CAA Preview: Hofstra faces long odds in quest for title
Everybody loves an underdog.
In sports, and in March especially, people always seem to gravitate towards those scrappy longshot teams who defy impossible odds and pull off remarkable feats.
Starting on Wednesday evening in Philadelphia, the Hofstra women’s basketball team will look to write their own underdog story by shocking the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and earning the program’s first-ever spot in the NCAA Tournament.
However, it may not be the most plausible of scenarios for the Pride. The team enters the CAA tourney having lost 10 of their last 11 games, most recently falling 58-54 on the road at Northeastern University on Sunday afternoon.
Factor in the fact that the Pride are without Ashunae Durant, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder as well as a preseason All-CAA first teamer, and things are looking pretty bleak for Hofstra heading into the tournament.
But anyone who considers themselves a basketball fan will tell you that, in March, everybody’s slates get wiped clean.
Hofstra has to look to the future, and not dwell on the past, to have any chance of success in the CAA tourney.
It’s all about taking it one game at a time and the seventh-seeded Pride opened up tournament action on Wednesday against the 10th-seeded College of Charleston. Charleston is the only team that Hofstra managed to sweep in the regular season, and there’s no reason to think Hofstra shouldn’t topple the Cougars for a third time.
Of course, both of those wins came with Durant in the starting lineup, so it’s hard to really gauge what those two wins would have looked like without her on the floor.
The Pride will have to contain Tanisha Brown, who scored in the double-digits both times these two teams clashed this year.
In both of these two teams’ prior meetings, Olivia Askin had the hot hand for the Pride. She averaged 16.5 points per game, and was a perfect 11-11 from beyond the arc against the Cougars. That kind of production will be crucial in this first-round matchup, and in a potential quarterfinal matchup with James Madison University (JMU).
Askin has cooled off down the stretch this year, but the Pride are going to need her to find the stroke from deep again in order to survive.
Three-point shooting is one of the biggest factors in a tournament setting like this, and Hofstra’s going to need Askin, along with Aleana Leon and Boogie Brozoski, to knock down the deep ball on a consistent basis to keep up with the CAA’s elite.
A win over Charleston would get Hofstra into the quarterfinals, with second-seeded James Madison waiting for them.
The Dukes will be fresher than the Pride, and swept the two regular season matchups.
This may very well be where the Pride’s season comes to an end, as the Dukes look to have too much firepower for Hofstra to hang with.
There have been some stellar offensive performances out of individual players on this team, but the Pride are going to have to put it all together to have a chance against the Dukes.
Against a team like JMU, Hofstra will have to lean more on their offense. Defensively, Hofstra has been primarily solid all season, and the Dukes’ offense isn’t as loaded as it’s been in years past.
But if the chips all fall the right way and Hofstra finds itself in the semifinals, the script will be flipped. Hofstra would be taking on either Elon or William & Mary.
Both of those teams possess some of the best offenses in the CAA, with Elon first and William & Mary third in total offense.
The Phoenix, in particular, average almost seven more points per game than any other team in the conference. Elon is also the defending champ, and come into Philadelphia riding a 10-game winning streak.
The Pride will have to play their best defense of the season no matter who they face here. Losing Durant in the post has led to a dip in rebounding, but Marianne Kalin and Mikiyah Croskey have been good on the defensive end this season.
It’s tough to imagine a Hofstra team that only runs about six or seven players deep, playing a third game in three days, to make much noise here.
When you factor in Drexel University waiting on the other side of the bracket, Hofstra would potentially have to take down the top three seeds in the CAA in order to win the whole thing.
It’s a tall order for any team, let alone a short-handed team like the Pride.
Hofstra lost sharpshooter Ana Hernandez Gil in the preseason, and Durant midway through CAA play. Leon’s been playing banged up all season long; this team knows a thing or two about taking bumps.
Bumps build character, and this team has character in spades. It just may not be enough to will this team to a title.
Way back in early November, Hofstra was picked seventh in the CAA preseason polls. This ranking didn’t sit well with the Pride, feeling like they deserved to be closer to the top.
Entering the CAA tournament on Wednesday, the Pride are slotted right where the media picked them to be, at the No. 7 seed.
With that in mind, Hofstra’s got one last shot to prove they belong, and with only one way to do it: flipping the CAA on its head, and busting the bracket. It won’t be easy, and the odds are astronomically against the Pride.
But with a little luck, and a little bit of that madness that seems to float in the air each and every March, Hofstra has a chance to shock the world, and to write the ultimate underdog story.