Dukes excited to host CAA women’s basketball tourney

JMU's Precious Hall drives to the basket in their game against Towson earlier this year. The CAA women's basketball tournament at JMU starts today. Photo courtesy JMU Athletics Communications Photography.

HARRISONBURG — Precious Hall couldn’t be more excited for her final women’s basketball games at James Madison University’s Convocation Center this week.

The JMU redshirt senior and her teammates will get to play on their home court as JMU hosts the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The tournament starts today with two first round games.

No. 8 seed Towson (12-17) will play No. 9 seed Hofstra (12-17) at noon, followed by No. 7 seed UNC-Wilmington (10-19) against No. 10 seed College of Charleston (9-20) at 2:30 p.m.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Hall said. “Maybe since the end of January, I’ve been sitting here dreaming about cutting down the nets on my home court, and that’s something that keeps me going every day. Because that’s kind of like a senior’s dream come true is to win a championship in their last game on their home court. And I think my teammates kind of have that same dream that I do.”

JMU (22-7) is the No. 2 seed in the tournament, with Elon (24-6) being the No. 1 seed. The Dukes will play at 5 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals against the winner of the UNC-Wilmington-College of Charleston game.

JMU head coach Sean O’Regan said that he’s been on both sides of hosting the conference tournament, having coached a JMU team that won the tournament at home and one that lost the tournament at home.

He said he does feel like it will give the Dukes an advantage.

“I think its extremely meaningful for the (players),” O’Regan said. “Our crowd is as good as it gets. The run we went on (in last Wednesday’s victory) with the and-1’s — it’s what I do this for. Its an exhilarating feeling. So having that kind of as having your back during these three tough games I think that will give us another leg up on other teams.”

The Dukes lost three games in the conference this season. They lost twice to Towson and once to fourth-seeded William & Mary. However, both of those teams are on the opposite side of the bracket from JMU.

Top-seeded Elon has lost twice to JMU this season (76-70 and 61-54), but swept every other team in the conference.

JMU rallied from an 8-point third-quarter deficit at home against College of Charleston on March 1 for a 74-60 win. The two teams could meet again in Thursday’s quarterfinals. College of Charleston was penalized two games by the CAA for improper use of basketballs, which dropped them to the 10 seed.

College of Charleston head coach Candice Jackson said she’s happy with where her team is at entering the conference tournament.

“The good thing about this tournament is no matter what happened in the regular season, tournament time’s tournament time,” Jackson said. “Everybody’s starting over. We have a chance to start over fresh and start over new. And accomplish a lot of the things we set out to do early in the season.”

Elon will play the winner of today’s Towson-Hofstra game at noon Thursday. That will be followed by No. 4 seed William & Mary (19-10) against No. 5 seed Delaware (16-13) at 2:30 p.m. JMU will play at 5, and that will be followed by No. 3 Drexel (20-9) versus No. 6 Northeastern (12-18) at 7:30 p.m.

The semifinals are Friday at 4:30 p.m. and 7, with the final at 7 p.m.  Saturday. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid into the Women’s NCAA Tournament, which starts March 17.

The Dukes are looking for their fourth CAA title in the last eight years and their 10th CAA title overall.

O’Regan said that playing so many games in just a few days is part of what makes tournament time special, and makes it a challenge to win.

“To win a championship you got to be tough,” O’Regan said. “(Hall’s) going to be playing 35 minutes three times in a row, if I can get her out that much. You’re going to hurt. It’s March, but no one cares if you’re hurting. Charleston doesn’t care if you’re hurting. Elon won’t care if you’re hurting, because they’re going through the same thing.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com