Somehow, the Colonial Athletic Association has made it to the postseason.
Few leagues had quite as many disruptions as the CAA, but its 10 teams have finally made it through. Only three teams played more than 10 conference games, and only Hofstra hit 14. And the Pride have been on COVID shutdown since Feb. 14.
James Madison broke onto the scene this season as new head coach Mark Byington helped his squad go from worst to first in the league. They got hit with bad news on Friday though, as they heard potential Player of the Year Matt Lewis would miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Northeastern, Charleston, and Hofstra are ready to pounce on the Dukes but have been hit with some wacky circumstances of late...because of this wacky season.
The CAA is weirder than ever this year, and is completely wide open. I wouldn’t be shocked if any team, 1-10, won it. I expect pure chaos.
Note: All games are in Harrisonburg, Virginia. All game times are Eastern.
First Round (Sat., March 6), FLO Hoops
Game 1: No. 9 Towson vs. No. 8 Elon, 3 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 UNCW vs. No. 7 William & Mary, 7 p.m.
Quarterfinals (Sun., March 7), FLO Hoops
Game 3: No. 5 Delaware vs. No. 4 Hofstra, 11 a.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. No. 1 James Madison, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. No. 2 Northeastern, 6 p.m.
Game 6: No. 6 Drexel vs. No. 3 Charleston, 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals (Mon., March 8), CBS Sports Network
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 9:30 p.m.
Finals (Tue., March 9), CBS Sports Network
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 7 p.m.
Northeastern (9-8, 8-2): Death, Taxes, and Bill Coen competing come March. The Huskies have made the last three CAA Championship games, and they have the path to make it a fourth. Like other teams in the league, Northeastern has not played in almost two weeks. On the bright side, its last game was a test against North Carolina, and the Huskies battled. Also, they have been healthy the whole season, something that the rest of the league hasn’t been accustomed to.
Their leaders are both underclassmen, and that’s scary news for the rest of the CAA. Tyson Walker is a sophomore and potential first-team All-CAA player. He ranks in the top 100 of percentage of minutes played, possessions held, and shots taken. He also has a 53.4% effective field goal percentage while scoring 18.5 points per game. His shooting isn’t his only asset, though, as he is top 50 in the nation in both assist rate and steal percentage. Freshman Jahmyl Telfort is a bucket off the bench, averaging 10.6 points per game.
The Huskies are one of two teams to beat James Madison this year and have the advantage over them with Lewis done for the season.
James Madison (13-6, 8-2): Although the Dukes lost Lewis for the year, they might be the deepest team in the league. Vado Morse showed signs of becoming the next go-to guy on Friday, dropping 25 points against Drexel. He will have return to his freshman year form, when he won NEC Freshman of the Year at Mount St. Mary’s, for the Dukes to be No. 1 again. James Madison also has a stud group of freshmen in Terrence Edwards, Terrell Strickland, and Justin Amadi, who can go off on any given night. The Dukes will get to play on their home court throughout, as the tournament was moved to Harrisonburg from Washington D.C. in early January.
Hofstra (12-9, 8-6): The Pride had their first tournament bid in 19 years stripped away from them last season due to COVID-19. They were one of those couple of teams that you truly felt terrible for. This season, they have a new head coach and new leaders, but they’re back in the conversation. Mike Farrelly stepped in as the acting head coach just months before the season began, and has done a stellar job. In December, he picked up a signature win as the Pride upset Richmond. He also led them to a five-game winning streak in league play. The play on the floor has been led by Jalen Ray, Tareq Coburn, and Isaac Kante. All three are returners, averaging over 13 points per game this season. Ray is the leader with 18.6 points per game, ranking 45th in the country in free throw percentage. Coburn has significantly upped his points per game every year, posting 15.7 points per game this season. Kante averages a double-double and is obviously a brick wall down low. Along with those three, they have two underclassmen in Caleb Burgess and Kvonn Cramer who are nationally ranked in the top 100 of several offensive categories. The Pride is the only team in the league with a three-headed monster, and then some. It is going to come down to the young coach and if he makes the right adjustments throughout the tournament.
The Long Shots:
Charleston (9-9, 6-4): The Cougars have lost both Brevin Galloway and Grant Riller but find themselves in third place in the league. Zep Jasper has taken a huge jump this season, getting himself into first-team talks. Payton Willis has followed right behind. The Cougars still have no one real star, but they are finding ways to win games. They won three of four in the CAA but did recently struggle against D-II Columbus State, winning in OT. Someone will need to develop into a Grant Riller for another chance at the NCAA Tournament.
Drexel (9-7, 4-5): The Dragons are one of two teams to beat James Madison and are of the hottest teams in the league. Camren Wynter, James Butler, T.J. Bickerstaff, and Zach Walton have been stars for years, and they have finally put it together with wins over Hofstra, and the aforementioned Dukes this month. Drexel is one of the best shooting teams in the country, but consistency has been an issue. The Dragons did not win consecutive games at any point in conference play.
William & Mary (6-9, 4-6): I cannot write a postseason CAA article and not mention the Tribe. They are one of four original teams to never make an NCAA Tournament. Dane Fischer has a pair of stud guards in Luke Loewe and potential Freshman of the Year, Connor Kochera. With the league wide open, the Tribe is perfectly capable of winning four games in four days and making their first-ever tournament. It would be peak 2020-21.
Elon (7-8, 4-7): Mike Schrage has his boys hot at the right time, winning their last four. The Hunters, McIntosh and Woods, made some noise as freshmen last March, and are primed to do it again.
UNCW (7-9, 1-6): This is how wide open the CAA is… the last-placed team in the league has the pieces to put together a run. Takayo Siddle has come in and made the Seahawks one of the more underrated offenses in the country. He brought in 2020 Patriot League Freshman of the Year Joe Pridgen, who is now the fourth-leading scorer on the team at 11.3 points per game. He also leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game. Mike Okauru, Ty Gadsden, and Jake Boggs all average double digits. The team had another potential star in Jaylen Sims, but he is out for the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury.
Players To Watch:
Vado Morse, James Madison (14.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 42.1% FG%)
Tyson Walker, Northeastern (18.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 45.3% FG%)
Zep Jasper, Charleston (14.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 43.4% FG%)
Jalen Ray, Hofstra (18.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 42.1 FG%)
Tareq Coburn, Hofstra (15.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 43.9% FG%)
Isaac Kante, Hofstra (13.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 55.1% FG%)
Kvonn Cramer, Hofstra (9.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 59.6% FG%)
Ryan Allen, Delaware (15.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 41.9% FG%)
Dylan Painter, Delaware (13.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 51.9% FG%)
Kevin Anderson, Delaware (11.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 39.6% FG%)
Camren Wynter, Drexel (17.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.4 APG, 47.9% FG%)
James Butler, Drexel (13.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 57.7% FG%)
T.J. Bickerstaff, Drexel (11.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 54.8% FG%)
Luke Loewe, William & Mary (16.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 43.4% FG%)
Connor Kochera, William & Mary (13.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 46.2% FG%)
Hunter McIntosh, Elon (15.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 39.1% FG%)
Zane Martin, Towson (16.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 39.2% FG%)
Joe Pridgen, UNCW (11.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 54.6% FG%)
Hofstra will redeem its ticket to the dance one year later. After upsetting James Madison in an epic semifinal game that’ll remind CAA fans of the William & Mary/Hofstra semifinal in 2015, the Pride will squeeze by Northeastern, once again, to take the title.