Colonial Athletic Association: A Hoops Primer
by Trevor Whenham - 11/24/2006 - 11/21/2006
There's a lot of money to be made during the college basketball season by paying close attention to the mid-major conferences throughout the year. If you know all about teams that the public knows nothing about then you can often find opportunities for incredible value. When it comes to mid-major conferences, none has got more press in the last year than the Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA is home to George Mason, the Cinderella sweethearts of the Final Four. It is also the home of Old Dominion, the team that stunned the much hyped Georgetown Hoyas this week. Here's an introduction to the conference:
There are 12 teams in the conference, clustered in the northeastern corner of the U.S. Of those teams, there are five - Delaware, Georgia State, James Madison, Northeastern and William and Mary - that you don't need to spend much time on. They aren't very good, and they are unlikely to win any games that they aren't expected to. Here is a look at the teams that could make some waves in the conference:
Hofstra - The team which was expected to be the class of the conference coming into the season is struggling mightily thus far, with three losses and an 0-2-1 record against the spread. That bad start could set up some excellent value later on, provided that they can get their mojo back. Hofstra has an excellent backcourt with seniors Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera and junior Antoine Agudio. The frontcourt is more of a problem. The team will have to rely on young players. Chris Gadley, the sophomore that emerged as a presence in the NIT last year, was looked upon as the key to the front line coming into the season, but he has been very disappointing so far. Hofstra may be worth serious consideration, but not until their frontcourt game shows some signs of sustainable life.
George Mason - It is very unlikely that there will be any value to be found in George Mason. The public will love them for what they did, but they aren't likely good enough to justify that love. The truth is that they shouldn't have been nearly good enough last year to do what they did. They didn't win their regular season or post season conference titles last year, and the fact that they made it into the tournament rather than Hofstra was controversial. That being said, the team will be fairly good. They have lost Jai Lewis, that monster presence from the tournament, as well as Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn. Those were their top three scorers. Will Thomas, who emerged in the tournament, returns and will be key to success. He is joined by Louis Birdsong, a promising freshman, and some interesting Juco transfers. So far this year, the Patriots are 2-1, but they have yet to cover. Their prospects won't be helped by a tough schedule and stronger than normal public support.
Old Dominion - The Monarchs were disappointing last year despite high hopes, but they bounced back late to make the final four of the NIT. They lost their top two scorers from last year, and their best remaining player, Arnaud Dahi, missed last year with an ACL injury, so expectations were guarded this year. Dahi has come back strong and the team has won four of five. Against Georgetown they showed their potential to be dangerous when they get hot. They shot 56.2 percent from three-point range. The team lacks depth, so any injury problems could be deadly. It would seem as if they are overachieving now, but they may be able to prove that they are as good as they have seemed. ATS they haven't been as solid, going 2-3.
Drexel - This team has been hard to figure out the last couple of years. Last year they gave both Duke and UCLA serious scares in the preseason NIT, but then they looked terrible during the season and finished seventh in the conference. They return four of five starters, along with a sixth man, Chaz Crawford, that blocks shots as well as anyone out there. This year they have been equally inconsistent. They beat a solid Vermont team soundly, then they didn't even show up against Penn, a team they could reasonably have beaten. The team has the talent to do damage, but it will remain to be seen if they have the heart to take advantage of that talent.
Towson - If you like potential sleepers, Towson may be your team. They return four starters, including Gary Neal. He averaged 26 points per game in conference play last year. They will be able to score, but they haven't yet shown the ability, or desire, to play an ounce of defense. Still, they won their first two and they covered against Kansas, so they may improve. They are 2-1 ATS so far, and could be well worth a look in the right spots as the season progresses, especially if they start to defend at all.
UNC Wilmington - The Seahawks had a 20-point lead in their NCAA tournament first round game last year, but they blew it against George Washington. From that team they have lost four solid players and a coach, so they have some work to do this year. So far, you can't complain about their games being boring - the games have averaged 176 total points. The team obviously has pace and scoring ability, but they will have to calm down and show some ability to control a game before they are worth a serious look.
Virginia Commonwealth - Another team that could be very interesting. They lost Nick George, their best scorer by a wide margin, so they will have to find a way to replace his presence. Almost everyone else is back, though, and new coach Anthony Grant comes with a solid reputation, so the team could do some damage if they can find their way. So far they are playing a solid game, and they are 2-2, with a nice 2-0-1 record ATS.