|Bruiser Flint and Drexel came into the season as the CAA favorite. But they're just 2-4 and down one starter. (US Presswire)|
In recent years, the Colonial Athletic Association has been considered a mid-major league -- but one that consistently has had a chance at multiple NCAA tournament bids. They fell short last year, when Drexel was snubbed on Selection Sunday, but 2011 brought three bids.
Although the season is less than a month old, it might be difficult for the CAA to get more than one bid this season.
Drexel came into the campaign as the favorite -- and as one of the best non-BCS teams in the country. However, a season-opening loss to Kent State in overtime turned into a 2-4 start with other defeats against Illinois State, Saint Mary's and Xavier. Starting guard Chris Fouch is out for the season with a broken ankle, and Damion Lee missed two games with a concussion. All in all, it has been a very rough first month for the Dragons.
The biggest issue is that they missed out on most of their chances at key wins. Illinois State will be a contender in the Missouri Valley; Saint Mary's is always a threat out West; Xavier is Xavier. The only chances left before conference play are Davidson and Saint Joseph's. Would a couple of home wins there salvage a poor showing so far?
Delaware was pegged to finish second -- but the Blue Hens also have swung and missed on their big opportunities. They lost by single digits to Kansas State and Temple, fell in the opener to La Salle and were blitzed by Pittsburgh. Barring a win at Duke this weekend and a tremendous run through the CAA, Delaware needs the automatic bid.
George Mason has some chances left in the nonconference season, but the Patriots have already lost to Bucknell and New Mexico. Maryland, Northern Iowa and South Florida remain in December, but Mason would likely need to win two of those three to even have a chance. More importantly, perhaps, the Patriots are not even expected to finish in the top two of the conference.
As we saw last season, simply running through the CAA and winning the regular-season title doesn't manifest itself into an at-large bid if there isn't a solid nonconference resume to go along with it. Drexel won 19 games in a row before losing in the conference tournament championship game -- and still didn't get an at-large bid because its best nonconference wins were Princeton and Cleveland State.
Moreover, where are the quality wins going to come from within the conference? Drexel, Delaware and George Mason are solid (not great), but there's a dropoff after that. VCU is gone, Old Dominion is down. There are some sleepers in the league but none that seem destined to make a run at the conference title.
We're only one month in, but it's simply not a recipe for multiple bids.