2017 CAA Play Preview: Holiday Edition

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Head Coach Tony Shaver has his boys fired up going into CAA play. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
Merry Christmas W&M fans! With the Tribe’s out of conference schedule wrapped up, it’s time to turn our attention to what truly matters: conference play. W&M starts its CAA slate at home on December 30 against Hofstra. So far, this year’s CAA looks like it’ll be another hard fought affair, with several teams having already gotten off to strong starts. Your Green and Gold sit at 7-4, an early Christmas present for you, surprising most CAA fans (and W&M fans alike). But as good as the Tribe has played up to this point, we should always remember not to put too much stock in CAA teams’ out of conference records.

What actually matters is how a team performs against fellow conference members. As is the case every year, the CAA will come down to the conference tournament. Keep in mind that the CAA is a one-bid conference — meaning, whichever team wins the conference tournament in March will (most likely) be the only team that makes it to the NCAA Tournament. And the only way for W&M to position itself for a top seed in the conference tournament is to perform well against CAA teams during the regular season. It’s win or bust for your William & Mary Tribe. And with that in mind, let’s preview this year’s CAA teams.

CAA Preseason Rankings

How the mighty have fallen. With the departure of their Head Coach, UNCW drops, to the delight of Charleston fans everywhere. [photo via caasports.com]
Going into the season, several CAA teams were picked to finish toward the top of the league, with three clearly leading the pack. Your W&M Tribe was not one of them. But as we’ve seen in the past, these polls count for nothing. We’ve seen middle of the pack preseason picks finish on top; conversely, we’ve seen teams predicted to finish on top who actually finish as a bottom half team. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to see which teams are viewed by coaches and the media as those that are expected to make short work of the CAA. Below are the preseason rankings that were released back in October.

Going into the season, it’s safe to say that Charleston, Towson, and Elon were thought to be the top teams in the CAA. And up to this point in the season, it’s too early to tell whether or not that is the case. But they’ve all come out firing, each sporting a record of 8-5 or better. In fact, of the 10 teams in the CAA, over half currently hold winning records (6 teams). With that in mind, it’ll likely be another barn burner of a season — one likely full of parity, upsets, and the occasional blowout.

Now, we mentioned that several teams hold winning records. Let’s take a look at the CAA rankings as they stand today.

CAA standings as of December 23 [photo via caasports.com]
Notice anything…different from the preseason rankings? That’s right, the Green and Gold has not-so-sneakily snuck up on the CAA like the Grinch on Whoville. Towson, currently leading the pack, is on a 2-game losing streak after falling on the road to both Oakland and Pittsburgh. Their other loss was to ODU to begin the season, a team that your W&M Tribe beat on a last-second three point Christmas-miracle heave by none other than Oliver Tot (#NeverForget). Aside from that, none of Towson’s ten wins are very impressive, playing teams no higher ranked than 87 in terms of RPI. Despite not having a signature win under their belt at this point in the season, they’ll undoubtedly be a very tough out in this year’s CAA.

Charleston, returning all five starters this season while also being picked to finish #1 in the CAA, has the same story as Towson: no signature wins, with losses to good teams such as #6 Wichita State and the A-10’s Rhode Island. But they have a roster that is stacked from top to bottom, including CAA Preseason Player of the Year, Joe Chealey. Towson and Charleston actually play each other on December 30, so we’ll know very early which team has the edge to start the season.

Charleston’s Joe Chealey, the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, is looking for Charleston’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1999. [photo via cofcsports.com]
Elon is one more team we think is worth calling out, as they were picked to finish #3 in the CAA going into the season. If you remember, Elon is an upstart squad that last year’s W&M Tribe knocked out of the CAA Tournament quarterfinals. They’re built just like the Tribe, currently knocking down threes at a faster rate than Buddy the Elf throws snowballs. Through 13 games, the Phoenix have converted on 138 three-point shots, good enough for #1 in the CAA in terms of total number of three-point shots made. In comparison, and through 11 games (two less than Elon), W&M has converted on 134 three-point shots. But W&M has averaged more 3-point makes per game (12.2) than Elon (10.6). This is all to say that Elon will be anther team to watch for this season.

Current CAA Statistical Leaders

W&M players rank across the board in several important statistical categories. Having suffered multiple transfers this past offseason (Greg Malinowski and Jack Whitman), many left this team for dead. However, with a great coach and resurgent squad that doesn’t quit (and can really shoot the ball), the Tribe has gotten off to a stellar start — much better than most Tribe fans could ever hope for in the offseason. Don’t believe us? Check the numbers.

CAA Scoring

  1. Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra – 23.2 PPG
  2. Stuckey Mosley, JMU – 19.8 PPG
  3. Tramaine Isabel, Drexel – 19.5 PPG
  4. Nathan Knight, W&M – 18.7 PPG

CAA Rebounding

  1. Devontae Cacok, UNCW – 12.5 Avg/G
  2. Rokas Gustys, Hofstra – 10.5 Avg/G
  3. Justin Pierce, W&M – 9.2 Avg/G
Connor Burchfield, along with Matt Milon, has been the hottest shooter for the Tribe so far this season. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

CAA Assists

  1. David Cohn, W&M – 7.2 Avg/G
  2. Jordon Talley, UNCW – 6.0 Avg/G
  3. Joe Chealey, CofC – 4.6 Avg/G

CAA 3-Point FG Made

  1. Connor Burchfield, W&M – 38 (3.5 Avg/G)
  2. Matt Milon, W&M – 36 (3.3 Avg/G)
  3. Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra – 37 (3.1 Avg/G)

And in addition to spectacular play from individual players, the Green and Gold currently ranks as the best in the CAA in several team categories. And while these numbers will surely change once CAA play roles around, when was the last time your W&M Tribe ranked #1 in eight statistical categories? Roll Damn Tribe.

  • Scoring Offense (#1) – 87.0 PPG
  • Free Throw % (#1) – .801
  • Field Goal % (#1) – .515
  • 3-point % (#1) – .459
  • Blocked Shots (#1) – 5.3 Avg/G
  • Assists (#1) – 19.0 Avg/G
  • Assist/Turnover Ratio (#1) – 1.5
  • 3-Point FG Made (#1) – 12.2 Avg/G

With the out of conference slate over, we’re excited to see what this W&M squad can do against teams in its own conference. There will undoubtedly be games where the Green and Gold comes out firing, taking down big-time teams with hot shooting. However, there may also be games where W&M is cold, losing to teams it certainly should not lose to. Either way, there is much more hope than there was a couple months ago going into the season, and we’ll be rooting on the Green and Gold all the way to the very end (hopefully we’ll be dancin’). Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Tribe Fans! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

Road Ahead: W&M Tribe     


December 30: vs. Hofstra

January 2: @ JMU

January 5: @ Delaware

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