Conference tournaments

March 02, 2001|By Christian Ewell, Kent Baker and Jeff Zrebiec

State men

America East

Site: Bob Carpenter Center, Newark, Del.

When: Today through Sunday with championship game on March 10 at higher seed's home court

2000 champion: Hofstra

2001 favorite: Hofstra

Darkhorse: Northeastern - After starting 2-13, the Huskies (7-10 in conference) have regrouped, winning four of their past five.

Player to watch: Ajmal Basit, Delaware - The former Umass player is the Blue Hens' emotional leader. He's ninth in the league in scoring (16.3), first in rebounding (9.1) and first in blocks (2.71).

Outlook: Despite losing Speedy Claxton to the NBA, the Pride has not lost a step, and is the clear-cut favorite. Hofstra, behind Norman Richardson, has won 14 straight conference games, and 15 straight games overall, the longest current streak in Division I. Delaware dealt the Pride one of its losses in late November, and the Blue Hens are playing at home until at least the final.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Site: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: Today through Monday

2000 champion: Iona

2001 favorite: Iona

Darkhorse: Manhattan - Is coming off a convincing 19-point win over top-seeded Iona to close the regular season.

Player to watch: Demond Stewart, Niagara - Stewart's ability to score from anywhere makes him nearly impossible to defend. The leading scorer (20) and ninth-leading rebounder (8) in the MAAC wants to end his career in style.

Outlook: Traditionally, the MAAC is a league with a lot of parity, and this year is no different. Iona, Siena and Niagara were tied atop the league at 12-6; Rider, Marist and Manhattan were tied for second at 11-7. All six of these teams could win this tournament and get the automatic NCAA bid. While the Gaels have clinched the top seed as a result of tiebreakers, Siena, which had won five in a row before falling to Niagara last week, may be the team to beat as Iona has limped to the finish line, dropping three straight.

Northeast Conference

Site: Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, N.J.

When: Tomorrow through Monday

2000 champion: Central Connecticut State

2001 favorite: St. Francis, N.Y.

Darkhorse: Long Island - Has the best record (3-3) against top three teams, St. Francis (N.Y.), Monmouth and UMBC.

Player to watch: Rashaan Johnson, Monmouth - Was the most consistent NEC player over the past month, averaging 23.3 points, 5.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 rebounds in eight games.

Outlook: UMBC is one of the three favorites despite a 1-3 record against the other two, Monmouth and St. Francis. St. Francis has never made it past the semifinals, but won't play a first-round game and has a 3-1 record against UMBC and Monmouth. Monmouth had the best February, with a 6-2 record.

Patriot League

Site: Alumni Hall, Annapolis

When: Tomorrow and Sunday, with championship game March 9 at higher seed's court

2000 champion: Lafayette

2001 favorite: Holy Cross

Darkhorse: Colgate - Higher RPI rating than Lehigh gave the Red Raiders the third seed and if any team can prevent Holy Cross or Navy from winning, it is probably Colgate. Freshman guard Mark Linebaugh has been hot, and Pat Campolieta is capable of big games.

Player to watch: Tim Szatko, Holy Cross - The sophomore forward has been very consistent. He and Navy's Chris Williams are the top candidates for conference Player of the Year.

Outlook: Playing the first two games at Alumni Hall should benefit the Midshipmen, who want to erase the memory of last year's flop at Lafayette. But, despite a last-game loss at Army, Holy Cross will be difficult to deal with, thanks to a first-round bye and the home court for the title game.

State women

Atlantic Coast Conference

Site: Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

When: Friday through Monday

2000 champion: Duke

2001 favorite: Duke

Darkhorse: Maryland - Will probably need to get past second and third seeds Clemson and N.C. State to reach the final, but has swept both.

Player to watch: Alana Beard, Duke - The freshman, playing alongside the reigning ACC Player of the Year, Georgia Schweitzer, was probably the best player in the conference this season.

Outlook: Duke, while vulnerable (with three league losses), still won the ACC regular-season race by three games and is the class of the field. Virginia and Florida State have the burden of being in Duke's bracket. No. 6 seed Maryland has a 6-2 record in games played among the teams in its bracket, including N.C. State, Clemson, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Site: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: Yesterday through Sunday

2000 champion: St. Peter's

2001 favorite: Siena

Darkhorse: Loyola - The third-seeded Greyhounds (12-6 in the league) are peaking at the right time, having won seven of their past eight games.

Player to watch: Gunta Basko, Siena - The 6-foot-1 Latvian forward can hurt opponents with her post moves and outside shooting. She leads the conference in scoring (17) and rebounding (10).

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