Area tournaments

March 09, 2005|By Bill Free

America East women

Site: Reich Family Pavilion, Hartford, Conn.

When: Today through Saturday.

2004 champion: Maine.

2005 favorite: Maine. The top-seeded Black Bears (16-2, 20-8) have won three straight regular-season titles, with their latest championship coming without benefit of a flashy scorer. Instead, Maine won this season with outstanding shooting from the field (.439) and free-throw line (.754), in addition to three-point shooting .402), all tops in the league, plus a league-leading team assist/turnover ratio (1.01).

Dark horse: Northeastern. The Huskies (8-10, 13-14) are the second-hottest team in the league through the last five games (4-1) behind Maine (5-0). They are seeded seventh but finished only two games out of third place.

Player to watch: Maralene Zwarich, Northeastern. Zwarich is not only the top scorer in the league with an 18.2 average, but she also leads in steals with 2.07 a game. She is also tough on the defensive boards with 4.96 a game.

Outlook: UMBC (3-15, 8-19) is still taking its lumps in the America East in its second season in the league, with the Retrievers finishing 10th and last. Their reward this evening will be a first-round meeting with Zwarich and Northeastern.

CAA women

Site: Patriot Center, Fairfax, Va.

When: Today through Saturday.

2004 champion: Old Dominion.

2005 favorite: Delaware. Did the top-seeded Blue Hens (16-2, 23-4) signal the end of a women's basketball dynasty in the Colonial Athletic Association this season by defeating 13-time, defending champion Old Dominion twice? The Lady Monarchs (15-3, 19-8) are seeded second. Delaware is allowing just 54.7 points a game, holding opponents to a .362 field-goal percentage, and forcing 21.6 turnovers a game.

Dark horse: Towson. The fifth-seeded Tigers (9-9, 16-13) enjoyed the greatest turnaround in CAA history, going from 1-17 last season to 9-9 to easily rate as the surprise team in the league. Towson could take advantage of a favorable bracket placement, meeting in the quarterfinals fourth-seeded James Madison, a team it lost to by one point on the road after leading most of the way, and most likely going up against a Delaware squad in the semifinals that the Tigers defeated by nine points two weeks ago. Junior Tierra Jackson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring and rebounding. She is the primary reason preseason experts were wrong in picking Towson last.

Player to watch: Tiara Malcom, Delaware. A 6-foot-1 senior forward who leads the league in scoring with a 16.6 average, she was named CAA Player of the Week seven times this season. She also averages 6.6 rebounds, shoots .454 from the field and .809 from the foul line. Malcom also had 25 blocked shots.

Outlook: Delaware seems to be the new darling of the league this season, but it's hard to ignore Old Dominion's 13 straight titles.

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