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CAA Tournament Preview: Is this finally the year that William & Mary makes the dance?

“It’s a one bid league... You have to be good for three days” - Rob Burke UNCW Interim Head Coach

William & Mary v American Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

If you have a bye in the CAA Tournament, you have a chance. The top six teams were all either preseason favorites or a game away from taking the No.1 1 seed in February.

Those who battled to the top were Hofstra (who beat Pac-12 leader UCLA), William & Mary (who is one of four original teams to never make the NCAA Tournament), Towson (who has lost three games since January 3rd) and Delaware (who won seven straight in the middle of conference play).

The other two were the leagues favorites coming into the season. Both Charleston and Northeastern have once in a generation type players, but struggled getting a first round bye.

Every CAA team has an unique story, and they’ll try to add onto it in the nation’s capital this weekend.

Bracket

Schedule

All times Eastern

First Round (Saturday, March 7)

Broadcast: FloSports

Site: Entertainment and Sports Arena (Washington, DC)

Game 1: No. 9 UNCW vs No. 8 Drexel, 4 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 James Madison vs No. 7 Elon, 6:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals (Sunday, March 8th)

Broadcast: FloSports

Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs No. 1 Hofstra, Noon
Game 4: No. 5 Delaware vs No. 4 Charleston, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 2 Winner vs No. 2 William & Mary, 6:00 p.m.
Game 6: No. 6 Northeastern vs No. 3 Towson, 8:30 p.m.

Semifinals (Monday, March 9th)

Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs Game 4 Winner, 6:00 p.m.
Game 8: Game 5 Winner vs Game 6 Winner, 8:30 p.m.

Finals (Tuesday, March 10th)

Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Game 9: Game 7 Winner vs Game 8 Winner, 7:00 p.m.

The Favorites

Hofstra (23-8, 14-4): The Pride have won nine of 10, and that’s not even the most impressive thing they’ve done the whole year. A week before Thanksgiving, Joe Mihalich’s squad went into Pauley Pavilion and dominated the now PAC-12 leader UCLA. In that game, senior guard Desure Buie scored 29 points. That was just the beginning of his amazing year. Heading into Wednesday, he ranked in the top 85 of percentage of minutes played, assist rate and three-point percentage. His fellow guard, Eli Pemberton, is 29th in the nation in percentage of minutes played, and 81st in free throw percentage. Not only that, they have a big man to round it out in Isaac Kante. He is ninth in the nation in eFG%, 11th in TS%, 27th in two-point percentage and 65th in free throw percentage. This stellar offense is ranked in the top 100 of eight KenPom categories. The defense on the other hand ranks in the bottom 53 of five categories.

William & Mary (21-10, 13-5): William & Mary has played 31 games during the 2019-20 season. In 22 of those, Nathan Knight had a double double. The senior from Syracuse might be that player who takes the Tribe to their first dance. He is seventh in the nation in DR%, 11th in percent of possessions used, and 29th in percent of shots ran through him. Knight averages a double double with 20.6 PPG and 10.5 RPG. His greatness down low has led W&M into being the 26th best team in effective field goal percentage. To say that William & Mary plays through him is an understatement. He’s not the only guy the Tribe has though. Guard Luke Loewe and fellow big man Andy Van Vliet are potential CAA first and second team caliber players as well. Loewe has the 16th best three-point percentage and the 94th best two-point percentage in the nation, making his eFG% and TS% rank in the top 15. Van Vliet is 33rd in the nation in DR% and has nine double-doubles on the season. The Tribe ended the season on a five game winning streak and are 5-1 against teams on their side of the bracket.

The Dark Horses

Towson (19-12, 12-6): The Tigers have lost three games since January 3rd. Their 12-3 record since that date is tied for the 12th best nationally. Like the other top teams in the conference, TU does it through their offense. They are 11th in FT%, 20th in steal %, 38th in block % and 49th in OR%.

Charleston (17-13, 11-7): CofC has not had the season people predicted them to have, but with players like Grant Riller, anything is possible come March. Riller averages 21.7 PPG and directs 34% of the teams possessions. Not only does his presence make a difference, but the Cougars have beaten every team above them in the standings.

Delaware (21-10, 11-7): Delaware by far has the best starting five in the CAA. The only problem is, they have no bench. They are bottom ten in the country when it comes to bench minutes, but when your team is 16th in the nation in eFG%, you should really not be that worried. UD is led by sharp shooter Nate Darling, who averages 21.1 PPG and is 7th in the nation in % of minutes played. He is one of four Blue Hens to average double digits.

Northeastern (15-15, 9-9): There are obviously some really good players in this league, but few, if any, match Jordan Roland. The senior logged exactly 1100 minutes this year, and averages 22.7 PPG, which was highlighted by a 42-point outing against Harvard. Roland also ranks in the top 100 of six KenPom categories. He is Northeastern. On the bright side, they are the best free throw team shooting team in the nation. On the dark side, the Huskies are 5-13 against KenPom top 100 teams.

Players to Watch:

Per Game Averages in Parenthesis

  • Desure Buie - Hofstra (18.5 PTS, 5.9 ASTS, 45.3% FG%)
  • Eli Pemberton - Hofstra (17.3 PTS, 5.4 REBS, 44.8% FG%)
  • Isaac Kante - Hofstra (11.5 PTS, 7.4 REBS, 66.4% FG%)
  • Nathan Knight - William & Mary (20.6 PTS, 10.5 REBS, 52.8% FG%)
  • Andy Van Vliet - William & Mary (13.3 PTS, 8.6 REBS, 46.4% FG%)
  • Brian Fobbs - Towson (16.2 PTS, 4.9 REBS, 43.1% FG%)
  • Grant Riller - College of Charleston (21.7 PTS, 5.2 REBS, 50.1% FG%)
  • Nate Darling - Delaware (21.1 PTS, 3.9 REBS, 44.7% FG%)
  • Justyn Mutts - Delaware (12.1 PTS, 8.4 REBS, 54.5% FG%)
  • Jordan Roland - Northeastern (22.7 PTS, 3.5 REBS, 49.2% FG%)
  • Marcus Sheffield - Elon (18.6 PTS, 5.2 REBS, 42.7% FG%)
  • Camren Wynter - Drexel (16.1 PTS, 3.8 REBS, 44.7% FG%)
  • James Butler - Drexel (13.4 PTS, 11.6 REBS, 53.2% FG%)
  • Matt Lewis - James Madison (19.0 PTS, 5.6 REBS, 40.9% FG%)

Prediction

Any of the top six teams could win this and it wouldn’t be shocking. It would be an awesome story though to see Nathan Knight ride off in the sunset, after staying at W&M through the coaching change. If Dane Fischer can take his Tribe to the tournament in his first year under the helm at William & Mary, they’ll build a statue of him in downtown Williamsburg.