Teams: Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, Northeastern, Old Dominion, Towson, UNC-Wilmington, VCU, William & Mary
Conference Contenders: VCU, Drexel, George Mason
2010-11 Postseason Players:
NCAA: George Mason (8 seed, lost to Ohio State in the third round); Old Dominion (9 seed, lost to Butler in the second round); VCU (11 seed, lost to Butler in the Final Four)
CBI: James Madison (lost to Davidson in the first round); Hofstra (lost to Evansville in the first round)
G: *Bradford Burgess, VCU
G: Quinn McDowell, William & Mary
G: Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion
F: Ryan Pearson, George Mason
F: Samme Givens, Drexel
* NBA-Draft.com pick for Player of the Year
1. William & Mary
3. James Madison
2. George Mason
3. James Madison
1. George Mason was the class of the league during the regular-season, going 16-2 overall and winning 16 straight games by way of tremendous offensive and defensive efficiency. Former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt takes over Jim Larranaga with three returning starters- all seniors. When healthy, Ryan Pearson (14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds) can score both inside and out at 6'6". He is joined by 6'9" power forward Mike Morrison, an athletic and lengthy prospect who had a bit of a down season, but his production could see a bump with national Top 100 recruit Eric Copes starting at center.
2. Four starters return from a 21-win Drexel team that got off to a hot start by way of defense, but fizzled off late. Bruiser Flint's frontcourt is amongst the conference's best with 6'8" forward Dartaye Ruffin (8.4 points, 7.4 rebounds), 6'9" Daryl McCoy (5.4 points, 7.8 rebounds) and the undersized Samme Givens (12.2 points and 10.1 rebounds) that may lead the nation in rebounds per inch. In the backcourt, sharpshooter Chris Fouch (14.9 points) leads the offensive charge.
3. From a controversial entrance in the NCAA Tournament, VCU nearly supplanted Butler as America's favorite mid-major team in March. Shaka Smart was courted by virtually every team with a coaching opening as a result, but remained with the Rams in hopes of leading them back to the promise land. Bradford Burgess (14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 43.4 percent from 3) is the lone returning starter and our pick for conference player of the year. At 6'6" and skilled, Burgess played everywhere on the floor last season to create mismatches on offense.
4 To say Old Dominion was reliant upon crashing the glass would be an understatement. En route to 27 wins, the Monarchs were a plus-11.7 on the boards on average and rebounded a ridiculous 45.3 percent of their own misses on the offensive end. Four senior starters have moved on, leaving now-senior Kent Bazemore (12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.2 steals), who played point guard last season, to carry the bulk of the production; he was the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference and earned second-team pick honors.
5. James Madison was cruising at 15-3 overall before stumbling down the stretch in conference play and were dispatched in the first round of the CBI. Leading scorer and rebounder Denzel Bowles has since graduated and point guard Devon Moore (11.4 points, 4.2 assists) will miss the first semester with academic troubles. That means even replicating last season 10 CAA wins won't be easy.
6. Two years ago, Delaware was a horrendous defensive team en route to 7 wins. Last season, the Blue Hens doubled their win totals, but transformed into a terrible offensive team shooting 41.6 percent from the field. The two bright spots would be 6'2" combo-guard and CAA Freshman of the Year Devon Saddler (13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists) and his frontcourt counterpart Jamelle Hagins (8.4 points, 7.3 rebounds).
7. The silver lining in last season’s second-to-last place finish in the CAA is that William & Mary return four starters, including one of the best wings in the conference in Quinn McDowell (15.5 points, 5.4 rebounds). He was a tremendous talent last season after solid freshman and sophomore seasons, knocking down over 45 percent of his shots from behind the arc and connecting on 86 percent of his foul shots. McDowell returns some assistance in 6’1” guard Brandon Bitt (10.9 points), an All-Freshman team selection despite missing time with a broken wrist.
8. Last season, Northeastern had to replace four starters and that clearly showed when the team lost 15 of its first 17 games, but behind the play of lefty guard Jonathan Lee (11.8 points, 47.3 percent from 3), they played decent ball down the stretch. The 6'1" junior scored in double-figures in 11 of the final 12 games to help the Huskies go 7-5 during that span.
