Friday, June 3, 2022

The greatest sports story in Hofstra history


The Hofstra baseball team mounting a run to the NCAA Tournament evokes memories of some of the great teams, athletes and coaching figures in school history.


There’s flashes of the football team at the peak of the Joe Gardi era…reminders of the championship-building skills of Bill Edwards, Fran Kalafer, Richard Nuttall and Simon Riddiough and how any of them could coach anywhere but took pride in building softball, volleyball and soccer powerhouses in their backyard…and even, with an NCAA Tournament berth-clinching win over Northeastern and subsequent few days in the national spotlight, faint echoes of the unforgettable and unfortunately short-lived euphoria of Mar. 10, 2020.


But as well-intentioned as it is to try and put this feat into the context of its predecessors, it also diminishes, even in an unintentional manner, the unprecedented nature of an accomplishment that ranks as the greatest sports story in Hofstra history.


“What I was told when I got here, from people all around the baseball world and even some people here at Hofstra, was baseball can’t win because you’re playing teams down south that are out on the field earlier than you guys are and got a lot of practice,” first-year head coach Frank Catalanotto said Monday, minutes after the Flying Dutchmen learned they’d play North Carolina in their NCAA Tournament opener this afternoon at 2 PM (ESPN+). 


“And that didn’t sit well with me, because I didn’t want to come in here and say ‘OK, well, that’s fine, I got a job here but we’re not going to be able to win.’”


Even with Catalanotto’s determination and track record — before he coached New York Tech to the Division II World Series in his lone full season as head coach in 2019, the Smithtown native hit .291 while playing in 1,265 major league games from 1997 through 2010 — history suggested he was embarking upon the biggest challenge of his career.


The Hofstra baseball team entered this season with an all-time record of 1,051-1,467, including 1-10 in conference tournament play since the spring of 1996, when the Dutchmen lost their two North Atlantic Conference tourney games by a combined margin of 39-4. The Dutchmen went 17-22 last season and were picked to finish last in the CAA’s preseason poll this spring.


“The first thing we did — and both ADs that I’ve worked for kind of stressed this — is changing the culture,” Catalanotto said. “That’s the first thing. You have to get everyone to buy in, to believe, to know that they’re going to be held to a high standard. And once you have that, then it’s the practice and the teaching. And sometimes it comes sooner than later.”


There were no such short- and long-term histories to be overcome, even with once-vibrant programs that benefited from quick yet thorough and sustained rebuilds, a la men’s soccer when Nuttall arrived in 1989, softball when Edwards was hired in 1990 and men’s basketball when Joe Mihalich took over in 2013.


Before becoming women’s soccer head coach in 2006, Riddiough spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach, a span in which the Flying Dutchwomen never finished under .500. The women’s volleyball program was 55 games over .500 in its first five seasons when Kalafer was named head coach prior to the 1981 season.


When Gardi, a longtime Long Island resident armed with decades of coaching in the professional ranks, arrived at Hofstra following the 1989 season, the Dutchmen were a perennial Division III power. As magical as it was when the Dutchmen surged into the Division I-AA top 25 and nearly made the playoffs as an independent in 1994, that run came in the program’s fourth season at the higher level.


There’s no comparing anything to this — a one-season worst-to-first turnaround and an unbeaten run in the CAA Tournament for a program that had never officially advanced to the NCAA Tournament despite being the second-longest tenured sport on campus. (The 1960 team earned a bid to an NCAA regional in Connecticut but declined to participate because the tournament conflicted with final exams)


“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, because it’s so fresh, but you’ve got to take it in, you know what I mean?” catcher Kevin Bruggeman said. “We’re the first to ever do it at this place.”


It’s a singular achievement that should stand alone yet also remind us of the thick sporting tapestry that is woven at Hofstra. I’m as guilty as anyone of getting so caught up in the national stage of the men’s basketball version of March Madness that we don’t bestow the same attention on other sports, even those some of us may have covered extensively in college.


We all swore we’d never allow some sports teams to become part of the fabric — friends we always promise to visit but rarely do — after the football program was eliminated in December 2009. There are new reasons to lapse into old habits — parenthood, careers and all the accompanying combinations thereof — but they’re just excuses that serve to accidentally minimize these teams and their accomplishments.


We need to view the greatest sports story in Hofstra history as a standalone tale marrying the past with the present and offering glimpses of the future, one which begins today when the Flying Dutchmen baseball team — the Flying Dutchmen baseball team! — begins play in the NCAA Tournament.


“I’ve heard a hundred people yesterday when we were on the bus tell me ‘Frank, do you realize what you just did here?’” Catalanotto said Monday. “And I haven’t really grasped it. At some point, I will."


“So I’m going to enjoy it. But at some point I’ll realize what a special thing this is.”

Sunday, March 6, 2022

I'll Be Quirky: Hofstra vs. Charleston (CAA Quarterfinals)


Possible file photo of me meeting Pat Kelsey (tattoo not shown) and learning about the needlessness of coat racks following Monday's game. 


The Flying Dutchmen won what amounted to an exhibition game Monday night, when they held off a late rally by Charleston to earn an 89-84 win. That served as the precursor to tonight, when the third-seeded Dutchmen are scheduled to face sixth-seeded Charleston in an immediate rematch in the CAA quarterfinals. Here’s a look back at the Cougars and a look ahead to…uhh, the Cougars.


THE MOST RECENT GAME SUMMARIZED IN ONE PARAGRAPH

Neither team treated the tune-up like an exhibition Monday as the Dutchmen trailed just once and led by as many as 12 points in the second half before Charleston, playing its uniquely chaotic style, charged back and made it a one-possession game several times in the final 75 seconds. A 3-pointer by Omar Silverio gave the Dutchmen their biggest lead at 57-45 with 12:33 left, after which the Cougars got within between four and six points eight times before Ben Burnham’s dunk closed the Dutchmen's lead to 80-77 with 1:13 remaining. Aaron Estrada responded with a 3-pointer and Raekwon Horton hit a layup for Charleston before Silverio drained a pair of free throws. Reyne Smith then sank a 3-pointer, after which Estrada hit two more free throws. Caleb Burgess fouled Smith on a 3-pointer and the freshman hit the first two free throws before missing the third. Jalen Ray pulled down the rebound and finally iced the game with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. John Meeks missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, which was interesting for entertainment purposes only. Estrada put the finishing touches on his CAA Player of the Year season by leading the Dutchmen with 28 points and seven assists while tying for the team lead with six rebounds. Silverio had another strong game with 19 points, five rebounds and two steals while Jarrod Simmons had 10 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes. Burgess had seven points, six assists and three steals while Abayomi Iyiola had six points and six rebounds despite fouling out in 19 minutes.


