2017 CAA Tournament Preview: Charleston, Here We Come!

make-history-1

The CAA Tournament begins in just TWO DAYS (Friday), and to say that WE CANNOT WAIT would truly be an understatement. Our bags are packed, and we are ready to take off for Charleston on Friday morning (will we see you there?). And if the regular season were any indication, there will be plenty of parity this coming weekend in this year’s CAA tourney. It truly does seem, unlike any other year, that any team can beat any other on any given day.

But one thing is for certain: it’s is going to be fun to watch. Will this be the year that William & Mary makes it to the promised land for the first time in school history? Is this the year W&M can remove itself from the “Sad 5” (original D-1 teams that have never made the NCAA Tournament)? Time will tell. For now, let’s get to it and preview this year’s CAA Tournament! Roll Tribe Roll.

This Year’s CAA Pre-Season Rankings

Wow, what a crazy year it has been for CAA Hoops. UNCW came in as the preseason favorite, and as suspected, finished the regular season atop the CAA standings. Aside from UNCW, every other team ended up in a different position than they were ranked in the CAA Pre-Season rankings. Crazy. Your beloved Green and Gold was projected to finish 3rd, and ended up in fourth, behind UNCW, Charleston, and Towson. Check out the pre-season rankings below, before we dive into this year’s regular season standings.

  1. UNCW
    UNCW (37 first-place votes): 25-8 (14-4 CAA) [2015 records listed throughout]
  2. towson
    Towson (2 first-place votes): 20-13 (11-7 CAA)
  3.   tribe thumbnail
    William & Mary (1 first-place vote): 20-11 (11-7 CAA)
  4.  charleston
    College of Charleston: 17-14 (8-10 CAA)
  5.  JMU thumbnaill
    James Madison: 21-11 (11-7 CAA)
  6.  hofstra
    Hofstra: 24-10 (14-4)
  7.  northeastern
    Northeastern: 18-5 (9-9 CAA)
  8. elon phoenix
    Elon: 16-16 (7-11 CAA)
  9.  drexel
    Drexel: 6-25 (3-15 CAA)
  10.  delaware
    Delaware: 7-23 (2-16 CAA)

Regular Season CAA Rankings & Seeds

Now that you’ve been reminded of the preseason rankings, here is how everything actually turned out. Elon and Charleston performed better than most expected. The Cougars returned most of their starters from the year prior, and played well behind a strong defense and budding star freshman Grant Riller. Look out for them playing in their hometown at this weekend’s CAA Tournament.

Elon also made a big jump this season behind some absolutely lethal shooting. The Phoenix average a slightly insane 9.6 made 3-point shots per game, and boast a very balanced starting lineup. W&M draws the Phoenix in the first round of the Tournament on Saturday — so look for a potentially high scoring affair. As for the rest of the CAA, most teams finished close to where they were projected in the preseason, including W&M, who again, after a projected #3 preseason rank, finished 4th at the end of the season. Not bad in this year’s competitive CAA. Check out the final regular season rankings and records below.

UNCW

1. UNCW: 26-5 (15-4 CAA)

charleston

2. Charleston: 23-8 (14-4 CAA)

  towson

3. Towson: 29-12 (11-7 CAA)

new-tribe-logo-transparent-background
4. William & Mary: 16-13 (10-8 CAA)

elon phoenix

5. Elon: 18-13 (10-8 CAA)

 northeastern
6. Northeastern: 15-15 (8-10 CAA) 

JMU thumbnaill
7. James Madison: 9-22 (7-11 CAA)

 hofstra
8. Hofstra: 15-16 (7-11)

delaware
9. Delaware: 12-19 (5-13 CAA)

 drexel
10. Drexel: 9-22 (3-15 CAA)

 2017 CAA Tournament Bracketology

[via wikipedia.com]

Since W&M did not win its final two games, the Tribe ended up with the fourth seed (rather than 3rd) in this year’s CAA Tournament. This potentially gives the Green and Gold a slightly harder route to the Championship, as they now would have to face #1-seeded UNCW in the second round rather than #2 Charleston (assuming they beat Elon). But drawing Charleston in their hometown doesn’t sound like a lucky draw either. We’ll have to see how things play out, especially as UNCW seems to have a harder draw (potentially vs. Hofstra) in its first game, relative to Charleston, who may draw JMU. Hofstra is hot as of late. JMU is not. Again, time will tell.

In order to win the CAA Championship and break the NCAA Tournament spell, William & Mary will likely have to beat Elon, UNCW, and Charleston. The bad news: W&M has lost to all of these teams once this season (all on the road). The good news? W&M has also beaten all three of these teams (by an average of 10.3 PPG), showing that when the Tribe is on, the team has the potential to beat anyone in the league.

 

2017-caa-bracketology

Above, in color, are the W&M Sports Blogs predictions for this year’s CAA Tournament. Overall, the top-seeded teams are strong, and look to really contend all the way through the finals. UNCW and Charleston come in as the strong favorites, but W&M, with senior captains and leading scorers Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt, is poised to make a run. But what’s a bracket without picking at least one upset? The case can be made for the #6 Northeastern Huskies to shock the CAA world by upsetting the #3 Towson Tigers.

The Huskies started out the season strong (12-5, 5-0 CAA), beating teams such as UConn and Michigan State. From there, they fell apart, having lost 4 out of its last 6 games, spiraling all the way down to a 15-15 (8-10 CAA) record. However, the Huskies recently knocked off #4 Elon in a 2OT shootout, 105-104. Towson, having suffered a major season-ending off the court injury to senior John Davis (the team’s leading rebounder), lost its final two games to UNCW and W&M. Towson is indeed the favorite, but anything can happen in this year’s CAA Tournament, and absolutely nothing would surprise us this year. It’ll be exciting, to say the least.

