Site: RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

When: Today, tomorrow, Friday, Saturday

2003 champion: Shaw

2004 favorite: Shaw. The Bears, who will be playing in their hometown, tore through the CIAA regular season with a 16-0 record for the first time in school history and were 25-2 overall. Junior G Jessica Hawkins was named the CIAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Three of her teammates, junior G Kiarsha Curtis, senior F Margiella Mobley and senior F Latasha Shipman, were all-conference.

Dark horse: Fayetteville State. The Lady Broncos (14-11) are the CIAA's top free-throw shooting team (68.6 percent), lead the league in steals (16.25 a game) and are second in three-point shooting (.325). Also, Fayetteville State gave Shaw a good run before losing, 87-78, in their only meeting this season.

Player to watch: Allyson Hardy, Bowie State. The junior guard is the top scorer in the league (21.3), second in steals (3.8), second in free-throw percentage (.774), seventh in assists (4.37) and 17th in rebounds (6.4).

Outlook: Shaw's biggest test could come from Virginia Union (21-5). Bowie State (14-14 overall), which has the league's top scorer (Hardy) and top rebounder (junior Rachill Robinson, who averages 10.3 a game), is capable of pulling off a major upset early but doesn't figure to be capable of sustaining any momentum.

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