1) Georgia State averaging 4-figure attendance numbers: The Panthers 915-person home average last year is pretty disgraceful for a team playing in conference the caliber of the CAA. I get the fact that GSU is a relatively new member to the conference with no real established rival, and on top of that a losing program since they joined the conference…but draw under 1,000 again and I hope they are on Tom Yeagers short list for contraction.
2) Drexel breaks through to the Big Dance: I’m not saying I want them winning a CAA championship, just think a team with that amount of returning experience and talent needs to punch it’s first CAA ticket to the dance. They very well may need to run the table non-con to get into the tournament however, with a very winnable schedule that includes no real resume boosts outside of some potential matchups in the Paradise Jam. The Dragons get two of the conference’s top teams at home and home only this year in both VCU and Mason, so it’s up to only Bruiser and the gang to screw this one up for themselves.
3) UNCW regain it’s UNCWness: Don’t be fooled by the ridiculous color scheme and horribly designed logo, this is a serious hoops program. The team once dominated the conference under the leadership of Jerry Wainwright and was a real power under Brad Brownell, but took a dive during the 4-year Benny Moss experiment (from 1st in the CAA to a tie for 10th in his first year). Second-year head coach Buzz Peterson seems to have them headed in the right direction after a 7th placed finish, but he’ll need to do better against the top of the conference than the 0-7 record the Seahawks compiled against the CAA’s top four finishers last year to get there. Peterson’s ability to replace team leader Chad Tomko may tell us a lot about where his program his headed. UNCW has some great fans (and dance team members), they deserve better than bottom half of the conference.
4) ODU make it to the Final 4: Not really, this won’t happen…definitely not this year, probably not next year or the year after or even twenty years after that. It’s just got to burn ODU up that it’s two top rivals, VCU and Mason, have Final 4 banners hanging in their arena, and the self proclaimed “flagshig” Monarchs…do not.
5) Some nice OOC wins: ODU and William & Mary both get a shot at preseason top-25 Missouri, Mason gets a road shot at state rival UVA, Northeastern heads to MSG to take on St. John’s, Delaware gets a tough pair of Philly schools in Temple and Villanova, and a number of schools have some early season tournament opportunities. If the CAA wants to keep building on it’s national reputation, winning some of these games would be nice. Last season’s VCU team and its at large bid into the NCAA tournament are a testament to just how important the non-con is.
6) Towson suprise: The Tigers have won just 35% of their CAA contests the last decade, including a win free debacle this past season. The good news is new head coach Pat Skerry has an athletic department behind him that’s not afraid to invest in the program, currently working on what should be one of the CAAs top arenas. If Skerry can bring in a touch of the winning tradition he was a part of at Pittsburgh, the Tigers may finally climb out of the cellar and taste a little of the joy that comes from a successful CAA season. I’m a fan of a little parity, so here’s to hoping Towson turns it around — and stops bringing down our RPI.
7) CAA Buy-in: Beating a dead horse here, but I’m still waiting to see some positive returns from the CAAs ’01 & ’05 additions. The conference’s six newest members have experienced differing success rates. Hofstra, Drexel, and Northeastern have come up just short of the NCAA tournament appearances, while Towson, GSU, and Delaware have yet to really put it together. Regardless of success however has been a disappointing amount of fan enthusiasm towards CAA basketball from the majority of the group. The major offenders being Towson, Georgia State, Delaware, and perhaps most disappointing based on on-court success, Northeastern. Even in a good year, NU’s fan support has rivaled my high school’s in a down year, which is really a shame considering the level of talent and coaching they have had over the years — players like JJ Barea, Sean James, Matt Janning and Chaisson Allen, and coaches Bill Coen and Ron Everhart. Delaware hasn’t experienced quite the level of success as the Huskies, but you’d think a school that has no problem drawing close to 20,000 for FCS football might be able to bring in more than 1/10th of that for D1 hoops games that include matchups against Final 4 teams.
My fingers are crossed for a rewarding ’11-’12 season….