Tournaments at a glance

March 10, 2004|By Bill Free

Tournaments at a glance

Women

America East

Site: Chase Family Arena, West Hartford, Conn.

When: Today through Saturday

2003 champion: Boston University

2004 favorite: Maine. The Black Bears (22-6, 17-1) dominated the league from start to finish, cruising to a five-game first-place cushion and coming close to running the table in league play with a 15-0 start It took Vermont's 76-66 upset of Maine Feb. 28 on the Black Bears' home court to prevent a perfect 18-0 record. Two seniors, 6-1 forward Heather Ernest and 5-9 guard Melissa Heon, led Maine. Ernest was the third-leading scorer in the league (16.9 average), and Heon tossed in 11.0 points a game. Maine led the league in scoring margin (plus 8.3) and rebounding margin (plus 3.5).

Dark horse: Vermont. The sixth-seeded Catamounts (14-12, 8-10) have won five straight games, including the upset over Maine, and seem to be primed for a strong tournament run. They have a dominant forward in 6-0 senior Aaron Yantzi. The Catamounts lead the league in field-goal percentage at 42.9 and free-throw percentage (77.2) and are second in scoring (65.5 points).

Player to watch: Yantzi, Vermont. Yantzi not only lights up the scoreboard with a league-leading 18.7 points a game and is tied for first in free-throw shooting (85.7 percent), but she leads the league in rebounding with 10.0 a game.

Outlook: Don't expect any miracles out of 10th-seeded UMBC (4-23, 4-14) in its first America East tournament. All the starters are gone from the 2003 team that bolted to the Northeast Conference tournament championship game. Six-foot junior guard Anastasia Goncharova is the top threat for the Retrievers with a 10.7-point average. UMBC pins most of its hopes on three-point shooting, leading the America East with 7.19 field goals a game from beyond the arc.

Colonial Athletic Association

Site: Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.

When: Today through Saturday

2003 champion: Old Dominion

2004 favorite: Old Dominion. The Lady Monarchs (22-6, 17-1) ran away and hid at the top of the CAA standings, finishing six games ahead of George Mason and Hofstra, which tied for second. ODU has built a CAA dynasty, winning 12 straight league championships. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be playing the tournament on its home court again this year. The Lady Monarchs are the class of the league in scoring (73.0 points a game), scoring margin (plus 9.8 points), field-goal percentage (.464), three-point defense (28.5 percent), rebounding margin (4.8) and assists (16.6).

Dark horse: James Madison. JMU (12-17, 7-11) has strong credentials for a team that finished 10 games out of first place. The Dukes nearly upset ODU, losing, 75-73, at JMU. They did pull off a 64-53 upset at home over George Mason (16-9, 11-7) and swept both games from Delaware (18-9, 10-8). Lesley Dickerson, a 5-10 freshman forward, averages 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds and leads her team in three-point shooting (36.9 percent) and steals (1.3).

Player to watch: Monique Coker, Old Dominion. This 6-1 senior forward is coming off a torrid season-ending two games, selected CAA Player of the Week for averaging 18.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in victories over James Madison and George Mason. Coker is second in the league in rebounding (9.6 a game), third in blocks (1.50 average), fifth in field-goal percentage (.489), eighth in scoring (14.8 average) and ninth in steals (2.11 a game).

Outlook: Towson (9-18, 1-17) faded badly in the CAA after a fast non-league start and finished in last place, five games behind ninth-place William & Mary. There has been one late-season bright spot for the Tigers, as 5-5 junior point guard Brandi Harris has come on strong in the past three games with consecutive career highs of 15, 16 and 18 points. If the Tigers hope to raise their level of play in this tournament, they're going to need continued high-octane offense from Harris as well as top efforts from 5-11 sophomore shooting guard Kacy O'Brien (14.9 points a game), 6-1 freshman forward Kelly Robinson (12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds) and 5-9 junior forward Kelli Talbot (5.7 rebounds a game).

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