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Date published: 2/7/2007
By TODD JACOBSON
George Mason's run to last year's Final Four didn't just raise the bar for mid-major basketball teams across the country. It provided a big boost to the reputation of the Colonial Athletic Association.
But the league might need a late-season surge from its top four teams to get a pair of squads into the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.
Virginia Commonwealth, Hofstra, Old Dominion and Drexel have positioned themselves well to be considered by the selection committee, but none is a lock for an at-large bid with five games left in the regular season.
The CAA tournament winner earns an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
"I don't know if it's out of the realm of possibility that someone could get an at-large from our league, but I think from now to the end of the season some people are going to have to better their cause," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said.
That's not to say the CAA's perception around the nation hasn't changed. Once considered a one-bid league, the CAA earned attention from George Mason's run, and a quartet of teams can make viable cases to make the tourney.
However, none of the league's top teams are positioned like George Mason, UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra were a year ago. After Wilmington earned the league's automatic berth, the Patriots were an at-large selection over Hofstra, then made a statement for all mid-majors with a run to the Final Four.
"The conference didn't do it this year," said Jerry Palm, who runs CollegeRPI.com, a Web site that mirrors the NCAA's RPI. "The conference was much better last year. There might be a thought in the mind of the committee to give nonmajors more of a chance or think better of them, but it probably won't benefit the CAA this year."
A year ago, George Mason was ranked 26th in the Rating Percentage Index, one of the tools used by the NCAA Selection Committee to choose teams.
Virginia Commonwealth is the CAA's top-ranked team in the RPI this season at 53. Drexel, Hofstra and ODU are all in the Top 70.