3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Charleston, 2/28)

3: Aaron Estrada

2: Omar Silverio

1: Jarrod Simmons


SEASON STANDINGS

Aaron Estrada 63

Jalen Ray 32

Darlinstone Dubar 30

Zach Cooks 21

Omar Silverio 17

Abayomi Iyiola 13

Caleb Burgess 4

Kvonn Cramer 4

Jarrod Simmons 2


WAS THIS A UNICORN SCORE?

Yes! The Dutchmen previously posted three 89-83 wins — most recently over UNC Wilmington on Jan. 31, 2021 — and also earned wins by scores of 90-84 and 89-85 but had never before won 89-84. Neat!


This is the 11th unicorn score victory of the season for the Dutchmen, who recorded no unicorn scores last season after recording 13 unicorn scores in 2019-20 and 10 unicorn scores in 2018-19. The term unicorn score was coined by Mets superfan, historian and blogger Greg Prince to describe a score by which the Mets had never previously won


11/24/21: 87-49 over Molloy

11/27/21: 98-84 over Detroit Mercy

12/1/21: 81-77 over Princeton

12/4/21: 88-69 over Bucknell

12/12/21: 102-52 over John Jay

12/18/21: 89-81 over Arkansas

12/22/21: 77-71 over Monmouth

1/9/22: 87-80 over James Madison

2/5/22: 85-78 over James Madison

2/15/22: 97-64 over Elon

2/28/22: 89-84 over Charleston


THE FLYING DUTCHMEN AFTER THIRTY-ONE GAMES

With Monday's win, the Dutchmen improved to 21-10, which is tied for the ninth-best record among the 20 teams that have played at least 31 games in program history. It’s the third time the Dutchmen have opened 21-10 and the first time since the 2010-11 season. Here is how postseason-bound Hofstra teams fared through 31 games.


NCAA DIVISION I TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1999-2000: 24-7 (season ended with an 86-66 loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, only 24-7 start) 

2000-01: 26-5 (season ended with a 61-48 loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, which snapped the program-record, single-season 18-game winning streak, best 31-game record in program history)

2019-20 (IT COUNTS TO US): 23-8 (most recent 23-8 start, beat James Madison in regular season finale to clinch second straight CAA regular season title)


Hofstra’s two other Division I tournament teams — the 1975-76 and 1976-77 squads — each completed their seasons in fewer than 31 games, as did all four of the schools Division II tournament teams (the 1958-59, 1961-62, 1962-63 and 1963-64 squads).


NIT TEAMS

1998-99: 22-9 (lost to Drexel in America East semifinals)

2005-06: 25-6 (beat Nebraska, 73-62, in the first round of the NIT)

2006-07: 22-9 (most recent 22-9 start, lost to George Mason—PASS THE BALL TO AGUDIO, GREG—in the CAA quarterfinals)

2015-16: 23-8 (beat Drexel in the CAA quarterfinals)

2018-19: 25-6 (most recent 25-6 start, beat Delaware in regular season finale to clinch the outright CAA regular season title)


The 2004-05 NIT team completed its season in fewer than 31 games.


Some other notable 31-game records — in fact, all of them!

2017-18: 19-12 (most recent 19-12 start, season ended with a loss to UNC Wilmington in the CAA quarterfinals)

2016-17: 15-16 (only 15-16 start, beat James Madison in regular season finale to get within one game of .500 for the fifth time since falling under .500 for good on Jan. 14, last win of season)

2014-15: 19-12 (lost to James Madison in regular season finale)

2013-14: 9-22 (only 9-22 start, beat James Madison in regular season finale, Joe Mihalich's first season)

2012-13: 7-24 (lost to Towson in regular season finale, worst 31-game record in program history)

2011-12: 10-21 (only 10-21 start, beat UNC Wilmington in regular season finale, last win of season)

2010-11: 21-10 (beat William & Mary in CAA quarterfinals, last win of season)

2009-10: 18-13 (only 18-13 start, beat Georgia State in regular season finale)

2008-09: 21-10 (beat UNC Wilmington in CAA first round, last win of season)

2001-02: 12-19 (only 12-19 start, beat George Mason in CAA quarterfinals, hee hee, last win of season)

1997-98: 19-12 (season ended with loss to Delaware in America East semifinals)


Hofstra has never been 31-0, 30-1, 29-2, 28-3, 27-4, 20-11, 17-14, 16-15, 14-17, 13-18, 11-20, 8-23, 6-24, 6-25, 5-26, 4-27, 3-28, 2-29, 1-30 or 0-31 through 31 games.


Sixty-six seasons were completed in fewer than 31 games:


1936-37 (7-10)

1937-38 (10-4)

1938-39 (10-8)

1939-40 (12-9)

1940-41 (13-7)

1941-42 (15-6)

1942-43 (15-6)

1943-44 (7-12)

1944-45 (8-13)

1945-46 (12-7)

1946-47 (18-6)

1947-48 (13-6)

1948-49 (18-8)

1949-50 (17-9)

1950-51 (18-11)

1951-52 (26-3)

1952-53 (20-7)

1953-54 (15-9)

1954-55 (19-7)

1955-56 (22-4)

1956-57 (11-15)

1957-58 (15-8)

1958-59 (20-7)

1959-60 (23-1)

1960-61 (21-4)

1961-62 (24-4)

1962-63 (23-7)

1963-64 (23-6)

1964-65 (11-14)

1965-66 (16-10)

1966-67 (12-13)

1967-68 (13-12)

1968-69 (12-13)

1969-70 (13-13)

1970-71 (18-8)

1971-72 (11-14)

1972-73 (8-16)

1973-74 (8-16)

1974-75 (11-13)

1975-76 (18-12)

1976-77 (23-7)

1977-78 (8-19)

1978-79 (8-19)

1979-80 (14-14)

1980-81 (12-15)

1981-82 (12-16)

1982-83 (18-9)

1983-84 (14-14)

1984-85 (14-15)

1985-86 (17-13)

1986-87 (10-18)

1987-88 (6-21)

1988-89 (14-15)

1989-90 (13-15)

1990-91 (14-14)

1991-92 (20-9)

1992-93 (9-18)

1993-94 (9-20)

1994-95 (10-18)

1995-96 (9-18)

1996-97 (12-15)

2002-03 (8-21)

2003-04 (14-15)

2004-05 (21-9)

2007-08 (12-18)

2020-21 (13-10)


(Well) more than half the previous Hofstra seasons were completed by this point.


Full records not available for the following seasons: 1936-37, 1941-42, 1942-43, 1945-46, 1948-49, 1949-50, 1951-52, 1954-55, 1957-58.


