2007 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Preview

2007 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Preview

2007 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Preview
by Jordan Adams - 02/28/2007

The depth of the mid-major conferences in college basketball this season has been astounding. While teams like Nevada, Southern Illinois and Butler have been hogging the press all season, and deservedly so, the time has come in the conference tournaments and the Big Dance for the rest of the little stepchildren to rebel against the so-called 'beautiful babies'.

Just like Adam Morrison's lack of defensive prowess, some things just can't stay hidden for too long. In 2006 it was the talent and chemistry of George Mason, whose amazing run the majority of fans and analysts throughout the country never saw coming. And as much as people like to think that the chalk will hold up their brackets, they usually find out quickly that it washes off quite easily. And for those of you not familiar with the best the Colonial Athletic Association has to offer I say get out your bracketology notepad.

In 2005 Old Dominion bested Virginia Commonwealth in overtime of the CAA final. The year prior to that Jeff Capel coached up his young VCU Rams to the top, slaying powerful George Mason by a single point. This year we should expect an even more thrilling adventure.

While UNC-Wilmington will have to relinquish its defending tournament crown, any of the top four seeds could take down this beast and it wouldn't be considered an upset. And let me say that this showcase has major tournament implications. Besides the automatic bid, as it stands right now there will likely be at least one at-large coming out of the CAA. And if the ball bounces the right way we could even see three bids here.

There will be no lesser teams coming out of the woodwork. It's a four-team battle royale. One bad loss in the early rounds could be your RSVP for the NIT, while running the table would make one's Selection Sunday that much easier on the nerves. Get ready as hoops in the Colonial Athletic Association takes center stage:

THE FAVORITE:

Virginia Commonwealth - The Rams clinched the regular season crown by the slimmest of margins over Georgia State on the final weekend of February. Only two losses throughout league play, each came on the road and were double-digit setbacks to both Hofstra and Old Dominion. Already locked into the Big Dance, taking the conference tourney as well would even improve their seeding and certify the claim as one of this season's top mid-majors.

THE CONTENDERS:
Old Dominion - Winners of eleven straight heading into this swaray, the Monarchs are the hottest team among this conference's players. During their current run they served up double-digit losses to each of the three other powers, winning at Drexel and holding court at home against VCU and Hofstra. Earlier this year they won at Georgetown, but it's possible their best is hiding up their sleeves.

Hofstra - The Pride could very well need a strong showing and possibly secure a spot in the championship game to make sure they aren't sweating too much come Selection Sunday. They haven't finished as strongly as some of their top CAA foes, dropping three of their last 10 games. Surely the backcourt duo of Loren Stokes and Antoine Agudio will have their say in leading their team to a first ever title game. Also, the Pride was wounded last year when the Tournament Committee snubbed them. They likely have to cut down the nets in Virginia to punch their own card this season.

THE SLEEPER:
Drexel - The Dragons have the quality wins to make their tournament case heard. Wins on the road over Syracuse, Villanova and Creighton have this team's confidence sky high. Their 13 road wins this season can't be denied, and that has them ready for any environment they will face in March.

MATCH-UPS:
#8 William & Mary vs. #9 George State - Basically it comes down to who wants to be on the other side of a VCU beat down. The Rams will easily dismiss both of these inferior squads, but at least GSU can say they were the victims of a tough non-conference schedule. Their athleticism should be the difference, but this is as close as flipping a coin.

#5 Northeastern vs. #12 Delaware - The Huskies finished the regular season winning five of their last six, and they also managed to sweep the two games over Delaware. They proved they could play with the big boys with a win earlier in the year over Hofstra. A third win over the Blue Hens shouldn't be too tall a task.

#7 Towson State vs. #10 UNC-Wilmington - Towson was just two games under .500 in league play, and they actually played the big four extremely tough, albeit to seven losses. Conversely, the Seahawks were quite pitiful and managed just seven wins all year. This is one where the higher seed will advance.

#6 George Mason vs. #11 James Madison - Yep, it's those Patriots, and wouldn't it be something if they did work in this thing and made it back to the NCAA Tournament? Because let's face it, they are NIT material this season and the only way they avoid that fate is by running the table. They do, however, have some nice talent left over from last year's Final Four team, and that alone should be enough to get them a date into the quarterfinals.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Anything less than two semifinals featuring the top four seeds and an all-out war in the title game will be a major disappointment. VCU, Hofstra, Old Dominion and Drexel have been some of the more entertaining mid-majors to watch and follow over the course of the season, and if I had my druthers all four would be among the field of 65. I could make cases why each could make it to the Sweet Sixteen without even seeing the match-ups, so everyone else needs to get aboard the CAA train. If nothing else, tune in for the Final of this conference tournament. One of those teams will be still playing come the second weekend of the Big Dance.

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