By the time you read this, I'll be steaming down the road on the way to Richmond for the first round of the 2012 CAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It's no secret that the 2011-12 Wrens were a significant disappointment. Injuries to four major contributors, all of whom are 6'6" or bigger men, were crippling. Kyle Gaillard missed the whole season, JohnMark Ludwick has only played a handful of games, Tim Rusthoven missed the first month, and preseason All-CAA first-teamer Quinn McDowell never found his legs after an offseason injury. Couple that with difficulty integrating Marcus Thornton's energy and athleticism into the W&M system and Brandon Britt's resulting ineffectiveness, and it's not hard to see how this team failed to live up to its promise.
That said, the CAA's coaches recognize the Tribe's talent and capability. In his tournament preview, FOG:TB Michael Litos polled the league's head men on a number of topics. In response to the question, "Who, of the bottom five teams, can win Friday and give their Saturday opponent a tough game–if not winning it?", W&M received more than twice as many nods as any other team. I can see it - the Wrens have never lost to first-round opponent Northeastern in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If they get past today's game (6:00, streamed on caasports.com), they take on #2 seed VCU, a formidable opponent for sure, but one that W&M should've beaten in Richmond and played close in Williamsburg.
With Ludwick back in the rotation, the Tribe becomes really difficult to defend, the 6'8" senior pulling opponents' bigs out to the perimeter with his long-range skills, opening up penetration lanes for Britt and Thornton to drive to the tin or kick to McDowell and Matt Rum. W&M drilled Northeastern by 25 in the teams' most recent meeting, and the Tribe is 2-3 in their last five, including a two-point home loss to top-seeded Drexel. It's a preposterous longshot, but there's a chance that W&M finds its footing at the right time. They're clearly the toughest 6-25 team in the nation.
And if that pipe dream doesn't pan out, we've still got a hell of a weekend in front of us.