9. UNC-Wilmington won't be competing for the league title this season, but there are a few bright spots. The Seahawks have improved their win total each of the last three seasons and it could be increased again this season if Keith Rendleman (11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, .582 field-goal percentage) plays up to potential. He led the conference in field-goal percentage and has improved his offensive arsenal this offseason to include a mid-range jumper.
10. A year after finishing tied for second in the CAA, Hofstra's 2011-12 season looks a bit bumpy with the loss Charles Jenkins, a do-everything guard that led the CAA in points per game, finishing sixth in 3-point percentage, second in assists (and assist-to-turnover ratio) and fifth in steals. While talented transfers are a year away, the Pride will be reliant on former Fordham-transfer Mike Moore (14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds).
11. Pat Skerry's expectations are not very high- after all he is replacing the coach of Towson who put forth the CAA's first-ever winless season (0-18). This year almost certainly has to be better with RaShawn Polk (11.6 points, 3.2 rebounds) returning for his senior season after nearly giving up basketball earlier in his collegiate career. But the Tigers also bring back Robert Nwankwo, a redshirt senior who sat out last season with academic issues, but the 6'8" forward averaged 9.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and led the CAA with 83 blocks in 2009-10.
12. There will be a new culture in Atlanta, GA for Georgia State, a team who averaged about 11 wins and an RPI of 244 over the last five years. Ron Hunter, the former coach of IUPUI took over at the end of the regular-season and now faces the difficult task of taking on the Panthers for a full season. Amongst a roster full of inconsistencies, senior forward Eric Buckner (9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds) is the lone talent- the top scorer and rebounder from last season. He also finished fifth in the CAA in blocked shots (49) and shot nearly 55 percent from the field.
Top NBA Prospects:
Bradford Burgess, VCU: 2nd Round
He was on few teams' radars before the Rams' postseason run, but now enters this season as a potential second-round pick and preseason favorite for conference player of the year.
Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion: Late 2nd Round - Undrafted
A bit of an oddity, a 6'5" lefty point guard who played out of position due to the frontcourt size and presence. With four graduated seniors, Bazemore will get a chance to showcase his backcourt skills.
Mike Morrison, George Mason: Undrafted
After 8.5 points (55.7 percent field-goal mark) and 5.9 rebounds in his sophomore campaign, we were surprised to see the athletic 6'9" big take such a step back as a junior But with a new coach and two starters not returning, this is Morrison's year.
New Places (key losses to teams by way of, transfer or early-entry to the NBA):
Taran Buie, Penn State: Transferred to Hofstra
Devoe Joseph, Minnesota: Transferred to Oregon
Darius Morris, Michigan: Declared early for the NBA Draft
Delvon Roe, Michigan State: Retired with chronic injuries
Garrick Sherman, Michigan State: Transferred to Notre Dame
New Faces (key additions to teams by way of transfer or incoming freshman):
Erik Copes, George Mason: Copes is one of the few freshmen that is expected to make an immediate impact this season after being ranked one of the top six or seven centers in the class.
A.J. Davis, James Madison: A transfer from Wyoming averaged 10 points and 2.5 rebounds per game two years ago. He's a solid athlete and very good rebounder that will be needed to replace Denzel Bowles.
Jordan DeMercy, Georgia State: A Florida State transfer did not play a huge role on the offensive end with the Seminoles, but brings athleticism and strong defense to the wing.
Quincy Ford, Northeastern: The lanky wing has the size and length to play both inside and out, drawing mismatches and becoming an offensive weapon, but it'll be a learning curve.
Tony Kimbro Jr., Georgia State: Ron Hunter's first and only college recruit thus far with the Panthers was a winner. With size and strength, Kimbro will be a difficult matchup for any CAA defender.
Deon Jones, Towson: The Tigers will certainly need the former Delaware Player of the Year to live up to expectations, but more so bring wins to the program. He was 45-3 in his last two high school seasons.
Teddy Okereafor, VCU: The 6'4" London-native was voted the Virginia Prep Player of the Year last season and is the heir-apparent to now-departed Joey Rodriguez.
Ten Non-Conference Games To Watch
UCF at Florida State - November 14
Creighton at UAB - November 16
Wichita State at Tulsa - December 7
Marshall at Syracuse - December 6
Memphis at Louisville (Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout) - December 17