Where: Richmond Coliseum.
Friday’s first-round results
No. 9 UNC Wilmington 70, No. 8 James Madison 59
No. 5 Delaware 72, No. 12 Towson 65
No. 7 Northeastern 57, No. 10 William & Mary 49
No. 6 Georgia State 85, No. 11 Hofstra 50
(All games on Comcast SportsNet Plus and online at ESPN3.com)
No. 1 Drexel vs. UNC Wilmington, noon
No. 4 Old Dominion vs. Delaware, 2:30
No. 2 Virginia Commonwealth vs. Northeastern, 6
No. 3 George Mason vs. Georgia State, 8:30
2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet Plus, ESPN3.com).
7 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN3.com).
George Mason outlook: The Patriots (23-8) compiled the second-most regular season victories in the program’s 46-year history, so why is there a touch of disappointment entering the tournament? Only one of their 14 league wins was convincing and they lost in their last two outings, marking the first time they dropped consecutive games. Turnovers have bedeviled them: The Patriots averaged 18 in the past seven games and 15.2 overall, third worst in the conference. On the bright side, senior forward Ryan Pearson was named CAA player of the year and the Patriots scored 75-plus points 13 times to lead the league with a 70.9 average. They’re also first in field goal percentage by a wide margin: 46.5 to Drexel’s 43.9. Sophomore guard Sherrod Wright, the sixth man, is averaging 12.7 points in the past six games and has made 42 of his last 45 free throw attempts to raise his CAA-best percentage to 86.3. With a victory Saturday, the Patriots would likely earn a semifinal meeting with VCU — the team that eliminated them from the previous three CAA tournaments.
The favorite: Drexel, the preseason favorite, lost its first two league games before winning 16 in a row. Overall, the Dragons have a program-record 17-game streak, which includes victories over VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion. Not one of their players is in the CAA’s top 10 in scoring, but four average double figures, led by sophomore guard Frantz Massenat’s 13.5. Freshman guard Damion Lee (12.4) was voted CAA rookie of the year. Through the league’s automatic berth or an at-large slot, the Dragons are seeking their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996. Drexel will be without Derrick Thomas, a starting guard averaging eight points, who was suspended indefinitely this week after being charged with assault and criminal trespass.
The contender: VCU’s only loss in the past 15 games came on George Mason’s buzzer-beater Feb. 14 in Fairfax. The Rams lead the nation in steals (10.6 per game), are second behind Syracuse in turnover margin — they force 6.1 more a game than they commit — and are 20th in points allowed (59.6). And oh yes, they get to play in a tournament a mile from campus.
The dark horse: Delaware went undefeated in February for the first time in 12 years. Sophomore guard Devon Saddler ended the regular season second in the league in scoring (18.6) while junior forward Jamelle Hagins led in rebounding (11.3) and was second in field goal percentage (54) and blocked shots (2.9). Freshman guard Jarvis Threatt averaged 19.8 points in the last five regular season games.