Round 1 (Friday)

Matchups: Hofstra vs. Delaware, JMU vs. Drexel

As mentioned, Hofstra has been hot as of late, with back-to-back wins over W&M (our only home loss) and JMU. We predict Hofstra to beat Delaware, before falling to UNCW the next day, in what may be a hard-fought game for both teams. JMU had an awful out of conference showing this season, before coming on in CAA play, finishing with a 7-11 CAA record. But Drexel is too young and inexperienced (sans Rodney Williams), so we like JMU in this one.

Round 2: Quarterfinals (Saturday)

Matchups (projected): UNCW vs. Hofstra, W&M vs. Elon, Charleston vs. JMU, and Towson vs. Northeastern

This is where this year’s parity throws a wrench in things. We don’t see any way that Hofstra can get by UNCW or JMU by Charleston, but you never know. Towson-Northeastern and W&M-Elon are by far the best matchups, as those two games can really go either way.  Northeastern is led by the top scorer in the CAA in senior T.J. Williams (21.6 ppg) and grad transfer Alex Murphy (14.2 ppg). As previously stated, Towson recently lost their third leading scorer and heart of the team in senior John Davis (11.8 ppg), which really hurts.

In a game that pits two of the top scoring teams in the CAA, W&M will play Elon in what will surely be a high scoring game with a lot of 3’s. Which one will hit more threes? Which one will finish with the ball? Which will go on a run when it really counts in the second half? This is what we’ll be looking for on Saturday. Elon is a young team, and doesn’t have a senior in their starting lineup. We predict a Tribe win, spearheaded by W&M senior’s Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon. It’ll be tough, and W&M’s bench will play a key role, but the Green and Gold have more than enough to get the job done.

Round 3: Semifinals (Sunday)

Matchups (projected): UNCW vs. W&M, Charleston vs. Northeastern

This will be where things get interesting. UNCW-W&M, and Charleston-Northeastern. These four represent 3 of the final four teams from a year ago (excluding Charleston), so it is an experienced bunch.

In this scenario, the Tribe would face off against UNCW, the #1 seed in the CAA. W&M found itself in a similar position when the Tribe played against Hofstra a season ago. That game went down to the wire, and a David Cohn missed 3 at the buzzer gave Hofstra the narrow victory. We predict a similarly close game between W&M and UNCW. If Omar and Daniel play like they did against UNCW in Williamsburg, where the duo combined for an insane 56 points, then the Tribe should win.

The projected Charleston-Northeastern game would also be a very good matchup, as these two teams split in the regular season. However, we think that T.J. Williams and company will have a tough time against the Charleston defense. Northeastern would likely be worn down from a tough outing against a great rebounding team in Towson the day earlier, while Charleston should find themselves fresher after facing a lesser JMU team. Fresh legs and good defense would likely lead the Cougars over Northeastern and into the Championship in this scenario.

Round 4: Championship (Monday)

Matchup (projected): W&M vs. Charleston

It all comes down to this. William & Mary vs. Charleston, for a chance to gain an automatic bid to the coveted NCAA Tournament. William & Mary is one of the five schools that have been part of Division I since it was created in 1948 and haven’t qualified for the NCAA tournament. Yes, you likely know that by now. But it should motivate the hell out of our squad. W&M is 0–9 in NCAA Tournament berth-clinching games. However, this year feels different. This Tribe squad is deep and very experienced. Seniors Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt have played in the Conference Championship 2 out of their previous 3 years, alongside some Tribe greats.  They know what it takes. We also can’t remember the last time W&M had two seniors who were such prolific scorers like Dixon and Prewitt. If anybody can take W&M to the promised land, it is the combined strength of these two.

With that being said, Charleston would be no easy test. They are deep, talented, and a force to be reckoned with. They are led by Joe Chealey (17.2 ppg) and Jarrell Brantley (14.1 ppg). Previously mentioned freshman Grant Riller (13.5 ppg) has also been on fire to end this year’s season. The Cougars have the top scoring defense in the CAA, giving up just 63.9 ppg. William & Mary has the second best scoring offense in the league, averaging 81.7 ppg. It would truly be a battle of the top defense against one of the top offenses in the CAA.

Anything can happen in the Championship. This game could go either way, as the Cougars beat W&M in Charleston by 10 points before W&M would go on to beat Charleston in Williamsburg by 10 points later in the season. These two teams are both talented, but in very different ways. If the Tribe’s shots fall and it scores above 75 points, it will be hard for Charleston (who averages 69 ppg) to win. We sound like a broken record by now, but we think that Dixon and Prewitt will have a little extra fire stored up for their last-ever CAA Tournament. These two are hungry to be the first to lead W&M to a NCAA tournament. Call us crazy, but we think this year is the year the Green and Gold makes it to the NCAA Tournament (KNOCK ON WOOD). ROLL DAMN TRIBE!

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see whose crowd travels best to Charleston (aside from Charleston fans of course). W&M tends to play well when the team has fans behind them (13-1 at home), so lets hope that the Tribe faithful travels well and are in full force this weekend. It surely has been a wacky season, as W&M has beaten every team in the league…all the while losing to every team in the league (aside from Delaware). When William & Mary is on, the team is just about unbeatable. Here’s to hoping that the Green and Gold bring the FIRE for all THREE games. See you in Charleston! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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