The CAA's Giant Killers case
Over the years, we've taken to calling the Colonial Athletic Association "The Conference of Killers." And with good reason. Since we started this project in 2006, the league has produced four different Giant Killers, which of course includes the two most famous of all -- Final Four squads George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011).
For some perspective, the only other conferences to send as many different schools to the Final Four during that period were the Big East (Georgetown, UConn, Villanova and West Virginia), SEC (Florida, LSU and Kentucky), ACC (Duke and UNC) and Big Ten (Ohio State and Michigan State). In other words, the CAA sent more different schools to the Final Four than the Big 12 or Pac-12 did. That's stunning.
So we tend to follow the Colonial action closely throughout the season -- long before our model is set. That's why yesterday was so interesting. The four best teams in a top-heavy league met in their final regular-season action (hard to believe, isn't it?), with all sorts of seeding scenarios alive for the conference tourney. When the dust settled, Drexel had claimed first place with a tough, one-point win at fourth-place Old Dominion, while VCU knocked off rival George Mason to earn the No. 2 seed (the Patriots are third).
We're not bracketologists, and we've seen stats that have the CAA as low as 15th in the (highly flawed) conference RPI rankings, but we can't accept the league's receiving one bid, as Joe Lunardi currently suggests.
Drexel went 16-2 in conference play, hasn't lost since Jan. 2, and has won 23 of its past 24. The Dragons should be in. And VCU, 58th in the BPI, has just as strong an argument. We'll buy the fact that Mason and ODU need to win their conference tourneys to go dancing, but this is a multibid league, especially if the putrid Pac-12 is projected to get three teams in the tourney.
But here's the real question: How would each of these four teams fare as a potential Giant Killer? (As an aside, the CAA's early finish and recent NCAA success has led us to a new theory: All the time off before the tourney allows coaches to tinker more than at most schools; with two-plus weeks of practice and only the conference tourney between now and the opening round, CAA schools are able to adapt and improve more than other programs. Do you buy it?) The official GK Ratings aren't ready just yet, but let's take a look anyway.
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