Thanks again to Alan for his steadfast support of the blog for the last two seasons. He sent this in last week, prior to CAA action, but due to limitations with the blog, this is being posted today. My annual "Beers of the CAA" preview will be posted tomorrow.
The Colonial is strong for the conference this year. There r 5 teams that have power ratings that r typically good enough to win the conference. There are at least 2 others with the potential to get there. I shall write a few words, this in the order I believe they will finish.
1 William & Mary - One of the few schools that still thinks academics matters in athletic admission, somehow has lost a second round NBA draft pick and this year is even better. Well, there is the matter of Tony Shaver, one of the great minds in basketball. What a joy to watch this team play. They are rebounding better this year. They have some huge wins already this year including a blow out at NC State and tough games at high level schools, including a buzzer beating loss at Dayton. I am a bit biased with this pick, however their resume from non conference more than backs it up. With teams more familiar with their stuff in conference, they may level off a bit, but I think Shaver finds a way this year.
2 Hofstra - Did not take Joe Mihalich long to turn things around on Long Island. No surprise as he had Niagara competing nearly every year and Hofstra is far better budgeted for basketball. Last years late season swoon cost them an NCAA bid. With almost every one back. especially future pro Juanya Green, Hofstra is likely the favorite in many peoples eyes.
3 Northeastern - With almost everything back from a team that almost knocked out Not Dame in the first round, Northeastern is an obvious threat to the title. Always well schooled by Bill Coen, they have the signature win of the conference, if not of the year, with their win at top 8 school Miami Fla. Northeastern gives nothing away, making them a tough out in the tournament.
4 UNCW - It did knock take Keatts long to bring UNCW back to relevance. UNCW is no longer the school with a genius coach who liked to control tempo, they are now a Pitino like pressing, in your face defense, that if like Louisville, gets away with more fouls than are called. However, we must give credit to Keatts for wild success under tough circumstances. This year with much more depth, his upside is far greater. A definite threat for the title, but still a notch below the top two at least. The good news for the large fan base that made their home a mad house, is that Keatts will likely have a winner, before taking a bigger job.
5 James Madison - Another team with almost everyone back. The underrated Matt Brady, saved his job with an improbable run to the tournament a couple of years ago. With lots of experience and still a young team, albeit this one with an excellent senior point guard Ron Curry, JMU has room to improve on last years finish, which could put them at the top of this extremely tough top 5.
6 College of Charleston - One of the great cities in this country has one of the great mid major programs. Yes they have struggled a bit since John Kresse retired, but this school gets good talent and with ex Greg Marshall assistant Earl Grant in only his 2nd year, it wont be long before C of C is back to relevance, It is likely not this year as the league is too tough and Grant does not have all his players yet. It will be sooner rather than later.
7 Elon - Another school that is steadily building a program under the guidance of an excellent coach. Matt Metheny has taken Elon from bottom of the barrel in the Southern Conference to a strong competitor in the Colonial. Last years team was destroyed by injury. If, big if, they stay healthy this year, they will pull off their share of upsets, perhaps even in the opener tonight vs Northeastern.
8 Towson - The AD told Pat Skerry you have as long as you like. With that strong backing and a new arena to boot, Towson is serious about their basketball. Skerry has delivered. Towson has gone from a team that was completely over matched every night in the conference, to one that not only competes but also wins more than their share of games. This year with many parts back, they have started to play better recently. I would expect this program to stay relevant for a long time.
9 Delaware - If Delaware can get some injured players back they should stay out of the bottom. Before injuries hit, they had 4 starters back from last year including potential future conference player of the year point guard Kory Holden. They will be tough if healthy, if not, they could pass Drexel, the wrong way.
10 Drexel - There were 700 transfers in D-I basketball. Disgusting. The game is big business and the conglomerates will do anything they can to get top players. Louisville robbed only 2 top players this year, Troy Lewis (Cleveland State) and Damian Lee from Drexel. This was a huge loss for Drexel, although not unexpected. Then injuries continue to kill this team as projected starting pg Major Canady got hurt. Drexel needs Ahmed Fields to get back and be healthy. If so, they will finish ahead of Delaware. If not, then there are many a long night in Philly. It will likely be the end for a coach I have always both liked and respected.