CAA is the acronym for the Colonial Athletic Association but this year that "C" might as well stand for "Cannibal". The CAA was one of the most top-heavy, parity driven leagues in the country this year, with five teams in the 10-team league battling into the final weeks for the regular-season title.
This comes just one season after the CAA had the unbelievably rare four-way tie for the conference title last season. So parity is kind of their thing.
Not only were these teams extremely close in the standings this year, but also they were absurdly close on the court. More than half of the regular-season meetings between the top five teams in the CAA were decided by five points or less, and I would not be surprised if any one of the top-tier quintet took the title.
The Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament takes place from March 4-7 in Baltimore, Maryland. Northeastern is the defending champion, and there have been five different schools that have won the championship in the last five seasons. Here is Doc's Sports Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament preview (with odds courtesy of Robert Ferringo):
The Favorite: Hofstra (+220)
I don't think that there is any doubt that Hofstra is the best team in the CAA, even if it is by a thin margin. Joe Mihalich brought transfer guards Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley with him from Niagara to make an NCAA Tournament, and this is their best shot. They play small and they play fast, and with five guys averaging at least 11.6 points per game they are multidimensional. But their biggest problem is that they aren't deep. And that's an understatement. They are No. 351 in the country in terms of overall bench minutes, with the starters logging over 85 percent of the total available minutes. I don't know that they will have enough juice to win three games in three nights, and it would be a shame.
The Contenders: UNC-Wilmington (+250)
The Seahawks have to be kicking themselves a bit here. They earned a share of the conference title. But they blew an 18-point lead against Hofstra in the second-to-last game and that win would've earned them the outright crown. Much like the Pride, Wilmington plays small and fast, and when they get rolling offensively they can be tough to stop. Wilmington is also very underrated defensively, pressing, trapping and running, and putting pressure on opponents. Just two years ago the Seahawks were 9-23, and they actually lost three starters off of last year's pretty mediocre team. But this year's group has really clicked, and despite two losses in their last four game they have rolled up a 13-2 mark in their last 15. They have a lot of momentum heading to Baltimore.
The Sleeper: William & Mary (+650)
The Tribe are on the shortlist of teams that have never made the NCAA Tournament. They have come tantalizingly close, losing in the CAA Championship Game each of the past two years and three times in the past six seasons. William & Mary relies on deadeye outside shooting, and their four top scorers are small guards. They have four starters back from last year's near-miss, and their three best players all played in the title game two seasons ago. These guys are motivated, experienced and, most of all, they might be due.
The Spoiler: Northeastern (+900)
Don't sleep on the Huskies. Northeastern went only 9-9 in league play, but they were peaking down the stretch while winning five of their last six games. Northeastern is also the defending CAA champions, and they have four of five starters back from last season's title team. They play at a slow pace, relying on defense and execution, and if they can force the more athletic teams to play at a crawl they could definitely pull an upset or three.
Early-Round Matchups To Watch:
No. 4 James Madison (-1) vs. No. 5 William & Mary (2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 5)
Madison got off to a great start to the season, winning 16 of their first 21 games, but they started to slide late in the year, going just 5-5 in their last 10. The Dukes have one of the best players in the league in Ron Curry. And power forward Yohanny Dalembert provides the inside punch. The problem for Madison is that they are really banged up and that second-leading scorer Shakir Brown might not be available this weekend. He missed the season finale - a 71-65 win over this same William & Mary team - with a toe injury. Brown is questionable to play Saturday against William & Mary in the tournament. I don't see them beating the Tribe twice in one week without one of their best guys.
No. 3 Towson (-1) vs. No. 6 Northeastern (8:30 p.m., Friday, March 4)
These two teams have played two close games. But both games were extremely different. The first was a 79-72 back-and-forth affair, and the return game was a 47-44 slog. Northeastern won that last game, and that was the start of their late-season run. Towson has been an overachiever all season and has been very consistent. They are disciplined and they don't beat themselves. Of their last five losses, three of them were by three points or less and another by just six. Their problem is scoring droughts. These guys aren't great at any facet of offense, and I don't think defense alone will be enough to get them to the title game.
Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament Predictions: I don't know if there is a more difficult conference tournament in the country to call. I would love to see Hofstra win this league because I think they would make for the most entertaining first-round NCAA Tournament matchup. But I watched them play in a nonconference tournament in the Virgin Islands, and they could barely handle playing back-to-back games, much less the three in a row it will take to win the CAA. I will also rule out Towson, Charleston and Northeastern (though the Huskies are going to be a real tough out). James Madison isn't 100 percent healthy, so that will be a factor. That leaves UNC-Wilmington and William & Mary. And I'm going to go with the Seahawks here. I feel like they earned an easier draw and I can't see William & Mary beating James Madison, Hofstra and then whomever to win the title.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and he is about to extend his unmatched streak to 10 straight winning college basketball regular seasons. Robert's $100-per-Unit clients have banked $22,130 in profit with his sides and totals the last three seasons and have taken home over $40,000 win winnings so far this decade. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing March Madness. Click here to get two days of college basketball picks for free - no hassle and no credit card needed.
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