COLONIAL ATHLETIC NOTES AND RAMBLINGS
-This league has sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament the last two years. VCU advanced to the second round last season with an upset win against Duke, and nearly defeated Pittsburgh to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. In the previous season, George Mason went all the way to the Final Four. As good as the league has been, many believed (myself included) that the league was going to get a third team in each of the last two years. The CAA doesnt appear to be quite as strong this year from top to bottom, but it does look as if they can once again get two teams in a position to get an at-large.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC TEAMS
-VCU is coming off one of the best seasons in school history where they went 28-7 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and won the CAA championship along the way. The Rams lost two of their leading scorers to graduation, but do have three other starters coming back, including Eric Maynor
, who hit the game winning shot against Duke. He is a tremendous point guard who averaged nearly 14ppg and over 6 assists per game last season. They have a pretty talented freshman class coming in as well, which includes Ed Nixon, who was first team all-state in Florida last year. The Rams once again appear to have a strong line-up and look like theyll contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Its hard to say whether or not theyll be as good as last year, but they will definitely be contenders in the CAA.
-GEORGE MASON is definitely a team to watch for. They failed to make either the NCAA or NIT last season, which was a disappointment following their Final Four season, but they appear to have a very strong team once again. They are a very good defensive team, and were really starting to click by the time of the conference tournament. They blew out Old Dominion in the semifinals and nearly defeated VCU in the finals. This year all five starters are back, and they are an extremely well balanced team. Will Thomas is a very strong forward who shot over 62% from the floor last year, averaged over 13ppg, and grabbed 7 boards per game. Dre Smith and Folarin Campbell make up a strong backcourt as well. Dont be surprised to see this team dancing this March. One area of concern is that there arent many opportunities at quality wins. They do play in the Old Spice Classic along with Villanova, Kansas State, NC State and South Carolina. It is very important that they do well in that tournament over Thanksgiving because its one of the few chances they have to really build their resume.
-DREXEL didnt make the NCAA Tournament last year, but most people believe that they should have. They won 14 games away from their home court, which included wins at Creighton, Villanova and Syracuse, but were left out of the dance. Only two starters are back from that team and its hard to say whether or not Drexel can duplicate that sort of success. One of the things theyve struggled with over the past few years was consistency. They looked great in their wins against Villanova and Creighton, but losses to teams like Rider and William & Mary were very damaging. Forward Frank Elegar
was one of the best players on the team last year, and should be a huge contributor this year. They were also a very good defensive team last year, and that should once again be the case.
-HOFSTRA has had a very strong backcourt the past two seasons and ran a very effective three guard offense, but two of their better guards are gone and theyll have to depend on some new players this year. Antoine Agudio
, who averaged over 20ppg and was a fantastic outside shooter last year, is back. Hell need some help, though. They have four new players this year, and some of them will be expected to step into contributing roles right away. Unless some former role players can step it up, I dont see Hofstra in the postseason this year.
-OLD DOMINION has been one of the dominant teams in the league over the past three years and actually earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last year. Three of their top players from last season are gone though, and its difficult to say whether or not theyll be in the mix for the title this year. Brian Henderson and Brandon Johnson form the nucleus for an experienced backcourt, and some players who contributed minutes off the bench last year should step up and contribute underneath. They also welcome two redshirt freshmen to the roster this year, who should be able to contribute underneath as well.
-TOWSON was just 15-17 last year, but head coach Pat Kennedy looks to have them moving in the right direction. They did lose two of their better players, but three starters are back, and juco transfers Tony Durant and Vernon Carr should be able to step in and contribute right away. They didnt finish the season strong, but they did increase the win total from their previous year. It isnt likely that theyll be in the mix for the conference championship, but their improvement should continue.
-GEORGIA STATE has a new head coach in Rod Barnes, who had quite a bit of success at Mississippi. They did pick up some pretty good transfer players, but none are eligible to play this season. Guard Leonard Mendez appears to be the leader of the team. Justin Billingslea is also back at full strength after missing most of last year, and he is a good post player who should be able to contribute as well. Look for GSU to improve from their 11-20 record last year, but it isnt likely well see them in the postseason. They do appear to be headed in the right direction, though.
-DELAWARE has had three consecutive 20+ loss seasons, and won just five games last year. Four starters are back, including forward Herb Courtney, who is one of the best players in the league. He averaged over 18ppg and 8rpg last year, but unfortunately his teammates didnt offer up very much help. They should be better this year, but they will need to undergo a drastic improvement if they want to finish in the top half of the conference.
-After finishing in first place and winning the conference championship in 2005-06, UNC WILMINGTON won just seven games last season. Part of the reason was that T.J. Carter missed the season due to an injury, but hell be back this year. Three other starters are also back, so at the very least UNCW has some experience. They also appear to be much more balanced this year with Vladimir Kuljanin
at center and Todd Hendley at forward making up a strong frontcourt. They have talent and experience at all positions, and we should see quite a bit of improvement this year.
-WILLIAM & MARY was 15-15 last year, which is one of the best seasons theyve had in the last 20 years. With four starters back, W&M actually has a reason to be excited about basketball season, which usually is not the case. They were a very good defensive team last season and that should be the case again this year. Forward Laimis Kisielius is a player to watch because he can score from underneath as well as from the outside. It isnt likely that well see Bill & Mary at the top of the standings, but well probably see them further up than theyve been in the past twenty years.
-JAMES MADISON was just 7-23 last year. Four of the starters are back along with transfers Abdulai Jalloh (Saint Josephs) and Dazzmond Thornton (Texas Tech), so the team should be better this year. One of their main problems a season ago was depth, but now that they have more bodies that can contribute it shouldnt be as big of a deal this year. Three of the returning starters averaged in double figures last year, so if they can pick up the intensity on the defensive end their win total should be higher this upcoming season.
-After struggling for most of the season, NORTHEASTERN finished strong last year by winning six of their last eight. Only two starters are back, so its hard to say whether or not theyll be able to bring any of that momentum into this year. Their top four scorers are gone, so it looks as though this year will be a rebuilding year.