This feature is inspired by Greg Prince, who measures how the current Mets compare, record-wise, to previous teams through the same point in the season.


NUMBER TEN THROUGH THIRTY-ONE

With Monday's win, Speedy Claxton improved to 212-10 as head coach. He is the second coach to open 21-10 at Hofstra, following in the footsteps of Mo Cassara in 2010-11. Only two other first-year coaches presided over seasons of at least 31 games, and Tom Pecora (12-19 in 2001-02) and Joe Mihalich (9-22 in 2013-14) were both under .500 by this point.


The debut seasons (or first season of a second stint) ended in fewer than 30 games for 12 coaches, six of whom finished .500 or better. Jack McDonald posted an 18-6 record in the first and only second of his second stint in 1946-47, Frank Reilly led the Dutchmen to a 13-6 record in 1947-48 and Butch van Breda Kolff went 22-4 in the first season of his first stint in 1955-56. Paul Lynner went 23-7 in 1962-63, Joe Harrington finished 14-14 in his lone season at the helm in 1979-80 and Mike Farrelly directed the Dutchmen to a 13-10 record in his lone season last year.


IT’S TECHNICALLY A COMEBACK WIN

The Dutchmen trailed just once on Monday — at 2-0 following a layup by Dimitrius Underwood 1:28 into the game. Jalen Ray and Abayomi Iyiola hit baskets on the next two trips down the floor for the Dutchmen, who allowed Charleston to tie the score at 4-4 but never trailed again after Caleb Burgess’ 3-pointer with 16:25 left. It was the second time this season the Dutchmen have won a game in which they only trailed after the opponent’s opening points -- or point, as was the case when Delaware raced out to a 1-0 lead in the Dutchmen’s 80-66 win on Feb. 12. 


A PANTING PACE

Not surprisingly, playing Charleston — whose average of 74.4 possessions per game is the most in the country per KenPom.com — resulted in the Dutchmen setting a season-high with 82 possessions. It was the most possessions for the Dutchmen in a non-overtime game since they had 84 possessions in a 111-69 win over NYIT on Nov. 15, 2019 and the most possessions for the Dutchmen in a non-overtime game against a Division I foe since they had 82 possessions in a 91-62 loss to Monmouth on Nov. 9, 2012. The Dutchmen previously recorded at least 82 possessions in a win over a Division I opponent on Dec. 29, 2011, when they had 82 possessions in an 83-75 victory over Iona. 


TURNOVER (AND OVER AND OVER)

Charleston committed a whopping 28 turnovers Monday, which is the most turnovers committed by a Hofstra opponent since at least the 2010-11 season (the first season of the Play Index era at College Basketball Reference). The Dutchmen forced more than 25 turnovers just one other time — on Feb, 1, 2012, when Towson finished with 26 turnovers in Hofstra’s 74-49 win.


SO MANY STEALS

The Dutchmen finished with 15 steals Monday, their second-most of the season behind a 21-steal game against Division III John ay on Dec. 12 and their most against a Division I opponent since recording 15 steals against Northeastern in a 79-68 loss on Feb. 12, 2015.


THE 25/5/5 CLUB

Aaron Estrada finished with 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists Monday. It marked the fourth time this season he’s had at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in a game, which is the most 25/5/5 games by a Hofstra player in a single season since Justin Wright-Foreman had five such games during the 2017-18 campaign. 


ESTRADA IS MR. EVERYTHING

Updating a great Aaron Estrada-Speedy Claxton connection stat, this one from Hofstra SID Stephen Gorchov: Estrada is averaging 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. No Hofstra player has averaged at least 18 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season since Claxton averaged 22.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists during the 1999-2000 season.


AARON BUCKETS

And updating a great stat from Hofstra in-game host and occasional play-by-play man Dan Savarino: Aaron Estrada has scored more points in CAA play alone — 400 points in 18 league games — than he did in his entire CAREER entering this season (255 points at Saint Peter’s and Oregon). In addition, he has at least 20 points in 13 CAA games and in 16 games overall after posting just one 20-point game at Saint Peter’s and Oregon. 


NO MORE MR MIDRANGE?

Estrada snapped a four-game outside shooting slump Monday, when he went 4-of-7 from 3-point land. That equaled the number of 3-pointers he hit in his previous four games, during which he was 4-of-24 from beyond the arc. Prior to that slump, he enjoyed a four-game stretch in which he was 18-of-30 from beyond the arc.


FAST-STARTING SILVERIO

Omar Silverio scored 10 points in the first half Monday and finished with 19 points, The 10-point first half marked the fifth time this season Silverio has reached double figures before halftime, following his performances against Detroit Mercy on Nov. 27, Monmouth on Dec. 22, Elon on Feb. 15 and William & Mary on Feb. 26. Silverio entered this season having scored in double figures in just seven of his first 40 games with Hofstra and in eight of his 68 games overall dating back to his season with Rhode Island in 2018-19.


OMAR OFF THE BENCH

Silverio scored at least 10 points off the bench Monday for the 10th time this season. He’s the first player with at least 10 double-digit scoring efforts off the bench in a season since Jalen Ray, who had 10 such games during the 2018-19 campaign.


SHOPPING AT THE FIVE AND DIME

Jarrod Simmons played through foul trouble Monday night to finish with 10 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes. It’s the second time this season Simmons has finished with at least 10 points and five rebounds and the first since he scored a career-high 11 points and added five rebounds against Delaware on Feb. 12. Simmons had just one game with at least 10 points and five rebounds during his three-year career at Pennsylvania, for whom he had 16 points and five rebounds against Division II Penn State Brandywine in his fourth game as a collegian on Nov, 18, 2017. The 10-point game Monday marked the second time in the last six games Simmons has scored in double figures after he scored in double figures just three times in his first 80 career games. 


(It should be the dime and five, since Simmons scored 10 points and five rebounds, but just work with me people, here, its not my fault Woolworth’s called it a five and dime)


SPEAKING OF DIMES…

Caleb Burgess finished with six assists Monday, one behind Aaron Estrada for the team lead. It was the second time this season two Hofstra players had at least six assists in a game and the first time since Dec. 1, when Estrada and Zach Cooks both had six assists against Princeton.


SCUFFLING RAY

Jalen Ray went 0-for-7 from 3-point land Monday, which were his most misses without a make from beyond the arc and the second time this season a Hofstra player has gone 0-for-7 from long distance. Omar Silverio also went 0-for-7 from 3-point land against Stony Brook on Dec. 8.


STRATEGIC PLAYING TIME?

Something that was interesting considering the Dutchmen knew they were going to play Charleston again in six days: Darlinstone Dubar played a season-low 13 minutes while Jaquan Carlos, the last player in the rotation, played four minutes, all in the first half. For Carlos, it was the first time he’s played in the first half since Jan. 29 when he appeared against UNC Wilmington.


