The Colonial Athletic Association has consistently been the premier mid-major conference in college basketball, so much so that to some the league has in some ways transcended the mid-major label with its recent success. However, the conference will not be quite as good. There are three top dogs in Drexel, Delaware and George Mason, but the rest of the league is average.
This year, the makeup of the conference is different.
Virginia Commonwealth has left for the Atlantic 10, dropping the number of teams in the league to 11.
The postseason will look dramatically different, as the conference tournament will field only seven teams.
Old Dominion and Georgia State were ruled ineligible to compete in the conference tournament after they joined Conference USA and the Sun Belt, respectively. (They will essentially be independents playing a CAA schedule.)
Meanwhile, Towson and UNC-Wilmington are both being penalized for low Academic Progress Rate scores, banning them from the postseason.
Here is a 2012-13 season preview for the CAA, with team-by-team breakdowns, a preseason all-conference team and predictions for how the final standings will shape up.
Lost: Kelvin McNeil, Samer Madarani, Hakim McCullar, Khalid Lewis
Gained: Carl Baptiste, Maurice Jeffers
After winning 18 games last year and advancing to the CBI, Delaware is in position to challenge for the CAA title.
The Blue Hens return their five leading scorers from last season, starting with junior guard Devon Saddler.
Saddler was No. 2 in scoring in the conference last year with 19.1 points per game. Only twice was he held to less than 10 points. In addition to being a scorer, Saddler is a solid rebounder for his 6'2" frame with 4.1 per game last season.
Senior Jamelle Hagins anchors the Blue Hen's frontcourt. The 6'8" Hagins averaged a double-double last year with 12.4 points per game and 11.1 rebounds. He was also No. 2 in the CAA in blocks with three per game.
The Blue Hens also return Jarvis Threatt (10.7 points per game), Kyle Anderson (8.9) and Josh Brinkley (8.7).
Delaware adds an extra pair of bigs in freshman Maurice Jeffers and St. Joe's transfer Carl Baptiste.
Baptiste averaged only 1.4 points and 1.1 rebounds as a Hawk, but he will have a chance to contribute immediately with Delaware.
This will easily be Monte Ross' most talented team since he took over at Delaware in 2006.
Lost: Samme Givens
Gained: Tavon Allen, Casey Carroll
Drexel is once again a top dog in this conference. The Dragons were snubbed from the NCAA tournament last year, but they return everyone except starting forward Samme Givens, who was a main contributor with 11.6 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
The Dragons will once again have a deep backcourt with Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee, Chris Fouch and Derrick Thomas.
Massenat was an All-CAA first team last season, averaging 13.7 points per game and 4.8 assists per game. He also shot 45 percent from three-point range.
Lee won CAA Rookie of the Year last year. He burst onto the scene immediately as Drexel's second-best scorer with 12 points per game.
Fouch scored 10.8 points per game and led the team with 65 made three-pointers, and Thomas provided 8.1 points per game and 2.1 assists.
In the frontcourt, Bruiser Flint will have Dartaye Ruffin and Daryl McCoy.
Lost: Mike Morrison, Ryan Pearson, Andre Cornelius
Gained: Anali Okoloji
George Mason takes a big hit after graduating Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius this year.
The Patriots will have a thin frontcourt without Pearson and Morrison, but they have a pair players that played smaller roles last season that could be ready for breakout seasons.
Erik Copes, who was a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2011, averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a freshman last year. Most notably, he proved his defensive prowess with 1.9 blocks in 15 minutes per game.
Jonathan Arledge, a 6'9" forward, averaged 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds last season as a sophomore.
Although there are questions in the frontcourt, George Mason's backcourt will be deep and talented.
The Patriots lost Cornelius' 6.7 points per game, but Sherrod Wright, Vetrail Vaughns and Byron Allen are all returning after strong 2011-12 seasons. This trio of juniors makes up one of the best backcourts in the conference.
Lost: Josh Micheaux, James Fields, Jihad Ali, Eric Buckner, Brandon McGee, Jamar Taylor, Tony Kimbro Jr.
Gained: LaRon Smith, Manny Atkins, Markus Crider, R.J. Hunter, David Travers, TJ Shipes, Cameron Solomon
Georgia State put together a 20-win season last year by playing great defense. In the Pomeroy Ratings, the Panthers ranked No. 20 on defense.
