Let’s make one thing absolutely clear; this isn’t your father’s Colonial Athletic Association. In fact, this isn’t even your slightly older brother’s Colonial Athletic Association. What I’m trying to say is that the CAA has not been immune to conference realignment. If you were expecting epic clashes between Big Dance crashers like VCU, George Mason, and Old Dominion then I suggest you return to the fantasy world you’re living in because that ain’t happenin’ this year. VCU bolted for the ACC, and as much as CAA fans hate to admit it they’re doing just fine. Old Dominion got off to a sizzling 2-20 start but has since fired their coach and declined to play in the Conference tournament (they cannot get an automatic bid because they are leaving for the C-USA next year). Then there’re the old march madness darlings at George Mason. They’re not terrible and they’re not leaving for another conference, they’re just flat out mediocre.
So what does this all mean? The CAA is wide-open baby! Expect upsets, David taking it to Goliath, the underdog beating the…hold on. It looks like the only upset is the 3 seed beating the 2 seed. Well, let’s just get on with the championship preview, shall we?
This year’s final pits the top seeded Northeastern Huskies vs. the three seed James Madison Dukes. Neither of these teams are in contention for an at-large bid so there are no bubble/Kentucky ramifications. All you need to do is enjoy some ripe CAA basketball before it goes out of season. Let’s start with the favorites.
The Huskies have relied on their league-leading offense to propel them to the top seed in the CAA tournament. Guard Joel Smith leads Northeastern with 16.4 points and shoots 42.6% from beyond the arc. His cohort in the frontcourt is the do-it-all power forward Quincy Ford. Quincy pours in 12.8 points per game while pulling in 5.7 rebounds. Then there’s the Huskies’ secret weapon; Reggie Spencer. He only averages 10 points per game but he shoots a nation leading 100% from 3-point range. The Dukes are in for a long game if he continues to shoot at this pace. And no, I’m not going to tell you how many threes he’s taken this year.
Did you know that a Duke is actually some sort of King of Bulldogs? Neither did I. Anyways, that’s James Madison’s mascot and they are the 3-seed in the CAA tournament. Balance is the name of the game for the Dukes. Their top 4 scorers all average between 10 and 12.6 points per game and they all shoot above 37% from behind the arc. They’re methodical. You won’t see Rayshawn Goins or A.J. Davis on Sportscenter’s Top Ten plays but they do have the ability to wear you down and pull out a win. If the Dukes are going to pull of the upset they’re going to have to stick to their balanced approach and not get caught up playing Northeastern’s faster-paced game.
Who’s Going to Win?
When these teams met back in February Northeastern came out with a 2 point victory. Considering that game was at Matthews Arena (Northeastern’s home court), it’s a safe bet that the CAA final at a neutral site will turn out to be another close game.
The outcome of this game is almost impossible to predict with any certainty. Vegas is saying that Northeastern is a 1-point favorite. I’m taking Northeastern purely because they are the favorites, but the game should be fun to watch. Both teams are fighting for their NCAA tournament lives. Neither will advance past the first round, but the opportunity for these teams to play on the big stage means that this game will not be lacking in intensity and emotion.
Tune in to the NBC Sports Network tonight at 7 to find who’ll be crowned CAA champions.