AWARDS SEASON

Congrats again to Aaron Estrada, who joined a pretty good club by being named the CAA Player of the Year on Friday. Estrada is the fifth Hofstra player to win the award, joining two-time winners Loren Stokes (2006-07), Charles Jenkins (2010-11) and Justin Wright-Foreman (2018-19) as well as Juan’ya Green (2016).


Jalen Ray was named to the all-CAA third team while Zach Cooks became the first Hofstra player to win Sixth Man of the Year honors. Ray has earned all-CAA honors three times after being named to the all-rookie team in 2018 and being named to the all-CAA first team last year.


OVER THE AIR

If tonight’s game is played, it will be carried live on FloHoops.com (subscription required). Hofstra will provide a radio feed as well as live stats at the Pride Productions hub.


THE DUTCHMEN IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PLAY

The Flying Dutchmen enter today 19-19 in CAA Tournament play since 2002, 28-24 in conference tournament play in the NAC/America East/CAA era (1994-present) and 31-24 in conference tournament play in the Defiantly Dutch era (1993-present), which, let’s face it, is the only era that matters because it includes the ECC. Hello Litos.


In the CAA, the Dutchmen fell in the title game three times — in 2006, 2016 and 2019 — before finally breaking through and winning it all by beating Northeastern 70-61 in the title game on Mar. 10, 2020. It was a nice 24 hours. The repeat championship bid ended in the conference semifinal last season, when the Dutchmen lost to Elon 76-58.


In addition to the one title game win and three title game losses as a CAA member, the Dutchmen have fallen in the semifinals five times, been eliminated in the quarterfinals eight times and lost on Pillowfight Friday four times since 2002. Dating back to 1994, the Dutchmen have won four championships (1994 ECC, 2000 America East, 2001 America East, 2020 CAA), fallen in the title game three times, lost in the semifinals seven times, fallen in the quarterfinals nine times and been eliminated in an outbracket game five times (we didn’t call it Pillowfight Friday back in the NAC).


First-year Hofstra coaches are 4-0 in their first conference tournament games in the DD era.


THE DUTCHMEN AS THE THREE SEED

The Dutchmen finished in third place in the CAA with a 13-5 record. This is the fifth time the Dutchmen have earned the three seed since joining the CAA in 2001-02 and the first time since 2017-18. Earlier, the Dutchmen earned the three seed in the America East tournament in 1999, when they fell in the semifinals (because Speedy Claxton was hurt, damnit).


The Dutchmen are 3-3 as the three seed in CAA Tournament play with a trip to the championship game in 2006 (grrr) and a trip to the semifinals in 2011 as well as  quarterfinal losses in 2007 (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLAY STATION PASS THE BALL TO AGUDIO HE’S WIDE OPEN FOR THREE) and 2018.


The three seed is 47-35 all-time in CAA Tournament play and has won the championship four times (Northeastern in 2015, James Madison in 2013, George Mason in 2008, Richmond in 1998), lost in the finals 11 times, lost in the semifinals 13 times and lost in the first round 11 times.


Since 2002, the three seed is 26-16, including 14-6 in its first game. In addition to winning three titles, the the third seed has lost in the finals six times since 2002, lost in the semifinals five times and been eliminated in the quarterfinals six times, including the last two seasons and in three of the last four years dating back to Hofstra’s loss in 2018.


AN IMMEDIATE REMATCH

The Dutchmen and Charleston are battling a quarterfinal game immediately after opposing one another in the regular season finale. Good news for the Dutchmen: The team that won the regular season finale is 10-6 in an outbracket or quarterfinal rematch. Bad news: The team that lost the regular season finale has won the last three quarterfinal rematches. The Dutchmen beat James Madison in 2015 while William & Mary beat James Madison in 2016 and Northeastern defeated Towson in 2020.


This marks the fifth time since joining the CAA that the Dutchmen have been part of an immediate rematch in the first round or quarterfinals. In addition to falling to James Madison in the season finale and winning the quarterfinal game in 2015, the Dutchmen lost to Towson but beat the Tigers in the rematch in 2002 and won both the regular season finale and first-round rematch against UNC Wilmington in 2009 and Georgia State in 2010.


FIRST TIME FOR EVERY FOE

While the Dutchmen are familiar with Charleston this season, tonight marks the first Hofstra-Charleston CAA tournament game. The Dutchmen have faced every other one of their past and present CAA foes at least once in a tournament.


ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A VICTORY?

The Dutchmen swept Charleston in regular season action this year. Hofstra is 12-3 all-time when facing in a conference tournament a team it beat twice in the regular season.


2020: Beat Drexel

2020: Beat Northeastern

2019: Beat Delaware

2017: Lost to Delaware

2016: Beat Drexel

2016: Beat W&M

2014: Beat UNCW

2011: Beat W&M

2009: Beat UNCW

2001: Beat Vermont (America East)

2001: Beat Maine (America East)

2000: Beat Boston U. (America East)

2000: Beat Drexel (America East)

1992: Beat UMBC (East Coast Conference)

1991: Lost to UMBC (East Coast Conference)

1984: Lost to Lafayette (East Coast Conference)


In addition, since the 2001-02 season, CAA teams are 53-24 when facing in a conference tournament a team they beat twice in the regular season. Bad news: The team that swept the regular season series is just 2-4 in the tournament rematch the last two seasons. Good news: The two wins were recorded by Hofstra against Drexel and Northeastern in the 2020 tournament! The Hofstra-Charleston game is the only quarterfinal tilt pitting a team against an opponent it beat twice this season.


SCOUTING CHARLESTON

The Cougars, under first-year head coach Pat Kelsey, are 16-14 overall and 8-10 in the CAA after — and you probably remember this! — an 89-84 loss to the Dutchmen on Monday.


The Dutchmen and Cougars had no common foes in non-league play. In the CAA, both teams swept Northeastern and were swept by Towson. Hofstra swept James Madison, which swept Charleston, as well as Delaware and Drexel, both of whom split with the Cougars. The Dutchmen split with UNC Wilmington, which swept Charleston, as well as with Elon and William & Mary, each of whom the Cougars swept.


The Dutchmen, who were picked to finish fifth in the CAA preseason poll, are ranked 119th at KenPom.com. The Cougars, who were picked to finish seventh, are ranked 159th. Same spots as Monday!


According to KenPom.com. the Dutchmen rank fourth in the CAA in conference-only offensive efficiency (108.5) and second in defensive efficiency (102.6). The Cougars rank sixth in conference-only offensive efficiency (105.4) and fourth in defensive efficiency (103.7). Notably, Charleston leads the nation in adjusted tempo (74.4 possessions per 40 minutes).


