What: The Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Tournament
At Stake: An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament
Where: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia
When: The tournament begins with four Opening Round games on Friday, March 5 at 12 p.m. ET and ends Monday, March 8, when the two survivors will play for a chance to dance.
The Favorite: Old Dominion. The Monarchs have a chance at grabbing an at-large, thanks to a win at Georgetown in December, but they'd honestly be in better shape had they done a bit better a few weeks earlier, as losses to Missouri and Mississippi State in the South Padre Island Invitational and the setback at Richmond that followed can be seen as missed opportunities. ODU's three conference losses all came on the road, as they lost at two seed Northeastern and, more worryingly, against their two most likely quarterfinal opponents, George Mason and VCU. Blaine Taylor's squad is a stout defensive unit with good size. 6-10 Gerald Lee and 6-8 Frank Hassell and are the main offensive threats inside, while another 6-8 junior, Keyon Carter, is just as effective knocking down threes.
Other contenders: Don't expect the Monarchs to have an easy road to the title, as for the first time ever, seven CAA members won 10 conference games. Third-seeded William & Mary gained the most notoriety early in the season, as they won at both Maryland and Wake Forest. However, later losses to Iona, James Madison, UNC Wilmington and Towson really damaged their at-large hopes.
On the other hand, second seeded Northeastern finished strongly, as they dug themselves out of a 2-7 mark hole that included losses to St. Mary's, Rhode Island and Boston College. A home BracketBuster loss to Louisiana Tech ended the Huskies' slim at-large hopes. Northeastern does feature one of the CAA's biggest stars, senior swingman Matt Janning, who's looking to make it to the NCAA Tournament before graduating.
Fourth seeded George Mason has struggled of late, as they've dropped six of their last eight, with four of the losses coming by four points or less. The young Patriots' luck (Jim Larranaga regularly plays four freshmen and three sophomores) will have to improve if they are to make the NCAAs for the third time in five years.
Fifth-seeded VCU, the defending champion, has all the talent -- 6-11 junior forward Larry Sanders, junior point guard Joey Rodriguez, sharpshooters Bradford Burgess, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell -- to make a run at another crown not far from campus, but playing the extra game may impact them negatively.
The Darkhorse: Seventh-seeded Hofstra (18-13, 10-8 CAA) is the hottest team in the league. The Pride won six straight and nine of their last 10 to close the season. Their only loss in that span was a 20-point home defeat to Northeastern, but the Pride did beat the Huskies at Matthews Arena on February 23.
Friday's Opening Round
Game 1: No. 8 Towson (10-20, 6-12 CAA) defeated No. 9 UNC Wilmington (9-21, 5-13 CAA), 91-74
Game 2: No. 5 VCU (21-8, 11-7 CAA) defeated No. 12 Delaware (7-24, 3-15 CAA), 66-49
Game 3: No. 7 Hofstra (19-13, 10-8 CAA) defeated No. 10 Georgia State (12-20, 5-13 CAA), 68-67
Game 4: No. 11 James Madison (13-19, 4-14 CAA) defeated No. 6 Drexel (16-16, 11-7 CAA), 77-65
Game 5: No. 1 Old Dominion (24-8, 15-3 CAA) defeated No. 8 Towson, 86-56
Game 6: No. 5 VCU defeated No. 4 George Mason (17-13, 12-6 CAA), 75-60
Game 7: No. 2 Northeastern (19-11, 14-4 CAA) defeated No. 7 Hofstra, 74-71
Game 8: No. 3 William & Mary (20-9, 12-6 CAA) defeated No. 11 James Madison, 70-65
Sunday's Semifinals (both games on CSN New England/Comcast Network/CSS/Full Court)
Game 9: No. 1 Old Dominion defeated No. 5 VCU, 73-69 (OT)
Game 10: No. 2 Northeastern vs. No. 3 William & Mary, 5:30 p.m. ET
Monday's Final (ESPN)
Game 11: No. 1 Old Dominion vs. TBD, 7 p.m. ET