The Colonial Athletic Association Tournament gets underway on Friday in Richmond, Virginia. All 12 teams make the tournament with seeds No. 5-No. 12 facing off in the first round. The top four seeds all receive first round byes. Over the last six years, the No. 1 seed has won the tournament five times. Only once (No. 11 Towson in 2009) has a team outside of the top six seeds made the semifinals. Ten of the last 12 finalists have been a third seed or better.
The year’s top seed is George Mason (16-2) who finished two games ahead of second seed Old Dominion (14-4) and third seed Hofstra (14-4). Mason was also the league’s top ATS outfit with a 14-4 mark during the regular season. The Patriots and Monarchs are both solid bets to reach the Big Dance as at-large berths should they not win the conference tournament.
Hometown VCU (fourth-seed) started 10-1 in league play but faded badly down the stretch to finish 12-6. The Rams have won two of the last four tournament titles and clearly have the talent to make a run (see wins over UCLA, Old Dominion and Wichita State all on the road). No. 9 seed Georgia State fired head coach Rod Barnes earlier this week. The Panthers slid from 3-1 to 6-12 in league play.
No. 12 seed Towson failed to win a league game (0-18) but has a strong history of success in the first round despite a limited pedigree. The Tigers have won each of their last four first round games despite never finishing above .500 in conference action during that span. They played first round opponent Drexel tough during the regular season with three- and six-point losses. Drexel has been upset each of the last two seasons in the first round, one which by No. 11 seed Towson.
The CAA typically features a lot of grind-it-out teams that win with defense, not running people out of the gym. Even VCU, who likes to play relatively fast, is a modest 192nd nationally in tempo rating. Over half of the league ranks 250th or lower with three teams (Old Dominion, Drexel and UNC-Wilmington) in the 300’s. Tournament games in 2008 went 4-7 O/U followed by 3-8 O/U in 2009. Last year though the trend blew up with an 8-3 O/U mark including 7-1 O/U in first round games.
Friday, March 4 - First Round
#8 UNC Wilmington vs. #9 Georgia State
#5 Drexel vs. #12 Towson
#7 Delaware vs. #10 Northeastern.
#6 James Madison vs. #11 William & Mary
Saturday, March 5 - Second Round
#1 George Mason vs. UNCW/GSU winner
#4 VCU vs. Drexel/Towson winner
#2 Old Dominion vs. Delaware/Northeastern winner
#3 Hofstra vs. JMU/W&M winner