CAA tournament preview

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THE STAR

F Ryan Pearson, George Mason. The savvy senior carried the Patriots to a 23-8 regular season, ranking third in the conference in scoring (17.8 per game) and fifth in rebounding (8.5). If Mason wins its first CAA tournament since 2008, chances are Pearson turns in a monster three days.

THE FAVORITE

Drexel. It’s tough to argue about applying that label to a team that won 23 of its last 24, including 17 in a row. The Dragons rely on defense as much as ever, but have a much more efficient offense thanks to guard Frantz Massenat, double-double machine Samme Givens and star-in-the-making Damion Lee.

THE SLEEPER

Delaware. The Blue Hens were 7-10 and looked rudderless in mid-January, but have won 10 of 12 to earn the No. 5 seed and roll up their largest win total since joining the CAA in 2001-02. If potent guard Devon Saddler enjoys one of his better days, Delaware could knock off just about anyone.

LOCAL LOOK

George Mason has an solid history as a No. 3 seed. The Patriots reached the title game in four previous CAA tournaments as a No. 3 seed (1986, 1988, 2004 and 2008), winning the event in 2008.

THE PICK

Virginia Commonwealth. Drexel might look like the team to beat, but remember the Dragons are 4-10 all-time in the CAA tournament and 2-9 since 2003. Meanwhile, VCU is playing well, just down the street from its campus and didn’t face the Dragons in Richmond. Things set up well for Shaka Smart and Co. to return to the NCAA tournament.

SCHEDULE (all games at Richmond Coliseum)

First round, Friday

No. 8 James Madison vs. No. 9 UNC Wilmington, noon

No. 5 Delaware vs. No. 12 Towson, 2:30

No. 7 Northeastern vs. No. 10 William & Mary, 6

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