By Mike Rudin -- SPORTS EDITOR The women’s basketball Colonial Athletic Association Tournament is around the corner and the conference standings are set in stone. Here’s the complete rankings of the CAA teams for the upcoming tourney, from the top dog to the bottom of the barrel. All 10 CAA teams are ranked based on the seed and how they ended up in their slot.
No. 1 seed: James Madison Dukes (23-5 overall, 16-1 CAA)
Scouting Report: JMU took the title as CAA regular season champs – a season without Precious Hall from the start due to injury. The trio, Jazmon Gwathmey, Ashley Perez and Angela Mickens, emerged and depth has made this team strong. The team’s top scorers, Gwathmey (20.9 PPG), Perez (13.9) and Mickens (11.4), will lead the No. 1 offense in the conference. Plus, JMU’s defense is just as dangerous as its offense, limiting CAA opponents to 54.7 points per game, the second best in conference.
Bottom Line: The Dukes are the team to beat. The defending CAA champions are ranked 34th in the latest NCAA RPI standings, which is the highest in the CAA. The one conference matchup they lost was against William & Mary in overtime and they defeated the Tribe by 20 the second time around.
No. 2 seed: Drexel Dragons (17-12, 13-5 CAA)
Scouting Report: The Dragons exceled in the CAA through their defensive play, despite not having the strongest overall record. Drexel has the best defense in conference, allowing 52.4 points per game against CAA opponents. Drexel’s offense, however, isn’t as strong, averaging only 60.8 points a game, which is fifth best. Sarah Curran is the team’s star player leading on both the offensive (15.4 PPG) and defensive (5.3 RPG) fronts.
Bottom Line: Don’t count out the Dragons. This is a team riding high, winning five of the last six games, and its defense has been lights out. Four CAA rivals have scored 53 points or less during that stretch against Drexel’s defense.
No. 3 seed: Hofstra Pride (22-7, 13-5 CAA)
Scouting Report: Hofstra’s depth of talent and versatility landed it the No. 3 seed but it’s ranked second in RPI among CAA teams. The starting five – Kelly Loftus (13 PPG), Ashunae Durant (11.4 PPG), Krystal Luciano (9.4 PPG), Anjie White (8.4 PPG) and Darius Faulk (8.3 PPG) – maintain a well distributed offensive front. The Pride’s defense has kept teams under 60 points on average (third best in conference) and the bench steps up when other players struggle.
Bottom Line: Despite being 0-2 vs. JMU, Hofstra can take the CAA title if everything goes right. This is a team has the second-highest RPI at 67th.The only issue right now is that Loftus still hasn’t played since an injury over two weeks ago. But this is a team that made the championship last year; retaining that experience and the rest of the pieces coming together will be key.
No. 4 seed: Elon Phoenix (18-11, 11-7 CAA)
Scouting Report: This team’s strongest aspect is the offense with Shay Burnett. She’s averaged 13 points a game while averaging 7.9 boards too. Coupled with Jenifer Rhodes (9.1 PPG and 5.7 RPG), Malaya Johnson (8.4 PPG and 6 RPG) and Lauren Brown (9.2 PPG), Elon’s offense is third-best in the CAA but the team’s defense is middle of the pack.
Bottom Line: On paper, Elon isn’t one of the elite CAA teams but it’s definitely the wild card. For Elon, six conference games were determined by five points or less, win or lose. At its best, Elon can go toe-to-toe with JMU – the Phoenix lost in OT and by one point in both matchups.
No. 5 seed: Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens (15-14, 10-8 CAA)
Scouting Report: Delaware is on a similar level to Elon, but flipped, with a strong defense and not so strong offense. The Fightin’ Blue Hens have the fourth-best defense, letting up 57.2 points on average. But Delaware has the fourth-worst offense, scoring 58.2 points on average. Courtni Green (12.3 PPG) and Erika Brown (11.4 PPG) are the two main scorers but after them the numbers dip down on offense.
Bottom Line: Delaware’s head coach Tina Martin has the track record (four NCAA and seven WNIT appearances) to maximize the team’s success but the team can only go so far. It has gone back and forth to split the last six games right down the middle. If it continues the trend, the team will be eliminated in the semifinals.
No. 6 seed: Northeastern Huskies (14-15, 9-9 CAA)
Scouting Report: Despite winning six prior games straight, Northeastern lost to Hofstra in the season finale and will face the Pride again in the quarterfinals. The Huskies are ranked sixth with a scoring margin of -1.4 points because they have the fourth-worst defense against CAA rivals, letting up 63.6 points a game.
Bottom Line: Northeastern is where the bottom tier of conference teams start and any chances of them going further than the quarterfinals are slim pickings. The Huskies lost both times this season because of Hofstra’s balanced offense capitalizing on Northeastern’s defense and the third time won’t be the charm.
No. 7 seed William & Mary Tribe (15-14, 6-12 CAA)
Scouting Report: This might’ve been the sole CAA team to beat JMU but it still has the second-worst defense in the conference. This is the starting point which CAA teams fall out of the top 200 in RPI; William & Mary is ranked 201.
Bottom Line: William & Mary has lost seven of its last nine games and it will exit out at the quarterfinals as best. Even if the Tribe pushes past Towson, it will face Drexel and the Tribe hasn’t won a game, let alone score over 55 points, once this season against the Dragons.
No. 8 seed Charleston Cougars (10-18, 5-12 CAA)
Scouting Report: The Cougars are the third worst team in the CAA by record and RPI. The team’s offense is its Achilles’ heel, ranked the second-worst in the CAA, averaging 53.5 points a game. Charleston’s defense is only in the middle of the pack, which isn’t enough.
Bottom Line: Anything further than the quarterfinals will be a miracle for College of Charleston. Getting past No. 9 UNCW is one thing, facing No. 1 seed JMU is a whole other level. Charleston would have to adjust competing against a 269th ranked team to a 34th team in RPI.
No. 9 seed UNCW Seahawks (7-22, 3-15 CAA)
Scouting Report: It’s hard to make any case for a team that’s only won three conference games to succeed. Even maximizing the minutes of seven viable players, it hasn’t been enough for a successful regular season. Plus, Naqaiyyah Teague hasn’t been on the court for the last 13 games, stretching the roster even thinner.
Bottom Line: UNCW’s lack of depth is why they’ll exit as quickly as they entered. They’ve went 2-11 since Teague’s absence after Jan. 17, and lost the last seven games. A win against Charleston in the first round would be best case scenario.
No. 10 seed Towson Tigers (6-23, 3-15 CAA)
Scouting Report: With the worst CAA defense, letting up almost 71 points on average, Towson doesn’t have the ability to get past the first round either. The team’s scoring margin comes out at -10.1 which would be worse if not for the offense limiting some of the issues.
Bottom Line: Towson has won only once on the road and that’ll continue in the postseason. The Tigers are 1-13 recently, lost the last five games and they’re 0-2 against William & Mary. The Tribe has the upper hand and should knock Towson out in the first round.