By Robert Canady: email@example.com
The Colonial Athletic Conference tournament begins Friday in Richmond, VA. The conference’s top four teams, Drexel (regular season champions) George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion all have byes into the tournaments quarterfinals on Saturday. We will take a closer look at them later in the week. Here is a look at the first round matchups.
Game 1: #8 James Madison 12-19 (5-13) vs. #9 UNCW 9-20 (5-13) 12:00 pm
The two teams only met once in the conference season and that was a 69-61 JMU victory in Wilmington, NC on January 18th. Senior guard Humpty Hitchens who had a career high 27 points in the win led the Dukes in scoring. Redshirt junior guard A.J. Davis also contributed 18 points and a career high eight rebounds. Kieth Rendleman the CAA’s fifth leading scorer (15.6) had 12 points to go along with 18 rebounds for the Seahawks.
While the teams may have finished in the lower half of the conference, the game could offer some good individual offensive performances. Four of the top league’s top 10 scorers will be in the matchup: JMU’s Davis 4th and Hitchens 7th along with UNCW’s Rendleman 5th and Adam Smith 10th.
Both teams finished season with an equal record in conference play. A key to the matchup may be determined from behind the 3-pt arc. JMU is second in the conference in three-point percentage. They are making a conference leading average of 7.8 per game and shooting .362 percent from 3-point range. UNCW on the other hand trails only Drexel and VCU in three-point defense, allowing only .314 percent.
Coaches: James Madison is coached by Matt Brady who is in his fourth year at the helm. Buzz Peterson, a member of North Carolina’s 1982 national championship team, is completing his second year as the Seahawks head coach. Pick: JMU 58 UNCW 52
Game 2: #5 Delaware 17-12 (12-6) vs. #12 Towson 1-30 (1-17) 2:30 pm
These two teams will be meeting for the third time this year and second time in the past nine days. Delaware won the first meeting of the year 62-43 in Newark. The Tigers played the Blue Hens much closer on February 22nd in Towson before falling 76-69, a game that wasn’t decided until the last minute. In that game, Delaware freshman Jarvis Threatt scored a season high 29 points including 16 of 19 from the free throw line. Towson kept the result in doubt until the end, in part due to seven combined three-pointers from sophomore Marcus Damas (21 points) and freshman Kris Walden (18 points.)
There is a stat that no team that has played on Friday has made it to the final game of the tournament. Delaware is a team that is fully capable of pulling off that task. The Blue Hens enter the game on an eight game winning streak that started with a 65-60 victory over George Mason. They and Drexel are the only two CAA teams not to have lost during the month of February.
Delaware under head coach Monte’ Ross is loaded with offensive firepower. Threatt has been named CAA Rookie of the Week four times since January 23rd . Sophomore Devon Saddler is second in the conference in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Junior Jamelle Hagins adds 12.7 points a game and guard Kyle Anderson leads the team and all freshman in the conference with 64 three pointers.
Coaches: Towson has begun rebuilding under first year head coach Pat Skerry. Despite the inexperienced roster that has only one scholarship letter winner, the Tigers have played very hard and taken a few of the league’s top teams down to the wire. Better days are ahead for the Tigers in the tournament, but this year most likely will not be one of them. Pick: Delaware 71 Towson 55
Game 3: #7 Northeastern 13-16 (9-9) vs. #10 William & Mary 6-25 (4-14) 6:00 pm
This may be the least intriguing game of the first day matchups. The two teams split the season series each winning at home, Northeastern prevailing 64-50 in January and William & Mary winning big 79-54 on February 11th. Northeastern started the conference season with a promising 5-2 mark before losing six of their next eight games. They also had non-conference wins against, St. Johns, Boston University and Southern Illinois. In addition, Northeastern knocked George Mason out of a first place tie with Drexel in the second to last game of the season with an 85-82 Overtime victory at home.
Junior guard Jonathan Lee leads the Huskies. Lee provides constant on court leadership, as he was second in the CAA this year with 35.7 minutes played per game. He is also the team’s leading scorer contributing 14.6 points per game. Junior Joel Smith, who is the Huskies second leading scorer with 12.9 points per game, compliments Lee in the backcourt. Both players are capable of taking over a game and putting up big numbers. Smith ended the regular season averaging 20.7 points a game over his last four games and had a season high 29 points in the victory over St. Johns. Lee was very consistent all season, scoring in double figures in all but three games and two of those he had nine points. Lee had a season high 27 points in the win over George Mason.
The Tribe has a combination of experience and youth. Senior Quinn McDowell leads the way with 12.7 points per game and freshman Marcus Thornton is close behind with 11.1 per game. Thornton seems to thrive on tough completion as he had a team season high 28 points against VCU on February 1st and scored 23 on the road against George Mason in January. McDowell for his part had 27 points against UNCW and 26 on the road at Towson.
Coaches: Bill Coen is completing his sixth season as head coach at Northeastern. Tony Shaver is in his 9th year at William & Mary. He took his team to the 2010 NIT and is a two time (2008, 2010) CAA Coach of the Year. Pick: Northeastern 64 William & Mary 50
Game 4: #6 Georgia St. 20-10 (11-7) vs. #11 Hofstra 10-21 (3-15) 8:30 pm
Because of the CAA’s unbalanced schedule, these teams only met once and that was not until the 13th conference game of the season in which Georgia St. won easily on the road in Hempstead, NY. Georgia State has had a roller coaster season if ever a team has had one. After losing all three games in the season opening World Vision Classic in Seattle Washington, they won 11 games in a row. That included a 5 -1 mark to start the conference part of the season. They played a killer stretch of three games in five days against Drexel at home, then VCU and George Mason on the road. The Panthers hit a bit of a mid season swoon as they dropped four out of five games in late January, including a double overtime loss at Delaware. Speaking of overtime, Georgia St. might be the only team in the country that has lost three conference overtime games in the same season. The first two of those came against the Blue Hens of Delaware.
Hofstra finished 3-15 in the conference but had their most impressive outing of the year in the season finale, a 93-64 win at home over UNCW. Hofstra boasts the CAA’s leading scorer, senior guard Mike Moore. Moore averaged a league best 20.7 points per game and had three outings of over 30 points, including the win over UNCW. Moore finished third in the conference with 79 three-pointers on the season including six in the season finale.
Coaches: Ron Hunter is in his first year as head coach at Georgia St. and has garnered some talk as a Coach of the Year candidate in leading the Panthers to 20 wins after taking over a team that had an 11-18 campaign last year. Mo Cassara completes his second season as Hofstra’s coach. He had a very successful first season leading the Pride to a 21-12 record. Pick: Georgia St. 78-69
Quarterfinals Saturday March 3rd
#1 Drexel vs. JMU/UNCW winner 12:00 pm
#4 ODU vs. Delaware/Towson winner 2:30 pm
#2 VCU vs. Northeastern/William & Mary winner 6:00 pm
#3 George Mason vs. Georgia St/Hofstra winner 8:30 pm
Semifinals Sunday March 4th
Drexel/JMU/UNCW vs. ODU/Towson/Delaware winner 2:00 pm
VCU/Northeastern/William & Mary vs. George Mason/Georgia St/Hofstra winner 4:30 pm
Championship Game Monday March 5th at 7:00 pm