Dates: March 4-7
Site: Richmond, Va.
Championship game: Monday, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Outlook: The CAA’s angling for multiple bids. And if life’s even a little bit fair, it’ll get ‘em. With George Mason (25-5, 16-2), Old Dominion (24-6, 14-4), Virginia Commonwealth (21-10, 12-6) and Hofstra (20-10, 14-4) as the league’s top teams, the CAA could be viewed as the best conference outside of the big six and the Mountain West.
Of those four, Mason, VCU and ODU have all pulled off NCAA tournament upsets in the last five years. Yeah. It’s not a conference with which to be trifled.
Mason has the nation’s longest win streak (15), ODU hits the offensive glass as well as any school – big or small – VCU is a theft king and the Pride has Charles Jenkins. Oh, that Charles Jenkins.
Player to watch: Jenkins, Hofstra
How many players have their jersey retired while they’re still playing? It’s a short list. Jenkins, the nation’s fourth-leading scorer, has helped the Pride thrive under first-year coach Mo Cassara, his third coach in four seasons at the school. He’s got size (6-3, 220) and solid stroke (41 percent from 3) and the stamina (36 minutes a game on average for his career) to make a difference all by himself. And in a league stocked with outstanding players like ODU’s Frank Hassell and Mason’s Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, that’s saying something.
Champion: George Mason
I’d like to say ODU has the goods to win, but I can’t see it. True, the Monarchs were the last team to beat the Patriots, but that was back on Jan. 8. Since then, Mason’s been on a roll most teams only dream about. They hit shots, don’t commit turnovers, frustrate opposing shooters, and boast a deep, talented roster. If there’s a concern, it’s that their last three games have been “tougher” than normal and that there’s little room for error vs. ODU. If you’re not hitting shots, the Monarchs don’t give you second chances. But I’ll stick with Jim Larranaga’s team.
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