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CAA Tournament preview: Towson looks to clinch first NCAA Tournament bid since 1991

Last season the sixth seed faced the eighth seed in the final... Expect CHAOS

Towson v Buffalo
Pat Skerry led Towson to the top seed at the CAA Tournament.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Last postseason, no one could’ve predicted what happened in the CAA Tournament.

In an upset-filled bracket, the No. 6 seed Drexel Dragons beat eighth-seeded Elon in the championship, sending the Dragons to their first NCAA Tournament since 1996. That championship was brought about as five of the final seven games were won by the lower-seeded team.

This season, the bracket was what nobody predicted.

Towson won its first-ever CAA title after being picked eighth in the preseason. UNCW went from worst to first, just like James Madison (who won’t participate this season due to their move to the Sun Belt Conference) did last year. And the class of the league, Northeastern, finished in last place.

The CAA Tournament has been the definition of madness and expect it to ensue again.

Bracket

Schedule

All Times Eastern

First Round (Sat., March 5), FLO Sports

Game 1: No. 9 William & Mary vs. No. 8 Northeastern, 5 p.m.

Quarterfinal (Sun., March 6), FLO Sports

Game 2: Game 1 Winner vs. No. 1 Towson, NOON

Game 3: No. 5 Delaware vs. No. 4 Drexel, 2:30 p.m.

Game 4: No. 7 Elon vs. No. 2 UNCW, 6 p.m.

Game 5: No. 6 College of Charleston vs. No. 3 Hofstra, 8:30 p.m.

Semifinal (Mon., March 7), CBS Sports Network

Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner, 6 p.m.

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

Final (Tues., March 8), CBS Sports Network

Game 8: Game 6 Winner vs Game 7 Winner, 7 p.m.

The Favorite

Towson (24-7, 15-3): Man, what a job Pat Skerry has done at Towson. It took 10 years, but he has brought a program that was on a 41-game losing streak to begin the last decade into a co-conference champion during the start of this decade and a consistent contender.

Currently sitting at 59th in the NET, the team is full of local Baltimore area players is running one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Towson currently ranks 34th in offensive efficiency, while also being a top-ten offensive rebounding team. A lot of this was made in the transfer portal as Bradley’s Terry Nolan and UT Martin’s Cam Holden have become leaders to add to the great play of Nic Timberlake and Charles Thompson.

The Tigers have won seven straight with all but one being by double-digits. They have not made an NCAA Tournament since 1991, but there’s a good chance that could change.

The Darkhorses

UNCW (21-8, 15-3): Takayo Siddle has built UNCW back into what it was when he was an assistant on Kevin Keatts’s staff. The Seahawks won its first nine CAA games. Their offensive discipline has been elite as they rank 23rd in offensive turnover percentage. If their four-pronged attack at guard can continue to be disciplined, the Seahawks could go dancing for the first time since 2017.

Hofstra (21-10, 13-5): You’re not going to find a better backcourt in mid-major basketball than the one Hofstra has. Aaron Estrada has played himself into the player of the year conversations, scoring 18 points per game on a 48% clip from the field. Alongside him, Jalen Ray has been a stud for a long time in the CAA. Transfer Zach Cooks came in with a scoring mentality after netting 1,788 points at NJIT. Darlinstone Dubar has shown talent at both the Big 12 and the CAA levels, and Omar Silverio just dropped 40 points against Elon a few weeks back. The Pride beat Arkansas in non-conference and took Houston to overtime, which shows that it can still battle with anyone.

The Long Shots

Delaware (19-12, 10-8): Picked first in the CAA Preseason Poll, the Blue Hens didn’t exactly have the finish that they wanted. After a 10-5 start in the league, they dropped their last three, including the final two against Towson & UNCW. Jameer Nelson Jr. has been an excellent transfer addition, averaging 14 points per game. Jyare Davis has played himself into CAA Freshman of the Year talks, shooting 61% from the field and averaging 8.7 ppg. Along with them, Dylan Painter, Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson will look to cap off their long Delaware careers with an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Drexel (15-13, 10-8): They did it last year, why can’t they do it again? Drexel brings over a lot of the same pieces from last year’s squad, including Cam Wynter who averages 15.3 ppg. With him, the baby-faced assassin James Butler and Amari Williams have become some of the best defensive players in the country.

Elon (10-21, 7-11): In 2020, the Phoenix upset William & Mary in the quarterfinals. Last season, they made the CAA finals but fell short to Drexel. Is this the year they make the last step to get out of the never made the Tournament club? They’ve won two straight in dominant fashion as Darius Burford and Hunter McIntosh have combined for 75 points.

Northeastern (8-21, 2-16): As former CAA Assistant Director of Communications Bill Potter used to say, “Death, Taxes, and Bill Coen competing come March.” Now it wasn’t exactly the season that he wanted, but you can never count out a Northeastern team come this time of year. Chris Doherty has played some good basketball in the front court, averaging 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1% from the field. They still have a strong punch in the backcourt with Jahmyl Telfort, Shaq Walters and Nikola Djogo. It’s just going to be the question of where will they find that momentum?

Players to Watch

Nic Timberlake, Towson (14.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 44.3% FG%)

Cam Holden, Towson (13.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3 APG, 43.1% FG%)

Charles Thompson, Towson (10.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 62.6% FG%)

Terry Nolan Jr., Towson (10 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4 APG, 38.9% FG%)

Jaylen Sims, UNCW (15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 37.6% FG%)

Aaron Estrada, Hofstra (18.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5 APG, 48% FG%)

Jalen Ray, Hofstra (13.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 41.3% FG%)

Zach Cooks, Hofstra (12.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 40.1% FG)

Darlinstone Dubar, Hofstra (11.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 54.1% FG%)

Omar Silverio, Hofstra (11 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 37.6% FG%)

Jameer Nelson Jr., Delaware (14 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 45.8% FG%)

Dylan Painter, Delaware (12.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 55.4% FG%)

Cam Wynter, Drexel (15.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 42.5% FG%)

John Meeks, Charleston (13.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 46.4% FG%)

Darius Burford, Elon (13.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3 APG, 46.2% FG%)

Hunter McIntosh, Elon (13.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 38% FG%)

Ben Wight, William & Mary (11.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 61.3% FG%)

Jahmyl Telfort, Northeastern (12.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 41.9% FG%)

Nikola Djogo, Northeastern (11.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 45.4% FG%)

Chris Doherty, Northeastern (11.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 57.1% FG%)

Shaq Walters, Northeastern (10.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG,41.7% FG%)

Prediction

This tournament is always one of the craziest, but I think it’s going to come down to Towson and Hofstra. The Tigers have had a historic season so this may be the year that they get over the hump. Hofstra has one of the best backcourts in the nation and is still looking to avenge their lost 2020 NCAA Tournament bid. Give me the experienced coach in Pat Skerry and Towson to beat Hofstra for the third time this season, in a thriller of a final. You can’t go wrong with either way.