1 - William and Mary (1-1) - Saranac Clouded Dream - Just a lot of weird going on in Williamsburg this year. A William and Mary team with only one consistent three point shooter (Daniel Dixon) is contending to be the conference favorite. In a top 10 conference nationally. Credit the Stache, who is running great offense. The Pantsless Griffins lead the conference in percentage of shots taken at the rim, and they aren't doing it with their athleticism, they are simply running better offense then any team out there. That type of smarts leads to consistency, so even while they are below their recent standards from deep and maintain a mediocre defense, the run of victories continues.
What to Watch For: Just watch it. Watch the offense to learn what college hoops is meant to be.
Games That Could Be Trouble: Sat Jan 16 @ UNCW, Sat Feb 27 @ JMU
2 - Northeastern (2-0) - El Guapo Agave IPA - Here's the team that seems to be most begging for regression from their early season greatness. They have the conferences signature victory over Jamie Larranaga and Miami (FL), and a 2-0 record despite starting the season with the tough Elon/ C of C road swing. But the Huskies also shot 56% from deep at Miami (FL), and lost when they shot 18% from deep against Miami (OH). While David Walker, Quincy Ford and Caleb Donnelly are all very good established shooters, this team just doesn't do much else well. Live by the three die by the three will win you games that you shouldn't win, it will lose you some games you should, and as the anti-William & Mary, expect to see Northeastern caught up in some inconsistency this year. A top end finish in this league is likely, but a repeat feels like a stretch.
What to Watch For: Can Zach Stahl fill Scott Eatherton's shoes as a presence in the paint when they need one?
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thurs Feb 18 @ JMU, Sat Feb 27 @ DU
3 - James Madison (1-1) - Samuel Adams Boston Lager - The Dukes profile very similarly to Northeastern this year. While they also live and die by the three Matt Brady has slowed the tempo down and instilled some much needed discipline in his ranks. With a senior leader at the point in Ron Curry, and as many weapons as Brady has ever had in Harrisonburg this team is a live dog in this years CAA. On top of the offensive weapons, this is the best rebounding team of Brady's tenure and all indicators point to discipline, discipline, discipline, and the a clear closing of the Andre Nation era. Only three years removed from the dance, there is no CAA team that JMU can't beat and if they hadn't shot themselves in the foot with the home loss to Charleston, they may have been picked the favorite. That loss and a tough schedule including back to back road games at Northeastern and Hofstra provides some challenge to a team that played a very soft out of conference calendar.
What to Watch For: Can they get away from their reliance on the three?
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thurs Jan 14 @ NU, Sat Feb 27, William and Mary
4 - Hofstra (2-0) - Green Flash West Coast IPA - Don't blink. With an uptempo offense and the highest offensive efficiency (1.12 points per possession) that this league has seen since Doc Nix and the VCU Wheelchair Posse were hanging out in Richmond, Joe Mihalich brings back most of his scoring power from last seasons 20 win team. With experience and sharp shooting from Green and Tanksley, many have made them out to be the favorites. On the flip side, it's very likely Brian Bernardi has been outkicking his coverage and this team and it's tissue paper thin defense are much to reliant on three point shooting, which is the least predictable and consistent thing in college basketball.
The Flying Dutchman hit the road for their southern swing this weekend (wait for their home game against Elon to see triple digits on the board). If they get through that road trip unscathed, their only major potential speed bump the rest of the way is a three game road swing just before Valentine's Day.
What to Watch For: Three point percentage
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thursday Feb 11 @ W&M, Sat Feb 13 @ UD
5 - UNC Wilmington (1-1) - New Belgium Shift - What a difference a year makes at the beach. Kevin Keatts has earned his paycheck turning around a desperate program. Year two of the rise has gone about as well as can be hoped. While the team lost some talent with the departures of seniors Addison Spruill, Freddie Jackson and Cedrick Williams, the cupboard is far from bare. Underclassman Jordon Talley and CJ Bryce have stepped up to fill some holes but the big story is Chris Flemmings. Everything this kid touches has turned to gold. Currently Flemmings is 8th in the country in offensive efficiency, a ranking unheard of in the CAA (Damion Lee and Marcus Thornton were 136th and 373rd respectively last year, for comparison). The defense isn't good enough to be a legitimate CAA title contender yet and they put way too many players on the foul line. Even those metrics have been helped by playing a soft out of conference schedule, but the underlying fact remains unchanged: The Seahawks are completing one of the quickest turnarounds you will ever see.
