By: Mat Shelton

<img class="size-full wp-image-2209 alignright" title="CAACrystalBall" src="" alt="CAACrystalBall" width="179" height="220" />

With the season fast approaching, we at VCU Ram Nation thought it best to jump the gun on all preseason awards and prognostications, and consult our wise and sage-like media elders for their thoughts on the upcoming season as well as the fate of new VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart.  I warn you however...the crystal gazing you are about to read is for entertainment purposes only.  While several of our esteemed colleagues do have bald heads, none of them posses actual psychic powers.

(Editors Note* Make sure and check out the work these guys are putting out on their respective websites.  These are some of the nicest guys in the business, guys who have taken time out of their busy schedules on numerous occasions for VCU Ram Nation.  On top of that they are putting out some of the best stuff you will find on the net.)

Jeff Goodman,

<span style="font-weight: normal;">1) Preseason Player of the Year? - Larry Sanders. He's certainly the most talented in the league; he just needs to become more consistent.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">2) Who will win the CAA? - Northeastern. Matt Janning and Chaisson Allen comprise arguably the top backcourt in the league - and Bill Coen is one of the most underrated coaches in the entire country. </span>

3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - Georgia State. With transfers Joe Dukes and Marques Johnson and talented freshman Rashanti Harris, they could be a darkhorse - if they come together quickly chemistry-wise.

4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? - Over. I think he'll be in Richmond for more than three years - not much more, but more.

5) How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance? - One. Obviously, there's a chance the league can get two - but my guess is it'll be a one-bid league.

Michael Litos,

<span style="font-weight: normal;">1) Preseason Player of the Year? - You have to give it to Gerald Lee in the preseason, but remember this is a guard-dominated league. Northeastern and Hofstra are going to be good, so don't be surprised to see Matt Janning or Charles Jenkins actually win it. Plus, as good as Lee is he doesn't post the eye-popping stats (like guards).</span>

2) Who will win the CAA? - Old Dominion. However it is kind of the same deal as the POY--guards win this league and if ODU has a weakness, it is on the perimeter. The most important player on that team might be its sixth best--Marsharee Neely. He's their best shooter but he needs to be interested in playing defense to play enough minutes to make a difference.

3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - James Madison can be really, really, really good. They shoot it well, and keep adding a little emphasis to defense. This Bowles kid is going to give them a side of beef on the block, and Trevon Flores is going to be a handful. Plus they have leadership with Pierre Curtis and a guy in Devon Moore that was one of the better point guards as a freshman. Health is their concern--Thornton is down until December and Semenov is a giant question mark, and we're still six weeks from the start of practice.

4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? - Over. Way over.

5) How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance? - All 12 of them. Oh, wait, you aren't talking about the 25th anniversary dance, are you? Will get in--1; but this year has all the  makings of multiple bids, and importantly advancing. The top teams have a pile of chances at signature wins in the nonconference. Even the middle of the pack has some heft this year and can win in noncon--I can easily see a conference RPI of 10 or 11. Finally, this year more than any other in recent memory has multiple teams that can post a 23-8 season, get the third seed, and win the CAA tourney. There will be more than just the regular season champ on the bubble. There are a number of ingredients in place that are critical to a second bid before conference play starts. But the key is winning some of those games.

Mike Harris,

1) CAA Preseason Player of the Year? - Matt Janning, Northeastern.  That's who I think will get the nod anyway. Not certain he'll win it.

2) Who will win the CAA? - VCU

3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - Wow.  I think the radar is so wide this year because there are so many legitimate contenders.  I don't consider JMU off the radar anymore, for instance.  I think this shapes up as one of the most interesting CAA seasons in years.  Let me throw Delaware into the mix as my team. I've always felt the Hens were closer to being really good than most people would expect.  I could be crazy, too.

4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? Over

5) How many teams will the CAA get into the Big Dance? 1

Damon Lewis,

1) Preseason Player of the Year? - Eric Mayn...wait, sorry...bad habit.  Gerald Lee at ODU will probably get the nod for Preseason Player of the Year.  Consistent big men can be hard to find, and he's certainly the best of the bunch in the CAA.  Chuck Jenkins at Hofstra is certainly deserving (and really does it all for the Pride)...and if I were voting, he'd probably be my pick.  But, these types of pre-season "awards" tend to favor the guy playing for the better team...and ODU is going to be a favorite to win the CAA.

2) Who will win the CAA? - The top 4 in the CAA will probably be the same as last year...but it's really hard to pick against ODU to win it.  They've got everything back from a team that finished 3rd in the CAA last year, won 25 games, and (although no one probably saw it) won the <a href=";">;</a> Tournament.  I'm still not convinced that the CIT wasn't secretly played somewhere underground on an X-Box...but postseason wins are postseason wins!  Northeastern proved to be a little thin (and mentally weak) last year...but they'll be up there.  VCU and Mason will be there too because, well, they're VCU and Mason.  They know how to win.

