Tournament Previews

March 02, 2006|By BILL FREE

NEC men

What -- Northeast Conference men's tournament.

Where -- Sites of the highest seeded teams.

When -- Tonight and Sunday; cham pionship game on March 8.

2005 champion -- Fairleigh Dickin son.

2006 favorite -- Fairleigh Dickin son. This is the most well-rounded and talented team in the conference. The Knights have six players averag ing at least 7.4 points, including Chad Timberlake (team-high 15.5). They had an 11-game winning streak be fore a brief late-season letdown.

Dark horse -- Mount St. Mary's. Despite a slipup in the regular-sea son finale against Wagner, the Mount won four straight during the stretch to record its best conference finish (11-7) since 1996-97. Landy Thomp son (14.1) and Mychal Kearse (10.5) are the top scorers.

Player to watch -- Kibwe Trim, Sacred Heart. The 6-foot-10 center has the ability to dominate in a guard-oriented conference. He was the NEC's No. 1 scorer (19.1), shot 62.5 percent from the field and aver aged 8.7 rebounds.

Outlook -- Fairleigh Dickinson is the clear choice, but No. 2 seed Cen tral Connecticut State came alive in February and must be considered a threat. Fairleigh Dickinson was the most productive offensive team in the league and shot nearly 46 per cent from the field. Mount St. Mary's has a chance to make some inroads.

Kent Baker

ACC women

What -- Atlantic Coast Conference women's tournament.

Where -- Greensboro (N.C.) Colise um.

When -- Thursday through Sunday.

2005 champion -- North Carolina

2006 favorite -- North Carolina. The top-ranked and top-seeded Tar Heels (26-1 overall, 13-1 ACC) haven't lost since Maryland surprised them, 98-95, in overtime Feb. 9 and are the only team that swept Duke this sea son. The offense is run by junior point guard Ivory Latta, a unani mous All-ACC first-team choice who is second in the league in scoring (18.2) and fourth in assists (5.2). Soph omore center Erlana Larkins, anoth er first-team pick who averages 12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds, gives the Tar Heels an inside-outside presence rivaled by few.

Dark horse -- Maryland. It's hard to call a team that went 26-3 overall and 12-2 in the league a dark horse, but the Terps have perhaps the best resume to upend North Carolina or No. 2 seed Duke for the champion ship. Maryland is the only league team to beat the Tar Heels and had an eight-point halftime lead against the Blue Devils in Durham last month before fading. The Terps, who are second in the league in scoring of fense (84.3 points) and field-goal per centage (.483), will need to capitalize on its conference-leading rebound ing differential of 13.2.

Player to watch -- Monique Currie, Duke. The other unanimous selection to the All-ACC first team, Currie clearly drives the Blue Devils (25-2, 12-2) with team highs in scoring (16.4) and three-point shooting per centage (.446). But the defending con ference Player of the Year has scored only a combined 27 points in her past two games, including 13 on 5-for-18 shooting in Saturday's 77-65 loss to North Carolina.

Outlook -- Maryland has scorers and Duke has height, but North Caro lina boasts both qualities. The Tar Heels are tenacious on the boards, quick in transition and aggressive in the passing lanes.

Edward Lee

MAAC women

What -- Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference women's tournament

Where -- Pepsi Arena, Albany, N.Y.

When -- Today through Sunday

2005 champion -- Canisius

2006 favorite -- Marist. The top-seeded Red Foxes (21-6 overall, 16-2 MAAC) have won three straight regu lar-season titles and have the most tal ented player in the league in 6-foot sen ior forward Fifi Camara. Marist has a strong frontcourt featuring Camara and third-year sophomore Meg Dahl man (16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds). Marist is going for a second MAAC tourna ment title in three years, having been upset by Canisius last season in the championship game. That loss may be a rallying point for Marist, which has received a double bye into Saturday's semifinals.

Dark horse -- Saint Peter's. This unsung team (13-14, 9-9) has won three straight and has three 6-2 re serve players that could create some matchup problems in certain situa tions. The fifth-seeded Peahens had one of the two league upsets over Marist this season, an 84-74 victory at Saint Peter's on Jan. 22. The Peahens out-rebounded Marist 38-29. Loyola pulled off the other upset over Mari st, 62-59, on Feb. 19 at Loyola.

Player to watch -- Camara. This gifted power forward can do a little bit of everything on the court and is expected to earn her second straight MAAC Player of the Year award in just two years in the program, after a junior college career at Genesee Community College. Camara led the MAAC in scoring (18.4) this season and was second in rebounding (7.9), averaged 2.0 steals, and had 23 blocks and 47 assists.

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