The Panthers return their leading scorer, Devonta White, who averaged 12.9 points and 2.9 assists last year. He was also a 34.4 percent three-point shooter. White, who will be a junior this year, had three outings with 20 or more points.
Aside from White, Georgia State does not return much else.
The only other returning player who averaged more than 10 minutes per game is Rashaad Richardson, a 6'3" guard who scored 5.4 points per game and shot 34.8 percent from deep.
The Panthers do have a trio of incoming players with the potential to make an immediate impact. Transfer Manny Atkins averaged 4.9 points at Virginia Tech in 2010-11. He averaged 10 points over two NIT games. Cameron Solomon, a junior college transfer, averaged 24.9 points per game as a high school senior, and Markus Crider, who was a 3-star recruit on ESPN.com.
Lost: Mike Moore, Nathaniel Lester, Dwan McMillan, Bryant Crowder, Shemiye McLendon
Gained: Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Taran Buie, Daquan Brown, Jimmy Hall, Dallas Anglin, Darren Payen, Kentrell Washington, Jordan Allen
Hofstra won only 10 games last season despite having the conference's leading scorer in Mike Moore.
Now Moore's 19.9 points per game are gone, along with Nathaniel Lester's 14.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. The Pride also lost starting point guard Dwan McMillan, who led the CAA in assists last year with 4.8 per game.
Hofstra's best newcomer is Connecticut transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. Coombs-McDaniel, a 6'7" forward, averaged 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Huskies two seasons ago and will provide help for David Imes, Moussa Kone and Stephen Nwaukoni in the frontcourt.
However, he, along with Penn State transfer Taran Buie, are suspended for the first two games of the season.
Shaquille Stokes, a Hawaii transfer who averaged 8.4 points and 2.2 assists in his freshman season, is applying for a hardship waiver from the NCAA to make him eligible immediately.
The Pride will likely start Steve Mejia, who averaged 2.1 assists last year, Shaquille Stokes, if his waiver is granted, Coombs-McDaniel, Imes and either Kone and Nwaukoni.
Lost: Humpty Hitchens, James Millen, Julius Wells, Keynan Pittman, Trevon Flores
Gained: Ron Curry, Charles Cooke, Andre Nation, Dimitije Cabarkapa, Taylor Bessick
James Madison lost a key player in Humpty Hitchens, who averaged 14.9 points and 3.7 assists last year while shooting 38.9 percent on three-pointers, but the other key parts of the Dukes' team are back for 2012-13.
A.J. Davis, Andrey Semenov and Devon Moore are all back after averaging 15.9 points, 10.2 points and 8.8 points, respectively.
Davis has the potential to lead the conference in scoring, and Semenov is one of the best shooters in the conference. Last year, he converted 44 percent of his three-point attempts.
Rayshawn Goins, who missed all of last season, is also back with the team. Goins averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds during his junior season, and he will join Semenov in the frontcourt.
The Dukes will likely finish somewhere in the middle of the conference this year, but they simply do not have the talent to compete with the top dogs like Delaware and Drexel.
Lost: Adam Smith, Trevor Deloach, Cam Chambers, Donte Morales, K.K. Simmons, Keegan Pace
Gained: C.J. Gettys, Chris Dixon, Tyree Graham
UNC-Wilmington had the potential for a good season before Adam Smith transferred to Virginia Tech. Smith, who averaged 13.7 points and 3.2 rebounds during his freshman season, created a great inside-outside duo with Keith Rendleman, who averaged a double-double with 15.3 points and 10 rebounds.
With Smith and K.K. Simmons gone, the Seahawks are very thin in the backcourt. They will have to rely on Craig Ponder, who played in only four games last year, and Freddie Jackson, who averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 assists.
In the frontcourt, the Seahawks have Rendleman, who is a potential CAA Player of the Year. Rendleman posted 16 double-doubles and had as many as 18 rebounds in a single game.
Lost: Kashief Edwards, Ryan Pierson, Kauri Black, Alwayne Bigby, Alex Bates, Devin Figueroa
Gained: David Walker, Kwesi Abakah, Derrico Peck, Zach Stahl
Northeastern returns its top four scorers from last season.
