Tournaments at a glance

March 07, 2003

Tournaments at a glance

MAAC men

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

When: Today through Monday

2002 champion: Siena

2003 favorite: Manhattan. The regular-season champions and top-seeded Jaspers are the only 20-game winners in the league. Among their victims are Seton Hall and St. John's, which beat Duke.

Dark horse: Iona. The fifth seed is a well-balanced team that owns a victory over Manhattan. Iona also has a recent history of tournament success.

Player to watch: Luis Flores, Manhattan. The junior guard paced the conference and ranks in the top 10 nationally with a 24.7 scoring average. The only repeater on the all-MAAC first team, Flores is shooting 91 percent from the foul line and grabbing 5.4 rebounds a game.

Outlook: The lowest seed, Loyola limped through the season with only one MAAC victory. Only 9-46 the last two years, the Greyhounds must face Iona in the first round after losing to the Gaels by 37 points at home in the next-to-last game of the season. Iona has won their last 13 meetings.

- Kent Baker

CAA men

Site: Richmond (Va.) Coliseum

When: Today through Monday

2002 champion: UNC Wilmington

2003 favorite: UNC Wilmington. The top seed for the third straight year, the Seahawks enter the event with a five-game winning streak and their first 20-win regular season. A veteran team that upset Southern California as a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tourney last March, UNC Wilmington has won nine games by 20 or more points.

Dark horse: Drexel. With a great shot-blocker in senior Robert Battle - he has 105 rejections, fourth highest for a season in CAA history behind three totals registered by David Robinson - the Dragons have proven tough on the road (10-5, including 7-2 in the league).

Player to watch: Brett Blizzard, UNC Wilmington. The best player in the CAA for at least two years, he is the first Seahawk to eclipse 2,000 career points and is sixth on the CAA's all-time scoring chart. Led the league in scoring and assists and is ninth in NCAA history with 354 career three-pointers.

Outlook: No matter whom Towson has played, it has been a struggle for the youth-laden Tigers. Seeded 10th and last, Towson goes into the tourney with a 13-game losing streak and has won only one CAA game all season. This team has set school records for defeats (23) and turnovers (549). Any win would be a shocker.

- Kent Baker

ACC women

Site: Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

When: Today through Monday

2002 champion: Duke

2003 favorite: Duke. The major women's attraction in this much-talked-about 50th ACC anniversary celebration is the Blue Devils' quest to become the first team to win four consecutive ACC tournament championships. Duke (28-1, 16-0 in ACC) would surpass the Maryland women, who won three straight from 1981 to '83. Only one ACC team - the Duke men from 1999 to 2002 - has ever won four straight ACC basketball tournament titles.

Dark horse: All eight ACC chasers of Duke have to rate as dark horses. Third-seeded Virginia came the closest of any league team to beating the Blue Devils in their ACC season-opener Jan. 9 in Charlottesville, falling, 60-59. So the Cavaliers get the honor of the dark-horse tag, even though Duke administered a 75-48 payback to Virginia in Durham Feb. 10.

Player to watch: Alana Beard, Duke. Unstoppable. That's what opposing ACC coaches have finally decided about Beard. So they just concede this 5-11 junior her points and just hope against hope she doesn't destroy them by herself. It's no surprise that Beard (the ACC's leading scorer at 22.5 points a game) was the only player to receive all 50 first-team All-ACC votes for the second consecutive year.

Outlook: No one in this league is close to Duke in talent, as evidenced by the Blue Devils' No. 1 standing in 13 team ACC categories. So maybe second-ranked Duke will be out to keep pace with top-ranked Connecticut as much as anything else this weekend.

- Bill Free

Patriot women

Site: Show Place Arena, Upper Marlboro

When: Today (quarterfinals), Sunday (semifinals), Wednesday (championship)

2002 champion: Bucknell

2003 favorite: Holy Cross. The Crusaders came within two points of running the table for a 14-0 Patriot record this season (the lone loss was 58-56 decision at home to third-seeded Lehigh). Holy Cross goes eight deep, with eight players averaging at least 10.1 minutes a game. Six of those players average 6.5 points or more, led by 5-11 sophomore guard Maggie Fontana, who tops the team in scoring (15.1 a game) and assists (3.2 a game).

Dark horse: Army. The Cadets are only a No. 6 seed, but they have come together for a 5-3 stretch drive behind junior forward Katie Macfarland, a two-time first-team All-Patriot choice who leads the league in rebounding (10.6) and is third in scoring (17.5). The three late losses were by four points to top-seeded Holy Cross, six points to second-seeded American and a triple-overtime, 86-85 setback to Navy.

Player to watch: Molly Creamer, Bucknell. To say that Creamer has owned the Patriot League for three straight seasons would not be an exaggeration. This gifted senior guard is the first player in Patriot League history to be chosen the league's Player of the Year three times. She enters the tournament with a 27.2 scoring average, second in the nation, after she held the No. 1 spot a large part of the season. She also leads the Patriot in assists (5.92) for a third straight season, in addition to being the top scorer in the league three straight years.

Outlook: There just doesn't appear to be any strong choices to upset Holy Cross. All-Patriot first-team choice Fontana is one of those prized guards who can beat teams with her scoring and passing. And there are so many players on this team, including All-Patriot first-team center Katie O'Keefe, who are capable of having big games should foul trouble or injuries strike.

- Bill Free

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