Graduate student forward John Meeks, a transfer from Bucknell who was named to the all-CAA season team, leads the Cougars with 13.7 points per game and ranks third in rebounding at 4.6 rebounds per game. He’s played 49 minutes off the bench in the last five games since suffering an injury against James Madison on Feb. 17. Freshman guard Reyne Smith, a native of Australia who won five CAA Rookie of the Week awards and made the all-rookie team, is averaging 12.4 points per game. Graduate student forward Dimitrius Underwood, a transfer from Division III Texas-Dallas who made the all-defensive team, is averaging 11.4 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Brendan Tucker is also averaging 11.4 points per game. Graduate student forward Osinachi Smart ranks second in rebounding at 4.7 rebounds per game.


KenPom.com predicts an 82-80 win for the Dutchmen. I’m already super nervous! Per the wise guys in Vegas, for entertainment purposes only, the Dutchmen are 3-point favorites. The Dutchmen are 12-14-3 against the spread this season after pushing for the second straight game Monday.


ALL-TIME VS. COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON

Hofstra is 9-7 against Charleston in a series that began with the Cougars joining the CAA prior to the 2013-14 season. The Dutchmen swept the regular season series this year for the first time since 2018-19 by edging the Cougars, 76-73, on Jan. 27 before escaping with the win Monday. Eight of the last 10 games between the teams have been decided by six points or fewer. Charleston was the only team Hofstra didn’t face during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season.


THINGS YOU CAN SHOUT ON TWITTER IF CALLS GO DO NOT GO HOFSTRA’S WAY

Pat Kelsey impersonated Speedy Claxton before the Xavier-Hofstra game during Speedy’s freshman season! (True story)

Your head coach has better tattoos than our head coach bias! (I think so, anyway)

Pat Kelsey was the first head coach in America to wear jeans with a polo shirt bias! (Maybe not, but I have to admit, that Hank Scorpio comp made me laugh)

John Meeks looks like Ryan Daly who looks like Kevin Van Valkenberg bias! (They really do look like our friend and ESPN.com writer)

Jalen Ray, the link between Hofstra eras, ready to take one more big shot



There's no shortage of ways to measure how long Jalen Ray has played at Hofstra.


The most obvious indicator is the number of games played — a record 152, 11 more than former teammate Desure Buie. And while Ray’s freshman year began in the fall of 2017, he committed to Hofstra as a high school junior two years earlier, which gives him a tangible connection to the program-changing trio of Juan’ya Green, Ameen Tanksley and Brian Bernardi, all of whom graduated before Ray arrived on campus.


But maybe the best measure is the task of trying to rank the biggest shots made by Ray — who ranks 11th all-time in scoring at Hofstra (1,715) and has drained 305 3-pointers, second behind Antoine Agudio — while also authoring at least two instant viral moments.


Asked separately to identify Ray’s most memorable shots earlier this week, Ray and Speedy Claxton both recalled his buzzer-beater to beat Towson on Jan. 11, 2018 (that was viral moment no. 2) as well as the 3-pointer he hit to give the Dutchmen the lead for good against Northeastern with 6:54 left in the 2020 CAA championship game.


Ray also mentioned this couldn’t-do-it-again-if-he-tried-but-it-worked-once-and-that’s-all-that matters game-winner off Justin Wright-Foreman’s intentional free throw miss against Monmouth on Dec. 6, 2017 (viral moment no. 1, airing along with the Towson buzzer-beater here), which Claxton recalled after some prompting.


But Claxton recalled Ray’s clutch last-second 3-pointer against Princeton that provided the final points and staved off a comeback by the Tigers in an 81-77 win Dec. 1 while Ray noted the 3-pointer he hit against Northeastern in the final minute Feb. 19, when the Dutchmen scored the final 11 points to stun the Huskies 76-73.


Neither Ray nor Claxton initially mentioned perhaps his biggest non-CAA championship game shot — the 3-pointer that gave the Dutchmen the lead for good in a 72-59 win over Drexel on Jan. 25, 2020. Hofstra entered the game with two straight losses and was in danger of falling out of contention for the no. 1 seed after falling behind by eight points with under 15 minutes left. 


All of which is to say Ray — from being recruited as Green and Tanksley led the Dutchmen to the edge of the NCAA Tournament to winning a CAA title while playing alongside four other 1,000-point scorers and two players who won CAA Player of the Year honors — has put together an impressive body of work as one of the most decorated players in program history.


“I feel like I’m the link between the past and the future,” Ray said.


Ray lengthened that link after last season, when he decided to play the extra year granted to student-athletes who played during the pandemic last winter while pursuing his master’s in higher education leadership and policy after graduating with a liberal arts degree. He has a 4.0 GPA in his grad school courses this year.


As the top returning scorer in the CAA — his 19.3 points per game last season were just a shade behind James Madison’s Matt Lewis (19.7 points per game) — Ray appeared primed to contend for Player of the Year honors while emerging as the Dutchmen’s unquestioned number one option following the exit of Tareq Coburn, who played his extra season at St. John’s after transferring to the Big East school to study in its medical assistant program.


But a preseason ankle injury sidelined Ray for the first two games, during which graduate senior Zach Cooks scored 55 points while earning CAA Player of the Week honors. Ray scored at least 18 points in seven of the next 12 games before scoring 22 points while going 8-of-21 from the field in the first two games of January. He spent the next six games coming off the bench, a span in which Aaron Estrada averaged 23.5 points per game and established himself as the frontrunner for CAA Player of the Year.


Ray said there wasn't much adjustment necessary to playing alongside another pair of volume scorers — “I was used to playing with other scorers, (so) being sidelined, I was able to read how they played” — but Claxton, who knows a bit about being the newcomer who immediately becomes his team’s number one option, sensed there were some challenges for the Hofstra stalwart.


“This is probably the most talented team that he’s been on here since he's been here,” Claxton said. “Coming off of last year, I guess you could kind of say he got all the shots, averaged (almost) 20 points. So I think that was a big adjustment for him, not being able to score as much as he did in previous years.”


The past, present and future converged for Ray over the season’s final three weeks, during which he returned to the starting lineup and hit multiple 3-pointers in six straight games from Feb. 10 through Feb. 26. Ray’s key shot against Northeastern helped complete the comeback on Joe Mihalich Day, which was attended by several members of the 2020 team.


“Last few weeks have been a little emotional,” Ray said. "This is my final time here. Been here for a while, been a part of a championship team. I’d say I left my mark a little bit. It was just great seeing old faces, good to be around a lot of people.”


