and can potentially challenge the likes of VCU and Northeastern.  Make no mistake that this could be another season for the CAA in which an ankle sprain or two in March could determine the conference champion. 

Newcomers.  Last season Delaware was atop the standings for most of the season with the success brought on by transfers Marc Egerson (Georgetown) and Jim Ledsome (Nebraska) becoming eligible.  Look for the same thing to happen at Georgia State this season.  Head coach Rod Barnes (2001 Naismith Coach of the Year), who had to endure a season watching his reserve team of transfer players best his team’s current starters each practice, could be the CAA’s hot new coach this season.  Georgia State returns all-CAA guard Leonard Mendez (16 ppg) who will be surrounded by big school talent with the additions of Trey Hampton and Xavier Hansbro (former player of Barnes at Ole Miss), point guard Joe Dukes (Wake Forest), forward Bernard Rimmer (Mississippi State) and guard Dante Curry (South Florida).  George Mason and UNCW had the best recruiting success this past off-season.  Mason was able to nab point guard Andre Cornelius and forward Ryan Pearson from the lure of the BCS schools while UNCW locked up forward Kevon Moore and guard Jerel Stephson.  All of these are players that could be playing in bigger conferences and are likely the most Division I ready freshmen entering the CAA this year.

Games to Watch. 

  • George Mason at VCU  (01.24.09)
  • Northeastern at VCU  (01.28.09)
  • VCU at Old Dominion  (02.14.09)
  • Northeastern at George Mason  (02.14.09)
  • Old Dominion at Northeastern  (02.28.09)

RPI Booster Games.  The CAA has had success in recent years against out of conferences foes, both mid-major and BCS. This season the conference favorites don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to make a splash early on but their definitely is some winnable games against some notable programs that could start the multiple bid talk early.

  • James Madison at Davidson  (11.17.08)
  • Georgia State at Georgia Tech (12.17.08)
  • VCU at Oklahoma (12.20.08)
  • Winthrop at Old Dominion  (12.20.08)
  • Northeastern at Indiana  (12.22.08)
  • George Mason at Dayton  (12.30.08)
  • Northeastern at Memphis (12.31.08)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  Fairly likely.  VCU has a real chance of winning an at-large bid this season should they not grab the automatic bid from the conference tournament.  Northeastern’s tough schedule could hinder them from a possible at-large birth. Starting at the end of November the Huskies are on the road five of six games before heading into conference play. Ouch.  George Mason and Old Dominion don’t have much on the OOC slate which would mean they don’t have a lot of margin for error in the early part of their schedules.  With the bottom half of the conference steadily improving, the RPI numbers could be good enough to get a team an at-large bid if they have between 14-16 conference wins. 

65 Team Era.  From 1987-2005, the CAA was a one-bid league.  Of course, that changed in a big way in 2006, when two teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament and George Mason became the greatest Cinderella to make the F4 in history.  Two more teams were invited in 2007, and while only George Mason was invited in 2008, there’s no reason to think that the CAA is not a conference generally on the rise.  The CAA is 15-27 (.357) in the era, which definitely ranks it as one of the higher mid-major conferences.  Hey, we gotta throw it in – this never gets old…

Final Thoughts.  Last season proved that the depth of this conference is improving as annual bottom-feeders James Madison, Delaware and William & Mary all made noise at some point in the season. Look for that trend to continue as even the newest CAA members Georgia State and Northeastern could be contending for the top of the standings come March.  That is not to say the big boys of the conference have declined. George Mason, VCU, Old Dominion, and UNCW all bring more talent this season than the conference has ever seen.  The experience of the coaches on the sideline this season is a big asset for this conference and could spell trouble for opposing teams at the Big Dance. The team(s) that make it to the Big Dance this season could be poised for some not-so-much of an upset victories.

