Florida State. Miami. LSU. NC State.
What do all these teams have in common? Besides being expected NCAA Tournament teams from power conferences, each team has also lost to a team from the Colonial Athletic Association this season.
That’s right, it may be 2015, but the CAA is partying like it’s 2011, when the conference had VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion all participate in the NCAA Tournament, with VCU advancing to the Final Four.
All three of those schools have since moved on to bigger conferences, but the new CAA is quickly making a name for itself that would make its former members proud. The conference is having more success this season than it has had in years, which begs the question: Is the CAA a multiple-bid league this season?
I know it might sound crazy to be talking about brackets in early December, but the fact is it’s never too early to begin the conversation when discussing mid-majors.
That’s because most at-large bids for mid-majors are decided in nonconference play, when teams have the opportunity to play better opponents and begin building a tournamemt resume. After that, teams just have to take care of business in conference play, and avoid any bad losses.
Although it’s early in the season, at least four teams from the CAA have already racked up quality wins that will help their chances of earning an at-large bid: Northeastern over Miami, William and Mary over NC State, Charleston over LSU and Hofstra over Florida State. That’s not including the last remaining unbeaten in the CAA, UNC Wilmington, or James Madison, who is supposed to compete for a conference title.
While it’s unlikely that all of those teams will be able to maintain their hot starts — I’m looking at you, Charleston — it is not out of the question that two or three teams will emerge from the group once conference play begins.
The question is, who will they be?
Will it be Hofstra, considered by most to be favorites in the CAA because of its talented inside-out duo of Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley?
Or will it be defending conference-champion Northeastern, who is looking for consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986-87?
Or will it be someone else, whom nobody expects?
There are a lot of questions about the CAA right now and who will rise to the top, but one thing is for sure — the conference is receiving more attention this season than it has in a long time.
When VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion left the conference during conference realignment, the conference took a step back in both quality and name recognition. However, after a few years of rebuilding, the conference is starting to look more like its former self.
Will the CAA ever regain the form it had during the 2000s? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean the conference can’t rebuild its image. It can still be a good mid-major conference, as it is showing this season.
As is the case with most mid-major conferences, consistency will be key. The CAA is on the upward trend, it just needs to keep building on its momentum, one marquee win at a time.
If it does that, it will have a chance to have two — or more — teams representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament come March.