No. 15: The Colonial’s Not Dead Yet
Over the past two years, no one has jumped on the Colonial bandwagon more than we have. That faith cost us dearly last year, when the committee ignored its own criteria for mid-majors to get an at-large bid (go and beat someone out of conference) and snubbed the Dragons despite upsets of Syracuse, Villanova, and Creighton.
As a new season tips-off, we refuse to let the committee’s actions last March, or some pre-season projections that the league is finally on the decline, cloud our opinion of what we feel again will be one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the country. Yes, the middle-tier of the conference is weak (Hofstra, Drexel, and Old Dominion – last year’s at-large from the Colonial, will all take a step back this year), but the top of the league is talented enough and has scheduled well enough to again earn the Colonial two bids.
The key to this two-big projection is VCU. The Commodores not only return star Eric Maynor and a ton of confidence taken from last year’s tourney upset of Duke, but they also have a decent enough OOC schedule to impress the committee down the road. VCU plays at Maryland, at Bradley and home against Houston all before Christmas and with a decent Bracket Buster win thrown in later on, the Commodores, provided they win most of those games, should be in good shape. Remember, ODU got in last year on the coattails of its early-season win over Georgetown. VCU should be able to do they same with Maryland and Co.
The second Colonial team dancing will be the team that shot the league to stardom in the first place – George Mason. Two years removed from its miraculous Final Four run, the Patriots return Will Thomas, Dre Smith, and Folarin Campbell and should be in a dogfight with VCU all season for the conference title. Where Mason will earn its bid, though, is in the conference tourney. Their OOC schedule is too weak to warrant at-large consideration (their only notable game is at Kansas State), but the Patriots are certainly tournament tested, and we think that they will beat VCU in the Colonial final to earn a return trip to the dance.
To sum up, despite reports to the contrary, the honeymoon period for the Colonial is not over quite yet. Our Bold Prediction No. 15 is that the league will earn two bids this season: VCU as a 10 and George Mason as a 12.