CAA tournament preview

March 8, 2013

CAA men’s basketball tournament preview

At Richmond Coliseum

Saturday’s quarterfinals

No. 4 George Mason vs. No. 5 Drexel, 3:30 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet)

No. 2 Delaware vs. No. 7 Hofstra, 6 p.m. (The Comcast Network)

No. 3 James Madison vs. No. 6 William & Mary, 8:30 p.m. (TCN)

Sunday’s semifinals

No. 1 Northeastern vs. GMU/Drexel, 2 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Delaware/Hofstra vs. JMU/W&M, 4:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Monday’s final, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

Overview: Once considered a premier mid-major event, the CAA tournament has fallen on hard times. Virginia Commonwealth, which ensured sellout crowds by playing down the street from its campus, moved to the Atlantic 10, while Old Dominion and Georgia State are banned because they’re off to Conference USA and the Sun Belt, respectively. Towson, which finished second in the regular season, and UNC Wilmington didn’t meet academic standards and are also ineligible. With seven teams participating, top-seeded Northeastern (19-11, 14-4) received a bye and will need to win just twice to earn the NCAA automatic berth. No CAA team boasts a strong enough portfolio to warrant at-large consideration. At No. 126, Delaware has the league’s highest RPI.

The favorite: Delaware (18-13, 13-5) is hitting its stride with victories in four straight and seven of eight, the only loss coming by a point on James Madison’s last-second shot. The Blue Hens, who set a program record for conference victories, are also very good in tight spots: Bookended by seven- and five-point triumphs over George Mason, they had six consecutive games decided by a total of nine points. Junior guard Devon Saddler (20.2 ppg) has scored at least 20 points 15 times. Senior forward Jamelle Hagins is second in the CAA in rebounding (10.5) and field goal percentage (54.3) and first in blocked shots (2.4). The Blue Hens have never advanced to the CAA final in 11 attempts.

George Mason outlook: The Patriots (17-13, 10-8) have lacked consistency all season and stumble into the tournament with four losses in seven games, including a pair of setbacks last week. Winning the title requires three consecutive victories — a feat they haven’t accomplished since mid-January. Junior guard Sherrod Wright is averaging 16.5 points but shot 13 of 38 in the past three games. Sophomore forward Erik Copes, slowed by a hip injury much of the season, has averaged 9.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in the past eight outings. The Patriots split the season series with their quarterfinal opponent, Drexel (13-17, 9-9). Each won on the road: The Dragons erased a 20-point deficit for a 58-54 victory and the Patriots earned a 68-62 win two weeks later. In the first meeting, Drexel sophomore guard Damion Lee scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half. He had 16 in the second game.

— Steven Goff

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