The CIAA Northern Division has the league’s best records. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a tournament title, though.
When the men’s tournament tips off today at Time Warner Cable Arena, North top seeds Virginia State and Virginia Union are favorites, but history suggests anything can happen. Chowan, another North Division squad, is on the cusp of a 20-win season and Southern champ J.C. Smith has been hot down the stretch.
“The stakes are higher,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said. “You have to be prepared to play against some very consistent teams. Whoever goes in with that strong attitude is the one that’s going to be successful.”
Nationally-ranked Virginia Union and longtime CIAA heavyweight Shaw lead the women’s draw. Virginia Union has Division II’s leading scorer in guard Kiana Johnson and rebounding force Lady Walker, while Shaw coach Jacques Curtis has used last year’s tournament failure as a rallying cry for 2016.
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What’s At Stake
▪ The CIAA is probably a one-bid league for the NCAA Division II tournament, so winning the championship is most likely the only way in.
▪ Virginia State: The 20-5 Trojans have been transformed by second-year coach Lonnie Blow.
▪ J.C. Smith: Forward Stedmon Lemon, the CIAA player of the year, and guard Diondre Pratt are one of the league’s most-potent duos.
▪ Virginia Union: First-year coach Jay Butler has given the once-proud program reason to believe they’re back for a title run.
Don’t Be Surprised If
▪ Virginia State beats Southern Division competition. The Trojans are 6-0 against them during the regular season.
▪ J.C. Smith continues its recent hot streak. The Golden Bulls won four of the final five regular season games.
▪ Chowan makes a move. The Hawks (19-8) are 11-5 in league games, 6-0 vs. the Southern Division.
Three To Watch
Ray Anderson, G, Virginia Union: Leads the league in scoring at 20.7 points per game and hits 51.7 percent of his shots.
Stedmon Lemon, F, J.C. Smith: The senior averages 20.3 points per game and is hungry to win a tournament title.
Koretz Smith, G, Chowan: Averages 17.7 points and 3.3 assists to power the Hawks
▪ Virginia Union’s Ray Anderson leads the league in minutes played with 580.
▪ Livingstone is trying to become the first team to win three straight tournament titles since Virginia Union (2006-08).
▪ Quincy January of St. Augustine’s averages 15.9 points per game and connects on 58.7 percent of his field goal attempts.
▪ Virginia Union won three straight to close the regular season after losing the previous three games.
▪ J.C. Smith is the CIAA’s highest-scoring team (81.9 points per game).
Tuesday’s first round: Winston-Salem State vs. Lincoln (Pa.), 6:40 p.m.; Elizabeth City State vs. Fayetteville State, 8:50 p.m.
Wednesday: Chowan vs. Fayetteville State-Elizabeth City State winner, 6:40 p.m.; Livingstone vs. Winston-Salem State-Lincoln (Pa.) winner, 8:50 p.m.
Thursday: Bowie State vs. St. Augustine’s, 1 p.m.; Virginia State vs. TBA, 3 p.m.; Johnson C. Smith vs. TBA, 7 p.m.; Shaw vs. Virginia Union, 9 p.m.
Friday: Semfinals, 7 p.m., 9 p.m.
What’s At Stake
▪ The women’s draw is stacked with Virginia Union, Shaw and Chowan capable of winning. Can Shaw rebound from missing last year’s final?
▪ Virginia Union: The Panthers have been the class of the league and among the best in Division II all season.
▪ Shaw: The Bears are consistent title threats and top seed in the Southern Division.
▪ Chowan: The Hawks have put together their best campaign since joining the CIAA and are capable of getting to the final.
Don’t Be Surprised If
▪ Shaw wins the tournament. The Bears have claimed nine of the past 13 tournament titles.
▪ Virginia Union makes a push to the final. The Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the region.
▪ Chowan pulls off an upset or two. The Hawks are 19-7 and No. 7 in the region.
Three To Watch
Kiana Johnson, G, Virginia Union: Leads the nation in scoring (28 points per game).
Lady Walker, F, Virginia Union: Averages 18.5 points and 13.2 rebounds and shoots 55.2 percent.
Eboni Ross, C, Shaw: Averages 13.1 points and 9.7 rebounds and shoots 61.1 percent.
▪ Virginia Union averages a league-high 85.2 points per game, 6.9 better than No. 2 Shaw.
▪ Johnson C. Smith forces 23.3 turnovers per game, best in the conference.
▪ Chowan, Shaw and Virginia Union are all ranked in the top seven in the region. The top eight make the NCAA tournament.
▪ Shaw’s Tabatha Anderson is 43 of 98 (43.9 percent) from 3-point range.
▪ St. Augustine’s (3-23) is the only CIAA team to go winless in league play.
Tuesday: Bowie State vs. Fayetteville State, 10 a.m. ; St. Augustine’s vs. Lincoln (Pa.), 12:10 p.m.; Elizabeth City State vs. Johnson C. Smith, 2:20 p.m.; Winston-Salem State vs. Virginia State, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Chowan vs. Fayetteville State-Bowie State winner, 10 a.m.; Livingstone vs. St. Augustine’s-Lincoln (Pa.) winner, 12:10 p.m.; Virginia Union vs. Johnson C. Smith-Elizabeth City State winner, 2:20 p.m.; Shaw vs. Virginia State-Winston-Salem State winner, 4:30 p.m.
Friday: Semifinals, 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Saturday: Championship, 4 p.m.