It’s finally time — TOURNAMENT WEEK. With the CAA Tournament kicking off this Saturday, we’re here to provide you with in-depth game previews and analysis for both the First Round and Quarterfinals of tournament play.
Overall, the Tribe is hitting its stride at just the right time, drawing a favorable matchup in the Quarterfinals. But the Blue Hens should not be taken lightly. So sit back, relax, and get ready to chow down on some South Carolina barbecue with this preview.
Preseason Rankings vs. Reality
At the beginning of the year, Northeastern was picked by just about everyone (35 out of 40 voters) to win the CAA crown. It made sense, since the Huskies returned just about every player from a team that, had they not blown a large lead in the CAA Championship last season, would have been dancin’ in 2018.
Despite actually finishing second in the this year’s standings, the Huskies are, to us, the team to beat in the CAA Tournament this season. They come in red hot, having won their last 4 games and 13 of their last 15 games.
Outside of Northeastern — the preseason rankings did, however, accurately predict the top-4 teams (just not in the correct order). The biggest letdown of the year was perhaps UNCW, who instead of finishing 5th, finished dead last in a wonky year of CAA play.
The biggest surprise was the Delaware Blue Hens. Led by senior Eric Carter, as well as Ryan Allen and Ithiel Horton, the Blue Hens still present a formidable foe — especially for our W&M Tribe in the Quarterfinals of CAA Tournament play.
We say this every year: there seems to be an ever-increasing level of parity in the CAA; this year’s regular season was no different, as even the lowest ranked teams were able to pull off upsets over top dogs. Any team can truly be beaten on any given day in the CAA. Get ready for the Tournament (which begins on Saturday), because it’s going to be a wild one.
2019 CAA Tournament: Game Predictions
With the finalized bracket posted above, we set out to break down each matchup and provide our predictions for each team’s first game.
CAA Tournament: First Round
Game 1 (Saturday at 4 PM on CAA.tv)
#8 vs. #9
To kick off the 2019 CAA Tournament, it’ll be the JMU Dukes vs. the Towson Tigers. Unfortunately, neither team is coming into the tournament with any semblance of momentum — and that might be an understatement. Towson has dropped its last four games, while JMU has dropped its last two.
This will be a tough, gritty matchup, but in the end, we think JMU will bounce back and come out on top. JMU senior Stuckey Mosley will not want this to be the last game of his career; and oh yeah, do you remember when Matt Lewis dropped 40 points on Hofstra to win in OT three games ago? We do. The combo of Lewis and Mosley will likely be too much for the Tigers to handle on Saturday.
But even with that being said, it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest if Towson emerges in this 8/9 matchup.
Game 2 (Saturday at 6:30 PM on CAA.tv)
#7 vs. #10
In Saturday’s second contest, Elon will take on UNCW. Neither team inspires much confidence, but here’s an interesting (and depressing) stat: in their last 10 games, UNCW is just 1-9, with their only win coming against #1 Hofstra (go figure) at home.
Elon, on the other hand, has won 2 straight, and 3 of their last 4. The Phoenix come into the game hot and boast two studs in seniors Steven Santa Anna and Tyler Seibring. Expect UNCW’s Davontae Cacok to get his usual 15 points and a million rebounds, but the ‘Hawks don’t have enough outside of Cacok to win this one. They’re ranked last in the league for a reason.
CAA Tournament: Quarterfinals
Game 3 (Sunday at 12:00 PM on CAA.tv)
Wow. What a matchup to kick off the quarterfinals. The last time these teams met (in the 2nd-to-last week of the regular season), it turned into an instant classic. With 3 seconds left in regulation, Hofstra held a 89-86 lead over JMU. Only problem? Nobody told JMU’s Matt Lewis that the game was over. Lewis sprinted down the court and heaved up a last-second 3, swishing the Dukes into OT; more impressively, JMU prevailed in extra time, winning 104-99. What a game.
However, a potential CAA Tournament contest would be a bit different; Hofstra would certainly not overlook JMU as they may have in the regular season game. But from the other side, if you think JMU will simply roll over and give this one to Hofstra, you’d be mistaken. The Dukes will come into the game confident, knowing that they can certainly repeat the magic they made a few weeks ago — punching their ticket to the CAA semifinals.
But while we think the Dukes will put up a fight, we just can’t see Hofstra’s shooting phenom, Justin Wright-Foreman, losing in the first round of the CAA Tournament. Hofstra was upset in the CAA Tournament last year at the hands of UNCW — which will inevitably add fuel to their fire; we expect Coach Mihalich to have his boys ready to go in this one, and for the Pride to be out for revenge.
