George Mason, Left Behind in the CAA
The college basketball landscape is shifting. Outside of the Big East, no one has felt the brunt of this quite like the George Mason Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association. Their resulting boon of the mass school swap is two-headed: one good, one bad.
On the plus side, nearly all of George Mason’s top competitors for the CAA crown have departed. VCU, the Big Dance Cinderella who finished second in the conference this past season, left for the Atlantic 10. Old Dominion, another CAA power who ended fourth in 2012, will leave for Conference USA after this season. And not to be discounted, middle-of-the-pack Georgia State will also be gone to the Sun Belt Conference. The CAA is searching, scrounging, for replacements to fill out their conference but it seems unlikely any fill-in will be at the level of George Mason or Drexel for tops in the Colonial.
In an odd set of coincidental circumstances, according to reports, Towson and UNC-Wilmington will be ineligible for postseason play because of academic failures. Throw in the movers and the teams already gone and it seems as though half the conference cannot sniff the title and it will have nothing to do with how well they play on the court.
On the opposite side of the two-team battle for a championship George Mason finds themselves in, lies the outlook for their conference. It seems dim. Having had such wild success in recent years in the NCAA Tournament, CAA schools have gotten a bit big-headed. At-large berths out of the conference were becoming normal, even expected; three teams from the CAA making March Madness seemed plausible at any time. Now however, the Colonial will most certainly be a one-bid league for the foreseeable future. George Mason (along with Drexel) knows they must come out on top and win the conference to have any hopes of taking a step deep into March. When the Patriots made the Final Four a few years back, it started a string of great performances in the Tournament from them and their CAA peers. Any such future performances will be hard to come by.