The CAA lost some of it’s charm when it got raided by bigger conference. VCU and George Mason were the league’s two Final Four programs whose battles on the court were always — Always!!!! — bested by the rivalry between Mason’s Doc Nix and the Green Machine and VCU’s Peppas. Old Dominion is also spending their first season away from the CAA.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good teams in that conference. Delaware has been rolling through the conference despite spending a month without Devon Saddler and another month without Jarvis Threatt, arguably their two best players. Towson finished second in the league while riding the coattails of Jerelle Benimon, the best player in the conference. Drexel survived the loss of Damion Lee about as well as Dragon fans can hope. Marcus Thornton of William & Mary is as good as any of the great guards in the league.
The league may not be centered in Southern Virginia anymore, but there is still some fun basketball to be played.
Somehow, Devon Saddler is still playing college basketball in what feels like his 17th season at Delaware. He teams up with Jarvis Threatt and Davon Usher to give Monte’ Ross one of the best perimeter attacks at the mid-major level. Throw in Carl Baptiste, who has played well in the paint, and Delaware should be considered the favorite to bring home the CAA tournament title.
And if they lose?: Towson
Pat Skerry has done a terrific job building Towson into a power in the CAA. It helps when you’ve got a hoss like Jerelle Benimon, who might be the best player in all of mid-major basketball, monitoring the low-block. The Tigers enter the postseason having won six games in a row and 10 of their last 11.
William & Mary: The Tribe finished third in the CAA, winning six of their last night games. They’re led by Marcus Thornton, one of the best guards this side of Delaware and Drexel.
Drexel: The Dragons aren’t the same team without Damion Lee, but Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Tavon Allen are as good as any top three in the league. Don’t count out Bruiser Flint.
Jerelle Benimon, Towson: Benimon averaged 18.9 points and 11.7 boards as the Tigers finished in second in the conference.
Devon Saddler, Delaware: Saddler missed time before league play started, but carried the Blue Hens when they were without Jarvis Threatt. He averaged 20.2 points and 3.4 assists.
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern: Eatherton was the only guy in the CAA to average a double-double other than Benimon, posting 15.5 points and 10.1 boards.
Zeke Upshaw, Hofstra: The second-leading scorer in the league, Upshaw went from being a no-name with Illinois State to one of the most-improved players in the country.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: