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Marshall Plumlee, No. 4 Duke take care of No. 13 UNCW

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In the days leading into the NCAA tournament, West region No. 13 seed UNCW was one team people labeled as a possibility to pull an upset. Kevin Keatts’ team had depth and a full-court pressure system that could give a Duke team that lacked depth problems. What the Seahawks didn’t have was a big man who could handle senior 7-footer Marshall Plumlee, who rebounded from a subpar first half to help lead the Blue Devils to a 93-85 win in Providence.

Plumlee finished the game with 23 points and eight rebounds, with the point total being a career-high, and he made nine of his ten field goal attempts on the day.

Plumlee was more aggressive in the second half, with the majority of his points coming off of pick and rolls and offensive rebounds. His improved play influenced Duke’s other players as well, as the Blue Devils did a better job of attacking the UNCW pressure. There were more shot attempts around the rim for Mike Krzyzewski’s team, and they attempted 27 free throws in the second half against a team that committed more fouls than any other Division I program this season.

Brandon Ingram, who was a matchup problem for the Seahawks in his own right, finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and Grayson Allen tallied 23 points himself. Duke outscored UNCW 31-14 from the foul line, with Ingram (ten points) and Allen (15) responsible for 25 of those points. UNCW couldn’t turn the Blue Devils over enough, and they struggled with stopping Duke off the dribble as well.

Senior guard Craig Ponder led four Seahawks in double figures with 22 points, with Chris Flemmings adding 18, Denzel Ingram 17 and C.J. Bryce 16.

Next up for Duke, which extended its NCAA tournament win streak to seven with this victory, will be either No. 5 sed Baylor or No. 12 seed Yale on Saturday.

VIDEO: Flemmings, UNCW advance to CAA tournament final

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As was the case in the first CAA semifinal between No. 1 Hofstra and No. 5 William & Mary, No. 2 UNCW’s matchup with No. 6 Northeastern was a rematch of a semifinal in last year’s tournament. Kevin Keatts’ Seahawks held on to beat the Huskies 73-70 Sunday evening in Baltimore, avenging their loss in last year’s semifinals and advancing to the CAA tournament final for the first time since 2006.

Chris Flemmings led the way offensively for UNCW with 21 points to go along with five boards, and Denzel Ingram added 14 points before fouling out late. UNCW’s defense was the key, as they limited the Huskies to 39.1 percent shooting from the field. Quincy Ford led four Northeastern players in double figures with 21 points, but he did so on 5-for-15 shooting. David Walker and T.J. Williams added 16 apiece and Zach Stahl 11 while also grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.

Next up for UNCW will be No. 1 Hofstra in Monday’s CAA title game, which begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN. The two teams split their two regular season meetings, with UNCW winning at Hofstra by three February 4 and the Pride returning the favor with a 70-69 win in Wilmington three weeks later.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Three more NCAA tournament tickets punched

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GAME OF THE DAY: Northern Iowa 56, Evansville 54

Wes Washpun’s jumper as time expired gave the Panthers the win in the Missouri Valley title game and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Ben Jacobson’s team, which despite big wins over the likes of North Carolina and Iowa State began Valley play 2-6, enters the tournament having won 12 of their last 13 games. And with experienced options such as Washpun, Matt Bohannon and Jeremy Morgan, this isn’t a team to be taken lightly when the 68-team field is revealed.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 12 Indiana 80, No. 14 Maryland 62: Tom Crean’s Hoosiers finished the regular season in style, as they ran away from the Terrapins in the second half in Bloomington. Yogi Ferrell was once again the leader, but it was Troy Williams who led the Hoosiers with 23 points. If Williams can carry his play in the last five games into postseason play, Indiana’s going to be a tough out in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

No. 4 UNC Asheville 77, No. 2 Winthrop 68: The four-seed in the Big South tournament completed its run to the title, with Dwayne Sutton leading the way with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Three other Bulldogs scored in double figures in the win, and Winthrop went just 5-for-33 from beyond the arc. Jimmy Gavin led the way for the Eagles with a game-high 31 points. UNC Asheville has five players averaging double figures, and their “small ball” nature can make them a tough matchup in the NCAA tournament.

No. 4 FGCU 80, No. 7 Stetson 78 (OT): The Eagles are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013, as they beat the Hatters by two in the Atlantic Sun title game. Zach Johnson’s blocked shot in the final seconds of overtime preserved the win for FGCU, and he finished the game with 19 points. Antravious Simmons produced a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, to lead the way statistically for the Eagles. There will be mentions of “Dunk City” over the next week, but Joe Dooley’s team is different from the one that captured the imagination of America three years ago.

STARRED

Dwayne Sutton, UNC Asheville: 25 points and 18 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ Big South title game win over Winthrop.

Antravious Simmons, FGCU: 21 points and 12 rebounds as FGCU beat Stetson in overtime to win the Atlantic Sun tournament.

Troy Williams, Indiana: 23 points and five rebounds in the Hoosiers’ win over No. 14 Maryland. Over his last five games Williams is averaging 16.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Malcolm Hill, Illinois: His team didn’t win, losing 86-79 at Penn State in double overtime, but Hill finished with 39 points and 13 rebounds.

STRUGGLED

Winthrop: The Eagles shot just 5-for-33 from three in their 77-68 loss to UNC Asheville in the Big South title game.

Tanner Plomb, Army West Point: Plomb finished the Black Knights’ loss to Holy Cross with 11 points and nine rebounds, but he scored those points on 3-for-15 shooting.

Jordan Pickett and Marcellus Barksdale, IUPUI: Pickett and Barksdale combined to score ten points on 2-for-15 shooting in the Jaguars’ 60-45 loss to North Dakota State.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 15 Purdue closed out its regular season schedule with a 91-80 win over Wisconsin in West Lafayette. Caleb Swanigan scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and P.J. Thompson added a career-high 22 points as the Boilermakers grabbed the four-seed in the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin will be the six-seed in Indianapolis.
  • Cincinnati added a much-needed quality win to its résumé, beating SMU 61-54 in the Mustangs’ final game of the season. Mick Cronin’s Bearcats will be the four-seed at the American Athletic Conference tournament, where they’ll play five-seed UConn in the quarterfinals.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • The top two seeds advanced to the CAA title game, with No. 1 Hofstra edging out No. 5 William & Mary 70-67 and No. 2 UNCW holding off No. 6 Northeastern 73-70. Both winners avenged losses in last year’s semifinal round, and Monday’s title game can be seen on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. The road team won both regular season meetings.
  • The Horizon League tournament has been all chalk, and Sunday the three and four seeds advanced to the semifinal round. No. 3 Wright State took care of No. 6 Detroit 82-72, and they’ll take on No. 2 Oakland on Monday. In the other semifinal No. 1 Valparaiso will play No. 4 Green Bay, which beat No. 5 Milwaukee 70-61.
  • The MAAC title game Monday night will match the conference’s top two teams, as No. 1 Monmouth and No. 2 Iona took care of business in Sunday’s semifinals. The Hawks beat No. 5 Fairfield 76-63, and the Gaels took care of No. 3 Siena (the tournament hosts) 81-70. Monmouth and Iona split their two meetings, with the road team winning both.
  • No. 2 Lehigh will host the Patriot League title game, as they beat No. 6 American 78-62. The Mountain Hawks’ opponent will be No. 9 Holy Cross which won its third straight road game, 60-38 at Army West Point.
  • SoCon top seed Chattanooga advanced to Monday’s title game, surviving an upset bid from No. 5 Western Carolina by the final score of 73-69. Also advancing was No. 2 ETSU, which beat No. 3 Furman 84-76 in the other semifinal.
  • After the top two seeds won their quarterfinal match-ups at the Summit League tournament Saturday, the three and four seeds weren’t as fortunate Sunday. No. 3 Omaha lost to No. 6 Denver 78-70, and No. 4 IUPUI was eliminated by North Dakota State, 60-45. Monday’s semifinals will match No. 1 IPFW and NDSU, and No. 2 South Dakota State and Denver.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Temple wrapped up the outright American Athletic Conference regular season title with a 64-56 win at Tulane. Fran Dunphy’s Owls had already locked up the top seed in the conference tournament, with SMU ineligible for postseason play.
  • Also in the American, UConn avoided a bad loss by taking care of UCF 67-46 in Storrs. As mentioned above, the Huskies will take on Cincinnati in the quarterfinals.
  • Brandon Taylor scored 21 points and grabbed 11 boards as Penn State beat Illinois 86-79 in overtime. The Nittany Lions will be the ten-seed in the Big Ten tournament, drawing No. 7 Ohio State in the second round. Illinois, the 12-seed, will play No. 13 Minnesota in the first round Wednesday night.
  • Northwestern beat Nebraska 64-55, dropping the Huskers into the 11-seed in the Big Ten tournament. Nebraska will open play No. 14 Rutgers in the first round, while No. 9 Northwestern gets No. 8 Michigan in Thursday’s second round.

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The regular season in the Colonial Athletic Association was an entertaining one, as it produced two champions (Hofstra and UNCW) and three other teams with 11 league wins (Towson, William & Mary and James Madison). Joe Mihalich’s Pride, led by CAA Player of the Year Juan’ya Green and forward Rokas Gustys, will be the top seed this weekend in Baltimore with UNCW being the two-seed. The last two tournament titles have been won by teams that earned at least a share of that season’s regular season title, but don’t be surprised if that isn’t the case this time around.

The Bracket

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When: March 4-7

Where: Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore

Final: March 7, 7:00 p.m. (NBCSN)

Watch the CAA Championship game Monday at 7 pm ET on NBCSN and on Live Extra

Favorite: UNCW

For the second straight season the Seahawks won a share of the CAA regular season title, performing well on both ends of the floor as they won 14 CAA games. UNCW ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage, third in three-point percentage, second in field goal percentage defense and third in three-point percentage defense. Kevin Keatts has four players averaging double figures in scoring with All-CAA forward Chris Flemmings (16.1 ppg) and guard Denzel Ingram (12.6 ppg) leading the way, and eight players play at least 12 minutes per contest. UNCW also led the CAA in turnover margin, but if they’re to win the tournament they have to be better on the defensive glass (last in defensive rebounding percentage).

And if they lose?: Hofstra

The Pride don’t have much depth thanks to injuries, but they certainly don’t lack for talent. In addition to the aforementioned Green and Gustys, Joe Mihalich can also call upon quality options such as Ameen Tanksley, Brian Bernardi and Denton Koon for contributions on the offensive end of the floor. Hofstra averaged 78.4 points per game in CAA play, and only William & Mary was better from an offensive efficiency standpoint. The key for Hofstra: avoiding foul trouble, especially when it comes to Gustys in the post.

Other Contenders:

  • William & Mary: Tony Shaver’s Tribe have never reached the NCAA tournament, but players such as all-CAA guard Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon have made them the most efficient offense in the league.
  • James Madison: The Dukes have on of the CAA’s best players in guard Ron Curry, and they swept the season series with possible semifinal opponent Hofstra.
  • Towson: Pat Skerry’s Tigers are the three-seed by virtue of their 3-1 record against William & Mary and James Madison, and led by Arnaud William Adala Moto they’re the best rebounding team in the CAA.

CAA Player of the Year: Juan’ya Green, Hofstra

A lot was asked of Green due to the Pride’s lack of depth and he delivered, averaging 18.2 points (second in the CAA), 7.9 assists (first) and 1.8 steals (first) in conference games. Green reached double digits in scoring in all 18 of Hofstra’s CAA games, and over the last six contests (all wins) he averaged 16.8 points and 8.8 assists per game.

CAA Coach of the Year: Kevin Keatts, UNCW

This award tends to go to the coach whose team most exceeded preseason expectations, and Keatts certainly qualifies. After losing three starters and their top two scorers from a team that won a share of the CAA regular season title in 2014-15, UNCW simply reloaded and duplicated that feat in 2015-16.

First-Team All-CAA:

  • Juan’ya Green, Hofstra (POY)
  • Ron Curry, James Madison: Curry averaged a CAA-best 19.2 points per game in league games while also dishing out an average of four assists per contest.
  • Omar Prewitt, William & Mary: Prewitt ranked third in the CAA in both scoring and field goal percentage (league games only).
  • Chris Flemmings, UNCW: Flemmings arrived at UNCW as a walk-on after transferring in from Division II Barton College, and at 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game (in CAA play) the 6-foot-5 forward certainly had an impact.
  • Rokas Gustys, Hofstra: Gustys was the CAA’s most dominant interior presence, as he led the league in both rebounding (15.1 rpg) and field goal percentage (68.7 percent) while also averaging 16.4 points per contest in CAA games.

CBT Prediction: UNCW outlasts Hofstra in the title game.

VIDEO: UNCW maintains two-game lead atop CAA standings

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Early in Colonial Athletic Association play, multiple teams made cases for themselves as contenders for the regular season title. But in recent weeks a clear favorite has emerged: UNCW. Kevin Keatts’s team won its 20th game of the season Saturday afternoon, moving to 12-2 in CAA play, with a 78-68 win over James Madison on NBC Sports Network.

The Seahawks, who have now won 11 straight games, were led offensively by Craig Ponder, who scored a team-high 19 points with Chris Flemmings adding 17 and 11 rebounds and Jordon Talley’s 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. UNCW shot just over 39 percent from the field, but they outscored James Madison 30-12 from beyond the arc and forced 17 JMU turnovers.

James Madison played without a key cog in leading scorer Ron Curry, who suffered a knee injury in the Dukes’ win at Charleston Thursday night. Tom Vodanovich scored 17 points and Winston Grays 15 for the Dukes, who are now 19-8 overall and 9-5 in CAA play.

CAA moving conference tournament to North Charleston in 2017

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In March the Colonial Athletic Association’s three-year agreement with the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore comes to an end, meaning that the league and its members were in search of a new home for the men’s basketball tournament. Thursday afternoon the CAA made official news that made the rounds earlier in the week, as the 2017-19 editions of the tournament will be played at the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, South Carolina.

The arena seats some 11,000 spectators, and the move places the men’s tournament closest to the CAA’s southernmost member. That could result in some travel issues, as Baltimore was a location to which many fan bases could travel by car or bus.

With the move south, those treks for fans of programs such as Northeastern, Hofstra and Drexel get even longer unless they’re willing to spring for a round-trip flight. But even with that option, you’re essentially committing to the entire weekend whether your team advances or not as it’s tough (and expensive) to change flights in such a scenario.

According to the CAA the move to the North Charleston Coliseum was unanimously approved by the member schools.