The Huskies have a very strong and experienced backcourt with seniors Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith. Lee averaged 14.5 points, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals last year, and Smith averaged 12.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Both are also sharpshooters, with Lee at 41.7 percent and Smith at 36.5 percent.
In the frontcourt, they have Quincy Ford and Reggie Spencer. Ford averaged 11.5 points, five rebounds and 1.9 steals last year, and Spencer had 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Although Northeastern sports a solid starting lineup, it lost the rest of its rotation. The Huskies will have to rely on either newcomers or guys who saw very little of the court last year to fill those holes.
Lost: Kent Bazemore, Chris Cooper, Marquel De Lancey, Breon Key, Trian Iliadis, Nayquann Mitchell, Shquan Rogers
Gained: DeShawn Painter, Keenan Palmore, Aaron Bacote, Deion Clark, Ekene Anachebe, Ambrose Mosley, Stuart McEwen
Old Dominion is not eligible for the CAA conference tournament because of its move to Conference USA next season, so the Monarchs will essentially be playing as an independent.
The Monarchs lost a lot of last year's team that went 22-14 and advanced to the CIT quarterfinal. Kent Bazemore, Chris Cooper and Trian Iliadis all graduated. Bazemore was the team's star with 15.4 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game, and Cooper was the main post player with 10.5 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Old Dominion also lost Marquel De Lancey, who averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 assists in 23.8 minutes.
The Monarchs looked ready for a very disappointing final year in the CAA, but the addition of N.C. State transfer DeShawn Painter gives them hope.
Painter, a 6'9" center, averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds last year for the Wolfpack. He struggled in his three NCAA tournament games, averaging five points on 42.9 percent shooting.
Lost: Robert Nwankwo, Jervon Pressley, Will Adams, Alex Giergen, Deon Jones, Deyon Cook, RaShawn Polk, Bryan Blackstone, Erique Gumbs
Gained: Bilal Dixon, Jerome Hairston, T.J. Parker-Rivera, Barrington Alston, Marquis Marshall, Rafriel Guthrie, Mike Burwell, Jerrelle Benimon
Towson returns only two players that made significant contributions to last year's one-win season: Marcus Damas (12.5 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game) and Kris Walden (6.6 points per game, 3.2 assists per game).
The Tigers have no notable incoming freshmen, but they do have a pair of eligible transfers from the Big East in Bilal Dixon from Providence and Jerrelle Benimon from Georgetown.
Dixon transferred to Towson after watching his playing time decrease each year with the Friars. Last year, he averaged only 4.3 points and 4.1 rebounds, but as a freshman he averaged 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Benimon, on the other hand, was not as successful against top-of-the-line competition. During his sophomore season with Georgetown, he averaged 1.3 points and 1.8 rebounds.
Lost: Quinn McDowell, Kendrix Brown, JohnMark Ludwick
Gained: Sean Sheldon, Terry Tarpey
William & Mary lost Quinn McDowell, its leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, but the Tribe is in shape to improve this season. They return all of the other players who were in the rotation last year, except for Kendrix Brown, who averaged four points and 4.3 rebounds in 24.5 minutes.
The Tribe returns sophomore Marcus Thornton and junior Tim Rusthoven as the team's two stars.
Thornton averaged 11.1 points last year as a freshman. He had three outings with 20 or more points, including a career-high 28 points against VCU.
Rusthoven has the potential to average a double-double this year. Last season, he averaged 10.3 points and 6.6 rebounds
William & Mary will also have senior Matt Rum and juniors Brandon Britt and Julian Boatner to help out Thornton in the backcourt.
In the frontcourt, redshirt junior Kyle Gaillard will likely start. As a sophomore, Gaillard averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Drexel coach Bruiser Flint has the Dragons as a favorite once again in the CAA.
3. George Mason
5. James Madison
6. Old Dominion
7. Georgia State
9. William & Mary
Frantz Massenat, Drexel
Devon Saddler, Delaware
Darius Theus, VCU
Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
Keith Rendleman, UNC-Wilmington
CAA Preseason Player of the Year: Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
Defensive Player of the Year: Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
Newcomer of the Year: Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Hofstra