After Ray had 19 points and three steals on Senior Day against William & Mary on Feb. 26, Claxton patted him on the shoulder in the media room and said Ray is “…a legend here.” And with the Dutchmen slated to begin CAA Tournament play tonight against sixth-seeded Charleston, what if the opportunity presents itself for Ray to hit at least one more reputation-enhancing shot for the highlight reel?


“Hopefully it wouldn’t come to making big shots, hopefully the team can get off to a good start,” Ray said with a grin. “But if it comes to that, I love big moments and I love the pressure a lot — like that the game has to come down to me, because I have confidence in myself.”



Saturday, March 5, 2022

2022 CAA Tournament Thumbnails


Remember thumbnails from the newspaper? They're back! In blog form! 


After a sabbatical last year due to, well, you know, the CAA Tournament thumbnails are back (not in pog form though — the picture lied, sorry). We say this every year, but the tournament looks like it could be as wide-open as ever. Think about this:


—The top two seeds, Towson and UNC Wilmington, were picked eighth and ninth in the preseason before becoming the first pair of CAA teams with at least 15 league wins since 2012 (Drexel and VCU). Yet Towson lost to last-place Northeastern (a potential foe on Sunday) and UNC Wilmington was pushed to overtime by ninth-place William & Mary.

—Third-place Hofstra is a perennial league power who had the CAA’s signature non-conference win with an upset of nationally ranked Arkansas.

—Fourth-place Drexel is the defending league champion.

—Fifth-place Delaware was picked first in the preseason.

—Sixth-place Charleston played 12 league games decided by six points or fewer.

—Seventh-place Elon made the finals last year and the semifinals the year before.

—Ninth-place William & Mary beat Hofstra.

—Tenth-place Northeastern is coached by Bill Coen, who needs one victory to become the winningest CAA tournament coach of all-time.


It might go according to chalk, because that happens a lot in the CAA. But I’ll wager anything you want (for entertainment purposes only) that at least one top-3 seed is losing at the under-8 media timeout in the second half on Sunday. In the meantime, sit back and check out the thumbnails in advance of the best and most stressful weekend of the CAA season!


1.) TOWSON (15-3 CAA, 24-7 overall)

The Tigers were picked eighth in the preseason poll. It’s the biggest gap between predicted and actual finish since…way back in 2020-21, when James Madison was picked ninth and finished first. Prior to last season, no team picked lower than sixth had won the CAA regular season crown since the league expanded prior to the 2001-02 school year. The regular season title is the first for Towson since it won the 1994 Big South. That's two leagues ago! The top seed has won the CAA tournament 21 times, most recently in 2020, when Hofstra did so (yay). Towson, whose 15 CAA victories were a school record, won the tiebreaker with UNC Wilmington by virtue of its sweep of Hofstra. The Tigers won their final six scheduled games but didn’t clinch the title until they earned a 69-57 win over Delaware on Monday in a game that officially went into the books as being played and completed on Jan. 27. The game, of course, was suspended due to court conditions at Towson with 18:42 left and Towson down 38-29.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Towson is in its 21st season in the CAA and is the only active CAA school that’s never advanced to a championship game. Towson made its two NCAA Tournament appearances in 1990 and 1991, when it won the ECC’s final automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers also won the ECC in 1992, when the league did not carry an automatic bid.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Tigers rank 65th at KenPom.com, the highest for a CAA team since UNC Wilmington finished the 2016-17 season ranked 59th. The Tigers are also first in conference-only offensive efficiency (113.0) and first in conference-only defensive efficiency (96.0). They are the first CAA team to lead in both categories since George Mason in 2011. 

CAA HONOR ROLL: Senior guard Cam Holden and redshirt junior Nicolas Timberlake were named to the all-CAA first team, making the Tigers the first team with two first-team selections since Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller were honored in 2019. Junior forward Charles Thompson was named to the all-CAA second team while Holden and Thompson were named to the CAA all-defensive team.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Holden ranked ninth in scoring (13.6 ppg), second in rebounding (8.2 rpg), eighth in assists (3.03 apg) and second in steals (1.97 spg). Timberlake ranked fifth in scoring (14.3 ppg) while Thompson was tied for eighth in rebounding (6.8 rpg). Terry Nolan Jr. ranked third in assists (4.0 apg) and sixth in steals (1.63 spg).

COACHSPEAK: “We’ve never — whether we were in the America East or the Colonial — we’ve never won the regular season title. So really appreciate what this group did for us. It’s not easy to do it. There are a lot of really good programs and coaches in this league. So I was proud of this group that they were able to hang in and do it.”—Pat Skerry


2.) UNC WILMINGTON (15-3 CAA, 21-8 overall)

The Seahawks were picked ninth in the preseason poll before getting off to a 9-0 start in CAA play and ending with three fewer league wins than they had the previous four seasons combined. The no. 2 seed has won the CAA tournament 10 times, most recently in 2019, when Northeastern did so. The last unbeaten team in CAA play has won the tournament five times but not since UNC Wilmington in 2017. Another good sign for the Seahawks: Their 15-3 mark is tied for the school’s best-ever league record along with the 2006 and 2017 teams, both of whom made the NCAA Tournament. UNC Wilmington was 10-1 in CAA games decided by six points or fewer and/or in overtime.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: UNC Wilmington, which is the third-most senior CAA program with 37 years in the league, has won six league titles, as many as the other eight teams in the tournament combined.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Seahawks rank 187th at KenPom.com. where they are second in conference-only offensive efficiency (108.8) and tied for fifth in conference-only defensive efficiency (104.2).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Senior guard Jaylen Sims was named to the all-CAA first team while graduate student guard Mike Okauru was named to the all-CAA second team. Junior guard Shykeim Phillips was named to the CAA all-defensive team. Takayo Siddle was named CAA Coach of the Year.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Sims ranked second in scoring (15.8 ppg) and Phillips ranked third in steals (1.9 spg).

COACHSPEAK: “I knew we had a good basketball team. But like any season, there’s highs and lows — and especially with us bringing in so many new guys. I knew it was going to take us some time. I knew it was going to take us some time for everything to start to form — our rotations, their confidence, their belief in one another.”—Takayo Siddle


3.) HOFSTRA (13-5 CAA, 21-10 overall)

The Flying Dutchmen were picked fifth in the preseason poll. This is the highest a team predicted to finish fifth has finished since William & Mary also finished third in 2013-14. The no. 3 seed has won the CAA tournament four times, most recently in 2015, when Northeastern did so. Hofstra, which had CAA winning streaks of four and six games, has finished in the top four in each of the last five seasons, the longest streak in the CAA since Charleston finished in the top four every year from 2017 through 2021. 

