CAA tournament: Preview, prediction, TV info

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)

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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. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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