Tournament Previews

March 03, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

America East men

What -- America East men's tournament

Where -- Early rounds at BU Events Center, Binghamton, N.Y.; championship at highest remaining seed

When -- Today through Sunday; championship on March 11

2005 champion -- Vermont

2006 favorite -- Albany. The regular-season champion, Albany (18-10) has the biggest starter in the league in 7-foot-1 senior center Kirsten Zoellner, and the Player of the Year in guard Jamar Wilson (17.6 ppg). The Great Danes have already been guaranteed a berth in the National Invitation Tournament if they don't win the America East, but are aiming for an NCAA tournament berth. They got a career-high 29 points from reserve guard Jon Iati in the season finale against UMBC.

Dark horse -- Boston University. The No. 1 defensive team in the league, allowing only 59.4 points a game, BU finished with a flourish to gain the third seed by winning three straight and four of its last five. The Terriers bumped Hartford to the fourth seed with a victory in the last regular-season game.

Player to watch -- Kenny Adeleke, Hartford. Snubbed in the player of the year vote despite leading the America East in both scoring (20.5 ppg) and rebounding (13.1 rpg), the transfer from Hofstra may have something to prove in the tournament.

Outlook -- No. 2 seed Binghamton has a decided advantage with the entire tourney at home should it win out and Albany stumble. UMBC's chances appear slim. The eighth-seeded Retrievers must play Stony Brook in the play-in game, then stare at a matchup with Albany, which swept them. They have not won a league game away from RAC Arena (0-8).

CAA men

What -- Colonial Athletic Association men's tournament

Where -- Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Va.

When -- Today through Monday

2005 champion -- Old Dominion

2006 favorite -- George Mason and UNC-Wilmington. These teams rank 1-2 in defense, allowing only 59 points a game. They tied at the top with 15-3 conference records, but UNC-Wilmington earned the No. 1 seed through a tiebreaker. Forward Jai Lewis (Aberdeen) is the key player for the Patriots with 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. George Mason has outscored its opponents by 11.5 a game.

Dark horse -- Northeastern. The No. 5 seed has a clever leader in point guard Jose Juan Barea, the CAA's top scorer (21.4 ppg) and passer (8.38 apg) and a budding superstar in forward Shawn James, whose 176 blocks and 6.52 average lead the nation. On a good night, this is a tough bunch to beat, but a lack of depth could be troublesome.

Player to watch -- John Goldsberry, UNC-Wilmington. The senior point guard is a four-year starter whose statistics are not eye-catching, but his presence is. He has a steadying effect on the Seahawks and keeps them focused.

Outlook -- The top four teams all won more than 20 games - Hofstra and Old Dominion are in this group - and the CAA, ranked 10th among all leagues, is expecting at least two bids to the NCAA tournament. Towson enters with a more competitive team under Pat Kennedy, but the effectiveness of Gary Neal, who has missed four games with a foot injury, will be a factor. Plus, if the Tigers beat Georgia State in the first round, they will see George Mason, the only CAA team they have never defeated since joining the conference.

MAAC men

What -- Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's tournament

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

When -- Today through Monday

2005 champion -- Niagara

2006 favorite -- Iona. Manhattan finished ahead of the Gaels in the regular-season race but lost its top player, C.J. Anderson, to academic ineligibility. Iona, coached by former NBA player Jeff Ruland, is a well-seasoned team headed by All-MAAC guard Steve Burtt (25 ppg) and Ricky Soliver (16.3 ppg, 123 assists). Both are seniors.

Dark horse -- Marist. The Red Foxes had a fine finish, winning five of their last six MAAC games to gain the third seed. Their mainspring is all-MAAC guard Jared Jordan, who leads the country with 235 assists, an average of nearly nine a game.

Player to watch -- Keydren Clark, Saint Peter's. The national scoring champion last season, he has been supplanted by Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick, but still ranks third with a 26.6 scoring average. How far the No. 5 seed advances will depend on his output.

Outlook -- It will be tough for Manhattan, the regular-season champ, without Anderson, leaving the door open for Iona. Loyola is seeded sixth and enters with more hope than normal because of senior guard Andre Collins, who trails Clark with a 26.2 scoring average and can carry a team with his offensive game.

Patriot League men

What -- Patriot League men's basketball tournament

Where -- At No. 1 and No. 2 seeds Bucknell and Holy Cross; championship at highest remaining seed

When -- Today and Sunday; championship on March 10

2005 champion -- Bucknell

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