Game 4 (Sunday at 4:00 PM on CAA.tv)
#4 vs. #5
William & Mary couldn’t come into this game any hotter; unfortunately for the Blue Hens, Delaware couldn’t into this game any colder. In fact, the two teams boast the exact opposite records over the previous 9 games. The Tribe is winners of 5-straight, and is 7-2 in its previous 9 games. Delaware, on the other hand, are losers of 4 straight, and are 2-7 in their previous 9 games.
Statistical data points to W&M winning this game; moreover, Coach Shaver always seems to get his boys to at least the semifinal game. But don’t count Delaware out just yet. The key matchup in this contest will be the Blue Hens’ big man Eric Carter (16 PPG, 9.9 rebounds per game) vs. W&M’s big man Nathan Knight (21 PPG, 8.5 RPG). In the teams’ first matchup, Carter got the better of Knight; Nathan got into foul trouble early (playing only 25 minutes overall, and scoring “just” 12 points and posting 2 REBs).
Carter played almost the entire game, finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds in a nail-biting 58-56 victory for Delaware. In the second matchup, W&M obliterated the Hens, winning handily by a score of 84-63. However, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. The Blue Hens were without the aforementioned Eric Carter, who didn’t play due to injury. And despite Carter’s absence, Knight still got into foul trouble, playing only 19 minutes in the game.
Bottom line, if Knight isn’t playing 30+ minutes in this contest, the Tribe doesn’t have a great chance to get the job done with Delaware’s Carter back on the court; Delaware not only has Carter, but studs sophomore Ryan Allen and freshman Ithiel Horton (12.5 PPG).
This game will not be easy for the W&M, especially with the stakes so high at a neutral location — but the Tribe has all the momentum. Advantage: Tribe.
Game 5 (Sunday at 6:00 PM on CAA.tv)
#2 vs. #7
This contest is slated to be the worst matchup of the quarterfinals. Before we begin, let’s give Elon some real credit. They battled Northeastern tough in the regular season, losing both times in OT. Even with that being said, we don’t expect this one to be close.
As we noted earlier, Northeastern has won 13 of its last 15 games. They were chosen as the preseason #1’s for a reason. They’re good — really good. In our minds, the Huskies come into the tournament as the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing.
Huskies Head Coach Bill Coen is a smart coach who will make sure his team doesn’t forget last year’s heartbreaking loss to Charleston in the Championship; with the Cougars on the same side of the bracket, expect the Huskies to carry added motivation to move forward and set up the potential tournament rematch.
The Huskies will be more than fired up — look for Jordan Rowland (14.8 PPG) and Vasa Pusica (17.9 PPG) to propel Northeastern to a victory over Elon in this one.
Game 6 (Sunday at 8:30 PM on CAA.tv):
#3 vs. #6
The night game will likely be the best matchup of the entire quarterfinals. How could that possibly be, in the #3 vs. #6 game, you ask? Answer: Drexel and Charleston played each other extremely close this season.
In the first regular season contest, the Dragons came into Charleston and actually won, 79-78, breaking the Cougars’ long-standing home winning streak. Charleston would have the last laugh, however, narrowly defeating the Dragons 86-84 in Philly. So keep this in mind: Drexel beat Charleston the first time, then barely lost by 2 points in the second matchup.
Bottom line? In their two matchups this season, each losing team lost by an average of just 1.5 points. So expect this game to be close. But on paper, these two squads couldn’t be more different. Charleston leads with its defense (#1 scoring defense in the league), while Drexel leads with its offense (#2 scoring offense in the league). It will be a matchup of strength vs. strength, and we can’t wait to see who comes out on top. There is serious upset potential for the hometown favorites here.
Outside of Charleston’s top-loaded Grant Riller (22.3 PPG) and Jarrell Brantley (19.5 PPG), the next highest scoring player for Charleston is Brevin Galloway, who averages just 7.8 PPG. Meanwhile, Drexel boasts 5 players averaging double digits, led by senior Troy Harper (15.8 PPG) and junior Aihan Demir (14.9 PPG).
The home crowd will weigh heavily in the Cougars’ favor, and we expect Charleston to use this fuel to propel the team to victory; but the first big-time CAA Tournament upset in quite some time could occur on Saturday night.
See you in Charleston (the WMSB will be there) — LET’S GO TRIBE.