CAA Tournament preview: Seahawks look for seventh CAA title


Noah Powers/The Seahawk

The UNCW men’s basketball team huddles before its Senior Day matchup against Hofstra on Feb. 16, 2019.

Noah Powers, Assistant Sports Editor

After wrapping up the regular season with a 70-61 loss at College of Charleston, UNC Wilmington will head to back South Carolina’s “Holy City” this weekend in search of its seventh Colonial Athletic Association title in program history — but not without an uphill climb.

The 10th-seeded Seahawks (9-22, 5-13 CAA), coming off their worst conference outing in five seasons (3-14, 2013-14), will take on No. 7 Elon in the opening round of the 2019 CAA Tournament at North Charleston Coliseum with a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.

Despite a lackluster showing last season (11-21), UNCW advanced to the semifinals of the CAA Tournament before falling to Northeastern. It will be that same energy that the Seahawks will look to conjure up this week.

Earlier this season, UNCW dropped both of its games against the Phoenix. However, Saturday’s matchup will be the first ever between the two squads in CAA Tournament play.

The key for the Seahawks will be a strong defensive stand against senior duo Steven Santa Ana (15.7 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Tyler Seibring (16.5 points) — the latter of which was named Second Team All-CAA.

The two combined for 44 points in their last outing against UNCW.

The Seahawks rank 339thnationally in three-point defense and have given up 308 buckets from beyond the arc this season. Elon was also able to hit 17 three’s in their last matchup with the Seahawks, so perimeter defense, which has been the deciding factor for much of the Seahawks’ season, will be crucial.

UNCW will call upon two of its standout players to lead the charge.

Freshman guard Kai Toews (8.8 points, 7.8 assists) was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team and has stepped up tremendously as a team leader during his first season in Wilmington. The Tokyo native had 7 points and 8 assists the last time the Seahawks squared off with Elon.

Senior forward Devontae Cacok, who averages a double-double (14.9 points, 12.3 rebounds), was named to the CAA All-Defensive Team as well as First Team All-CAA. He has hit the double-double mark all but nine times this season, including three of the last four. The ‘Hawks will look for a sturdy interior performance from the big man on Saturday.

Redshirt junior Jeantal Cylla (13.4 points) and sophomore Ty Gadsden (11.5 points) have been key assets for UNCW’s offense. Cylla has shown that he can excel from beyond the arc while Gadsden ranks 18thnationally in three-point percentage (47.3). Considering these two make up the biggest portion of scoring for the Seahawks, a strong long range showing from the duo will be a necessity.


CAA Tournament schedule


Game 1 — 4 p.m. — #8 James Madison vs. #9 Towson

Game 2 — 6:30 p.m. — #7 Elon vs. #10 UNCW

Sunday (Quarterfinals):

Game 3 — Noon — #1 Hofstra vs. JMU/Towson

Game 4 — 2:30 p.m. — #4 William & Mary vs. #5 Delaware

Game 5 — 6 p.m. — #2 Northeastern vs. Elon/UNCW

Game 6 — 8:30 p.m. — #3 Charleston vs. #6 Drexel

Monday (Semifinals):

Game 7 — 6 p.m. — G3 winner vs. G4 winner

Game 8 — 8:30 p.m. — G5 winner vs. G6 winner

Tuesday (Championship):

Game 9 — 7 p.m. — G7 winner vs. G8 winner