Predicting and Previewing the CAA Tournament

After the regular season drew to a close with Drexel's defeat of UNC-Wilmington, the CAA Hoops world instantly refocused its attention on next weekend's conference tournament. With less than a week to go, let's check the match-ups round by (theoretical) round.

Should-Be Champion: Northeastern Huskies

The Huskies started their conference play with an 8-0 stretch during which they won games by eight points per game and looked decently untouchable. They then capped the rest of the season by going... 6-4? Sounds like a tale of two basketball teams.

So which Northeastern will show up in Richmond? Expect the former. The uneven finish line stretch aside, the Huskies are still the most well-rounded team in the CAA, and their depth (four double-digit scorers) should propel them to the tournament.

However, notice the abundance of "should" in this section. My predictions actually have the Huskies losing in the championship. But if Reggie Spencer and Quincy Ford rediscover their midseason form, they should be the champions.

As I've said before, that's why they play the games. Let's look at those games.

Predictions

First Round

4 George Mason vs. 5 Drexel

Both times these two met, the games were fantastic competitions. When both final scores are combined, George Mason wins by two, 122-120. If that's not enough evidence that this game is completely and totally up for grabs, I don't know what is.

All I know is that this game will probably be decided by which Damion Lee shows up: the show-stopping Damion Lee who won the first matchup for Drexel? Or pedestrian Damion Lee, who stood by as the Dragons fell in game two? I guess that's why we have this perfect, made-for-TV rubber match. And I think we'll see the show-stopper.

Drexel wins, 65-61

2 Delaware vs. 7 Hofstra

This one shouldn't be much of a bout for Delaware, and yet when these two met on February 27, the Hens only beat the Pride by one point. Now, the first time they met, the Hens won by 15. If Delaware plans on shooting 30.9 percent from the field again, we're going to have quite the contest in the second game on Saturday. When they don't, the Blue Hens should roll.

Delaware wins, 72-58

3 James Madison vs. 6 William & Mary

Just beat W&M by two, and that was with the Tribe shooting 10 percent better than their season average field goal percentage. The first time these two met, the Dukes won by 10 points.

If you use deductive reasoning, the Dukes should absolutely win this matchup. They're better team. That said, this is college basketball being played in March, which means absolutely anything can happen. It's not carved in stone, but JMU should advance without too much trouble.

James Madison wins, 72-65

Round 2

1 Northeastern vs. 5 Drexel

These two teams have met twice this year, and while the Huskies won both games, the combined point differential was just 12. The first matchup went to overtime after Quincy Ford summoned higher beings and knocked down an off-balance three as time expired, thwarting the Dragons' great effort.

While I'm tempted to believe that Drexel has enough in them to topple Northeastern, it's just too hard to invest any belief in the Dragons beyond one game. Picking them over George Mason was hard enough, and believing that good Damion Lee shows up two weeks in a row is asking a lot of me.

If Lee and Frantz Massenat show they can perform on the big stage, expect a great contest. If not, Northeastern should be through without a problem.

Northeastern wins, 69-64

2 Delaware vs. 3 James Madison

These two have also met twice so far, and they were two extremely different games. The first matchup was a shellacking by JMU as they beat down the Hens, 64-50. But that was back in Jamelle Hagins' dark days during his down stretch in January.

Since that loss, Delaware has gone 10-2, with one of those two losses being a one-point heartbreaker when Andre Nation tipped a dunk in with 0.6 seconds remaining. They make no statistical sense, but these Dukes have sort of adopted a sense of destiny with the way they continue to win against all statistical odds.

I want to pick Devon Saddler and his high-flying offensive skills, but A.J. Davis's recent revitalization makes it so hard to pick against James Madison. So I won't.

James Madison wins, 64-60

Championship

1 Northeastern vs. 3 James Madison

Huskies versus Dukes. The team of destiny versus the team of logic. Rayshawn Goins & Co. versus Joel and Jonathan. Their only previous matchup came 19 days before the CAA Championship game will be played, so the result should be decently indicative of where these two teams stand.

And the game was an even bout. The Huskies won by two points, 66-64, but it was a total free-for-all game. If a cliche TV announcer had been calling it, they would have mentioned that "this is one of those games where the team who has the ball last wins" with about 2:00 left.

They actually would've been wrong. James Madison had one last attempt after David Walker's winner, but that wasn't the important one last shot. If they get to this round, they have one last shot to beat the Huskies. That game in February proved to the Dukes that they can hang with the best in the conference.

That confidence could propel JMU through the tournament and into the Big Dance, fulfilling their Colonial destiny.

James Madison wins, 70-64

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And one last reminder: this is all theoretical. The championship could be Hofstra vs. Drexel. With the CAA, you never know.

That's exactly why I can't wait for Saturday.

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