Tuesday, March 2, 2010

CAA Tournament Predictions

So late Thursday night, after a work function is done, I will be back on the road for my seventh CAA Tournament. This will be my first tournament since 2008. Last year, my younger son Jonathan had kidney surgery during this time. And once again, Tieff and I will be driving down. It's a lot more fun than taking a flight down, though Richmond Airport is a breeze to get in and out of, because you have to deal with Kennedy or LaGuardia Airport here in New York. No thanks.

This will be the fourth time I am covering the CAA Tournament for my blog. I did some digging around of the archives of my old blog and this is what I found as far as past coverage of the CAA Tournament.






In 2006, I did live updates on the first day with a small laptop I brought in to cover the tournament via the CAA's wireless network (and thanks to the CAA's Rob Washburn who was very helpful back then). However, it became too much work sitting at my seat doing updates with a laptop. But now that I have an IPod and have done live blog updates and tweets for Hofstra games, I will try to do live updates and tweets as long as wireless is available (Rob, expect an e-mail from me).

If I can't, I will provide daily updates. But as I noticed my blog postings from the previous years seemed like straight reporting. I hope to do more of a story this year as far as the road trip and the little things to do in Richmond when you're not watching ten basketball games in three days.

For those of you who don't know, I have NEVER been at the championship game of the CAA Tournament and that includes the 2006 championship that Hofstra played against UNCW. My work schedule doesn't allow it (and in 2006, it was Tieff's that couldn't) and the championship game of course is played on ESPN. The first three days are a lot more fun anyhow. However, if Hofstra somehow makes it to the championship game this year, I won't rule it out.

Now onto predictions. As far as CAA Tournament first team, I have Charles Jenkins, Chaisson Allen, Matt Janning, Gerald Lee and Larry Sanders. First thing JMU fans will say is "WHERE IS DENZEL BOWLES?!" And I understand that, he has had a great season, but his season started once the full conference season started in January. If I am correct, Gary Neal had a similar situation in 2005-06 for Towson like Bowles did (he only played 17 games) and was only Second Team All CAA. Plus all of the top five players I listed led their teams to winning records. JMU was 4-14 in conference. As Branch Rickey once said to Ralph Kiner when Kiner requested a raise, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you." Thus why I have Bowles on the second team.

As for my player of the year in the CAA, several weeks ago, I was pretty positive that Larry Sanders was going to win it. But VCU only finished fifth. Allen and Janning are equally important to Northeastern, so one can't win it over the other. Gerald Lee has had a nice season, but his numbers are slightly down from last season. Charles Jenkins' offensive numbers improved for the most part from last season and he was a holy terror the second half of the season as Hofstra went 8-1 in conference. So Jenkins should get the award.

Coach of the Year - Tony Shaver. I know Litos has Blaine Taylor winning, and as much as I like Blaine Taylor, ODU was picked to finish first in the CAA and they did. William and Mary was picked tenth and finished third. That to me is a terrific coaching job. Thus Tony Shaver gets the award and well deserved.

Rookie of the Year - Chris Fouch. Rarely do my key player selections work out. But in the case of Fouch, for once I was right. He gave them a deadly option from the outside and the 29 point game against Hofstra was downright impressive. He gets the edge over Chaz Williams, who was fourth in the CAA in assists this season.

Ok, now to my CAA Tournament predictions. At the beginning of the season in the first of my three part CAA preview (which never got to finish Part III due to a family emergency), I predicted Northeastern to finish first. And I have to stick with that (sorry Hofstra fans). So this how I have the various rounds going.

First Round

Towson over UNCW
VCU over Delaware
Hofstra over Georgia State
Drexel over James Madison

Towson had a 5-4 record the second half of the season. Don't know if it's enough to save Pat Kennedy's job, but it's enough to beat UNCW. VCU over Delaware on basically their second home court? Duh. Tieff and I are worried about Hofstra having to play Georgia State twice in a week, especially since Georgia State is 3-1 in the first round in their history of being in the CAA. But the Pride have not lost to a team below .500 in conference this season and won't now. And finally, if any team can be last season's Towson in the tournament, it could be JMU with Bowles and Wells. But we'll go with Drexel and their D on this one.

Quarterfinal Round
Old Dominion over Towson
VCU over George Mason
Northeastern over Hofstra
Drexel over William and Mary

As well as Towson is playing, ODU is a bad matchup for them. Towson struggles against good frontcourts and ODU has the best frontcourt in the tournament. Mason has struggled in the second half of the season. And being ice cold against a VCU team with one game under their belt and the home court Rams advantage spells a quick exit for the Patriots.

Had Northeastern lost to Mason, I would have picked Hofstra here. But thanks to a ref who should have eaten his whistle, the Huskies ended their brief swoon and have enough momentum to eek by a tough Pride team. I will say this much. Whoever wins the Hofstra-Noreaster game goes to the championship game. Finally, it's very hard to beat a team three times in a season, like William and Mary has with Drexel. And for a team like the Tribe, a cold Richmond coliseum is not very conducive to three point shooting teams. The Dragons pull off the upset here.

Semifinal Round

VCU over Old Dominion
Northeastern over Drexel

This is just a really bad matchup for ODU. The teams have split their regular season series, with both teams winning at home in competitive games. The difference here is that the Richmond Coliseum is Siegel Center South. Plus, the Monarchs' backcourt is their achilles heel and this is the game where that comes into play. Sanders and Skeen offset the law firm of Hassell, Finney and Lee, while Joey Rodriguez and Burgess have big games for the Rams. Old Dominion will have to sweat out Selection Sunday after this game.

Meanwhile, again the old adage that it is very difficult to beat a team three times in a season comes into play. Northeastern's style of play fits perfectly with the way Drexel plays defense. Again expect a low scoring game in the fifties. I think though in this game, Manny Adako has a huge night against the Dragons. Don't ask me why, but that's what comes to my mind. The Huskies sneak one out here.

Championship Game
Northeastern over VCU

Again, it's very difficult to beat a team three times in a season, and Northeastern would need to do that here to win the CAA Tournament. But as I have noted in the past, it is almost impossible to win four games in four days. No team has done it in the history of the CAA Tournament. But if there is ever a team that could win four games in four days, it's this VCU team. It's deep, talented and it has the home court advantage.

But even VCU will be tired playing four games in four days. And Northeastern's win at Siegel Center earlier in the season shows the Huskies can handle the Rams' fans. I think this comes down to Batman and Robin, Janning and Allen combining to lead the Huskies to victory. Adako and Ojoungboh will also offset Sanders and Skeen in the post. Northeastern finally breaks the America East curse and wins the CAA Tournament.

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