Revised All-Conference selections:
Best call(s): I was all over the emergence of the New York City Pride (Hofstra, for those of you unfamiliar with CAA school locations). With an already proven and talented perimeter returning intact (Green, Bernardi and Tanksley), all the Pride needed to make the next leap was any sort of interior presence. And did they ever get it with with big Lithuanian Rokas Gustys. If the Pride can run the table over the next 4 days and punch their ticket to the big Dance, I will look HARD at picking them as round 1 and potentially round 2 winners. I also got 3 of the top 4 teams correct, including William & Mary and James Madison, who I discuss in more detail below (see "Who I think will win section").
Worst call(s): So I mayyyyy have slightly underrated the eventual conference co-champion UNC Wilmington Seahawks in my initial Colonial predictions. I really didn't think I was that off-base in predicting a significant regression for a team that exceeded almost everyone's expectations a year ago, and then lost 3 key starters before this year. After back-to-back conference titles (albeit, both of them shared) head coach Kevin Keatts has to be getting some late night phone calls from bigger programs, just two years after replacing Buzz Peterson at the helm. It's hard to find a team more balanced than the Seahawks, who have all 5 starters average 9 or more points a game, and typically go 10 deep.
I was also misguided in believing the Delaware Blue Hens would compete in the upper-half of this league. Though Charleston, Elon and Drexel collectively were better than anticipated, I did not foresee the Hens failing all the way to the basement of the standings, especially after a finishing 9-9 in the Colonial a year prior, and returned 4-starters entering this season.
Who I want to win: [see "Who I think will win" section below]
Who I think will win: Bill & Mary. This may because it's currently 1:30 A.M and I'm watching a recorded William & Mary/James Madison game from over a week ago, and starting to develop a mini-crush on both squads. For those of you idiots who spend your Saturdays not watching Colonial Athletic hoop and aren't aware of the game I'm referring to, the Dukes would go on to edge the Tribe by 6 at home. But it was one of those rare times where I was actually more impressed by the losing team.
My defense is that I felt JMU got a ton of whistles in crucial times of the 2nd half that helped them maintain a small cushion late in to the game. More importantly, it was a noticeably "juiced-up" Dukes team due to the fact it was "The College Steph Curry's", aka Ron Curry's senior night (literally, it's the perfect comparison, actual name and style of play). He was the best player on the floor in this game, which already featured one of my two favorite players in the league in Tarry Tarpey (Juan'ya Green is the 2nd) and conference leading scorer Omar Prewitt. It was not just Curry that tormented the Tribe, but also their inside counterpunch of Yohanny Dalembert (answer to your "is he related to Samuel Dalembert?" question found here), who had one of his most efficient games of the year. To top it all off, the Tribe were 0-9 from three in the final twenty minutes and just couldn't get big stops when they needed down the stretch.
But, it was those other possessions when the Tribe weren't didn't brick a 3 that made me swoon. First of all, the contrast of pace between offense and defense is so unique. Head coach Tony Shaver plays a TON of zone from what I've seen, which forces opponents to be much more patient on offense than they may be comfortable with. This scheme also allows the CAA defensive player of the year and my BOI "Tear" or "Tarp" to roam with freedom and get in to passing lanes more frequently. When Tarpey gets a steal at the top of the zone, he is outstanding in transition, and will always attack the rim in a 1 v 1 or 2 v 2 setting. And even when they regain possession off a miss and Tarpey isn't leading the break, the ball will be in the hands of either 1) a super athletic 6'6 wing who doesn't turn it over (Daniel Dixon) ... 2) a pass first, lights out shooter (David Cohn) ....3) a guy averaging 17 points a game (Omar Prewitt) ... The bottom line is that I adore the style and roster fit of this William & Mary team, and I think on a neutral court coming off this loss, the Tribe will take down the Dukes in round 1.
What's going to be the critical factor for Bill & Mary going any deeper in this tourney will be the play of their interior muscle, Sean Sheldon. Sheldon is just your standard 6'9 250 dude (6'10 if you take ponytail into consideration), who is shooting a cool 63% from the floor this year and possesses an effective low-post game with great footwork. The ONLY issue(s) I have with this team is their rebounding consistency and lack of rim protection, and Sheldon is the only candidate on the roster to provide any degree of either. He'll have to be especially locked-in for their potential round 2 date with the Pride of Hofstra, who already beat the Tribe twice this year, including a 30-point route at Hofstra. On my "data scientist bucket list", one such to-do is to investigate the legitimacy of the "it's really hard to beat the same team 3 times in the same year" theory, but since I will be unable to complete this analysis in the next 18 hours, I'm just going to assume it's a fact. I think if this ends up being the semi-final matchup, Shaver will throw it inside to Sheldon early on, so he can go right at big Rokas Gustys to get him in foul trouble.
In his sophomore year, the Lithuanian monster Gustys (formerly of Oak Hill Academy) has taken the Colonial by storm, posting an effective FG% and Rebounding rate that each rank in the top 20 of the entire country. However, he has a history of being foul-prone, which is the primary reason he played only ~10-12 minutes a game in his freshman year. He's clearly taken massive strides this year to stay on the floor, but I'm going to bet on Gustys picking up two quick whistles in this one, which will allow the Tribe get the matchups they want for an extended period of time. If they can avenge the 2-regular season losses to the Pride and reach the Finals, I think William & Mary will end up representing the Colonial in the big Dance.
Chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament: If you believe that Wilmington is perhaps a slightly overrated number 2-seed in this bracket, than a strong case can be made for Northeastern actually being the dark horse in this tourney. It's incredible that last year's Colonial auto-bid, who gave Notre Dame all they could handle in round 1 of the big tourney, is the 6-seed in this year's CAA bracket, especially after returning two studs in David Walker and Quincy Ford. I might also remind you that this is the same squad that beat Miami FL IN MIAMI, and took down America-East darling Stony Brook by 13.