What to Watch For: Growth of the underclassman and setting themselves up for a run next season
Games That Could Be Trouble: Sat Jan 9 @ UD, Thurs Feb 4 @ HU
6 - College of Charleston (1-1) - Boulder Beer Mojo Risin' - Earl Grant had the toughest job in the conference if not the country going into last season. Losing seniors Adjehi Baru and Anthony Stitt means that it's time for the young guns this year and have they ever stepped their games up. The Cougars are one of the most inexperienced teams in D-I hoops, led by junior Canyon Berry and sophomore Cameron Johnson, but they have still slayed giant LSU on their way to impressively opening the season 8-4. Earl Grant has started with the basics and this team is doing it with hard nosed defense and rebounding, a throwback to days of CAA Rockfights Past. While Charleston is still a couple of years away in all likelihood, there is no question that a once proud program is - quickly - on its way back.
What to Watch For: Growth, especially on the inside. Can Jarrell Brantley become a legit upper teir CAA big man that C of C can build around?
Games That Could Be Trouble: Sat Jan 30 @ UNCW, Sat Feb 13 @ Elon
7 - Drexel (0-2) - Yuengling Lager - Yuengling. the same price as Coors, Miller or Bud, but better reputation. If you're at an Open Bar and that's what they've got, you will drink it without complaint, but if you're at a beer bar full of craft brews, it will go untouched. The perfect Dragon metaphor.
The shame of this season is that the defense and rebounding seem to be rounding into form. The tandem of Kaz Abif and Rodney Williams has the potential to be one of the best starting frontcourts in the CAA and Terrell Allen will receive votes for Freshman of the Year. There's talent here, but this was a .500 team for two of Damion Lee's three seasons at Drexel. Sometimes talent isn't enough.
What to Watch For: Change and Terrell Allen
Games That Could Be Trouble: Maybe none, but be sure to catch the Drexel Delaware game as two desperate rivals going head to head should lead to some fireworks and a game worth watching.
8 - Elon (1-1) - New Belgium Accumulation - For long term investors, you're about six years too late to hop on Elon. Matt Matheny has brought a bottom tier SoCon team up to a middle pack CAA team in that time period, while playing in a gym the size of a shoebox. Much like Wilmington, this is a team that should have their eyes on next year, when a core of Luke Eddy, Danian Swoope and Dmitri Thompson can have a few more pieces around them. That mix and Tanner Samson is enough to give some teams headaches this year as well, but it's the defense that will hold them back. Against talented, disciplined offenses like William and Mary and James Madison the games could become glorified layup lines. At some point Matheny will need to decide to zone and pack in the paint to force some teams to spray and pray from outside the arc because what's going on now simply isn't good.
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thurs Jan 21 @ W&M, Thurs Feb 25 vs W&M
9 - Towson (1-1) - Oliver Brewing Hot Smoke and Heavy Blues - While the 9-5 record looks lofty for the Tigers, the 2-3 record against Kenpom top 250 teams is telling. Towson played an almost embarrassing out of conference schedule (although any schedule with George Mason on it is embarrassing) perhaps attempting to insulate a very young team from the troubles on the horizon. Senior leader Timajh Parker-Rivera never really turned the corner, and the guy leading the team in shots is shooting 17% from behind the arc... there are troubles here. Byron Hawkins has feasted on the competition and John Davis continues to be one of the better CAA players that no one is talking about but those two alone aren't enough to compete, and they appear to be the entirety of the Tigers list of weapons.
Give credit to coach Pat Skerry who continues to rebuild the program down in the Baltimore suburbs though. The William and Mary game showed what can happen in college basketball when you have a group that is inspired and will fight for their coach. Towson shot just 17% from deep at W&M yet still won against one of the conference favorites due to domination of the glass and coming away with loose balls time and again. Coaching a team to fight like that from the lower division is why no one will want to see Towson, Charleston, or Drexel on their schedules this year.
What to watch for: Will one of the freshman emerge as an offensive weapon?
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thurs Feb 4 @ Charleston, Sat Feb 6 @ Elon
Games That Could Be Trouble: Thurs Feb 4 @ Charleston, Sat Feb 6 @ Elon
10 - Delaware (0-2) - Laurelwood Brewing Workhorse IPA - It appears there has been a change at UD and rather than band aids and <cough> questionable admissions, Monte Ross has to go about building a program. That is a process that will go through growing pains and those pains have been accentuated with the loss of Chivarsky Corbett to a torn ACL. Marvin King-Davis and Kory Holden are a fine inside out combo, but similar to Towson, there's just not much there to help. Of additional concern there are no freshman in Newark to groom either. They'll still fight and get after it, and when their outside shots fall they can compete with the teams in this conference, but there's not a lot of positive spin to be put on this season for UD.
What to watch for: Can Kory Holden be a future Player of the Year candidate?
Games that could be trouble: Thurs Feb 11 vs Drexel, Thur Feb 4 @ Elon