The Colonial Athletic Association has reached its version of the Final Four. Seed numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5, will be matched up in Sunday’s semifinals at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Hofstra, the No. 5, seed is the only team playing today that did not finish in the conferences four way tie for first place in the regular season. However Hofstra did hold first place early in the season with a 4-0 start to league play.
The Pride "upset" the 4-seed James Madison University 74-57, in the quarterfinals Saturday evening.
Bill Coen, head coach of 3-seed Northeastern (21-11) said last week on a teleconference that there are no upsets in this league, in reference to several recent games that had teams at the top of the standings losing to teams in the bottom portion of the standings.
Sunday’s first semifinal will match up the leagues regular season champion (via tiebreaker) William & Mary (19-11) against Hofstra (20-12) at 2:30 in a game that will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports network. The Tribe, which will be trying to advance to championship game Monday for the second consecutive year, beat Elon 72-59 in Saturday’s first quarterfinal.
UNCW (18-12) will take on Coen’s Huskies in the second semifinal at 5 p.m. Sunday, also broadcast on NBC Sports network. Northeastern outlasted Delaware (10-20) 67-64, in the nightcap of a long day of quarterfinal action.
The Blue Hens lost their first 10 games of the season but finished conference play by winning four of five league games. Delaware came into the tournament playing as well as anybody, but just couldn’t get enough key stops against the Huskies coming down the stretch of Saturday’s loss.
"You come into these thing to win," said Monte Ross, head coach of Delaware following the loss. "But if you don’t win, you want to say you left everything out there. And that’s exactly what I told these guys they did tonight. They left absolutely everything out there. I couldn’t be more proud of them."
The Royal Farms scoreboard operator will have to be on their toes for the day’s first game. Hofstra is putting up a CAA-best 78.0 points per game and the Tribe is second with 73.1. They are also ranked 1 and 2 in scoring margin.
William & Mary beat Hofstra twice this year, the first a 100-79 thrashing in Williamsburg in January. Hofstra fared much better in the second matchup losing 80-78. That game came down to two Marcus Thornton free throws with 3.7 seconds left. Thornton, the CAA Player of the Year, had 23 points in the second game and 24 points in the first matchup.
The game will feature three of the league’s top four scorers, Thornton at 19.3, and Hofstra’s duo of transfer juniors Juan’ya Green (16.8) and Ameen Tanksley (16.7).
There should be plenty of 3-pointers hoisted up as well, Thornton (88) and teammate Daniel Dixon (65) rank in the top four of threes made this year. Dixon amassed his total despite missing five games toward the end of league play due to injury. Dixon hit on 4 of 9 threes in the Tribes victory over Elon.
UNCW won its first CAA Tournament game since 2012 with a 79-53 victory over College of Charleston. The Seahawks took both games from Northeastern this year, winning in Boston 75-68 on Jan. 5, and 66-61 in Wilmington on Feb. 14.
The Seahawks start a trio of seniors, guards Freddie Jackson and Addison Spruill along with forward Cedrick Williams. Until yesterday none of them had tasted postseason success, losing in the first round twice and having to sit out the 2013 Tournament due to sanctions by the NCAA for low APR scores.
But first year coach Kevin Keats doesn’t use that as motivation.
"We don’t worry about the past," he said. "These guys are focused on winning this year, that’s what they are committed to doing."
Williams posted an impressive double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the Seahawks' quarterfinal win. Freddie Jackson also scored 19, and Spruill added 12.
Northeastern’s win over Delaware provided the day’s most exciting game, following the previous three that were all decided by double digits. The Huskies used a three-pronged attack to hold off the Blue Hens. Quincy Ford had 16 points to continue his strong comeback from a slipped disc two years ago, that cost him all but two games last year due to a long rehabilitation process. Junior Zach Stahl scored 13 and provided energy on the entire floor by assisting on five Huskie baskets and pulling down six rebounds.
It was guard David Walker's team-high 17 points and four free throws in the final 14 seconds that secured the victory.
The Huskies' hot shooting (54 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from 3-point range) prevented Delaware from establishing any sort of sustained run.
Northeastern will be making its third straight appearance in the semifinals. The Huskies made it to the championship game two years ago as the No. 1 seed in Richmond, but fell to No. 3 seed James Madison, 70-57.