WASHINGTON, DC — Elon has been in Division I since 1999 and has never made the NCAA Tournament. In their eight years in the CAA, the Phoenix have never even made it past the quarterfinals. Until now. On Sunday, they beat league favorite William & Mary to take a significant step forward, both as a team and a program.
After leading for a mere 3 seconds on Saturday afternoon against league bottom-dweller James Madison, the Phoenix led all 40 minutes against arguably the league’s most well-rounded team.
“We were really confident going into this game” Elon head coach Mike Schrage said after the game. “We felt like we had two close games with them this season and have been in position to beat pretty much anyone in our conference this year. As the season’s gone on we have just continued to get better and better and that’s attributed to our guys. We knew we had to start out really strong tonight and throw that first punch. Our guys did that tonight. We stayed resilient and stayed positive throughout, so I’m just really proud of the whole team tonight.”
William & Mary is perhaps the most famous member of the NMTC as one of the few original Division I members to never reach the tournament. It just felt like the Tribe’s year.
There are loads of good vibes in this arena right now... The CAA Tournament is the place to be.— Nick Lorensen (@daily_cbb) March 8, 2020
William & Mary also cleaned up in the postseason accolades, announced before the tournament. By the opening tip off on Sunday, the near full arena of Tribe fans were on their feet cheering.
It didn’t last. Elon started the game on a 13-2 run and led by nine at the break. The Phoenix then extended it to 14. But the Tribe kept fighting, cutting the deficit to two with less than five minutes to play. But, a big three from Hunter McIntosh (the team had 13 on the day) with 84 seconds left seemed to put a dagger in the Tribe’s tournament hopes. Another year, no tournament.
This was the biggest upset in the CAA Tournament in nine years and the first 7-over-2 in 16 years. For that to happen, someone needs to have a special night. That was Hunter Woods on Sunday. He had 20 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, giving him his third double-double of his freshman season.
“My teammates found me in the open spots, so I give credit to my teammates,” he said. “We just kept making the right play, and all I had to do was hit down the shots. Rebounding wise, it was just my motor. I just wanted attack and get extra possessions for my team.”
Schrage’s squad has a total of five upperclassmen, and only one that plays significant minutes (Marcus Sheffield). This still might not be the Phoenix’s year, but if CAA Freshman of the Year Hunter McIntosh sticks around, Elon could be a factor in the conference moving forward. It is expected to return 73 percent of its scoring and currently ranks in the top 100 of nine KenPom categories.
Next up, it’s a hungry Northeastern team on Monday night at 8:30. That game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.