COUGARS DEN: Is CofC-James Madison game a preview for CAA Tournament?

CofC's Evan Bailey. The College of Charleston Cougars played Southern Wesleyan in an exhibition game Thursday night at TD Arena. Wade Spees/Staff November 5, 2015

The Thursday night match-up between James Madison and College of Charleston could be a preview of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

Depending on how things shake out, and there’s certainly a good bit of basketball left to be played, the Dukes and Cougars could face off in the opening round of the tournament. JMU, Hofstra and Towson are all 8-4 in the league and vying for the No. 3 seed. The Cougars are one-game back at 7-5 and right now are the No. 6 seed.

It’ll be interesting to see where the Cougars fall in the standings at season’s end. I think the Cougars should win the Elon and Delaware matchups, but will be underdogs in Thursday’s game with JMU, Northeastern, Hofstra and UNCW contests. Four of the final five games will be on the road, too.

Let’s say they go 2-4 and finish 9-9 in the CAA. That would mean a matchup with JMU or Hofstra or perhaps William & Mary. I could see Hofstra finishing second in the league. I believe UNCW is the team to beat this season.

So, playing well against the Dukes is important.

Cougars head coach Earl Grant said the Cougars are starting to build some momentum as they head into tournament. The Cougars have won two straight and five of their six games.

“We’re getting better, and defense and rebounding always travel, so going on the road isn’t that big of a deal to us,” Grant said.

So as members of the media were waiting to talk with Earl Grant today, the topic of the UConn women’s basketball team and All-American forward/guard Breanna Stewart came up in conversation.

A couple of TV personalities (who will remain nameless so they are not embarrassed) said Breanna Stewart could come off the bench and play for the Cougars.

My reaction: These guys are coo coo for cocoa puffs.

Breanna Stewart is the best women’s college basketball player on the planet and maybe one of the best women’s players, period.

Still, that’s a far cry from being able to play with Division I men.

Now, CofC coach Earl Grant was very diplomatic when asked off camera. He said he’d have to see her play in person. Earl was being nice.

There’s no way she could play with the guys from CofC. Period. End of discussion.

She’s 6-4, so about the size of Cameron Johnson, without the speed, quickness, athleticism or strength. Payton Hulsey is 6-5 and can defend just about anyone from a point guard to power forward in the CAA.

Can you imagine Stewart going up against Jarrell Brantley? He had 29 points against James Madison, he’d score 50 against Stewart and UConn.

Evan Bailey, who is 6-6, plays just about the same position as Stewart. Even the slightly-built Bailey would destroy her on the perimeter and in the paint.

Hammond Academy, based out of Columbia, would beat the UConn women.

CofC women’s coach Candice M. Jackson, who was at the South Carolina-UConn game on Monday, said that some of the men’s players would struggle against Stewart.

And before you email or text me about how Stewart would dominate me on the court, don’t bother. Of course, she would. I’m a fat, 50-something guy who hasn’t played basketball in more than a decade. This isn’t about me or my skill level.

Onto other matters.

As I went around the fan websites this week, I noticed a post from a CofC fan that called the CAA a “low” mid-major conference.

Huh?

OK, there are 32 NCAA Division I men’s basketball conferences. The CAA is ranked 9th in the latest RPI rankings out of those 32 conferences. Now, is the CAA a Power 5 conference? (ACC, SEC, Big 10), no. The CAA isn’t as good as the A-10 or Big East or the new American Athletic Conference.

But the CAA is in the next group of conferences along with the Mountain West, Missouri Valley and Mid-American conferences – all like the CAA one-bid tournament leagues. The West Coast Conference (14th) features St. Mary’s and Gonzaga, which both should make the tournament.

So, to say that the CAA is “low” mid major is just plain stupid and a reminder about how ill-informed fans can be at times.

The CAA is the definition of a solid, mid-major conference.

Enclosed is Earl’s post-game press conference after the Drexel win. It has highlights as well.

JAMES MADISON (18-7, 8-4 in CAA) at COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (15-8, 7-5 in CAA)

When: Thursday.

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Where: TD Arena.

TV/Radio: My TV/WTMZ 910-AM

Series History: Series Tied 3-3

Last Meeting: CofC def. James Madison, 65-62, on Dec. 31, 2015

THE COACHES

College of Charleston: Earl Grant is 24-32 in 2nd season at CofC.

James Madison: : Matt Brady, 136-123, in 8th season at JMU; 209-173, in 12th season overall

PROJECTED COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON STARTERS

#21 Marquise Pointer, G, 6-0, 205, Fr. (11.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 28.8 min)

#12 Cameron Johnson, G, 6-4, 196, So. (12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, 32.1 min)

#3 Payton Hulsey, G, 6-5, 215, Jr.-Tr. (4.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 27.2 min)

#5 Jarrell Brantley, F, 6-7, 245, Fr. (11.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 27.0 min)

#23 Nick Harris, F, 6-10, 245, RS-Fr. (4.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.4 apg, 18.8 min)

PROJECTED JAMES MADISON STARTERS

#1 Shakir Brown, G, 6-6, 220, Jr. (12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 26.0 min)

#2 Ron Curry, G, 6-3, 200, Sr. (16.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.6 apg, 33.0 min)

#10 Jackson Kent, G, 6-7, 200, Jr. (7.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 25.4 min)

#13 Tom Vodanovich, F, 6-7, 215, Jr. (5.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 23.6 min)

#40 Yohanny Dalembert, F, 6-8, 230, Jr. (8.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.7 apg, 20.1 min)

APM