It’s finally March and conference tournament time is upon us–the precursor to March Madness. Here’s another conference tournament preview to whet your pallet.
When and Where: March 9-11 in Richmond, Va.
The Front Runners: Sure, Northeastern looked like a lock to win CAA following an 8-0 start–and they did, but by just a game. Preseason favorite Drexel just didn’t live up to their preseason favorite billing in finishing in 7th place, at just 9-9. Towson and Georgia State, who finished second and fifth respectively, are ineligible–Towson because of APR scores and GSU because they’re leaving the conference. Delaware (13-5) finished second thanks to a 7-1 record down the stretch and they have the conference’s best player.
The Best of the Rest: No. 3 James Madison lacks the offensive firepower to keep up with the top teams but sports the best defense in CAA-only games (60.8 ppg). Drexel is another team that struggles to score but plays excellent defense and they were the preseason favorite. If they can live up the hype surrounding them in October, they can certainly make some noise.
Who to Watch For: Delaware’s Devon Saddler is the most exciting player in the CAA, bar none. He’s a big-game player with tremendous work ethic and doesn’t back down from a challenge defensively. He led the league in scoring (20.2 ppg) while also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game–and he hits 82.2% of his free throws. He’s scored in double-figures every game this year and if the 6-foot-2 guard stays hot (24 ppg over the last four), the Blue Hens could bring home a title.
Who’ll Be Dancing?: While Northeastern is the favorite, I really don’t think it’s a gimme. Delaware has an easier road than both Northeastern and Drexel thanks to a possible semifinal match-up between the two, so if they take care of their side of the bracket, the Blue Hens should be dancing in the NCAA Tournament as a 15- or 16-seed. They’re battle-tested thanks to a brutal non-conference schedule (LaSalle, Duke, Virginia, Kansas State, Pittsburgh), which they hope pays off this time of year.