CAA Road Record and CAA Tournament success: Does it matter?
Winning on the road is a necessity in the CAA. This has to be true, because the CAA Tournament never gets played at Trask Coliseum, Matthews Arena, Kaplan Arena, or any of the other CAA venues around the league.
True, when the tournament was hosted in Richmond, there was a case to be made they VCU held "home court advantage". The same may be true for Charleston this year.
But logically, it makes sense that road record should matter as a predictor for CAA Tournament success, right?
Below are the top road teams in CAA play over the last 3 seasons and how the CAA Tournament played out. I chose just the last 3 years for 2 reasons: 1) The CAA was very different prior to 2013, and 2) The tournament was held in a neutral location (Baltimore) all 3 years.
Championship game: Delaware over W&M
Championship game: Northeastern over W&M
Championship game: UNCW over Hofstra
So as you can see, in each of the last 3 years, the CAA championship game paired 2 teams that had top-3 road records in league play.
But that seems obvious, right? The teams at the top tend to have good road records because they're good teams, and are title game contenders.
But this year might be a little different. Home teams have won at an extremely high rate (52-28, .650 winning %) in league play this year, meaning some very good teams have struggled to win on the road.
Just look at the gulf amongst the teams that are in the Top 6 in the standings:
Towson 3-4 (2 road games left to play)
Northeastern 2-5 (2 road games left to play)
Towson can only attain a winning CAA road record if they win their final 2 road games. Elon, NU and W&M all have secured losing records on the road.
In order of concern for those 4 teams, I'd say Northeastern should have the least concern. They won a series of big road games in non-conference play (most notably Michigan State, UCONN and Vermont) and have been plagued by injuries in some of their league road losses. They're healthy now and ready to make a deep run.
Towson should be moderately concerned. They began their CAA slate with 4 straight losses, 3 of which occurred on the road, back when they very clearly weren't the same team as they are now. Still, they did lose @ Northeastern on January 28th, and their performance in their final 2 road games will be telling.
Elon and W&M should be VERY concerned, meanwhile. While some of the Tribe's recent road losses have been close games, they had no business dropping an 18-point loss to Drexel or falling to JMU. Elon managed to lose to Delaware and also got blown out by Towson on the road.
Given that UNCW and Charleston are certain to have the largest fanbases in attendance at the CAA Tournament, a hostile environment will be expected in games involving those 2 schools. The fact that both have had a lot of road success should also have some predictive value.
A tournament championship that does not pit UNCW vs. Charleston, given all of this information, would be surprising. But of course, games aren't played on paper, and this year could just as easily buck the trend. The league is deep and strong, and every game should be a dogfight.