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Hofstra, which is in its 21st season in the CAA, finally won the league title in 2020 after falling in the 2006, 2016 and 2019 championship games. It was a nice 24 hours or so. The Flying Dutchmen last officially appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2001, when they won the America East. The Dutchmen have officially made five NCAA Tournaments. It should have been six.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Dutchmen rank 120th at KenPom.com. where they are fourth in conference-only offensive efficiency (108.5) and second in conference-only defensive efficiency (102.6).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Junior guard Aaron Estrada was named CAA Player of the Year. He is the fifth Hofstra player to win the award, joining two-time winners Loren Stokes (2006-07), Charles Jenkins (2010-11) and Justin Wright-Foreman (2018-19) as well as Juan’ya Green (2016). Shouldn’t they just name the CAA Player of the Year after Hofstra by this point? (Fanboy graduate says what?) Graduate student Jalen Ray, who may have played with Stokes, was named to the all-CAA third team while graduate student Zach Cooks won Sixth Man of the Year honors.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Estrada led the league in scoring (18.5 ppg) and assists (5.0 apg) while ranking 10th in rebounding (5.8 rpg) and seventh in steals (1.52 spg). Abayomi Iyiola ranked fourth in rebounding (7.22 rpg) while Cooks ranked seventh in assists (3.1 apg) and fifth in steals (1.64 spg).

COACHSPEAK: “I’m focused. I’m really just kind of getting my guys prepared, getting them ready to hopefully win three games in three days and cut down those nets. That’s just where my main focus is at this point. honestly.”—Speedy Claxton


4.) DREXEL (10-8 CAA, 15-13 overall)

The defending CAA champion Dragons were picked third. The fourth-place finish is the highest for a team predicted to finish third since Hofstra won the regular season crown in 2018-19. The no. 4 seed has won the CAA tournament twice but not since 2000, when UNC Wilmington did so. The Dragons had an especially quirky season, never winning nor losing more than two in a row and never being more than one game under .500 or two games over .500. Speaking of quirky, the Dragons earned the fourth seed by virtue of an 80-79 win over Charleston in the regular season finale last Saturday, when Drexel didn’t lead Amari Williams’ dunk with under two seconds left.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Drexel, which is in its 21st season in the CAA, won the league title for the first time last year, when the Dragons were seeded sixth and knocked off seventh-seeded Elon in the championship game. Only one other CAA champion, seventh-seeded East Carolina in 1993, was seeded lower. The Dragons fell to Illinois 78-49 in the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996, when, led by Malik Rose, they completed a three-peat in the North Atlantic Conference. Drexel has made five NCAA Tournaments, the first of which it reached after beating Hofstra in the 1986 ECC title game. I bet Litos didn’t think it was real back then, either.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Dragons rank 147th at KenPom.com. where they are fifth in conference-only offensive efficiency (107.7) and third in conference-only defensive efficiency (103.0).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Senior guard Camren Wynter was named to the all-CAA first team. Sophomore forward Amari Williams was named to the all-CAA third team and was also selected the defensive player of the year.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Wynter ranked third in scoring (15.32 ppg) and second in assists (4.7 apg). Williams ranked third in rebounding (7.3 rpg) while James Butler ranked fifth (7.21 rpg).

COACHSPEAK: “Last year was last year and there’s people that are not on this roster that were on it last year. And we’ve got new guys. So the people that experienced that, hopefully they can communicate as needed. But we’re trying to do something with a different group of people. Every season — I don’t care how many people you return — you’ve got different personnel, support staff, assistant coaches, whatever it may be. This is a totally new group and we’re trying to respect the process for this group to have success.”—Zach Spiker 


5.) DELAWARE (10-8 CAA, 19-12 overall)

The Blue Hens were picked first before finishing fifth for the fourth straight season. This is the lowest a preseason favorite has finished since Drexel finished seventh in 2012-13. No team seeded fifth has ever won the CAA tournament. Delaware had a pair of three-game winning streaks but lost its final two scheduled games before Monday’s loss in the resumption against Towson.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Delaware, which is in its 21st season in the CAA, won its lone championship in 2014, when the Blue Hens made the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1999. The Blue Hens have made five NCAA Tournaments. 

BY THE NUMBERS: The Blue Hens rank 161st at KenPom.com. where they are third in conference-only offensive efficiency (108.7) and seventh in conference-only defensive efficiency (106.3).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Junior guard Jameer Nelson Jr. was named to the all-CAA second team. Freshman Jyare Davis was named to the all-rookie team.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Nelson ranked sixth in scoring (14.0 ppg) and fourth in steals (1.77 spg). Kevin Anderson ranked fifth in assists (3.61 apg) and 10th in steals (1.4 spg). Dylan Painter ranked sixth in rebounding (6.92 rpg).

COACHSPEAK: “I think we are obviously trying to lift our spirts after a tough ending weekend for us. It’s a new month, it’s a new season and that’s really what we’ve been preaching.”—Martin Inglesby 


6.) CHARLESTON (8-10 CAA, 16-14 overall)

The Cougars were picked to finish seventh and were one of only three teams to finish within one spot of the preseason prognostication. The only six seed to win the CAA tournament was Drexel last season. All but three of the Cougars’ CAA games were decided by 10 points or fewer while 12 were decided by six points or fewer. Charleston fell to 5-7 in those games by ending the regular season with an 80-79 loss to Drexel and an 99-84 loss to Hofstra. 

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Charleston, in its ninth season in the CAA, fell to UNC Wilmington in the 2017 championship game before beating Northeastern in 2018 to earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament trip since 1999, when it won the Southern Conference. The Cougars have made five NCAA Tournament appearances.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Cougars rank 155th at KenPom.com. where they are sixth in conference-only offensive efficiency (105.4) and fourth in conference-only defensive efficiency (103.7). They are also the fastest-paced tempo team in the country with an average of 74.2 possessions per game..

CAA HONOR ROLL: Graduate student guard John Meeks was named to the all-CAA second team. Graduate student guard/forward Dimitrius Underwood was named to the all-defensive team. Freshmen Ben Burnham and Reyne Smith were named to the all-rookie team. Charleston and William & Mary are the first teams to place multiple players on the all-rookie team since Elon’s Hunter McIntosh and Hunter Woods were named to the all-rookie team in 2020.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Meeks ranked eighth in scoring (13.72 ppg). Underwood was tied for eighth in rebounding (6.77 rpg), fourth in assists (3.7 apg) and first in steals (2.2 spg).

