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Columnists | Message Board  | Daily Dribble

By Matthew Braine

December 31st, 2005


CAA: More Than A Mid-Major

In an age where a Bucknell can knock off Kansas or a Vermont can eliminate a powerhouse like Syracuse, mid-major conferences are becoming a bigger threat every year.  Selection Sunday always has a slew of mid-major's on the bubble and West Coast Conference's Gonzaga has been a perennial championship contender for the last few years.  With 22 official mid-major conferences around the country creating upsets every year, perhaps no other conference is more underrated than the Colonial Athletic Association. 
An official mid-major poll at has five CAA teams (Hofstra, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, UNC Wilmington, Drexel) in the top 25.  That's tied with Missouri Valley Conference for the most in the poll.  This year, CAA teams have notched quality wins over top major conference opponents.  Some noteworthy victories include Virginia Commonwealth's win over Houston, who defeated ranked opponents LSU and Arizona.  Old Dominion also put a 44 point (87-43) beating on DePaul who defeated #18 Wake Forest earlier this season. Drexel, although ultimately losing in the waning minutes, gave Duke, the number one team in the nation a run for their money in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinal
Local rivals between mid-major and major teams have become more competitive over the last few years.  For instance Indiana State was able to shock #16 Indiana this year and Northern Iowa defeated Iowa as well.  Some CAA teams such as Hofstra have been able to turn some of these once lopsided rivalries into even match-ups.  Local Big East opponent St.John's has been a staple on the Hofstra schedule for over 15 years with the Red Storm dominating thoroughly.  However, over the last six years Hofstra has taken four of the contests including the last three in a row.  Perhaps no victory represented a changing of the guard more thoroughly than this years meeting.  With the Pride down at the half, they outscored the Red Storm 37-11 in the second half en route to a 64-51 win
Another presence that the CAA has made is in the post-season.  Last year's NCAA tournament saw Michigan State in the final four, but what some may forget is that the Old Dominion Monarchs gave the Spartans a scare in the first round.  In fact, it took a Shannon Brown spinning lay-up three point play to steal the momentum from the nagging Monarchs in the closing minutes of an 89-81 victory.  In other post-season play, the Hofstra Pride played a seesaw game against eventual NIT champion St. Joe's last year before falling in the final moments.
As far as talent goes, the CAA has some of the top talent in the nation.  Hofstra guard Loren Stokes was ranked one of the top 12 point guards in the nation this preseason at  Northeastern guard Jose Juan Barea is the number nine scorer in the nation (22.8 ppg) and Delaware forward Harding Nana is the number two rebounder in the nation at 12.3 rpg.
Underrated may be an understatement for this outstanding conference.  Unfortunately, for most of the CAA teams, their bubbles will burst come tournament time.  Very rarely do mid-major's get the at large bid that they deserve.  However, with mid-major's as a whole making a charge at greatness and the CAA in particular roughing up unsuspecting opponents, the scenery of the college basketball landscape could be ripe for a change.  Without a doubt, the CAA will be one of the conferences leading the way. 




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