CAA Media Day Comes To An End

By Phil Kasiecki - October 17, 2007

WASHINGTON -- We're finished for the day at the ESPN Zone in the nation's capital.

In the afternoon, the preseason all-conference teams were presented for both men's and women's basketball, and Tom Yeager talked about where the conference has come. He noted that the conference is attempting to shed the "one-bid league" label and show that it's not just a flash in the pan.

"We're going to approach every season with the idea of getting multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament," said Yeager, who has guided the CAA since its inception.

Now, more notes on the remaining six teams. This will wrap up our portion from the ESPN Zone in the nation's capital, as most have headed out of here already. What had been a busy place without much walking room -- Yeager said this year saw another record media turnout for this event -- has now become quiet as the CAA staff cleans up.

Drexel lost a lot defensively and in the backcourt, but Bruiser Flint won't be changing his defensive focus. He called Chaz Crawford "probably the best defensive player I ever coached," which tells you how important his loss is and how much it's probably being understated by many who first note that the Dragons lost their starting guards. Frank Elegar is the star at the offensive end, but Flint is now looking for more defensively from him. He had the quote of the day when he said that he told Elegar, "You didn't have to guard anybody for two years," referring to the two seasons he has had significant playing time after not playing much as a freshman.

Tom Pecora, who entertained us after lunch with a few playful jabs at Bruiser regarding the new emphasis on the coach's box, said that having the strength his Hofstra team has in the frontcourt is a pleasant problem to have, and that his team will play a little differently this year. Adding Greg Washington is "huge", Pecora said, because he feels last year's projection of the team was based largely on him joining the team. With Antoine Agudio, who projects to be a Player of the Year candidate, he repeated a line he's told his star players before: "With greatness comes great responsibility." His backcourt has some inexperience after Agudio and junior Greg Johnson, the latter of whom he feels will do a good job running the show.

Northeastern head coach Bill Coen is taking the same approach with his non-conference schedule last year: it's a tour of education. Yes, the schedule is loaded with road games (only one non-conference game will be played at home), but it's not about the name on the front of the opposing jersey. His team will be young (nine of 13 players are freshmen or sophomores), and he knows his guards especially will be tested early, saying that they "will be thrown into the fire at Illinois and at Maryland in the first week."

Old Dominion lost three players from last season's team who were part of the winningest four-year stretch in the program's history. Head coach Blaine Taylor talked about the program turning the page, which they did last season and look to do this year. He feels it's a good thing that they have more experience in the backcourt, where Brandon Johnson and Brian Henderson are key seniors and Abdi Lidonde is another fifth-year player in the rotation. On the larger subject of the CAA, Taylor said a real reason for the conference's success, one that doesn't get much notice, is that every team has improved and it's not a conference where there is usually one dominant team every year.

A large contributor to George Mason's up-and-down season last year was the unknown: New players didn't know Jim Larranaga as well as they do now, he didn't know them, and many of the holdovers had trouble adjusting to new roles. Larranaga said that at the end of last season, one could see that they were all more familiar and knew what was expected. That bodes well for the team picked to win the conference, as the talent and experience is certainly there.

Anthony Grant said he was asked several times about his team being one with a target on their back from being picked as a serious contender. His response was simply that he doesn't look at it that way, saying that "last year was last year, they're not going to take the conference championship away from us." He spoke often of seven newcomers this team has and said that he's been pleased thus far with how they have taken to his veterans such as Eric Maynor and seniors Will Fameni, Jamal Shuler and Michael Anderson.

Posted by Phil Kasiecki at 02:09 PM on October 17, 2007

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