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Colonial Athletic Association - Conference Tournament Preview

2023 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Tournament

Nuts & Bolts

The Colonial Athletic Association Conference Tournament gets started on Friday as the bottom two teams, Monmouth and Hampton, square off in the opening round.

The conference has had one of its best years in history, with a team in Hofstra that surged to win the regular season title while Charleston won more games than any other program in college basketball this year.

It’s likely that only one of the 13 teams in the CAA will make the NCAA Tournament. There’s a chance that Charleston could receive an at-large bid but every other team absolutely must win this tournament in order to make it to the Big Dance.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at each team in the order in which they finished in the regular season standings, what to watch for, what to know and how they might fare this week in D.C.

I’m excited to be there live on Monday/Tuesday for the semifinals and the final!


#1 Hofstra Pride

  • Head Coach: Speedy Claxton (2nd season, 44-19 record)

  • Record: 23-8 (16-2 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 10-0

  • NET: 87

  • KenPom: 91

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 4

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2001

  • Player to Watch: Aaron Estrada

  • One Stat to Know: Aaron Estrada is CAA POY & Speedy Claxton is CAA COY

  • NEXT GAME: 3/5 Quarterfinal vs. TBD

Hofstra hasn’t danced in 22 years, and has had ten seasons with 20+ wins during that time. This team, however, is one that is battle-tested, having beat out Charleston for the conference title, despite the Cougars having lost just three games all year.

Former NBA and Hofstra player Speedy Claxton has the Pride cooking in his second season as head coach. Aaron Estrada is a prolific scorer and can lead this team to its first conference tournament title since 2020.

Unlike three years ago, there will likely be no global pandemic to keep Hofstra out of the NCAA Tournament this time around.


#2 Charleston Cougars

  • Head Coach: Pat Kelsey (2nd season, 45-18 record)

  • Record: 28-3 (16-2 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 8-2

  • NET: 54

  • KenPom: 70

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 5

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2018

  • Player to Watch: Ryan Larson

  • One Stat to Know: #1 in CAA in PPG (81.7) - 13th nationally

  • NEXT GAME: 3/5 Quarterfinal vs. TBD

Second year Head Coach Pat Kelsey has his Charleston Cougars as the top scoring offense in the CAA and has accumulated the most wins in college basketball in 2022-23.

Yet, somehow, Charleston failed to win the conference regular season title. This should be the most poised team to win the CAA Tournament, given the fact that they’ve lost just three games all season.

The team has five players who average in double-figures and nobody averages more than 12.7 PPG. This team spreads the wealth and wins individual matchups better than maybe every team in the nation.

Given how far and above Hofstra and Charleston are compared to the rest of the conference, I’ll join the many by saying I’ll be surprised if those two teams don’t square off in Tuesday night’s championship game.


#3 Towson Tigers

  • Head Coach: Pat Skerry (10th season, 192-184 record)

  • Record: 20-11 (12-6 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 6-4

  • NET: 140

  • KenPom: 137

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 1991

  • Player to Watch: Nicolas Timberlake

  • One Stat to Know: Defending CAA regular season champs and 2022-23 preseason CAA favorites

  • NEXT GAME: 3/5 Quarterfinal vs. TBD

Towson is easily the most dangerous team not named Hofstra or Charleston in the CAA Tournament.

The Tigers are led by a veteran head coach and their top five leading scorers are all seniors, including Nicolas Timberlake, who has scored 30+ points three times in the past eight games.

The reigning regular season champions and preseason favorites, Towson hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in 32 years and will be perhaps the most motivated group in D.C. this week.


#4 UNC Wilmington Seahawks

  • Head Coach: Takayo Siddle (3rd season, 56-28 record)

  • Record: 22-9 (12-6 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 7-3

  • NET: 153

  • KenPom: 172

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 6

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2017

  • Player to Watch: Trazarien White

  • One Stat to Know: The Seahawks rank 32nd nationally in total defense (64 PPG)

  • NEXT GAME: 3/5 Quarterfinal vs. TBD

It’s the second time in three years that UNC Wilmington has won 20+ games in the first three years under Head Coach Takayo Siddle.

The Seahawks won the CBI Tournament (one step below the NIT) last year, helping Siddle secure CAA Coach of the Year honors along the way.

The program has completely taken off in recent memory, winning the regular season conference title four times in the past nine seasons.

Earlier this season, this team rattled off 13 wins in a row, from mid-November until early January. Do they have another run in them now that the season is on the line?


#5 Drexel Dragons

  • Head Coach: Zach Spiker (7th season, 92-117 record)

  • Record: 16-14 (10-8 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 4-6

  • NET: 195

  • KenPom: 204

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 5

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2021

  • Player to Watch: Amari Williams

  • One Stat to Know: #1 in CAA in points allowed per game (62.6) - 22nd nationally

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. TBD

The Dragons play defense.

