2012 CAA Tournament Preview

Richmond, VA (WWBT)- The 2012 CAA Tournament tips off on Friday at the Richmond Coliseum as 12 teams shoot for a conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Friday, March 2: Round 1-

(8) James Madison vs. (9) UNC-Wilmington- 12:00 pm

- JMU and UNC-Wilmington tip off the 2012 CAA Tournament battling for the right to play top-seeded Drexel on Saturday.  The Dukes enter with a 12-19 overall record, 5-13 in conference play, and beat UNC-Wilmington in the two teams' head-to-head match-up, 69-61.  James Madison enters as a struggling team, losing eight of its last ten games, but played several top-tier teams very close in losses.  A.J. Davis leads the Dukes and is fourth in the conference with 16.2 points per game, while Humpty Hitchens is seventh in the CAA at 15.0 ppg.

UNC-Wilmington, meanwhile, enters with a 9-20 overall record, 5-13 in the conference.  The Seahawks ended the year on a six game losing streak, and the low point of their season may have been a loss to Towson that saw the Tigers end a 41-game slide.  Keith Rendleman averages a double-double per game, boasting 15.6 points and 10.5 boards per outing.  This match up features the two worst scoring defenses in the conference, as JMU gives up 69.8 points per game, while UNCW allows 71.4.

(5) Delaware vs. (12) Towson- 2:30 pm

- Delaware and Towson meet with the winner moving on to face fourth seed and defending conference champion Old Dominion.  The Blue Hens come in hot, winning their final eight games of the regular season and are 17-12 overall, 12-6 in conference play.  They were one of just two teams to knock off Drexel this season and also topped George Mason.  Devon Saddler paces the Blue Hens with 18.7 ppg, good enough for second in the CAA.  Jamelle Hagins is also a huge contributor, chipping in 12.7 points per contest, and also boasting a conference-leading 11.3 rebounds per game.  Delaware swept the regular season series with Towson, winning 62-43 in Newark and 76-69 on the Tigers' home floor.

The highest part of Towson's season came on January 28, when the Tigers snapped a Division I record 41 game losing streak with a 66-61 win over UNC-Wilmington.  That win, however, was sandwiched between respective losing streaks of 22 games and eight games.  Offensive woes have killed the Tigers, as they average a league-worst 51.0 points per game and lose by an average margin of 18.6 points.  Marcus Damas leads Towson with 12.8 ppg, while Robert Nwankwo is close behind with 12.0 ppg.

(7) Northeastern vs. (10) William and Mary- 6:00 pm

- It's been an up and down season for Northeastern and a rough season in general for William and Mary, and the two will meet attempting to earn a date with VCU in the second round.  Northeastern is 13-16 overall and an even 9-9 in conference play.  The Huskies split their final four games of the regular season, which included an 85-82 overtime win over George Mason.  Jonathan Lee leads the Huskies with 14.6 ppg, while Joel Smith chips in 12.9 ppg.

The Tribe comes in at 6-25 overall and just 4-14 in league play.  Tony Shaver's squad suffered a nine game mid-season skid and fell in 12 of its final 14 games.  William and Mary did come awfully close to topping VCU during the regular season, falling at the Siegel Center in overtime, 69-68, and also nearly knocked off Drexel in Philadelphia, but dropped a 63-61 heart-breaker.  Quinn McDowell leads the Tribe with 12.7 ppg, while freshman Marcus Thornton adds 11.1 per contest.  The two teams split their regular season match-ups, with both teams winning on their home floor.  Northeastern earned the 64-50 win in Boston, with William and Mary returned the favor, 79-54, at Kaplan Arena.

