(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament kicks off on Friday, March 6, and will run through Monday, March 9 when a winner will be crowned and sent to the NCAA Tournament. All games in the CAA Tournament will be played at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.
Four teams in the CAA finished the regular season at 12-6 in conference play, but it was William & Mary that earned the tiebreaker over Northeastern, James Madison and UNC-Wilmington. UNCW has won the most CAA Tournament titles of the 10-team field with four. Last year's CAA champion Delaware earned the sixth seed this season.
Williams & Mary capped off its 2014-15 season with an 18-11 overall record, and split the season series with Northeastern, owned two wins over UNCW, and took down James Madison twice to get to 12-6. The Tribe dropped their season finale to Drexel, 80-66, at home to end a two-game win streak, however.
William & Mary was led by Marcus Thornton, who finished up the regular season netting 19.4 ppg, which is the highest total among active players in the conference. William & Mary's offense netted 73.2 ppg, good for second in the league, on 49.2 percent shooting. The Tribe await the Friday winner of eighth- seeded Elon and ninth-seeded Towson.
UNC-Wilmington garnered the second seed with its tiebreaker over Northeastern and James Madison, and gets the second automatic bye into the quarterfinal round. The Seahawks will face the winner of seventh-seeded Drexel and 10th- seeded College of Charleston on Saturday. Wilmington has won the CAA title more times than any other program (four), and enters the 2015 version of the league postseason with a 12-6 record in conference play. The team saw a two- game win streak come to an end in its season finale against Elon, 74-55.
Addison Spruill led a trio of double-digit scorers for the Seahawks this season with 14.5 ppg, adding in 6.5 rpg to top the squad. Freddie Jackson ended the regular season ranked second in the conference in steals per outing, notching 1.7 spg.
Northeastern earned the best overall record during the regular season at 20-11, but gets the three seed by virtue of yet another tiebreaker with William & Mary, UNCW and James Madison. The Huskies will take on sixth-seeded Delaware in the quarterfinal round Saturday. Northeastern won three of its final four games to close out the season slate, but lost its most recent matchup to the Blue Hens, 73-68, early in February. Scott Eatherton netted 14.7 ppg with 6.6 rpg to pace the Huskies. Delaware rebounded from losses in 13 of its first 14 games this season to attain a 9-9 league record for the sixth seed. The Hens head into the postseason having won four of their last five contests.
Fourth-seeded James Madison will battle with fifth-seeded Hofstra in Saturday's quarterfinal matchup. The Dukes concluded the 2014-15 campaign with a 19-12 overall record, and rounded out the 12-6 conference teams. JMU ended the season winning six of its last seven games, with an 82-73 victory over its next opponent, Hofstra, in the season finale. The fifth-seeded Pride matched JMU's 19-12 record, but went 10-8 in league action. Transfer guard Juan'ya Green finished third in the league in scoring at 17.0 ppg, helping Hofstra to a league-leading 78.1 ppg.
First-round action opens up on Friday with a clash between ninth-seeded Towson and eighth-seeded Elon. The Tigers faltered in 2014-15 after a strong campaign the year before, finishing this season at 5-13 in league play. Towson has lost four straight entering the tournament, but earned the season sweep over Elon. The Phoenix head to Baltimore having won three in a row, which boosted the team's overall record to 14-17 and conference ledger to 6-12. Elon beat UNCW in the season finale, 74-55.
Finally, the winner of 10th-seeded College of Charleston and seventh-seeded Drexel moves on to play Wilmington Saturday. It was a dismal season for the Cougars, who finished with an 8-23 overall record. Charleston ranked last in the league in scoring, averaging 58.9 ppg, led by Canyon Barry and Joe Chealey (12.4 ppg each). Drexel (11-18, 9-9 in-conference) will be without the league's leading scorer in Damion lee (21.4 ppg), who has a broken right hand. Freddie Wilson (4.9 ppg) scored 24 in the season finale win over William & Mary, however.
The field is as contentious as any conference in college basketball, with the title completely up for grabs. It's going to take a full team effort to navigate through the CAA Tournament, but no one team is unbeatable. Early favorite Northeastern might be hot at the right time.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: Northeastern