As all 10 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) men's basketball teams make their way to Baltimore, the second year for Elon University in the conference has a similar feeling to the first.
Elon is also in the exact same position as last season, playing Friday as the eighth seed and needing to win four games to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
The teams are seeded as follows:
No. 10 University of Delaware (2-16 CAA)
The Blue Hens (7-22 overall) have earned just two conference wins this season, and are 2-15 on the road. With the CAA’s second-worst defense (75.9 points allowed per game), they’ve won just two games since defeating Marist College Dec. 13, and they recently lost sophomore guard Chivarsky Corbett for the season with an ACL tear.
No. 9 Drexel University (3-15)
The Dragons (5-24) haven’t had any easier season than their Tri-State rivals the Blue Hens. They’re touting the conference’s worst offense this year (63.4 points per game), and last week’s victory over the College of William & Mary is a bright spot of another tough year.
No. 8 Elon (7-11)
The Phoenix (16-15) started off strong this season before going into a tailspin in conference play, and despite the one-game improvement in the CAA, Elon will be playing in the first round Friday night. Elon can stretch defenses thin and score from the outside, but defensive weaknesses across the board spell trouble in Baltimore.
No. 7 The College of Charleston (8-10)
It was an incredibly successful season for the Cougars (16-13). They rejuvenated their program after last season’s last-place finish with marked improvement on both ends, a fearsome defense and a signature victory over Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge back in November. They’re not a team in serious contention to go deep in the tournament — especially with all of the injuries to key players, like junior guards Canyon Barry and Joe Chealey — but with optimal length at every position, they could potentially force enough turnovers to make some noise.
No. 6 Northeastern University (9-9)
The Huskies (17-14) fell from grace after finishing third in the conference last season. Despite major contributions from senior guard/forward Quincy Ford and senior guard David Walker, they needed a late-season surge to finish sixth, and they’ve lacked a sense of identity this season. They’re a middle-of-the-pack team on both sides of the ball and lack some redeeming qualities to set them apart from the conference’s finest, but Ford is a legitimate NBA prospect.
No. 5 The College of William & Mary (11-7)
The Tribe (19-10) made their mark this season with the CAA’s third-strongest offense, and were tough to beat at home (12-3). Junior guarda Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon are just a couple of William & Mary’s perimeter weapons that can fill it up from outside in a hurry. They took a slight step back from their first-place finish last year, but they’re still a team that can score in bunches and make teams nervous.
No. 4 James Madison University (11-7)
The Dukes (21-10) found a lot of success this year with their three-headed long-distance attack featuring senior guard Ron Curry, junior guard/forward Shakir Brown and junior forward Dimitrije Cabarkapa. Between their spacy offense and surprisingly solid defense, they may pose the two-way threat necessary to knock off the higher seeds in the conference and win the CAA.
No. 3 Towson University (11-7)
The Tigers (20-11) made their living as the CAA’s second-stingiest defensive team, with multiple big wings who live in passing lanes in junior forward Arnaud William Adala Moto, sophomore guard Mike Morsell and senior forward Timajh Parker-Rivera, among others. They struggled to score the ball this season, as junior forward John Davis was the only Tiger to convert on more than 33 percent of his three-point attempts. How far they can really go come tournament time may very well come down to their ability to stretch defenses and/or finish at the rim effectively enough to make up for their lack of a perimeter attack.
No. 2 University of North Carolina at Wilmington (14-4)
The Seahawks (22-7) scored big in Division-II transfer and walk-on junior guard Chris Flemmings, who’s pacing the team at better than 15 points per game and scoring on an outrageous 51 percent of his shot attempts. They look poised to represent the CAA in the big dance in March, and oozing with talent and efficiency at almost every position, it’s well-earned. After a school-record 11-game winning streak, the Seahawks lost two of their last four to lose the top seed in the CAA, and ruining the slim chances they had at earning an at-large NCAA Tournament bid in the process.
No. 1 Hofstra University (14-4)
The Pride (22-8) are led by CAA Player of the Year front-runner, senior guard Juan’ya Green, pacing the conference at nearly 18 points per game. The Pride’s forgiving defense could hold them back, but they can score points in bunches and have a gravitational presence around the rim in sophomore forward Rokas Gustys to boot. Gustys is the only player in the CAA averaging a double-double — 13.6 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. The Pride is the hottest team in the conference right now, winning its last six games to move into a first place tie with UNCW, and earned the top seed at the tournament via tiebreaker. In both games against the Pride in the regular season, Elon battled Hofstra to the wire, losing by two and four points, respectively. They also won by eight and six points over Drexel in the two games against the Dragons. No matter who Hofstra plays Saturday, the Pride may have another close game on its hands.