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Colonial Check-In: League parity could make for a fun CAA schedule

Teams in the Colonial do a good job scheduling match-ups with bigger conference foes, and with some nice wins by CAA teams against better competition, we could be in for another exciting season as conference play begins.

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League play in the CAA was fun last year. After all, the season ended with a four-way tie for first place.

The Northeastern Huskies ran through the CAA Championship and earned the league's berth to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Notre Dame in a tight Round of 64 game.

This year, based on the non-conference results, we could be in for another neck-and-neck season in the Colonial.

This is a conference that has most teams regularly scheduling games against Big Five opponents or teams from higher mid-major conferences. It helps that most of the CAA are set on the east coast with access to a multitude of opponents.

And the Colonial teams don't lay down when better opponents are next on the schedule. In fact, CAA teams had a number of impressive wins in non-conference play.

Charleston beat LSU and their famed freshman, Ben Simmons. Northeastern knocked off Miami (Fla.), who sits in the national rankings now. William & Mary downed the ACC's North Carolina State on the road.

While not every CAA team earned a major win during non-conference play, every team had a number of tests that should ready them for high-quality league play. All but two teams have winning records as conference play is set to begin on New Year's Eve.

And with that, we give you the season's first edition of the CAA power rankings.

1. James Madison Dukes (10-3, Streak: Won 8)

Next Game: vs. Charleston

The Dukes run into league play, quite literally. James Madison has won eight straight games, which includes wins at Marshall and vs. East Carolina. While the win against East Carolina at home was impressive, JMU's best win might have come in the season opener when they beat Richmond on the road by double digits. The Dukes return the CAA's third leading scorer from last season, Ron Curry, who is currently averaging nearly 15 points.

2. Charleston Cougars (8-3, Streak: Won 1)

Next Game: at James Madison

It's hard to believe that Charleston is number two, after last year's single digit win total, but based on their play during their non-conference schedule, the Cougars deserve the nod. A team that has won six of their last seven, Charleston's signature win came at home against LSU, where the Cougars opened up a 20-point lead over the Tigers en route to a double digit win. They have also beat Navy on the road and East Carolina at home, while losing by just a point at Davidson. Canyon Barry has lit up the scoreboard over the first two months, averaging over 22 points per contest to lead the CAA.

3. William & Mary Tribe (8-3, Streak: Won 3)

Next Game: vs. Towson

William & Mary has opened the season nicely, even after losing their star Marcus Thornton to graduation last season. Returnees Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon have inherited the scoring load nicely, both averaging over 15 points per game. The Tribe opened the season by beating N.C. State and lost a tight battle with Dayton. They still have nice size down low, which helped them to yet another CAA Championship game, but Williamsburg is still searching for that NCAA Tournament berth.

4. Hofstra Pride (8-4, Streak: Won 3)

Next Game: vs. Delaware

Hofstra did a fine job in non-conference play, scheduling plenty of nice match-ups with foes in the New York City area. Their best win game against Florida State in a Virgin Islands tournament around Thanksgiving. They also played South Carolina close and beat St. Bonaventure on the road. If CAA teams should be nervous about playing one team in this league, it should be Hofstra. They return a dynamic scoring duo in Juan'ya Green, the CAA preseason POY, and Ameen Tanksley, a preseason first teamer. Both are averaging nearly 17 points and can ignite at any moment of the game. Expect the Pride to shoot up to the top of these rankings soon enough.

5. UNCW Seahawks (8-3, Streak: Won 3)

Next Game: vs. Drexel

Of all the top CAA teams right now, UNCW may have played the easiest schedule. Their best tests came in away games against Georgetown and East Carolina, which they lost. All but one of their wins have been by double digits, which is impressive. They were picked middle of the pack in the league this year, which is what the Seahawks are looking like at the moment.

6. Northeastern Huskies (8-5, Streak: Lost 1)

Next Game: at Elon

Northeastern always does a great job giving itself non-conference tests, so their record may not exactly show their full potential. They suffered losses to Michigan State and N.C. State, but beat a very good Miami (Fla.) team on the road. The Huskies return both David Walker and Quincy Ford from last year's Big Dance team, with Walker averaging a CAA second best 19.4 points. Northeastern is another team that could really take-off as conference play progresses.

7. Elon Phoenix (9-4, Streak: Lost 1)

Next Game: vs. Northeastern

While the Phoenix's nine wins are nice, most were against average to subpar opponents. Give Elon credit, though, for taking care of business against teams that they were better than. They did have a nice win against Charlotte on the road to open the season, and they tested themselves in losses against Michigan and Syracuse. Not much is expected of Elon this season, so this may be as high as it gets for Phoenix fans.

8. Towson Tigers (9-4, Streak: Won 2)

Next Game: at William & Mary

There is really nothing on the Towson schedule that should convince anyone that they should be higher than eighth. While a win at home against George Mason was good, all of their other wins were against teams they had no business losing to. John Davis, a preseason all-CAA second teamer, has underwhelmed so far, averaging just 10 points. Towson should hang around the bottom four for most of the season.

9. Delaware Blue Hens (5-6, Streak: Lost 3)

Next Game: at Hofstra

The Blue Hens struggled through non-conference play and are one of only two teams in the CAA without a winning record. Other than a win against South Florida, Delaware has limped through their early schedule, losing to Villanova, Boston College, Buffalo and Temple. While all formidable opponents, almost every loss has been by double digits, which should be worrying for Blue Hens fans, especially for a team that was picked fifth in the CAA.

10. Drexel Dragons (2-9, Streak: Lost 1)

Next Game: at UNCW

Drexel took a big hit when breakout star Damion Lee transferred out to Louisville at the end of last year. Lee was the scorer that kept Drexel competitive last season, and probably a big reason why they were .500 in conference play. Without Lee, it has been a struggle, with their only two wins coming against inter-city opponents Penn and La Salle. Tavon Allen is a nice player, but not enough to keep Drexel out of the basement this season.