With the 2019 CAA Men’s Basketball Tournament less than three weeks away, the shape of the conference is still up in the air. After being stuck in last place, JMU rallied for two wins this past week. Top-ranked Hofstra was upset by a struggling UNCW team, Charleston made a huge step to being a top-two seed and the bottom six teams in the CAA are separated by only two games. With two more weeks of regular season action, there’s a lot to play for before March rolls around.
1. Hofstra (22-5, 12-2 CAA)
The Pride survived a scare against Charleston, 99-95, behind senior guard Justin Wright-Foreman’s 30 points. Hofstra shot 50 percent from beyond the arc against the Cougars, but struggled on the defensive side. Defeating Charleston was a big step in the chase to clinch the CAA regular season title, but the Pride stumbled and were shocked by UNCW, 87-79. Wright-Foreman had another 30-point game, but Hofstra had zero points from the bench. The Pride host Towson and JMU this week, where two wins and a loss from Northeastern will clinch the regular-season title for Hofstra.
2. Northeastern (16-10, 10-4 CAA)
Similar to first-place Hofstra, the Huskies went 1-1 in their trip through the Carolinas. After beating UNCW 81-77, Northeastern fell to Charleston in overtime, 88-79. Redshirt senior guard Vasa Pusica was dealing with an illness and missed the game against the Seahawks, but came back to play the Cougars, where he scored a team-high 25 points. If the Huskies want to snatch the CAA regular-season title from Hofstra, they have no room for error and must win out. They’ll play JMU and Towson at home this week — two games Northeastern should win.
3. College of Charleston (21-7, 10-5 CAA)
The Cougars’ chance at a regular-season title is small, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t CAA tournament contenders. This past week Charleston hosted the top-two teams, and despite dropping their game against Hofstra, the Cougars defeated Northeastern and pulled closer to the No. 2 spot. Junior guard Grant Riller had a season-high 43 points against the Pride and is starting to heat up at the right time. Riller and Co. have road games against William & Mary and Elon, both of which won’t be easy wins.
4. William & Mary (10-16, 6-8 CAA)
If there was a team that could sneak its way into the CAA Tournament championship, it’s William & Mary. Junior forward Nathan Knight averages 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and has had 39 and 35 points in his last two games. Junior guard Justin Pearce adds 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and the Tribe have freshman guard Chase Audige, who’s a threat from 3-point range. After beating Elon this past week, William & Mary hosts Charleston and UNCW. The game against the Cougars will tell if the Tribe is a legitimate sleeper pick.
5. Delaware (16-12, 8-7 CAA)
As of today, Delaware is the No. 4 team in the CAA. The Blue Hens are two games ahead of the fifth-place team, but they still have to run the table for the remainder of the season. Redshirt senior forward Eric Carter and sophomore guard Ryan Allen both average 16.2 points per game, but they’re going to need some help. This past week, Delaware picked up a nice win over Towson, but fell to JMU by seven. Delaware hosts Drexel on Saturday, where a win is much needed considering it closes out the season playing Northeastern and Hofstra.
6. Towson (10-17, 6-8 CAA)
The Tigers were an overtime period away from beating Delaware and picking up two solid wins over the weekend. Towson, however, responded to that loss by beating Drexel by 15. Junior guard Brian Fobbs continues to be the main guy with 17.6 points per game, but he’s going to need his teammates to step up. Only one other player on the Tigers averages double-digit scoring, and they’re last in the CAA in scoring offense (67.6), 3-point field goal percentage (33.5) and assists (9.9). Towson heads up north to face Hofstra and Northeastern this week.
7. JMU (12-15, 5-9 CAA)
Heading into last week’s games, the Dukes needed to win both in order to stay as a real contender for a No. 5 to No. 8 seed. A pair of double-doubles from sophomore forward Dwight Wilson led JMU to wins over Drexel and Delaware and pulled the Dukes out of last place. Today, they’re No. 8 in the conference standings but have to face the toughest road trip in the CAA: Northeastern and Hofstra. Two losses means other games will have to go JMU’s way, but if head coach Louis Rowe can find a way to take one win from this week, it’ll make the standings even more interesting.
8. Drexel (12-16, 6-9 CAA)
A two-loss week wasn’t what Drexel needed. The Dragons are on a three-game losing streak, but the good news is they have a week-long break before hosting Delaware on Saturday. To say beating the Blue Hens is a must is an understatement. Drexel has exceeded preseason expectations as it was predicted to finish ninth, but there’s still time for it to climb up the standings and potentially win a game in the CAA tournament.
9. UNCW (9-19, 5-10 CAA)
After losing to Northeastern 81-77, the Seahawks delivered the biggest upset in the CAA this season by beating Hofstra 87-79. Five players scored 10 or more points with three of the scorers coming from the bench. Senior forward Devontae Cacok had 18 points and 16 rebounds in the win over the Pride and continues to be key in UNCW’s path to victory. If the Seahawks can string together a few wins in their remaining three games, the season could make a late turnaround.
10. Elon (8-19, 4-10 CAA)
Elon escaped the grasp of the last-place spot in the CAA for a few weeks, but four straight losses has put them back in the cellar. This past week, the Phoenix continued to struggle shooting the ball, highlighted in their 84-74 loss to William & Mary. In that game, Elon shot 41.8 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from three. This week, Elon faces UNCW and Charleston, where a win in either game would be big for its lackluster season.
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.