First off, lets appreciate and extend our congratulations from our small Drexel supporter community to our brothers and sisters in co-op up at Northeastern. For the second year in a row, a former America East team has won the Colonial Athletic Association Championship, which probably has no relationship at all with the tournament's move north to Baltimore. This year the title was won by a team that had been 24 years removed from cutting down the nets, that plays in a gym that exactly no one besides themselves appreciates, led by an academic "everyone gets a trophy" type AD, with minimal capital expense contributions from the school or alumni base. I'm not saying they have an apathy problem, but there were about 12 students in attendance at the CAA Championship Game that weren't paid to be there. And I'm not sure those 12 weren't. For Drexel fans, this represents hope.
And that is the biggest message coming out of this years CAA Tournament. Want to be the next VCU? The CAA is ripe for the taking. Looking at the investment that Towson has put into basketball, it's easy to see them being the next team to take off, and that is a pattern that can be easily followed. As weak at the Colonial may be at the moment, this is what makes today the easiest time yet to invest in excellence and make this a launching pad for any CAA school with a stomach for the investment. The big dogs from Virginia that had to be beaten in Virginia to advance aren't there anymore. If you're a value investor, now is the time to buy in the CAA.
The next league-wide message that was sent this weekend is a simple one. Listen to Calvin Hicks and play defense. Including this years Northeastern team, six of the last seven CAA Champs have been either first or second in the league in defensive efficiency. This obviously knocks the new tendency to try running the four guard, as defense starts at home - protect the rim. Tip for your bracket pools: In the last 5 years, every national champion has been in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency and done that against top 20 strength of schedules. Teams that look like they can end with those stats this year are limited to:
Whenever we look at stats we should be looking at why they show what they show. I invite your thoughts in the comments below, but my thoughts are simple: Shooting is hard. Heard it here first folks. Teams can play defense and rebound with dead legs. Shooting is a bit more of a challenge. When college teams get to the late season, and have back to back to back games, or even games on a single days rest such as the end of the weekend tourney game, those are pain points for teams full of shooters, and where defensive teams make their money. Just ask William and Mary.
The final takeaway from this weekend has to be about the CAA Championship itself. I stayed through Sunday and then commuted on Amtrak on Monday night. From the Inner Harbor hotels, to the bars of Fells Point to the Royal Farms Arena itself, hospitality was top shelf all the way around. The era of roof leaks onto the basketball floor, restrooms out of paper towel, and boarded up blocks of commercial space between the hotel and the arena appears to be over for the CAA, and that is a great step forward. For Drexel fans, the 4:55pm Amtrak Northeast Regional from 30th Street Staion had me inside the arena at 6:25pm when I traveled during Monday's rush hour for the title game, and I could have been back in Philly by 11pm. That's an opportunity that only Virginia teams had for a very long time, and now that we have that opportunity here in Philadelphia, I encourage you to make that trip, even if only for one day, when Drexel fields a competitive team in the tournament next year. This may be the first CAA Tournament that I've been to where the only complaints were about the officiating, and credit needs to be given where it is deserved, both with the city, and yes, even the CAA League Office for putting together a very successful weekend. With one year left on the deal with Baltimore, lets all hope, and speak up, for an extension with the city.