3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - I already mentioned Jenkins, and he'll give Hofstra a chance every night he's on the court.  I don't know if they qualify as "off the radar"...but you get the idea.  I'm not fooled by what Towson did last year in the CAA Tournament.  The most intriguing team to me is Georgia State.  Everyone knows about all the transfers, and it appeared that they were starting to come together a little bit at the end of last season.  There's a team like Georgia State (with tons of transfers) in almost every Mid-Major league in the country.  When it works, it works...and when it doesn't, duck and cover.  I think it might work for the Panthers.  Don't count out Bruiser and Co. at Drexel either...there's something to be said for toughness and playing defense.

4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? - I'm taking the over on Shaka.  He's stepping into a situation where he should have the opportunity to be fairly successful in year 1...but the real work is going to begin after this season.  He's going to have a lot of bodies to replace heading into 2010-11, and I don't know that he'll be able to put together a team that's hands down THE BEST in the CAA (putting him in position for another job) before the 2012-13 season.  I realize that he has to replace Maynor's contributions this year...but he's got a lot of experience that should be ready to step up.  That may not be the case after this year.

5) How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance? - Hard to say since all of the schedules haven't been released yet.  I'd be willing to bet that 2 of ODU, NU, VCU, GMU, or Hofstra will get to the dance.

Ryan Kish,

1) CAA Preseason Player of the Year? - My vote would be for Gerald Lee of ODU. NU's Matt Janning and Hofstra's Charles Jenkins might put up better numbers but Lee will most likely end up this season being the best all around player on the best team in the CAA.  He has shown vast improvement over the last two seasons and has definitely stepped up as a leader for his squad.

2) Who will win the CAA? - ODU. The Monarchs return their best players and have the experience to match all the talent they have in the back court. The improved back court will only make Gerald Lee better this season.

3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - I'd have to say Hofstra. Tom Pecora always seems to get the most out of his guys. Charles Jenkins single handedly kept them in games last season and should be near the top of the CAA in scoring.

4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? - Over. Shaka is young and will probably have to spend some time building up his rep. He still has Larry Sanders, but I doubt he will continue to bring in the kind of guys Capel and Grant were able to right off the bat.

5) How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance? - Two.  I was surprised by how the out of conference play treated the CAA as a whole last year. I doubt at least two or three teams this season won't pickup some marquee wins.  ODU, NU, Mason, and VCU are all capable of getting some national attention with out of conference wins this season.

Bill Shelton,

1) CAA Preseason Player of the Year? - Gerald Lee. Senior who’s had 3 solid years at ODU, ODU’s probably gonna be the preseason favorite…usually they pick the Preason POY from that team.

2) Who will win the CAA? - VCU. Stronger than ever on the inside, they’re gonna have tremendous guard play and a very deep bench.  Most teams lack either the inside game or the outside game (I question ODU’s guards…think that’s what’s really going to hurt them).

<span style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-weight: normal;">3)</span> <span style="font-weight: normal;">Which "off the radar" team could make a run?</span> - JMU. Even without Juwann James parts of last season, they played a lot of freshmen and did well.  They’ve got a lot of size, (6”10 260lb Denzel Bowles coming in from Texas A&amp;M) and some nice incoming recruits.  They’ve got some senior leadership and a very good coach.  They’re going to be VERY athletic. </span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;"><span style="font-weight: normal;">4)</span> <span style="font-weight: normal;">Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU?</span> - Over. He’s got some good recruits coming in this year.  I think he’ll have some good recruits the following year.  He tends to move around a bit but I think he’ll surprise some people and stay 4+ years.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">5)</span> <span style="font-weight: normal;">How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance?</span> - <span style="font-weight: normal;">Definitely 2. I think this is going to be a very deep and talented league.  Lots of teams with a lot of strengths.  I think they are going to surprise some people with their non-conference victories, which is something they definitely have to have this year.</span>

Jerry Beach,

<span style="font-weight: normal;">1) CAA Preseason Player of the Year? - Matt Janning, though my obvious blog bias foresees a huge junior year for Charles Jenkins. Gerald Lee is right there too.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">2) Who will win the CAA? - Old Dominion. I think that CIT run is going to provide a huge boost for a team with five starters back.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">3) Which "off the radar" team could make a run? - This is a tough one. JMU isn't really off the radar after Matt Brady's impressive first year. I was tempted to say Georgia State, but I wonder about the chemistry. I liked UDee a lot before Brian Johnson's injury. I don't think Hofstra will be picked in the top three, and they do have a pretty big question mark with freshman Chaz Williams taking over the gaping hole at PG, but the trio of juniors plus two transfers (Szabo and Vines) who should be much better as seniors is a pretty good mix. So...Hofstra it is. Plus it means I get to bellow about people disrespecting the Dutchmen.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">4) Over/under: 3.5 years...Shaka at VCU? - Over, and by a fair amount. Strikes me as a guy who realizes the pros of building and sustaining a mid-major power as opposed to parlaying the mid-major gig into a BCS opportunity.</span>

<span style="font-weight: normal;">5) How many teams will the CAA get into the big dance? - 1. We'll get screwed again, but the world would spin off its axis if Arizona didn't get a 12 seed for going 17-13.</span>
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Matt has been reporting on VCU sports for Ram Nation since 2007 with a focus on news, photos, and feature stories.
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