Saturday, February 27, 2016

CAA conference tournament preview

This is part 2 of a 32-part series that will take a look at every conference and conference tournament in the country.  We'll recap who's playing and what the stakes are for each team in the conference.

The final standings:
Hofstra 14-4 (22-8)
UNC-Wilmington 14-4 (22-7)
Towson 11-7 (20-11)
James Madison 11-7 (21-10)
William & Mary 11-7 (19-10)
Northeastern 9-9 (17-14)
Charleston 8-10 (16-13)
Elon 7-11 (16-15)
Drexel 3-15 (5-24)
Delaware 2-16 (7-22)

Tournament format:  a standard setup, going 4 days from Friday, March 4 to Monday, March 7.  All in a neutral site at Baltimore.

The matchups:
1) Hofstra vs. 8/9) Elon/Drexel
4) James Madison vs. 5) William & Mary
2) UNC-Wilmington vs. 7/10) Charleston/Delaware
3) Towson vs. 6) Northeastern

The stakes:
It was a banner year in the RPI, as the conference finished 9th behind the Big Six and the A-10/AAC.  Usually a conference in that position has at least one viable at-large team, but not the case.  The real strength of the conference is having only two teams that were truly in the dumps.  They have 8(!) teams inside the RPI Top 150, which is really commendable.  Nobody in the conference truly scheduled bad, and if one team had been able to establish itself during conference play, we would've had an interesting situation.  Alas, no one is quite bubble worthy.  Hofstra can make a decent argument (beating N-FSU, @St Bonaventure, but lost just one or two too many (N-Indiana St, @Siena, @Stony Brook).  The only win by a conference mate over a surefire tournament team is Northeastern > Miami, but they're obviously buried in the standings.  As for Hofstra, I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up on the committee's consideration board, but I think there's too much traffic in front of them to actually make their way all the way to the cutline.

The conference will likely get rewarded with a 13 seed, maybe 12, in March.  Hofstra has the NIT auto-bid over UNCW.  So, can UNCW get an at-large bid in the NIT?  Possible, perhaps even probable.  A co-champion of the #9 conference in the country?  The NIT committee is very likely to reward that.  However, on the other end, their best non-con win is ETSU and their non-con SoS is 294.  No wins over BCS-like teams.  The NIT committee usually doesn't give at-large bids to those profiles.  I think, however, the co-champion argument will win out.

William & Mary is the other team with a legit argument to be in the NIT.  They have the raw RPI number, and did at least beat NC State on the road and has a top 50 non-con SoS.  They also split with UNCW if it comes to that.  I've got W&M as a bubble team for the NIT right now.  We'll see.  I do think UNCW is going to be ahead of W&M in the pecking order, if only because they beat them by 3 games in the conference standings.  The NIT will respect that, I think.  James Madison and Towson are lagging behind the other 3 in overall profiles, and there likely won't be room for them in the NIT.

Alas, one minor benefit to the big year is the conference should put 8 of their 10 teams in a postseason competition, provided everyone wants to play.  Towson, James Madison, Northeastern, Charleston, Elon.  All top 150 RPIs, all figure to be top targets of the Vegas/CBI/CIT.  It's probably not the reward the conference had in mind with its 9th ranked RPI, but it'll have to do.

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