Colonial Athletic Association Preview

The Colonial lost its identity a bit when VCU and George Mason left, and the quality of play in the conference has taken a bit of a hit as well. C0-conference champion Northeastern (part of a multi-team regular-season tie) won the tournament and narrowly missed a first-round upset of Notre Dame.

William and Mary shared the conference regular season title with the Huskies, and missed out on its first NCAA tournament appearance when it fell to Northeastern in the CAA title game. The Tribe will have a chance to get there again this season, even with the team losing their best player. Marcus Thornton, who was drafted in the 2nd round by Boston, attempted over 30 percent of the team’s shots while he was playing, so there is a lot of scoring to replace. Still, William & Mary returns four starters, and has five sophomores who are primed to make a big jump and at least turn into meaningful contributors off the bench. The Tribe finished with the 27th ranked adjusted offense according to KenPom last season, and led the CAA scoring 1.17 points per possession. William & Mary led the league in effective field goal percentage, and also in scoring inside the arc. However, the Tribe finished 10th in offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line, so they will face tremendous pressure to continue shooting the ball well in order to keep up that scorching offense.

Like William & Mary, Northeastern has to replace its best player if it wants to get to the NCAA tournament. Scott Eatherton shot 63 percent inside the arc in averaging 14.7 points per game. Eatherton and Zach Stahl provided the majority of the inside punch for a Northeastern team that shot 53 percent on 2-pointers, which was 24th best in the country. The Huskies also bombed away outside the arc, shooting 38.6 percent from three last season. What excites me just as much about the Huskies, however, is what they did defensively. Northeastern finished second in the CAA defensively last season, allowing 1.03 points per possession, but the way the Huskies did it was impressive. Northeastern opponents got just over a fourth of their points on 3-pointers last season, one of the lowest marks in the country. Northeastern ran teams off the 3-point line tremendously well, but also did it without fouling, as they ranked sixth in the entire country at sending teams to the free throw line. If they can step it up defensively inside the arc a bit, Northeastern could be a scary team come March.

Projected order of finish

1. Northeastern

2. William & Mary

3. Hofstra

4. James Madison

5. Delaware

6. UNC Wilmington

7. Drexel

8. Towson

9. Elon

10. College of Charleston

All League team

Juan’ya Green, Hofstra

Terry Tarpey, William & Mary

Ron Curry, James Madison

John Davis, Towson

David Walker, Northeastern