Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

10 Degrees: The 2013 CAA Tournament

In Basketball, William & Mary on March 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm

This year’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament had highs, lows, upsets and plenty of purple.

For 364 days out of every year, Richmond, Va. is a black and gold town. Black and gold banners hang in storefront windows, black and gold stickers adorn countless car bumpers, and black and gold flags fly from front porches from Midlothian to Carytown. But on Monday night, Richmond was painted purple.

After an upset 70-57 win over the Northeastern Huskies, the James Madison Dukes punched their ticket to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s okay if you didn’t see that coming — neither did they:

James Madison Fans celebrate the Dukes's upset victory over Northeastern Monday night.

Weird indeed.

By winning the CAA’s automatic bid…

  1. JMU will play in its first NCAA tournament since 1994. The Dukes’s victory was unexpected, but they’re not exactly Cinderella. JMU was one of only two CAA teams this season to break 20 wins. And as the season went on, the team appeared to get stronger, trading tough overtime losses to Duquesne and Richmond for a thrilling come-from-behind victory over William and Mary in the final game of the regular season. Their weekend run ended JMU’s 19-year tournament drought, but continued…
  2. William and Mary’s for at least another year. The Tribe has been in the NCAA tournament wilderness since the advent of Division I sports in 1948. After a hot 7-3 start, the Tribe seemed to fall apart, suffering a seven game losing streak in December and January, and dropping three of their last four games. Sophomore guard Marcus Thornton brought his coming-out tour to the Richmond Coliseum, but his 25 points weren’t enough to save William and Mary from a first round exit from the CAA Tournament. At least they made it to the tournament, unlike…
  3. Georgia State, Old Dominion, Towson and UNC-Wilmington. All four universities were barred from playing in this year’s tournament. The impending departures of ODU and Georgia State from the CAA made both schools ineligible for tournament play, while APR penalties disqualified Towson and UNCW. With only seven teams vying for the conference championship, the tournament looked more like an intermural meet than a mid-major event. The tournament will welcome back two of those schools, along with the College of Charleston, next year, but they shouldn’t get used to…
  4. Richmond. After more than two decades of playing in the Richmond Coliseum, the CAA tournament will move to Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena for the 2014-2015 season. The Coliseum was alternatively loved (by VCU fans) and hated (by everyone else), but Richmond provided plenty of excitement for the Virginia-centric fans of the CAA. With the conference’s geographic center shifting toward Yankee country, however, it was time for a change of scenery. The CAA won’t say good-bye to Richmond until next year, but another farewell might come much sooner. After a disappointing 2012-2013…
  5. George Mason might be on their way out of the CAA. Rumors from last year suggested that the Atlantic 10 Conference was interested in adding GMU, until administrators re-affirmed the university’s allegiance to the conference they helped to found. But the CAA looks to be a one-bid league for at least several seasons, while the A-10 prepares to restock from the likely raid by the Catholic 7. If this was the Patriots’s CAA farewell tour, it ended in disappointment, but not as much as…
  6. Drexel’s season. The Dragons shocked the world last year (well, maybe just the mid-Atlantic) by dominating the conference, winning 26 games in the regular season and advancing to their first CAA championship game in the school’s history. Drexel lost that game to Virginia Commonwealth, but many expected a big season from the Dragons this year. They were wrong. The Drexel squad never found its rhythm, turning in a lackluster 13-17 record before being bounced by GMU in the first round. But the Dragons’s fall from CAA grace created an opening for the…
  7. Northeastern Huskies. After two disappointing sub-.500 seasons, the Huskies were the toast of a weak CAA field in 2012-2013.  Northeastern turned it around in the New Year, including an eight-game winning streak en route to a 19-11 regular season record and a first round bye in the tournament. The Huskies claimed the #1 seed in the tournament, and edged GMU 69-67 in the semifinals. But the magic ran out for Northeastern in the tournament championship. The season didn’t end how Northeastern fans might have liked, but there could still be postseason basketball for the Huskies, which can’t be said for…
  8. ODU. The Monarchs will play their first season in Conference-USA next year, but it seems they forgot to play their last one in the CAA. The eight-time conference champions stumbled their way to a 5-25 record, which was enough to claim the job of head coach Blaine Taylor. ODU did notch an upset 63-61 win over Virginia in December, but they didn’t record another win until February. The Monarchs finished with a 3-15 conference record including losing seven of eight matchups against the four teams in the…
  9. Tournament semifinals. Featuring only six games, the 2013 CAA tournament was an abbreviated spectacle. But the semifinal round featured two of the season’s best nail-biters. In the early game, Northeastern went into the half down by double digits. But the Huskies rallied in the second half, outscoring GMU 50-36. Senior guard Jonathan Lee’s layup with three seconds remaining lifted Northeastern to a 69-67 victory. On the other side of the bracket, JMU and Delaware exchanged leads throughout their matchup. With the Blue Hens ahead 57-56 with four seconds left, JMU’s senior guard Devon Moore hit two go-ahead free throws to win it for the Dukes. Both teams deserved to be in the championship game, but the glass slipper fit…
  10. JMU. The Dukes maintained their momentum from the semifinals, putting together a 23-1 run in the game’s first 13 minutes. Senior guard Alioune Diouf’s layup with 17:12 left in the first half put JMU up 7-5, and from that point on:

Northeastern never came closer than 11 points for the remainder of the contest. With their win in Richmond, JMU will go dancing for the first time since 1994.

If ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is correct, JMU’s first-round matchup will appropriately be the Duke Blue Devils. The Blue Devils will be favored in that contest, but the Duke singular shouldn’t get too comfortable. Harrisonburg is partying like it’s 1994, and the Dukes plural will be playing like there’s no tomorrow.

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