"I think what made the CAA event so good is the fans really turned out," said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who was at Mason from 1997-2011. "The place was packed. I know in my last five or six or seven years, the semifinals and finals were just packed to the rafters, and just great games."

Larranaga's teams won three CAA tournament titles and played in five NCAA tournaments. Notably, his 2006 team that made an unlikely run to the Final Four didn't win the CAA title and automatic bid. It earned the league's first NCAA at-large berth in 20 years.

"There was definitely an incredible buzz in the building. You watched as different teams and crowds started rooting for other teams," said Brownell, who remains the last coach from a team outside the state of Virginia to win the tournament, having done so with the Seahawks in 2006.

"There's something to be said for walking into the arena for the semifinals and see the yellow and green of Mason in one corner, and the blue and teal of Wilmington in another corner and the yellow of VCU, and the blue of Hofstra or blue of Old Dominion over here," Brownell said. "It's pretty neat, and you just don't have that in a lot of other tournaments, when you're playing in somebody else's gym.

"For me, in some ways it was like the regionals and sectionals and state tournament, growing up in Indiana. You'd look up in each corner and there would be four different schools' colors for a day of basketball, and it was pretty special."

The tournament traditionally begins with a banquet the night before competition, honoring the league's top players. Among the keynote speakers have been Dick Vitale, Julius Erving, Bill Walton and Bones McKinney.

"We attempted to shine a light on players that didn't necessarily get a lot of publicity," Yeager said. "It's been a great event for the student-athletes."

The games and the moments and the players often made it special. They began with Richmond's two titles under Tarrant.

Old Dominion won the 1992 title in its first year in the league. The Monarchs won three games in three days, though they had won two in a row only twice all season.

Seventh-seeded East Carolina upset No. 1 seed JMU in the 1993 final and remains not only the lowest seed to win the tournament, but to make the title game.

Driesell's CAA tournament resume' bears mentioning at this point. His JMU teams lost to an eight seed, a two seed, a four seed and a seven seed in consecutive years. During a timeout late in the '93 title game, referee Dick Paparo strolled over to some familiar faces on press row and remarked, "Lefty's dyin' over there."

After the ECU loss, Driesell said, "I'm going to quit coaching in tournaments. We knew we had to win this to get into the NCAA tournament. I don't know, maybe they'll just give us one because they feel sorry for us."

One year later, the Dukes appeared on their way to another disappointing title game loss. But they rallied from 18 points down in the second half and won 77-76 on Kent Culuko's baseline 3-pointer at the final horn.

"The greatest win I've ever had," Lefty said afterward. Reminded that he won an ACC title, NCAA games and countless other big games, he replied, I've never been down 18 in a championship game and come back and won it.

VCU won the title in 1996 in its first year in the CAA, after coming over the Metro Conference. In 1999, Mason and 28-year-old Army veteran George Evans gave Larranaga his first tournament title and NCAA berth in 15 years as a head coach.

Two years later, the CAA was in a precarious position. The defections of Richmond, East Carolina and American in 2000 left the conference with a six-team tournament. The league still managed to make history, though not necessarily in a positive light. Evans, the CAA's only three-time Player of the Year, and the Patriots defeated UNC Wilmington 35-33 for the championship, in what was then the second-lowest-scoring game in the shot-clock era.

As offensively challenged as the game was, Larranaga said it might be his most vivid tournament memory because of its closeness and intensity.

UNC Wilmington won three titles in a four-year span under Jerry Wainwright and Brownell, led by two-time Player of the Year Brett Blizzard.

VCU won the 2004 title, its first since '96, under 29-year-old Jeff Capel III. That signaled the Rams' resurgence and was the first of four CAA championships and five NCAA appearances in the next nine years, under three different coaches: Capel, Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart.

Old Dominion's 2005 title was its first in eight years and began a run of three championships and four NCAA tournament appearances under Blaine Taylor.