CAA Men’s Tournament preview: It’s anyone’s race
The Hofstra Pride men’s basketball team has a tough road ahead as it prepares for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with hopes of claiming the title and advancing to the NCAA tournament.
The Pride will open the CAA tournament as the No. 3 seed after wrapping up their regular season with a 19-11 (12-6 in CAA) record.
Most of the other teams have also been locked into certain spots on the bracket. Due to a rescheduled game between Elon University and James Madison University that won’t be played until Monday, there’s still a couple of things up in the air. Here’s what we know so far, courtesy of the CAA Sports website:
“After Saturday’s action, seven of the 10 seeds are set for the 2018 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship, presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs.
The Colllege of Charleston is the No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 Northeastern, No. 3 Hofstra, No. 4 William & Mary, No. 5 Towson and No. 6 UNCW.
Drexel University is the No. 8 seed, but their opponent won’t be determined until after Monday’s final regular-season game between Elon and JMU.
If Elon wins, the Phoenix and Dukes will have a rematch in the 7/10 game and Drexel will play the University of Delaware. If JMU wins, Delaware will face Elon and Drexel will meet JMU.”
No matter what happens Monday night, Hofstra’s path is pretty much set.
The Pride will face off against UNCW in the first round, and likely Northeastern after that if Hofstra can defeat the Seahawks.
Hofstra would not have to face the College of Charleston, the only team they didn’t defeat in the regular season, until the title game.
Hofstra faces an immediate challenge against UNCW in its first game.
Both teams won their home games against each other by 20 points. In the most recent matchup, the Seahawks won 90-70 thanks to a gargantuan effort from forward Devontae Cacok who had 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting and 16 rebounds.
Hofstra had an off night defensively and didn’t get expected contributions from Justin Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton.
To be competitive in their first game, the Pride will have to lock up Cacok and force UNCW to out-shoot the Pride.
The Seahawks are No. 7 in the conference in three-point percentage while Hofstra is No. 2, so an up-tempo game with lots of possessions and long-range shots should benefit the Pride if they can plug up the lane.
If Hofstra can dispatch the Seahawks, they’ll need to defeat a Northeastern team that presents a matchup problem for the Pride.
The Huskies won by 16 in Hempstead during the last meeting between the two and Northeastern enters the tournament on a seven-game winning streak.
The Huskies have thrived thanks to their defense. In particular, their three-point percentage defense ranks No. 6 in the nation.
Hofstra, which usually relies on the accuracy of its three-point looks, would need a strong interior game from Rokas Gustys to spread the floor for the Pride.
If Gustys gets hot early, Hofstra could take advantage of some open lanes and get to the basket with greater ease.
The Pride would need to slow down Vasa Pusica, the San Diego transfer who is coming off a 31-point effort against Elon. Pusica is a deadly three-point shooter (42 percent on the year) and is also one of the conference’s best passers. Pusica had 16 points and 10 assists last time against the Pride.
Should Hofstra knock out those two, they’d likely be in for a rematch with the College of Charleston.
The Pride would have to hope the third time’s the charm considering the Cougars have won both emotionally-charged regular-season outings. Most recently, the Cougars won 86-85 in Hempstead.
The Cougars just had an 11-game winning streak snapped by William & Mary in an overtime game to end the regular season.
Charleston is the Virginia of the CAA: a slow-but-efficient team who wears out opponents by not making many mistakes. The Cougars boast three potential all-conference players: Jarrell Brantley, Joe Chealey and Grant Riller.
The Cougars are less deep than the Pride are but have more star power and can score from anywhere on the floor. Hofstra would need strong outings from all three of Wright-Foreman, Pemberton and Gustys to have a shot. In each of the previous meetings this season, only two of those players scored in double figures.
As a No. 3-seed, Hofstra has as good of a chance to win the CAA tournament as anybody does.
But the conference is as tight as it’s ever been and the road will be tumultuous.
There are no easy games in the conference, but there’s no clear favorite, either.
Hofstra could capitalize with a strong run in which both the offense and defense are clicking for three straight nights.
For Hofstra, the action all gets started on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. with their quarterfinal matchup against UNCW.
Win or lose, it’s going to be an exciting ride for the Pride.