By Catherine Morrison

On October 27th, the CAA preseason poll for women’s basketball was released, putting last year’s regular season champions Delaware and last year’s tournament champions Drexel tied at the top and Northeastern last. With a little under two weeks until the season starts, it’s time for the annual roundup of women’s basketball in the Colonial Athletic Association. 

Both Drexel and Delaware received five first-place votes and a total of 77 points. The Drexel Dragons are the reigning champions, having beaten Delaware in the CAA championship game. Drexel went 14-9 last year and received a tournament bid after defeating Delaware in the conference championship, 63-52. The Dragons were seeded 14th and lost in the first round to the University of Georgia, capping an incredible run. Northeastern played Drexel twice last season and lost both times. Almost all of their players will be returning this year, making them just as dangerous as they were last year. Two key players to watch out for will be Hannah Nihill, who won CAA defensive player of the year last season and only needs 39 more points to join the 1,000 club, and Keishana Washington, who excelled in the CAA Tournament and was the CAA Championship most outstanding player. 

The Blue Hens were the regular season conference champions with a record of 24-5, only losing two conference games the entire season. As conference champions, they went to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament and made it all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to Rice University. Star player Jasmine Dickey, who won CAA player of the year for the 2020-21 season, was named CAA preseason player of the year. Another key player on the team is Ty Battle, who was second in the nation in double-doubles last year. Delaware beat Northeastern four times last year, and will be a strong competitor this season, making another run at the CAA Championship. 

Coming in third was James Madison, who went 14-10 last season and split their only series against Northeastern. They beat Northeastern in the first round of the CAA tournament, but lost against Drexel in the semifinals. Although a majority of their squad is returning this year, they are still a fairly young team compared to the rest of the conference, with their star player Kiki Jefferson only a sophomore. Jefferson received Rookie of the Year honors last season, leading her team in scoring, rebounds, and steals. It should be interesting to see what this team can do with a little more experience. 

Receiving fourth were the Towson Tigers, who went 13-9 last season and also split their only series against Northeastern. They lost to Hofstra in overtime in the CAA quarterfinals. Despite getting fourth, Towson got the most pre-season awards, with Aleah Nelson selected for the preseason second team and Rayne Tucker and Anissa Rivera receiving honorable mentions. Nelson was ranked eighth nationally and first in the CAA in assists and was second on the team in scoring. One huge loss for the Tigers is Kionna Jeter, who was the first player in program history to be drafted by the WNBA and was signed by the Las Vegas Aces. Despite the loss, Towson has many strong  newcomers that should fill in quite nicely. Towson’s program is getting stronger and stronger every year and should be an interesting watch this season. 

Next up is Hofstra, who received 47 points and placed fifth. Hostra went 8-12 on the season, lost in the semifinals in the CAA tournament last season against Delaware, and split both series against Northeastern. All five of Hofstra’s starters are returning, which should help the Pride come back better than even this season. A key player to watch is JaKayla Brown, who was selected to the second all conference preseason team and led her team with an average of 16.3 points per game. Another player to look out for is Sorelle Ineza, who was out last season with an injury. Ineza was selected for the CAA All-Rookie Team her freshman year and should be a key addition to Hofstra’s offense. 

Coming in sixth was Elon, who were slightly under .500 with a record of 7-8, only winning three conference games. Elon was slated to play Northeastern in early January but it was postponed and never rescheduled, making the last time Elon played Northeastern February 16th, 2020. Elon lost to powerhouse Drexel in the conference quarterfinals. Elon had a tough time last season, playing their last regular season game on February 7th, making their matchup against Drexel the first time they had played a game in over a month. They also lost three seniors from last season, meaning the team will need to hit the ground running when their season starts. One player who should be able to ease the transition is Brie Perpignan, who started all fifteen games last season and led her team in points per game and assists, earning her an honorable mention in the preseason awards. 

Rounding out the bottom three (excluding Northeastern, who ranked last) are Charleston, William & Mary, and UNCW, who ranked seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively. Charleston went 6-9 last year and lost in the first round of the CAA tournament. W&M went 6-7 last season but hope to do better this season with returning vets and a stellar freshman class. Lastly, UNCW went 7-14, only winning three in conference play. UNCW lost a lot of last season’s starters and looks to rebuild this season with a large incoming freshman class. 

Overall, the CAA is evenly split into halves, with the top five teams each competitive and dangerous in their own right, and the bottom five teams having a harder go of it. The CAA is a difficult conference to compete in, but it will make for some exciting games this season. 

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