Game Day

Towson vs. College of Charleston

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Show Place Arena (5,800) in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Records: Towson 13-16, 7-9 in CAA; CofC 16-13, 9-7

Webcast: www.caasports.com

You'll have to forgive College of Charleston women's basketball coach Natasha Adair if she walks around with a little swagger these days.

There's good reason for the second-year head coach to be optimistic about the program. Adair has seen the future and it looks bright because of four talented freshmen players.

When Charleston jumped from the Southern Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association back in July, few observers around the CAA gave the Cougars much of a chance in their new league. The Cougars were picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll.

The SoCon consistently ranked near the bottom in women's basketball. During the 2012-13 season, the SoCon was the 22nd-ranked conference among 30 NCAA Division I leagues. The CAA was No. 13.

But the Cougars have been more than just a speed bump for league opponents this season as they head into this weekend's CAA tournament in Upper Marlboro, Md. In fact, Charleston ranks among the league's elite teams.

The third-seeded Cougars face Towson at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Charleston was 16-13 overall and finished third in the CAA with a 9-7 mark. They split the season series with second-seeded Delaware and handed James Madison its only loss in conference play.

"I've been asked during the season if this the year we think we can win a conference title," Adair said.

"Absolutely. That's why we're competing. We're just as good as any team in the CAA. We belong here and we didn't want to just walk into the league, we wanted to surge into the league in grand fashion."

Mission accomplished.

A major reason for the Cougars' success in their transition from the SoCon to the CAA has been the emergence of freshmen Bre Bolden, Jasmine Carter, Jenice Winter and Courtney Gardner.

Bolden and Carter have had the biggest impact.

Bolden was named to the CAA's All-Rookie team last week, averaging 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Bolden dropped 20 points on Drexel, the defending women's NIT champions, and had 15 points against Delaware and South Florida, both NCAA tournament teams a year ago. A quick first step and soft hands around the rim have made the 5-11 player tough to stop.

"Bre can blow by you on the perimeter and finish at the basket," Adair said. "She can rebound. She can defend and she can run the floor."

Bolden said she didn't know what to expect during her first season of college basketball.

"I didn't have any expectations when I got here," said Bolden, who has started 20 games for the Cougars. "I didn't know how much I'd play or if I'd start. I just wanted to fit in."

Carter, a 6-0 forward, averaged nearly six points and three rebounds a game. Her best game came back in February when she scored 19 points against Hofstra.

"She's my baby (Charles) Barkley," Adair said. "She had no idea who Charles Barkley was, but now she knows. You can really challenge her and she'll step up to the plate and meet that challenge."

While Winter and Gardner have not seen the floor as much as their freshmen teammates, they've been equally effective when they've gotten the opportunity to play.

"We wouldn't be where we are today without all four of those girls," Adair said. "Those four are going to be the foundation for what our program is going to be down the road."