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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I miss the old CAA

By Eamonn Brennan

While scouring the Internet for college basketball goodness, I came across the below video, a well-made riff on the NBA "Big" advertisements featuring the Northeastern Huskies (hat tip: Redditor "ebinsugewa"):



After chuckling the slightest of chuckles -- well-positioned big heads making funny faces after good plays will never not entertain me, I suppose -- I was presented with the following fact: Northeastern is 8-0 and in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association. Who knew? Come to think of it, how was the CAA this year? I hadn't caught up on the league in a few weeks at least. I figured I might as well check the standings and see what the latest was, and that's when I came to a depressing realization.

The CAA is really bad.

There are only three teams in the league with overall records above .500: Northeastern (13-7), James Madison (12-10) and George Mason (12-8). To use a less crude measure, I took a gander over at KenPom.com ($), where one can easily see that no CAA team ranks above No. 120, and only two teams (Northeastern and GMU) rank in the top 150. The conference's average adjusted efficiency rank is -- wait for it -- 206.

Conference realignment -- in which the Atlantic-10 snatched VCU, and the CAA's participation rules forced the Rams to leave the league early -- is certainly to blame. But VCU is just one team. Other factors have colluded to cause this sudden dearth of any quality hoops in the CAA (Northeastern's impressive 8-0 start notwithstanding, of course): Old Dominion, one of the league powers of recent seasons, is limping through a disastrous 2-17 year, while Drexel, the obvious preseason favorite and a legitimate bubble team in 2012, has made tough injuries worse with inexplicable losses (the Dragons are currently 8-12). Jim Larranaga left George Mason for Miami. A veteran Delaware team hasn't panned out. Georgia State has gone from the 20th-best per-possession defense in the country to No. 249.

With the exception of Northeastern, the only real success story thus far is at Towson, where the Tigers have rapidly (almost miraculously) rebounded from their ignominious 1-31 2011-12 season.

Other than that, though, there aren't many rainbows and lollipops. The CAA has fallen from its annual perch among the best of the mid-major leagues -- on par with the Missouri Valley or the Horizon League -- to a nondescript group not much better than the Sun Belt. If that. As someone who rather enjoyed the last half-decade of CAA hoops, that's a little bit sad.