2012 College Basketball Predictions: CAA Tournament Betting Picks
by Darin Zank - 2/29/2012
The Colonial Athletic Association doesn't usually get a lot of ink as it plays in the shadow of some of the major conferences out East. But they've been playing some pretty good ball in the defensive-minded CAA in recent seasons, sending two teams to the Final Four the last five years. And hey, that's more than the Big 12 has sent over that span.
In the spirit of providing at least a little insight into this conference tournament for our basketball-betting friends out there, here's a quick look at the upcoming CAA tournament, which starts Friday and runs through the championship game Monday, played at the Richmond Coliseum. We will also offer some betting predictions although odds are unavailable at this time.
For the record, Richmond is home to Virginia Commonwealth University, but the CAA's Rams play their home games on campus, not at the Coliseum. .
The CAA Regular Season
The Top 6 teams in the CAA finished layered in one-game increments. Drexel claimed the CAA regular-season title, winning its last 16 conference games to finish at 16-2. VCU finished second at 15-3, followed by George Mason at 14-4, Old Dominion at 13-5, Delaware at 12-6 and Georgia State at 11-7.
Northeastern finished .500 in conference play at 9-9.
And bringing up the rear, James Madison and NC-Wilmington came in at 5-13, William & Mary at 4-14, Hofstra at 3-15 and Towson at 1-17.
So, as I see it, the CAA is divided into three tiers: an upper division, consisting of the top four in the standings; a couple potential spoilers; and a bottom group of six teams who, let's face it, have no realistic shot to win this tournament.
What They're Playing For
The winner of the CAA tournament, of course, earns an automatic berth into the upcoming NCAA Tournament. I would say three teams, Drexel (25-5 overall), VCU (25-6) and George Mason (23-8), have chances to receive at-large berths, but none of those teams own an RPI better than 60. So it is very possible that only the tournament champion will go to the NCAA.
Last year the CAA sent three teams to the Big Dance; Old Dominion won the conference tournament, and GMU and Virginia Commonwealth got at-large invitations. And if I remember right, the Rams ran all the way to the Final Four.
Drexel, with four starters back from a team that went 11-7 in the CAA last year, has lost two conference games this season, the last one Jan. 2 at Georgia State. So the Dragons will go into the CAA tournament having gone two months without losing a game. Drexel had a bit of an advantage in the CAA in that it only played three games vs. the other upper-tier teams in the league. The Dragons only had to go against VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion one time each and they won all three of those games.
Drexel has never won the CAA Tournament.
Virginia Commonwealth lost three starters from last year's Cinderella story, and started 1-2 in conference play. But the Rams won 14 of their last 15, and the only loss during the time came by one point at George Mason. VCU ended the regular season on a high note, getting a little taste of revenge with an 89-77 victory over GMU. The Rams went 3-2 vs. the CAA's top four, losing to Drexel, splitting two games with the Patriots and sweeping two games from ODU.
Speaking of George Mason, the Patriots were right in the thick of the CAA race in their first season without Head Coach Jim Larranaga until they lost their last two games to Northeastern and Virginia Commonwealth. But GMU went 3-2 vs. the CAA's top four, losing to Drexel, splitting with VCU and sweeping two games from Old Dominion.
Those Monarchs are two-time defending CAA Tournament Champions. And even after having to replace most of last year's production they're right back in the running for another title. But I've got a problem with ODU; they went 0-5 vs. Drexel, George Mason and VCU this season.
A Pair With a Puncher's Chance
Heading into this season Delaware figured to finish in the bottom third of the league this year. Instead the Blue Hens won their last eight games to finish 12-6 in conference play. And they managed to split their season series with both Drexel and George Mason. So the Hens come in hot and capable of beating the top teams in the league.
Georgia State, in its first season under new Head Coach Ron Hunter, was also expected to finish near, if not right at, the bottom of the CAA standings this year. Instead the Panthers, led by four seniors, went 11-7 in CAA play, winning six of their last eight games. Of GSU's seven conference losses, three came in OT and three more came by a total of seven points. The Panthers also own victories over Drexel and George Mason. The way Georgia State plays defense, they'll be a pain in the you-know-what for anybody in this tournament.
The Tournament Draw
The top four teams in the regular-season standings have earned byes into Saturday's quarterfinals.
Barring any first-round upsets Saturday's matchups would look like this; top-seeded Drexel would play the winner of the 8-9 game; Old Dominion would play Delaware; VCU would play the winner of the 7-10 game; and George Mason would take on Georgia State.
Again barring upsets, Sunday's semifinals would match Drexel against either ODU or Delaware, and VCU against either George Mason or Georgia State.
Now, as mentioned above, Drexel beat Old Dominion by one point last Saturday. But the Dragons could only manage a split of two games vs. Delaware. So an upset in this game isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Meanwhile, VCU split two games with George Mason this season, and it split two close games with Georgia State. So again, I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset in this game, either.
CAA Tournament Prediction and Picks:
I'll throw two basic (mythical) unit bets at the CAA Tournament Championship board. I'll take one of the top four teams, and one of the longer shots. I tend to go against the obvious favorite, in this case, Drexel, so I'll place one imaginary shekel on George Mason. And in looking for a bit of a price I'll make a play on Delaware.
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