Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It's 2006 All Over Again - The 2011 CAA Tournament Preview
Five years later, here we are in March 2011. Again there is talk of a multi-bid CAA contingent in the Big Dance, just like 2006. Again George Mason is in the thick of the talk, along with Old Dominion as both teams sport RPIs in the 20's. But in 2011, there are other similarities to 2006 that make it even more incredible.
UNCW 15-3 , 25-8
George Mason 15-3, 27-8
Hofstra 14-4, 26-7
ODU 13-5, 24-10
Northeastern 12-6, 19-11
VCU 11-7, 19-10
George Mason 16-2, 25-5
Old Dominion 14-4, 24-6
Hofstra 14-4, 20-10
VCU 12-6, 21-10
Drexel 11-7, 20-9
James Madison 10-8, 21-10
In 2006, you had four teams with 20 or more wins and two teams that just missed 20 wins. In 2011, six teams have 20 or more wins.
RPI 2006 - George Mason 15, Hofstra 30, UNCW 31, Old Dominion 52, VCU 80, Northeastern 88
RPI 2011 - George Mason 24, Old Dominion 27, Drexel 64, VCU 66, James Madison 74, Hofstra 81
In 2006, six teams were in the top 100 of the RPI ratings. Likewise, six teams in 2011 are in the top 100 of the RPI ratings.
So before I go into what's going to happen in the CAA Tournament, here's my two all CAA Teams, my All CAA Favorites and my choice for CAA First Team.
College Hardwood's All CAA Favorites
College Hardwood's CAA First Team
Charles Jenkins - Player of the Year
Player Efficiency Ratings. Jenkins has improved every year he has been at Hofstra and is definitely NBA material. Think about the fourth leading scorer in the country shooting 53 percent from the field. Unreal.
Everyone I think by now knows how great Jenkins is, but Hassell also deserves a lot of love. ODU is 14-0 when Hassell has a double double. And Hassell is nearly averaging a double double, scoring 14 points and averaging 9.8 rebounds per game. As Brian Mull so aptly puts it, Hassell "drives their train". The Hollinger efficiency ratings prove how important Hassell is to the Monarchs.
As for the First Team All CAA, Jenkins and Hassell are no brainers. So is Denzel Bowles, who is such a load inside and has developed a nice touch from the outside. Cam Long has improved a lot from last season. He is very deserving of first team all CAA this season. The last spot comes down to Allen, Skeen and Ryan Pearson. Pearson's a junior so he has another season to get his first team All CAA. Skeen tailed off at the end. Allen scored 20 or more points in seven of his last ten games and he also averages six rebounds per game. Give Allen the last spot.
So based on that, I am going to discuss how the top teams in the CAA Tournament need to play to win the tournament. And even though I think Drexel and JMU are long shots since they have to win four games in four days to win the tournament, since both teams have 20 wins and RPIs in the 60's and 70's, I will include them in as well.
the Ground and Pound of College Basketball, lead the nation in rebounding margin. And a lot of that is due to their work on the offensive glass. ODU leads the CAA in offensive rebounds with 475, averaging nearly 16 per game. When they lose, it's because the rebounding margin isn't that great and the Monarchs are ninth in the CAA in FG percentage at 43 percent. For ODU, it's just shoot well enough, clean up on the offensive glass, hold opponent under 60. Win. Key Stat - Again, when Hassell gets a double double, ODU is 14-0.
Hofstra - The Pride are one of the better offensive teams in the CAA, fourth in scoring offense, first in free throw percentage and third in assist to turnover ratio. When they lose, it's due to their very weak rebounding and the inability to keep opponents off the offensive glass. Hofstra is next to last in the CAA in defensive rebound percentage. But their ability to win close games (9-3 in games decided by seven points or less) will be important for the tournament. For the Pride to be successful - be balanced on offense, get to the line and keep the rebounding deficit reasonable. Key Stat - When Hofstra has three or more players in double figures they are 18-1.
Now it's time for predicting the tournament. At the beginning of the season, I predicted ODU to win the CAA Tournament. They haven't disappointed with their second seed, their impressive non conference wins and of course they have Hassell. There is of course George Mason, winners of fifteen straight, the Top 25 ranking and the #24 RPI.
Now if you know your CAA tournament history, the last two times the CAA had an at large, 2006 and 2007, the at large team did NOT make the CAA Finals. In 2006, George Mason lost to Hofstra. In 2007, Old Dominion lost to George Mason. Both 2006 George Mason AND 2007 Old Dominion were #2 seeds. And to make matters more interesting, in 2006, George Mason had to rally to force overtime before beating Georgia State in the quarterfinals. In 2007, Old Dominion barely held off Towson 58-55 in the CAA quarterfinals.
So how do I think it goes? Here's what I think happens;
UNC Wilmington defeats Georgia State (Tomko and Rendleman combine to beat a deflated Panthers team)
Drexel defeats Towson (but Dragons will struggle due to cold shooting)
Delaware defeats Northeastern (Blue Hens sweep Huskies on the season thanks to Saddler and Carter)
James Madison defeats William and Mary (in a very close game)
George Mason defeats UNC Wilmington (handily...too much balance by the Patriots)
VCU defeats Drexel (The Dragons again are cold from the field and the home Richmond crowd spurs the Rams to victory in a game where neither team breaks sixty)
ODU defeats Delaware (barely in the rubber match. Hassell hits a late layup to give Monarchs the lead)
Hofstra defeats JMU (Pride take the lead early and hold on barely as Jenkins goes for 32 points and 9 assists in another high scoring affair.)
George Mason defeats VCU as the Rams porous defense can't stop the Patriots from the field.
Hoftra upsets ODU as the #2 at large jinx continues. Hofstra rallies in the 2nd half as ODU goes cold from the field (similar to their losses to Drexel and VCU). Monarchs though get an at large and go to the Sweet 16.
And that brings us to the finals. C'mon, in a season that is so hauntingly familiar to 2006, where someone high up in the CAA administrative offices (Tom Yeager?) had the sense of humor to sit the Patriots' fans next to the Pride fans, you have to have Hofstra vs. George Mason in the CAA final. It's the team that got snubbed from the dance but swept the Patriots in 2006 vs. the team that got one of the last at large bids and had the magical run in 2006.
the Hofstra Pride. And why not, Hofstra is only one of two teams that beat George Mason in conference all season.
And a lot of the CAA Twitter feeds I saw for a week or so before VCU melted away their at large bid hopes had the hashtag #3BidsForCAA. And as I stated in a tweet, the NCAA has the chance to right a wrong from 2006. Three CAA teams in the tournament. That's what it should have been in 2006. The five year anniversary seems about the time to have this happen.
Hofstra upsets George Mason. Hofstra, Mason and ODU all go to the dance. You heard it here first. And if I am wrong, like I have been with most of my CAA Tournament predictions, hey what else is new.
But history has a tendency to repeat itself.