Last year, four teams tied for first place in the CAA with identical 12-6 conference records.
It was just a prelude, as it turns out.
Right now, six teams have 4-2 marks in conference play. Sixty percent of the league is tied for first. Notwithstanding the Ivy, where everybody's only played one game, no other league has more than two teams deadlocked at the top. It is, in the aggregate sense, a rock fight.
(Rock fights, to the uninitiated, are the CAA's stock in trade. Or at least they were before several of the league's programs began to develop highly efficient offensive games. The phrase was coined by the granddaddy of CAA bloggers, FOG:TB Michael Litos to describe offensively-challenged, hard-nosed, inelegant and slap-the-floor entertaining ball.
And speaking of the opposite of highly efficient offensive games, our friend Dan Crain at Dragons Speak penned yet another statistically astute, emotionally drained post about his Drexel team today. That poor guy. That dreadful team. Drexel, to be sure, isn't part of the logjam at the top.)
Unlike last year, when our Tribe would've walked away with the league regular-season title had they only been able to beat the worst teams in the conference, the Green and Gold have held their own against the CAA's dregs, beating Drexel and Charleston (twice) in addition to a convincing home win over defending league champion Northeastern. W&M's losses have come to fellow league-leaders Towson (at home) and UNCW.
That latter loss was a textbook case of a defeat that left no sting. On the road, in a tough building, without second-leading scorer Daniel Dixon (out with the flu), the Wrens went to overtime before falling in a 97-94 classic. We're not losing sleep over that one.
Not only is the CAA arguably the most competitive conference in the NCAA this year, the league is having one of its best seasons in history, top to (nearly) bottom. Boosted by a strong out of conference performance, the CAA is currently ranked 9th in RPI, the highest in league history at this point in a season). At 55, W&M boasts the league's highest RPI.
The competitive nature of the conference makes for compelling basketball nearly every league night, but it's a bit of shame in one sense. CAA teams are eating their own, all but assuring the league's once promising chance of multiple NCAA bids have dwindled away to nothing. Alas, poor #2bids4caa, we knew you well.
#1bid4wmtribe, though, is still in play. And like always, it'll come down to March. The Tribe doesn't need to win the league, but they do need to find a way to finish in the top six and avoid a first-round conference tournament matchup. That's a pretty strong likelihood, given what we've seen of this team. (In an amusing conference history coincidence, the first round of the CAA tournament is colloquially called Pillow Fight Friday, as it features the bottom four teams in the league.)
One of the ways they'll do that is by winning at home and beating bad teams wherever they play them. W&M gets a chance to take care of the first part of that equation tonight when Elon comes to the TribeDome. The Phoenix are in seventh place in the league, but only a game out of first at 3-3 in CAA play.
Saturday, the Tribe heads to Hempstead, NY to take on fellow co-leader Hofstra. That place is a house of horrors for W&M, which makes the Elon matchup all the more important. We'll take 5-3 after this weekend.