This season, the James Madison Dukes of the CAA played a meaningful game against the Indiana Hoosiers of the Big Ten. For this, and for their CAA Championship victory, JMU decided to give head coach Matt Brady a four-year extension on Tuesday.
While it was a 21-point dissa<em>point</em>ment (get it?), there's something to be said for Brady's ability to will his team to that game in the NCAA Tournament. The Dukes were the third-best team in the Colonial all season, deemed by many to be a semifinal challenger but ultimately unworthy of the conference's autobid.
Instead, as a certain Mid-Major Madness writer predicted, they ran the table in the tournament and then topped LIU-Brooklyn for the program's first Tournament win since defeating West Virginia in 1983. Matt Brady has now been rewarded thusly.
But what of the CAA as a whole?
Well, the most volatile team that remains in the now excruciatingly made-over conference is actually James Madison. The grandest of rumors have swirled around their potential departure, and after reaching the NCAA Tournament and extending Matt Brady for four years, Colonial members should be sweating it out the next week or so.
If ever there were a time to make a conference switch, the time would be sooner, rather than later. The Dukes' are at a high, and high-tailing it out of the CAA with a confident coach in tow would make JMU look like a program on the rise.
However, according to William & Mary Athletic Director Terry Driscoll, all current members of the CAA have verbally agreed to stay. It will be interesting to see how individual programs treat this commitment in the coming months and even years with conference realignment wreaking havoc all over mid-major land.
In terms of reconstructing their profile as a mid-major power conference and enticing programs to join in the future, the conference is hoping to actually add three more schools in the near future. The current count stands at nine, and speculation is rampant. But it seems, as our own Parks Smith put it, that the two choices are either expanding south or expanding north.
The only two Virginia-based schools left are James Madison and William & Mary, which puts the conference at a crossroads: do they want to balance out the locations of their members by adding southern schools? Or do they want to move north and commit to a northern profile?
If the rumors of James Madison's potential departure prove to hold weight, they might be better off going with the latter program and shooting up north. Two names that come up that are located far from the conference's Virginia roots are Albany and Stony Brook.
Of course, a grand part of this is speculation. If James Madison is truly committed to furthering their program within the CAA, this conference could rebuild in the coming years and not deviate from their identity.
With Matt Brady in tow until 2017, the Dukes control their destiny. They might just control the Colonial's as well.