There’s a lot of good news for the CAA this week. ESPN’s latest Bracketology has two CAA teams making the NCAA Tournament. Charlie Crème’s predictions have Delaware as a No. 8 seed hosting Virginia, with the winner facing top-seeded Notre Dame. Drexel is picked as a No. 13 seed and predicted to meet Georgia.
Having two teams in the tournament is a big turnaround for the conference, especially considering its poor conference RPI (No. 14 in the country).
Still, it’s a tough road for Drexel, whose style dictates close games, ones that can be won or lost on luck, calls, etc.
James Madison was in the hunt for an at-large berth for much of last year playing a defense-based style and eventually lost a couple of costly conference games. The Dragons will need to run through the CAA nearly perfect to earn that at-large bid.
1. Delaware (14-3, 5-0, RPI of 30) – The Blue Hens are hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and will, most assuredly, be put there. Perhaps the committee would be kind enough to set Delaware on a course for the Sweet 16 in Norfolk. And perhaps it would be extra kind and put the University of Connecticut in the same bracket. We’d like another chance to see Elena Delle Donne. Pretty please? Previously 1.
2. Drexel (13-4, 6-0, RPI of 84) – Get ready for the biggest game of the CAA season on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Blue Hens visit Drexel, a team that’s done pretty well at making life difficult Delle Donne in the past and whose slow-down game makes every possession crucial. Delaware has the CAA’s top defense (31.8 percent), while Drexel’s slow-down offense is the league’s most efficient (44.5 percent from the field, league-best 15.8 assists).Yes please! Previously 2.
3. James Madison (11-7, 5-1, RPI of 104) – The Dukes have won eight of their last nine, although the best win came over American. There was a close win over Northeastern and a close loss to Drexel in that stretch. Previously 3.
4. Hofstra (8-8, 4-1, RPI of 130) – The Pride and the Dukes have had similar seasons. Both expected big things and scheduled accordingly, getting their records dinged up early by the difficult competition. Hofstra’s rebounded to win seven of eight although, like JMU, the best win game over a decent Northwestern (RPI of 100) team. Forward Shante Evans has started to hit her stride in CAA play. Few teams have a big body to match hers. Previously 6.
5. Northeastern (11-7, 4-3, RPI of 146) – The Huskies have already hit the meat of their CAA schedule and their league record shows it. Northeastern has a reasonably close home loss to Delaware, a tight home loss to Drexel and a close road loss to James Madison. I’ve been on the Huskies’ bandwagon all season, and I’m not getting off. Previously 5.
6. Old Dominion (13-5, 4-2, RPI of 129) – The Lady Monarchs’ road performance against the Pride was a little bit disappointing but we said at the start of the year that Shante Evans posed significant match-up issues. Old Dominion has been a vastly different team at home and on the road. The best news for ODU is the improvement of point guard Michelle Brandao. The second-best is that Drexel comes next Thursday and will likely be emotionally spent after its game against the Blue Hens. Could be a chance for ODU to steal one. Previously 4.
7. George Mason (6-11, 1-5, RPI of 251) – There’s a giant gap between the top six and bottom five, but the Patriots are the closest to making the move up. They aren’t great and their record is worst. But George Mason has faced a brutal early-season CAA schedule losing only to teams ranked in The Pilot’s top five and beating Towson. Previously 8.
8. Georgia State (9-8, 1-5, RPI of 235) – The Panthers have lost six of seven and are in their customary second-half swoon. They’ve had some close losses when they’ve competed so despite the big loss to ODU they stay above the bottom-feeders. Georgia State entered the year in a pretty significant rebuilding mode and, with a couple of key transfers, Sharon Baldwin-Tener has the Panters primed to peak next season. These results are probably acceptable. Previously 7.
9. UNC-Wilmington (2-14, 1-4, RPI of 283) – Losers of 11 of their past 12, broken up only by a win over William & Mary. The transition from Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has been difficult. Adell Harris’ coaching style is vastly different and a number of Wilmington’s top players transferred after Cooper-Dyle left. Cut Adell Harris some slack this year. Old Dominion fans can relate. Previously 10.
10. William & Mary (2-14, 1-5, RPI of 318) – Finally some of that talent we believe the Tribe has shows itself in a win over Towson. That snapped an 11-game losing streak and gave William & Mary its second win over a Division I opponent. Previously 11.
11. Towson (6-11, 0-6, RPI of 302) – Of all the CAA teams, the Tigers entered the year in the clearest rebuilding situation. It’s not pretty, but that’s not surprising. Previously 9.
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