COACHSPEAK: “Going through so many late game situations — barn-burners, if you will — I think it’s hardened us as a team and helped us to become better and hopefully we’re ready for those situations come this weekend. Because that’s how all of our games are and that’s how (a) conference tournament always is: It’s going to come down to the last couple of possessions.”—Pat Kelsey


7.) ELON (7-11 CAA, 10-21 overall)

The Phoenix was picked to finish sixth and was one of only three teams to finish within one spot of the preseason prognostication. The only no. 7 seed to win the CAA tournament was East Carolina in 1993. Elon played a whopping five games decided by at least 20 points, with a 23-point win over James Madison and a 26-point win over Hofstra and a 28-point loss to Drexel, a 36-point loss to Towson and a 33-point loss to Hofstra. In addition to splitting with the third-seeded Flying Dutchmen, the Phoenix handed UNC Wilmington its first loss but also lost to ninth-seeded William & Mary. 

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Elon, which is in its eighth season in the CAA, has never made the NCAA Tournament in 23 years as a Division I program. The Phoenix, which reached the CAA semifinals as the no. 7 seed in 2020, reached the CAA title game as the no. 8 seed last season, where it fell to Drexel. It was the second conference championship game all-time for Elon and the first since 2008, when the Phoenix fell to Stephen Curry and Elite Eight-bound Davidson in the Southern Conference title tilt.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Phoenix ranks 244th at KenPom.com. where it is eighth in conference-only offensive efficiency (100.9) and tied for fifth in conference-only defensive efficiency (104.2).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Sophomore Darius Burford and junior Hunter McIntosh were each named to the all-CAA second team.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Burford ranked seventh in scoring (13.74 ppg), ninth in assists (3.00 apg) and eighth in steals (1.48 spg). McIntosh ranked 10th in scoring (13.3 ppg) and assists (2.8 apg). Michael Graham ranked seventh in rebounding (6.90 rpg).

COACHSPEAK: “You can’t forget the memories and the feelings. We have enough guys who experienced that where it’s special. But it’s a new season. We’ve got to try to recreate them in our own way this year.”—Mike Schrage 


JAMES MADISON (6-12 CAA, 15-14 overall)

The Dukes, who were banned from the CAA tournament because the school announced its plans to leave for the Sun Belt in November, were picked to finish fourth. James Madison opened 4-5 in CAA play before going 2-7 the rest oft he way. The Dukes are the first CAA team banned from the tournament since 2013, when Georgia State and Old Dominion were ineligible as they prepared to leave for the Sun Belt and Conference USA, respectively, and when Towson and UNC Wilmington were ineligible due to APR issues.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: James Madison, which is for the moment one of two remaining original members of the CAA along with William & Mary, won its third CAA title in 2014. The Dukes were the first CAA champions in 1983. The program has made five NCAA Tournament appearances overall.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Dukes rank 233rd at KenPom.com. where they are seventh in conference-only offensive efficiency (105.1) and last in conference-only defensive efficiency (112.4).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Senior guard Vado Morse was named to the all-CAA second team.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Morse ranked fifth in scoring (15.28 ppg).


8.) WILLIAM & MARY (4-14 CAA, 5-26 overall)

The Tribe was picked to finish 10th and was one of only three teams to finish within one spot of the preseason prognostication. No no. 8 seed has ever won the CAA tournament. The five total regular season wins for William & Mary are the fewest by a CAA team since Drexel won five regular season games in 2015-16 and the fewest for the Tribe since it went 4-23 in 1993-94. William & Mary didn’t win a non-league game against a Division I foe but opened CAA play with one-point upsets of Hofstra and Northeastern and was 4-5 at the midway point before losing its final nine games, a stretch that included an overtime loss to UNC Wilmington as well as a 62-28 loss to Northeastern.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: The Tribe, one of two remaining original CAA members from the league’s inaugural season in 1982-83, has never made the NCAA Tournament, though it has fallen in the CAA title game four times since 2008. William & Mary is one of just four original Division I programs to never reach the NCAA Tournament, along with Army West Point and St. Francis (NY), each of who have already  been eliminated from their conference tournaments, and The Citadel, which is scheduled to play Chattanooga today in the Southern Conference quarterfinals.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Tribe ranks 341st at KenPom.com, which is two spots lower than the lowest season-ending rank ever for a CAA team (Towson in 2011-12). The Tribe is last in conference-only offensive efficiency (92.9) and eighth in conference-only defensive efficiency (107.0).

CAA HONOR ROLL: Freshmen Julian Lewis and Tyler Rice were named to the all-rookie team. William & Mary and Charleston are the first teams to place multiple players on the all-rookie team since Elon (Hunter McIntosh, Hunter Woods) in 2020.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Rice ranked sixth in assists (3.60 apg). Brandon Carroll ranked ninth in steals (1.46 spg).

COACHSPEAK: “I really feel a lot like this year is year one, just because of the uniqueness of what our first year was with Nathan Knight as a senior (and) last year being a COVID year. So I think for us, it;'s going to be about going up there and getting that tournament experience and playing in front of fans with a tournament, which we didn’t do at all last year. And hopefully going out and playing well against Northeastern and then seeing if we can hopefully stay around and keep playing from there.”--Dane Fischer


9.) NORTHEASTERN (2-16 CAA, 8-21 overall)

The Huskies were picked to finish second. Their last-place finish marks the first time since at least 2001-02 that a team picked second has finished lower than sixth. The 2-16 league mark was the worst for Northeastern since the Huskies went 2-16 in the America East in 1995-96, which was also the last time Northeastern finished last in its league. That was my last year of college and Northeastern beat Hofstra in an outbracket game, so consider yourselves warned, William & Mary student reporters. The Huskies opened 0-11 — the longest season-opening losing streak for a CAA team since Delaware began 0-12 in 2015-16 — before beating Towson

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Northeastern, which is in its 17th year in the CAA, is the lone multiple champion among 21st-century additions with titles in 2015 (over William & Mary, you’re welcome after Hofstra exhausted the Tribe the day before) and 2019 (over Hofstra, sigh). The Huskies also lead all 21st-century additions with five title game appearances overall, Northeastern has made nine NCAA Tournament appearances.  

BY THE NUMBERS: The Huskies rank 267th at KenPom.com, where they are ninth in both conference-only offensive efficiency (97.6) and conference-only defensive efficiency (108.6).

CAA HONOR ROLL: No Northeastern player made any of the CAA’s all-league teams. The Huskies are the first team since James Madison in 2017 without representation on an all-league, all-rookie or all-defensive team.

ON THE CAA LEADERBOARD: Chris Doherty ranked first in rebounding (9.1 rpg).

COACHSPEAK: “Certainly, the best future predictor is past (performance). We know that, but going into the tournament, everybody’s undefeated and it's a fresh start trying to change the page. Tournament play is different, it’s a one-and-done scenario, and the best way you kind of combat the pressure of that is kind of stay in the moment and try to do the best job that's right in front of you.”--Bill Coen