By Kenny Van Doren
There’s always a great hidden gem among the mid-majors, and for the Colonial Athletic Association, they could have a contender moving into the NCAA tournament. While home to Hofstra, Delaware, James Madison, Elon, Towson, Northeastern, William & Mary, UNC Wilmington, Charleston and Drexel, the CAA will only be able to send one team to the tournament as they are a one-bid conference.
As one of the most hectic conferences in 2020-21, the CAA is set to play. In the midst of a pandemic, only three of the 10 teams played at least 10 conference games, while Hofstra, who have been in COVID troubles since Feb. 14, hit 14 total conference games. To make things even weirder, the top ranked team, James Madison led by new coach Mark Byington, will be without possible CAA player of the year Matt Lewis due to a knee injury. This might have the most chaotic ending, as every team has been hit hard by the pandemic and injuries.
The outright favorite should be the James Madison Dukes who are 13-6 on the season and 8-2 in conference, but after Lewis’ injury, there is a good chance they are not the favorite anymore. Looking at that, the Northeastern Huskies stand at the same conference record, but their overall record (9-8) includes losses to power five Syracuse, West Virginia and North Carolina. While standing at the two-seed, they have the best overall quality losses and wins in conference behind a banged up James Madison team, and with the help of Tyson Walker, they could sweep through this tournament as one of the best built teams.
With that being said, most teams will have a good chance to sneak away with his conference title, but Hofstra is my sleeper. Entering the tournament at 8-6 in conference play, the team might have the most conference games under their belt, but they also haven’t played since mid February. Which leaves them in a tricky situation, they have three starters averaging 10+ points a game, but the fresh legs of the Pride could be an advantage or disadvantage this month. After making the tournament for the first time in 19 years last year, they have the talent and coaching to make another run for it and hopefully not be cancelled by COVID-19 once again.
With Matt Lewis missing the tournament, there isn’t a true candidate for the best player to watch this year, but the best might be Jalen Ray of the Hofstra Pride. While averaging 18.6 points per game, Ray is the best all-around player while bringing in 3.2 rebounds per game and passing for 3.4 assists per game. The senior guard is on a revenge tour to bring back another CAA title to Long Island, after the NCAA Tournament was cancelled last March. With most of his games coming with 20-point bombs, we can expect a take over from Ray.
— CAA Basketball (@CAABasketball) February 28, 2021
Edited by Emma Moloney