When Hofstra moved to the Colonial Athletic Association starting in the 2001-02 season, the first CAAHoops tournament the Pride was in down in Richmond, I was sitting at home in Seaford, NY, listening to the games on WRHU radio. Chelle and I were renting an apartment on the side of a house from my brother's long time friend Tom Graziose.
Yet in the 2002 CAA Tournament, the #10 seed Hofstra remembered that it had some talent with Rick Apodaca, Danny Walker and others. They pummeled the #7 seed Towson 72-52 in the first round play in game. Then in a quarterfinal against Jerry Beach's all time favorite coach, Jim Larranaga, and #2 seed George Mason, the Pride pulled off a huge upset and knocked out a Patriots team that had won thirteen conference games, defeating them 82-76. Hofstra would lose their semifinal game to VCU 70-54.
seeing George Mason nearly coming back from an early 32-4 deficit vs. VCU, the CAA Tournament always provided a signature moment with this college basketball fan. You'll see pictures from several CAA Tournaments I have attended sprinkled throughout this blog post.
Then a funny thing happened. Realizing that Baltimore was not drawing respectable size crowds (the 2016 championship game drew only 3000 fans), despite being a midway point between the farthest northern point in the conference - Boston - Northeastern, and the farthest southern point in the conference - Charleston - College of Charleston, CAA officials decided to go to where the crowds in #CAAHoops are (UNCW and CofC are the #1 and #2 teams in home attendance) and agreed to play in North Charleston Coliseum for the next few seasons.
So what will the CAA Tournament be like this year. UNCW is the favorite, having finished first in the regular season with a 15-3 record, just like they did in the 2002-03 season. College of Charleston is the #2 seed, having finished with a 14-4 record. Both teams should bring a good number of fans and you figure the North Charleston Coliseum, which seats a little over 13,000, should be at least half full, which is a lot better than the 3000 attendance figure for the 2016 CAA Championship game between UNCW and Hofstra in Baltimore.
I think the best chance for an upset is in the quarterfinals where #3 Towson split the regular season series with #6 Northeastern and John Davis, who will be missing the CAA tournament due to a truly sad incident while visiting his family in Philadelphia, played in both those games. The most entertaining matchup will be #5 Elon vs. #4 William and Mary, as both teams can put up points (William and Mary is second in CAA in scoring offense at 81.7 points per game, while Elon is fourth at 75.4 points per game).
Honestly, I think UNCW has a very hard road to repeating as champion. They will likely get Hofstra in the quarterfinal round, which is a rematch of the 2016 CAA Tournament Championship, won by UNCW in overtime. UNCW won both games this season, but both were close games as UNCW won each game by single digits, In their 84-76 home win, UNCW was only up by three, 75-72 with less than a minute left before C.J. Bryce hit a three pointer to put the game away. In UNCW's road win over Hofstra, the Seahawks were only up one point, 77-76 with forty two seconds left before scoring the final six points in an 83-76 win.
So here are my predictions. In the Pillow Fight play in games on Friday, JMU takes down Drexel, Hofstra defeats Delaware. In the Quarterfinals on Saturday, the afternoon session will see two exciting high scoring games. UNCW barely holds off Hofstra, though I would not be surprised if Hofstra won that game. In the other afternoon session quarterfinal, Elon squeaks by William and Mary. In the evening session quarterfinals, College of Charleston handles James Madison, while Northeastern pulls off the upset against Towson.
No matter what happens, it should be a lot of fun. It will be my tenth CAA Tournament. My color analyst, aka my older son Matthew, my good friend Tieff and I will be in Section 113, Row A, seats 1-3. Come visit us starting tomorrow night at 6:00 PM as Hofstra takes on Delaware.
March Madness. Nothing like it and nothing like being back at the CAA Tournament.
CAAHoops - Lovely to see you again, my friend.