Player of the Year: Jerrelle Benimon, Towson
His abysmal (65.4 percent) free throw percentage aside, Jerrelle Benimon has all but engraved his name on the CAA POY plaque. His 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game are the primary reason for Towson's titanic turnaround, and his defensive play (as outlined numerous times by our own Ben Miraski) puts him head and shoulders above other POY candidates like Sherrod Wright and Devon Saddler. Oh, and those 11.1 rebounds per game? They're good for third-most per game in the country.
Plus if you've read my pieces here before, you know how much I love efficiency. Well, Benimon is the dictionary definition of efficiency: his 55.21 percent scoring efficiency puts him at second in the conference among players who average 10 points per game or more.
Coach of the Year: Pat Skerry, Towson
Imagine walking into a managerial job for the single worst-performing business in America. That was Pat Skerry's fate when he came into this season in his second year at Towson, taking on the task of fixing a team that had just finished a 1-31 regular season.
Sure, they were getting some guy named Jerrelle from Georgetown, but that couldn't possibly mean too much to a team coming off such a miserable year, right?
Well, if you're of the camp that believes coaching is more integral to a turnaround than one superstar, then you'll understand why Skerry deserves COY honors. Going from 1-31 to 18-13 and finishing third in the conference? I don't care if you're Jerrelle Benimon's mother. NOBODY saw this season coming.
Except for Skerry.
Biggest Disappointment: Drexel Dragons
March 2012 was a great time to be a Drexel fan. They had just finished their best regular season in years, including a 19-game win streak, and although they had lost to VCU by two points in the CAA championship, everybody and their grandmothers felt that the Dragons were deserving of an at-large bid. Who doesn't love a cinderella, right?
Then the dreams were crushed when Iona displaced the Dragons. But don't fret! They're returning four of five starters!
Unfortunately, Bruiser Flint's team learned the hard way that returning doesn't equate to mirroring. This season was far from last year's spectacle as the Dragons finished 13-17, just 9-9 in the conference, and with their blue and yellow tails in the five seed in the tournament.
Most Underrated Player: Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary
When it came to addressing the Tribe's games this year, the first name to come to mind was Marcus Thornton. Some would say rightly so: he averaged 18.6 points per game, the most on the team.
But when it came to the most complete all-around game, Tim Rusthoven's 14.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 55.8 percent field goal shooting were unparalleled for W&M. He also had an assist to turnover ratio above 1.0, an impressive stat for a forward, and his 56.56 percent scoring efficiency was the only mark above Jerrelle Benimon for players averaging better than 10 ppg.
Bet you didn't know that, did you? Hence the "underrated."
Freshman of the Year: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
There was no discussion here. R.J. Hunter was an animal of a freshman, and it's a shame that the CAA won't get to have him grace the hardwood for three more years after the Panthers bolt for the Sun Belt.
He delivered a number of memorable performances throughout the year while averaging 17.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, not one more memorable than his game against Old Dominion on February 2.
On that night, Hunter poured in a season-high (and CAA season-high) 38 points as he hit 10 three-pointers on just 15 attempts from behind the arc. Those 10 threes were both Georgia State and Colonial Athletic Association records, and the 38 points were the most a Panther has scored since 1998.
In a five minute stretch that night, Hunter scored 19 straight for the Panthers.
Yeah. He's special.
And so now, CAA fans, we head to Richmond for three days of thrilling hoops with the hopes that our favorite team (that is, one of the seven allowed in the tournament) finds a way to sneak into the Big Dance. It's March, ladies and gents. Fasten your seat belts.