Heard from a few people last night about the possibility of the CAA’s members chasing down multiple NCAA tournament berths this season.
The polite answer to that is “Absolutely not.”
Look, I respect what the CAA’s accomplished this decade, growing itself through expansion and smarts. But there are two things the conference had in 2006 and 2007 it doesn’t possess this year: Dominant teams and quality wins.
The first part is simple. The 2006 George Mason team that earned an at-large berth was 15-3 in the CAA. So was 2007 Old Dominion.
Everyone —- even league leader Virginia Commonwealth —- will finish no better than 14-4. Mason and Northeastern can’t top 13-5. That’s just how it is.
As for the quality wins, the ‘06 CAA was polarized, with six good teams at the top, two mediocre teams in the middle and four awful teams at the bottom. With an unbalanced schedule, it was possible to avoid the wretchedness and roll up some nice wins. Mason, by the way, also won at Wichita State that season.
The next year, Old Dominion beat Georgetown and Drexel won at Syracuse and Villanova. Those wins helped everybody, and validated ODU’s admission to the 65-team field.
This year, though … well, yikes. Here’s a list of the CAA’s top-100 RPI wins in nonconference play:
69: Northeastern 70, @Providence 66
74: VCU 67, New Mexico 55
80: Drexel 64, @Saint Joseph’s 52
85: @James Madison 70, Seton Hall 64
100: Old Dominion 86, @Duquesne 60
That’s it. Five top-100 victories, and none against a truly credible postseason possibility. There are no top-50 wins; the best hope of those getting handed out is George Mason managing to crack the top-50 on its own, thus giving five CAA teams a money win at the Patriots’ expense.
The league gets two cracks at top-100 foes in this weekend’s bracket buster event —- Mason at Creighton (No. 51) and Hofstra at Fairfield (No. 94). Neither team is getting an at-large berth based on a single useful road victory.
So you want to find out who the CAA will send to the tournament? Be sure to catch the league final in Richmond, because for this year, at least, it is decidedly one-bid territory.
—- Patrick Stevens