Mar 1, 2012, 4:50 PM EDT
Unless you have a dog in this fight, here is your homework: root for Drexel and VCU to make it to the CAA title game.
Root as hard as you can.
Because if you are one of those people — like me — that would rather see a quality mid-major basketball team that has put together a stirring run late in the season get a bid over a team like UConn or Mississippi State, a talented group that clearly is not enjoying the season and would get just as much out of a trip to the NIT as they would a spot in the Big Dance, than you need VCU and Drexel in the title game.
Because both of those teams have a very really shot at getting an at-large bid if that were to happen.
Look, the CAA did not do a lot of good things in the non-conference portion of their schedule. They don’t have many stirring non-conference wins. But this is also a league that, on the whole, is young this season. They’ve grown. They’ve gotten better. And now there are (at least) two teams that are deserving of a spot in the NCAA Tournament but, for what ever reason, just don’t have a powerful enough resume to command lock-status.
Where: Richmond, VA
When: March 2nd-March 5th
Final: March 5th, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2
Drexel started out the season 2-4, but that came as they were getting freshman Damion Lee adjusted to playing basketball at this level and while working Chris Fouch back from an offseason injury. Two of those losses came with Fouch in street clothes. Two more of them came in Fouch’s first two games back. Now he’s healthy and Lee is playing great, which is why Drexel has won 17 straight games and 23 of their last 24. They have one — just one — loss since Dec. 3rd.
And if they lose?: VCU
The Rams are on a similar run. They’ve won 14 of their last 15 games. The one loss? At George Mason, when Mason caught fire over the last minute. VCU went 5-6 from the free throw line and didn’t commit a turnover while blowing a five point lead in the final 50 seconds. Brad Burgess has not exactly had the season we all imagined he would have, but VCU has gotten some impressive play out of big man Juvonte Reddic and point guard Dareus Theus. This group still loves to press, they still force turnovers and they still shoot threes.
Sleepers: I don’t know if you can call George Mason a sleeper, but they ended up finishing the league in third place and have the best front line in the conference. Old Dominion has been rebuilding this year, but they still play as hard as anyone in the league and have a kid by the name of Kent Bazemore. He went for 37 in a loss to Drexel last week. Keep an eye on Georgia State as well, as they have put together a very nice season in Ron Hunter’s first year in Atlanta.
- Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion: Bazemore is a delight to watch play basketball. He’s 6’5″ and a terrific athlete. He defends as hard as anyone in the country and, this season, he’s scoring the ball very well.
- Ryan Pearson, George Mason: Pearson is like the anti-Bazemore. He’s a slow-footed, bearded, 6’7″ power forward with “Old Man” game. But he’s a double-double waiting to happen and a threat to hit a three as well.
- Mike Moore, Hofstra: He’s not Charles Jenkins and he hasn’t led Hofstra to 20 wins, but Moore is averaging 20.0 ppg on the season. He can light it up.
- Devon Saddler, Delaware: Just a sophomore, Saddler has a chance to be a very good player by the time his career is done.
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