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Conference Primers: #28 – Atlantic Sun

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

North

  1. East Tennessee St. (20-7) (13-3)
  2. Belmont (19-12) (12-4)
  3. Lipscomb (15-15) (10-6)
  4. Campbell (13-16) (7-9)
  5. Gardner-Webb (10-18) (6-10)
  6. South Carolina – Upstate (6-21) (4-12)

South

  1. Jacksonville (17-10) (11-5)
  2. Mercer (17-12) (10-6)
  3. Kennesaw St. (14-14) (10-6)
  4. Stetson (13-15) (8-8)
  5. Florida Gulf Coast (5-23) (3-13)
  6. North Florida (3-24) (2-14)

Atlantic Sun logo

WYN2K. The Atlantic Sun has been an up and down league over the past decade. It spent much of the late 90s and early 2000s as a league hovering at the top of the low-majors (#19-#23 ranked conference most years). But the last two seasons it has fallen hard, finishing as one of the bottom four conferences in the computer rankings both years. Its OOC record (70-174, .287) the last three years is standard for a league at this level. Still, the NCAA typically shows some love to the conference champion, having given the A-Sun only five #16 seeds in 64/65-team era (and two of those were when the league received multiple bids) and peaking with a #11 seed in 2001 (Georgia St. defeated #5 Wisconsin in the first round). The league has earned a #14 or #15 seed each of the last six years, and we see no reason for this to end.

Predicted Champion. East Tennessee St. (#15 Seed NCAA). We see Murray Bartow’s ETSU squad (16-2 last season in the A-Sun) as the team to beat here. They return league POY Courtney Pigram and bring in former juco D2 POY Kevin Tiggs, a combo guard from whom big things are expected immediately. As a program, ETSU is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, having made the Dance two of the last five years (as a member of the Southern Conference) and seven times overall.

Others Considered. The A-Sun North division is clearly the class of the league, containing two-time defending tourney champion Belmont and rising Lipscomb. Belmont is a system program predicated on efficient ball movement (#21 nationally in eFG%) and tight defense (#5 nationally in eFG% defense), but the loss of their two best post men (Boomer Herndon and Andrew Preston) makes it difficult for us to pick them again. Lipscomb is another intriguing choice if for no other reason than they’re hosting the conference tourney this year – oh, and they’re 24-2 at home during the last two seasons. Jacksonville engineered one of the all-time greatest turnarounds last year, going from one win in 2006 to fifteen in 2007, and while they won eight of their last eleven regular season games, we’re not ready to push them past the more experienced teams just yet.

Games to Watch. There’s likely only one A-Sun game probably worth watching this year.

  • Atlantic Sun Championship Game (03.08.08).

RPI Booster Games. The A-Sun has thirty games against BCS opponents scheduled this year, and hopefully it can perform a little better than last year when it was 0-34. There are some opportunities against lower-tier BCS teams, however, in the following list of games:

  • Belmont @ Cincinnati (11.09.07)
  • ETSU @ Georgia (12.21.07)
  • Lipscomb @ Vanderbilt (12.08.07)
  • Campbell @ South Carolina (11.28.08)
  • Jacksonville @ Florida (12.03.07)
  • Alabama @ Mercer (11.13.07)
  • Kennesaw St. @ Auburn (11.13.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. <5%. It’s extremely unlikely that this is a two-bid league, but if any team was going to make it so, it would be ETSU. It would require domination of the league as well as a scintillating non-conference record before they lose in the conference tourney – we don’t see that happening.

Neat-o Stat. We have a couple for the A-Sun. First, North Florida last season enjoyed the dubious distinction of having the least efficent offense in the nation, scoring a mere 79.6 pts per 100 possessions. Secondly, Florida Gulf Coast (one of four transitional schools making the jump to D1 in the A-Sun) is the youngest D1 university in America, having opened its doors to students in 1997.

64/65-Team Era. In 26 appearances, the Atlantic Sun is 3-23 (.115) over the era, scoring the #11 over #6 upset mentioned above, #12 College of Charleston defeating #5 Maryland in 1997, and #14 Arkansas-Little Rock defeating #3 Notre Dame (Digger!) in 1986. That UALR team then took NC State to double OT in the next round before succumbing – that is the closest the league has gotten to the Sweet 16 in its history.

Final Thought. Belmont has gotten destroyed by Georgetown (80-55) and UCLA (78-44) in the last two years in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t appear that their style of play is conducive to pulling off an upset against a bigger, more athletic team. The league would have a much better chance at the first round upset if an uptempo, athletic team like ETSU earns the automatic bid.

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