Simply put, 2010-11 was the greatest season in CAA history to date. For the first time, the conference had three teams reach the NCAA Tournament, then saw George Mason win a game, Old Dominion nearly knock off national runner-up Butler, and of course VCU knock off a string of good teams en route to the Final Four. Two more teams reached postseason play in the College Basketball Invitational. That’s not all: six teams recorded at least 21 wins for the first time ever and the conference had its best nonconference record ever at 90-63.
How do they follow that up? With a lot of question marks at first glance, though the feeling around the conference is, naturally, an optimistic one.
The 2011-12 season looks like one with a lot of unknowns across the CAA horizon. In contrast to a year ago, when a lot of proven talent returned across the conference, this season a lot of teams enter the season with more questions than answers, more unknown than known. All five first-team All-CAA players have departed, and five more from the second and third teams are gone as well. There are many players who must step up into new roles for their teams to succeed, and that’s not always a transition a player can make. Some players will make it, some won’t, and that’s true all across the country although perhaps not to the same degree as in the CAA. There isn’t a lack of talent in the conference, just a lack of proven talent. As VCU head coach Shaka Smart, whose team is among those with a lot of unknowns this year, noted on the subject of experience, “There’s no substitute for it. If you’ve played 120 games, you’ve played 120 games. If you’ve played none, you’ve played none. You can’t fake that.”
Drexel and George Mason look to have the best combinations of talent and experience. After that, most teams have one but not the other, which means a lot of spots are up for grabs, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a team picked in the second division winds up with a bye in the conference tournament or a team picked in the top five winds up wearing road jerseys on the first day of play in Richmond.
Predicted order of finish
- George Mason
- James Madison
- Old Dominion
- William & Mary
- UNC Wilmington
- Georgia State
Player of the Year: Ryan Pearson, George Mason
Top Newcomer: Stevie Mejia, Hofstra
Top Freshman: Marcus Thornton, William & Mary
Bradford Burgess, Sr. G-F, VCU
Samme Givens, Sr. F, Drexel
Quinn McDowell, Sr. F, William & Mary
Devon Moore, Jr. G, James Madison
Ryan Pearson, Sr. F, George Mason
Jim Larranaga left George Mason to become the head coach at Miami. Former Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt takes over to lead the Patriots.
Rod Barnes was fired by Georgia State before the end of last season. Ron Hunter, who was most recently the head coach at IUPUI, takes over in his place.
Towson fired Pat Kennedy after last season and hired Pat Skerry, who was most recently an assistant at Pittsburgh.