Amari Williams won CAA Defensive Player of the Year and would very likely be the reason Drexel makes it back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

The problem for the Dragons is on offense, where they average an abysmal 66.8 PPG. Williams is the only player on the team who averages over 10 PPG (13.6).

They’ll need more than him if they want to continue to advance in this tournament.


#6 Delaware Blue Hens

  • Head Coach: Martin Ingelsby (5th season, 111-100 record)

  • Record: 16-15 (8-10 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 5-5

  • NET: 216

  • KenPom: 225

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 6

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2022

  • Player to Watch: Jameer Nelson Jr.

  • One Stat to Know: Jameer Nelson Jr. leads CAA in PPG (20.5) - 18th nationally

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. Northeastern

There is one reason Delaware has hope this weekend in D.C.; they have the best scorer in the conference.

Jameer Nelson Jr., son of 14-year NBA veteran Jameer Nelson, scores over 20 PPG and enters the CAA Tournament having scored 30+ in two of his last three games.

The Blue Hens won this tournament last year and there hasn’t been a back-to-back champion since UNC Wilmington in 2016-17.


#7 North Carolina A&T Aggies

  • Head Coach: Phil Shumpert (1st season)

  • Record: 13-18 (8-10 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 4-6

  • NET: 313

  • KenPom: 314

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 10

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2013

  • Player to Watch: Kam Woods

  • One Stat to Know: Kam Woods is #4 in the CAA in PPG (17.0)

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. Stony Brook

First year Head Coach Phil Shumpert had his Aggies consistently in the middle of the pack throughout the year in the CAA.

Kam Woods is a legitimate scorer and the team will rely heavily on him throughout the conference tournament in order to survive and advance.

They need four wins in four days to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in ten years.


#8 William & Mary Tribe

  • Head Coach: Dane Fischer (4th season, 45-73 record)

  • Record: 12-19 (7-11 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 4-6

  • NET: 314

  • KenPom: 323

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 0

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: N/A

  • Player to Watch: Anders Nelson

  • One Stat to Know: Gabe Dorsey is #1 in CAA in 3PT% (44%) - 7th nationally

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. Elon

There is one statistic in which William & Mary ranks in the top 100 nationally: Three-point shooting (53rd - 36/8%).

The reason why is they have Anders Nelson, the best sharp-shooter in the CAA and a top-10 three point shooter in the country.

The Tribe will have to shoot lights out from deep if they want to go on a run and make its first NCAA Tournament in school history.


#9 Elon Phoenix

  • Head Coach: Billy Taylor (1st season)

  • Record: 8-23 (6-12 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 6-4

  • NET: 313

  • KenPom: 329

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 0

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: N/A

  • Player to Watch: Sean Halloran

  • One Stat to Know: Max Mackinnon won CAA Rookie of the Year

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. William & Mary

It was not an ideal first season for Billy Taylor in taking over as head coach for Elon. The Phoenix struggled throughout the year but enter the CAA Tournament having won two of three games.

The team has experience, with five of its top seven scorers being seniors. However, the Phoenix also have the best young player in the conference in Max Mackinnon, who won CAA Rookie of the Year, leading the team in rebounds (5.2 RPG) and second in scoring (11.7 PPG).

The experienced team will need its young stud to try to move the needle forward and advance to the Big Dance for the first time ever.


#10 Stony Brook Seawolves

  • Head Coach: Geno Ford (4th season, 57-61 record)

  • Record: 10-21 (6-12 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 3-7

  • NET: 334

  • KenPom: 333

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2016

  • Player to Watch: Frankie Policelli

  • One Stat to Know: Frankie Policelli is #1 in CAA in RPG (9.2) - 27th nationally

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. North Carolina A&T

Stony Brook just finished its first season in CAA after moving over from the America East Conference.

The Seawolves are looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, when they also accumulated a program-record 26 wins.

They have a 6 '7 senior in Frankie Policelli who is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 PPG while being the top rebounder in the conference at 9.2 RPG.

With senior leadership under Policelli, guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore and 7 ‘1 center Keenan Fitzmorris, the Seawolves have size and experience that could help them go on a run.


#11 Northeastern Huskies

  • Head Coach: Bill Coen (17th season, 270-263 record)

  • Record: 10-19 (6-12 in CAA)

  • Last 10: 2-8

  • NET: 308

  • KenPom: 309

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 9

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019

  • Player to Watch: Jahmyl Telfort

  • One Stat to Know: Jahmyl Telfort is the only Huskies player to average in double-figures (16.2 PPG)

  • NEXT GAME: 3/4 second round vs. Delaware

There isn’t a more experienced coach in the conference than Bill Coen. He’s taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament twice in his first 16 seasons and has won the CAA regular season title four times.

Over the past two seasons, however, the Huskies have finished at least nine games below .500 and in the bottom of the conference.

It’ll take some kind of effort for Northe