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CAA tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Senior guard Devon Saddler leads the top-seeded Blue Hens, and the league, in scoring.  (USATSI)
Senior guard Devon Saddler leads the top-seeded Blue Hens, and the CAA, in scoring. (USATSI)

Latest in hoops: Top 25 (and one) | Bracketology | Bubble Watch

What: Colonial Athletic Association championship

When: March 7-10

Where: Baltimore Arena; Baltimore, Md.

Bracket: View tournament field here.

TV: Quarterfinals will be carried on local affiliates (check listings here); semifinals (Sunday, March 9) and championship (Monday, March 10) on NBC Sports Network.

Last year's champ: James Madison (20-14, No. 16 seed)

What matters: Delaware lost its best players to different suspensions throughout the season but managed to finish with a 14-2 conference record and the school's first CAA regular season title. The Blue Hens are full strength now and have won 16 of their last 18 heading into the tournament, a streak that can only be upstaged by Towson. On Jan. 25, the preseason favorites were 12-8 and coming off back-to-back conference losses. Since then, Pat Skerry's squad has won six in a row and 10 of their last 11 to capture the No. 2 seed. Drexel and a sharp-shooting William & Mary team will look to make noise in the semifinals and spoil the postseason for the top two seeds.

Who matters: Towson forward Jerrelle Benimon (18.9 PPG, 11.7 RPG) is the reigning CAA Player of the Year and could end up winning the award again after leading the Tigers to a school-record 22 wins. Rafriel Guthrie and Mike Burwell have played well for the Tigers recently, but Benimon -- leading the nation with 20 double-doubles this year -- could have a big week. Delaware is powered by a three-prong attack of Devon Saddler (league-leading 20.2 PPG), Davon Usher (19.4 PPG) and Jarvis Threatt . Threatt was suspended for a month during conference play, but has averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 assists and 4.5 steals in his two games back. William & Mary has the CAA's most efficient offense led by Marcus Thornton and Omar Prewitt, a seven-time selection for CAA Rookie of the Week.

Fun fact: William & Mary, the No. 3 seed, has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Knocking off Delaware and Towson to steal the CAA's automatic bid would leave just four teams -- Northwestern, Citadel, Army and St. Francis (NY) -- on the list of original D-I schools with no tournament appearances. If that nugget is old news for you, here's another reason to watch: more than half of all CAA conference games were decided by seven points or less or in overtime.

Prediction: Delaware over Towson. The championship game, if it does include the top two seeds, should be a classic. The Tigers have the best individual player in the league and a slight home court advantage with the tournament in Baltimore. Delaware is not a deep team, but the combined experience and firepower of Saddler-Usher-Threatt give opponents too much to worry about in a close game. Benimon will have a dominant impact in every game of this tournament, but if Delaware big man Carl Baptiste can contain the damage -- by keeping Benimon off the glass, for example -- the Blue Hens could clinch the program's first tournament bid since 1999.

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