- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
1. The Seahawks Repeat
UNC-Wilmington was the class of the Colonial this year, capturing their first outright title since 2002-2003 (shared in 05-06 and last year). UNCW was the darling of the postseason CAA Tourney last year, earning the auto-bid on their way to a 13-seed where they gave the Dukies a run for their evil money. This season’s version of the Seahawks is even better than last year with the return of guard trio C.J. Bryce, Chris Flemmings, and Denzel Ingram, and the Earth-shattering emergence of forward Devontae Cacok. Cacok played about seven minutes per game during his freshman year, then basically went HAM on the league this season. The sophomore big man led the country with a bonkers 77.5% FG%, and ranked 1st in the Colonial in offensive rebounding percentage, 3rd in defensive rebounding percentage, 5th in steal percentage, and 5th in block percentage. His performance helped keep afloat an otherwise lackluster defensive unit. Despite this lackluster defense, UNCW is an offensive juggernaut capable of making the second weekend in March.
2. T.J. Williams Makes His Mark
WHO??? That’s the question most people outside Boston probably asked this season as they saw T.J. Williams’s name at the top of the scoring leaders list in the Colonial. Don’t get me wrong, Williams has had three solid years at Northeastern prior to his senior season, but nothing like this. Williams came into 2016-17 averaging 7.8ppg, 2.6rpg, and 2.6apg. This season, the point guard is averaging 21.6ppg, 4.8rpg, and 5.3apg. The leap in production is monstrumental (trademark 3MW). This jump can be partially attributed to the fact the Huskies lost a lot of ammo from prior year’s squad, but leading the league in scoring was much more than Bill Coen and Company counted on.
3. The Cougars Cauterize the Colonial
Defense has been the calling card of the C of C Cougars under Head Coach Earl Grant, and this season was no different. Charleston once again led the CAA in defensive efficiency thanks to a handful of athletic wings that make shooting a three-pointer a living Hell. C of C allowed opponents to shoot 30.6% from downtown this season, the 13th best mark in the country, which propelled them to a 14-4 CAA finish (the school’s best ever). The Cougars also ramped up their offense this season behind the steady play of dual point guards Joe Chealey and Grant Riller, and outstanding forward Jarrell Brantley. C of C beat every team in the Colonial this year, so they know they have what it takes to make a run. An NCAA Tourney berth would be the school’s first since 1999.
The tournament tips off on Friday, March 3rd, and concludes on March 6th. All games will be played at North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, SC (home of the South Carolina Stingrays!).
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
UNCW is the favorite to take the auto-bid, but it certainly isn’t a sure thing. The Hawks have the best offense in the league (30th best nationally) and play a fun, fast, run-n-gun style of basketball that primarily features four-guard lineups. UNCW is an impressive 39th in the RPI, and ranks 59th per KenPom.com making them one of the highest-rated mid-majors by both metrics in the country. Considering this, and with wins over ETSU and at St. Bonaventure, the Seahawks should slide comfortably into a 12-seed come Tourney time. Yes, they will pull a Round 1 upset if they make the Field.
Dark Horse Team
Since I’ve already expressed my love for College of Charleston here and elsewhere, I’ll choose a different team for my dark horse. William & Mary has never made the NCAA Tournament (one of only five original D1 teams to have this dubious honor), but they have a shot at it this year. The Tribe’s offense makes them a threat to win every game. The Omar Prewitt / Daniel Dixon combination is one of the league’s bets one-two punches and the supporting cast (Greg Malinowski, David Cohn, Connor Burchfield) can shoot the shit out of the ball (W&M knocks down 37.9% of their threes, 53rd nationally). Their defense is a major concern, but the Tribe knocked off every team in the CAA this season, including the two top dogs, so making history is certainly possible. Head Coach Tony Shaver will look to take the crown with his up-tempo, three-happy style of play.
(8) Hofstra defeats (9) Delaware
(10) Drexel defeats (7) James Madison
(1) UNC Wilmington defeats (8) Hofstra
(4) William & Mary defeats (5) Elon
(2) College of Charleston defeats (10) Drexel
(6) Northeastern defeats (3) Towson
(1) UNC Wilmington defeats (4) William & Mary
(2) College of Charleston defeats (6) Northeastern
(2) College of Charleston defeats (1) UNC Wilmington
I would love to see UNCW in the Tourney field, but I would love to see Charleston even more. The Cougars’ defense will allow them to win this bracket. If they do take the crown, expect a 12 or 13-seed in the Dance.
If Towson gets by Northeastern (which they could do), the Tigers have a shot at stealing one from C of C (and it will be one of the most physical games of the year).
Northeastern may just take this whole damn thing. The Huskies have a penchant for performing in the postseason, especially under Head Coaching wizard Bill Coen. I would not be surprised if Northeastern storms the championship game led by the potential POY T.J. Williams and Florida transfer Alex Murphy.
Elon is one of the nice surprises out of the CAA this year, finishing 5th in the league while finally reeling in their historically poor defense. The Phoenix, like the Tribe, have the shooting ability to play Cinderella.