CAA Season Preview
It’s a revival!
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
Defending Conference Champion: Old Dominion
Defending Regular Season Champion: Old Dominion
1) Old Dominion
3) George Mason
5) William & Mary
8 ) James Madison
11) Georgia State
Summary: If George Mason had never made its remarkable run to the Final Four, last season might have been the most memorable in the CAA’s history. Old Dominion claimed the regular season title, the post-season tournament championship, and a first round win over 6th seed Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, but that might not be the most noteworthy accomplishment of the league last season. Six teams in total qualified for the postseason, and as many as five programs had a legitimate chance to challenge for the league title coming into the final weeks of the season. William and Mary’s giant killing season (in which the Tribe settled down for a season-long stay in the RPI top 10 with wins over Richmond, Maryland, Wake Forest and a superb conference record of 12-6) and their near historic qualification to March Madness arguably drew more attention to the league than Old Dominion’s first round tourney upset.
Last year, however, might have been just the beginning of this CAA revival. Each contending team returns plenty of experienced talent to do damage out of conference and bolster their tournament resumes. Old Dominion, led by coach Blaine Taylor (one of the few coaches out there who doesn’t get laughed at when claiming he has a better mustache than Fran Dunphy), returns four starters, but VCU, George Mason, Northeastern, and even William & Mary brings back enough talent to make the CAA a potential two-bid league and to ensure another entertaining race for first place in league. Keep an eye on Shaka Smart and VCU, which ended last season by winning the CBI Championship, to end up being Old Dominion’s biggest threat to a consecutive league titles.
I’m in the camp that believes William & Mary is due for a down year. William & Mary lived (and never seemed to die) by the three-pointer last season, making a conference-record 250 of them. It’s not as if the Tribe just decided on a whim to start jacking up treys (they’ve made over 900 in the past four years), but their rate of success on those shots clearly rose last season. After decades looking up from the CAA cellar, William and Mary will be the hunted this year, and unless Quinn McDowell (one of those rare gunners/playmakers) and the rest of the Tribe marksmen find other reliable ways to score, coach Tony Shaver’s squad might be in for a longer season than people expect. An early season test at Syracuse in the Legends’ Classic will indicate how much the Tribe learned from last season’s success.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.