(6) Georgia State vs. (11) Hofstra- 8:30 pm

- The Panthers and Pride meet for the second time this season after Georgia State won the regular season match-up, 59-43.  This time the two will battle for the right to take on George Mason.  GSU lost its first three games of the season, them promptly rattled off eleven straight victories, and capped off its season by winning six of its final eight contests.  The Panthers gave the top teams in the conference fits, splitting series with Drexel and VCU, falling to George Mason by just three and pushing Old Dominion to overtime before losing by five.  Jihad Ali leads Georgia State with 13 ppg, while Devonta White averages 12.5 ppg.  The Panthers only allow opponents 59.5 ppg, which ranks second in the CAA.

Hofstra is 10-21 on the year, but just 3-15 in conference play.  The Pride won two of their final three games, but a six game losing streak to begin the bulk of league play put them in an early hole that they could not climb out of.  Mike Moore leads the team and the CAA in scoring with an even 20 points per outing.  Nathaniel Lester is second on the squad at 14.7 ppg.

The Top Four:

(1) Drexel

- The Dragons put together a stellar season and enter the CAA Tournament on a 17-game winning streak.  Drexel has an overall mark of 25-5 and is 16-2 in league play.  The Dragons lost their first two conference games of the season to Delaware and Georgia State, but have been perfect against league foes since that loss to the Panthers in early January.  They also avenged both of those losses later in the season.  Drexel only matched up with each of the other top four teams once this season, beating VCU by six, George Mason by seven, and escaped Old Dominion with a 73-72 win on Saturday to end the campaign.  Four Drexel players average double figures in scoring in Frantz Massenat (13.5), Damion Lee (12.4), Samee Givens (11.7) and Chris Fouch (10.0).  The Dragons lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 55.7 points per game.  They'll face the winner of James Madison vs. UNC-Wilmington on Saturday at noon.

(2) Virginia Commonwealth

- After losing four starters from last year's Final Four team, VCU finished the season 25-6, 15-3 in the CAA.  Shaka Smart's club won 14 of its final 15 games and posted separate winning streaks of eight and eleven games during the year.  The Rams' league losses came at the hands of Drexel, Georgia State and George Mason, with the loss to the Patriots coming on a buzzer-beating three pointer by Sherrod Wright.  They came back to avenge that loss to close out the season, and beat Georgia State on the road as well.  VCU is known for its havoc defense, which leads the country with 329 steals.  Senior Bradford Burgess leads the team with 13.8 ppg while Juvonte Reddic chips in 11.1 and Troy Daniels adds 10.5.  The Rams score 69.1 ppg and allow 59.7, both good enough for third in the CAA.  They will take on the Northeastern-William and Mary winner on Saturday at 6:00 pm.

(3) George Mason

- The Patriots lost their final two games of the season, but before that looked primed to take home the CAA regular season title.  Paul Hewitt has led GMU to a 23-8 record in his first season as head coach, 14-4 in the league.  The Patriots' four league losses came to Drexel, Delaware, Northeastern and VCU, with three of the four coming by seven points or less and the defeat to the Huskies marked an overtime loss.  George Mason is led by conference player of the year candidate Ryan Pearson who boasts 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.  His point average is good enough for third in the CAA, and he comes in fifth in boards.  The Patriots offense as a whole has clicked all season long, leading the conference with an impressive 70.9 ppg.  George Mason will meet the winner of the Georgia State vs. Hofstra contest on Saturday at 8:30 pm.

(4) Old Dominion

- The defending conference champions, Old Dominion comes in after having Drexel on the ropes, but falling 73-72 in the regular season finale.  ODU is 19-12 on the year, 13-5 in conference play and is led by Kent Bazemore.  The senior dropped 37 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in that loss to Drexel.  He leads the Monarchs with 15.3 points per game, while Chris Cooper contributes a double-double per game at 10.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg.  All five of the Monarchs' losses this season came against the three teams ahead of them in the standings.  VCU and George Mason each beat ODU twice before Drexel escaped with the one point win this past Saturday.  Blaine Taylor's team will look to overcome the loss of one of its best three point shooters in Trian Iliadis, who was lost in February with a season-ending knee injury.  The Monarchs will take on the winner of Delaware and Hofstra Saturday afternoon at 2:30 pm.

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