Conference Play Preview: Colonial Athletic Association

 

With conference play on the horizon, Tony Shaver and the boys know it’s time to take their game to the next level. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
With just one game remaining on the out of conference slate, William & Mary (4-7) finds itself one week away from the beginning of CAA play; so far, the Green and Gold has experienced its fair share of ups and downs.

Following a season in which the team reached the CAA semifinals, Tony Shaver’s suddenly young squad has gone through some growing pains this year.

But this wasn’t entirely unexpected. Yes, there were some close games that we thought W&M could have pulled out (George Mason, UIC, etc.) — but there was also the occasional surprising W&M win (see: St. Joe’s). For a team that has played 5 freshman fairly consistently throughout the young season, the erratic results make some sense. 

That’s a long-winded way of saying: don’t let W&M’s current 4-7 record fool you. The Tribe’s out of conference schedule this year was likely the team’s hardest in a very long time. Additionally, the team still boasts two all-conference caliber players (at least), and perhaps the league’s best player in Nathan Knight.

As the freshmen grow and develop, this team will become even more scary for opposing teams in the not too distant future. And as we all know: out of conference play really doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about CAA play, and all about jockeying for position in the CAA Tournament.

CAA Preseason Poll

[via caasports.com]
Coming into the year, W&M was picked to finish 4 of 10 in this year’s CAA. The ranking didn’t surprise us much — as it was hard to argue with the teams placed above W&M. Both Northeastern and Charleston made the CAA Championship last season and return starters this season that can continue to get the job done.

Hofstra boasts last season’s CAA Player of the Year in deadly sharpshooter Justin Wright-Foreman, making the Pride an every-night threat. But even with all that being said, W&M is fully capable of knocking out any of these teams on any given Knight (whoops, we meant night…or did we?). 

We fully expect the CAA to be a league full of parity and upsets this year, as it has been for the past several seasons — especially since the departures of VCU and George Mason. This year will likely be no different, but we do expect Northeastern and Charleston to be strong contenders yet again.

Current CAA Standings (Dec. 20)

Now take these standings with a grain of salt. As mentioned earlier, W&M played perhaps its hardest out of conference schedule in recent memory. That is to say, not all out of conference slates are created equal. 

But while we can’t necessarily draw too much from the current standings — there are nevertheless some interesting nuggets to note. For example, James Madison has had a strong start to the year; picked to finish 6th in the conference, the Dukes are two games over .500. The same could be said for Delaware.

With NBA scouts in attendance, Nathan Knight will look to dominate CAA competition this season. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
On the opposite end of that spectrum is both Northeastern and W&M. W&M, having played against the likes of Notre Dame (ACC), Duquesne (A-10), Marshall (NCAA Tournament last season), Radford (NCAA Tournament last season) boast just four wins. Northeastern is in the same boat, garnering just 5 wins in out of conference play; the Huskies have had a similarly hard schedule, having played and lost against #13 Virginia Tech, Davidson twice (NCAA Tournament last season), and Syracuse. 

But it’s safe to say that both Charleston and Hofstra are sitting pretty in out of conference play, with the Cougars garnering 10 wins in 12 games and the Pride garnering 9 wins in 12 games. Charleston picked up impressive wins against Rhode Island and VCU, but has largely played against weaker competition in out of conference play. Hofstra also played a relatively weak out of conference schedule, without any truly notable wins, but has picked up wins in the process.

Conclusion

With all that being said, we foresee a wide open race in this year’s CAA; specifically, we expect the top 4 preseason CAA teams to vie for the CAA crown. Behind the 4 preseason picks, there will likely be stiff competition for the #5-#8 spots, which could truly be anyone’s to claim. 

It’ll be interesting, but like we said: CAA play is all that matters. Out of conference play is just a warmup. This W&M team has the talent, the scoring, and the depth to get the job done in this year’s CAA. The team’s defense, although its struggled a bit in out of conference play, should continue to improve as the season goes on — and especially against CAA competition. We trust the boys to get the job done.

LET’S GO TRIBE.

Upcoming Schedule

December 22: @ UVA

December 28: vs. JMU

December 30: vs. Towson

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