Towson's Zane Martin could be in for a big sophomore season after starring at Neumann-Goretti. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
Despite its mid-major status, the Colonial Athletic Association has represented itself very well in the NCAA Tournament in recent history.
UNC Wilmington, the two-time reigning CAA champion, has played close contests against ACC schools in first round matchups against Duke and Virginia during the past two seasons. Before that, Northeastern took Notre Dame to the wire as a No. 14 seed.
The departure of Kevin Keatts from UNCW should shake up the top of the conference after the Seahawks’ recent run of success and allow another program to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
Keatts’ replacement, C.B McGrath is one of many fresh faces among the CAA’s coaches. Drexel’s Zach Spiker, Delaware’s Martin Ingelsby and James Madison’s Louis Rowe are all in theirs second years. It will be interesting to see if any of them can take a big step forward in Year Two.
More likely it will be the teams that finished behind UNCW last season that compete for the conference crown. College of Charleston, Towson and Elon all return plenty of talent from teams with winning conference records last season.
Here’s a look at how we see the Colonial Athletic Association shaping up in 2017-18:
COBL’s Preseason All-CAA
Jarrell Brantley (Jr./Charleston)
Devontae Cacok (Jr./UNCW)
*Joe Chealey (Sr./Charleston)
Ryan Daly (Soph./Delaware)
Mike Morsell (Sr./Towson)
Tyler Seibring (Jr./Elon)
* = Preseason Player of the Year
1. Charleston Cougars
Coach: Earl Grant, 4th season (51-48, .515)
Last Year: 25-10 (14-4 CAA), lost in CAA championship (UNCW, 78-69), lost in NIT first round (Colorado State, 81-74)
Key Departures: N/A
Key Returnees: Joe Chealey (17.8 ppg, 3.2 apg), Jarrell Brantley (14.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Grant Riller (13.1 ppg)
Key Newcomers: N/A
Outlook: Charleston hasn’t been dancing since 1999, the last of three straight appearances while a member of the Atlantic Sun (1997-98) and Southern Conference. The Cougars were one of the most consistent programs in mid-major hoops for a time, winning 20-plus games in each season from 1993-94 to 2003-04. Last season was their first such time as a member of the CAA, which they joined after moving over from the SoCon in 2012-13. Now seems like their opportunity to get back to the NCAA Tournament, with every single member of the rotation from a year ago back for more. The CAA Preseason Player of the Year, Chealey is a 6-3 guard from Orlando who’s stepped up his production in each season, from 6.9 ppg as a freshman to 12.4 as a sophomore and then 17.8 ppg a year ago. Inside, they’ll rely on Brantley, a 6-7 forward, and an inside-out threat who knocked down 37 percent of his 3-pointers a year ago, as well as 6-10 junior Nick Harris, who averaged 5.9 ppg and 6.0 rpg a year ago. Simply put, they’re the team to beat.
2. Towson Tigers
Coach: Pat Skerry, 7th season (96-101, .487)
Last Year: 20-13 (11-7 CAA), lost in CAA semifinal (Charleston, 67-59)
Key Departures: William Adala Moto (12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg), John Davis (11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg),
Key Returnees: Mike Morsell (13.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Deshaun Morman (9.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Key Newcomers: N/A
Outlook: Yes, the Tigers graduated two talented and versatile seniors off last year’s squad in Adala Moto, a 6-6 wing who scored nearly 900 points and grabbed nearly 500 rebounds in two seasons at Towson, and Davis, a 6-5 forward and Neumann-Goretti grad who scored 1,114 points and grabbed 713 rebounds. But Towson returns eight other players who saw at least 10 minutes of action in at least 32 games last year, and a few are ready to take up quite a bit of that production. Two of the team’s five seniors, the 6-5 Morsell and 6-3 Morman, should be its leading scorers, while Brian Starr (6.0 ppg) and Eddie Keith (5.1 ppg) move into bigger roles in their final years. Keep an eye out for 6-4 sophomore Zane Martin, another Neumann-Goretti product, as the left-handed wing guard scored 5.5 ppg in 14.2 mpg last year, a 23-point effort at Hofstra the best of his six double-digit outings.
3. Elon Phoenix
Coach: Matt Matheny, 9th season (126-130, .492)
Last Year: 18-14 (10-8 CAA), lost in CAA quarterfinals (William & Mary, 71-66)
Key Departures: Luke Eddy (7.3 ppg, 3.7 apg)
Key Returnees: Tyler Seibring (14.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Brian Dawkins (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Dainan Swoope (11.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Steve Santa Ana (11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Outlook: Two years ago, the Phoenix were one of the younger teams in the country, starting two freshmen and a sophomore. But that group has matured and stuck together, and now the Phoenix are poised to be one of the best teams in the league. Their top five scorers are back, including the four above who all averaged double figures while playing in all 32 games. Of the group, only the 6-8 Dawkins and 6-4 guard Dimitri Thompson (8.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are seniors, while the 6-8 Seibring, 6-4 Santa Ana and 6-0 Swoope are all juniors. Matheny’s offensive system is heavily reliant on the long ball, and everybody on this team can shoot: Dawkins knocked down 46 percent of his attempts, Seibring 38 percent and Swoope 37 percent to lead the way. Four of Elon’s conference losses last year were by three-or-fewer points, and they lost by five in the league tournament; all they need to do this year is flip those decisions around and they’ll at least be playing somewhere in the postseason.
4. Hofstra Pride
Coach: Joe Mihalich, 5th season (69-64, .519)
Last Year: 15-17 (7-11 CAA), lost in CAA first round (Delaware, 81-76)
Key Departures: Deron Powers (13.0 ppg, 5.2 apg), Brian Bernardi (12.0 ppg)
Key Returnees: Justin Wright-Foreman (18.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Eli Pemberton (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Rokas Gustys (9.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Matija Radovic (Fr./Montverde Ac., Fla.), Stafford Truehart (RS-Fr./Canisius HS, N.Y.)
Outlook: With so much of the CAA losing numerous key players to graduation (and some transfers), the Pride look to be in good position to slide into a top-four spot despite the graduation of two-thirds of its starting backcourt in Powers and Bernardi. Mihalich has some talented scorers on the roster for the next couple years in Wright-Foreman, a 6-1 guard who hit on nearly 50 percent of his shots and over 37 percent of his 3s, and Pemberton, a 6-5 sophomore and the team’s best 3-point shooter at a shade north of 40 percent. Gustys, a bruising 6-9 senior, has been one of the league’s most consistent bigs over the last few years as well. Keep an eye out for Truehart, a 6-8 redshirt freshman who averaged 7.0 ppg and 4.7 rpg on the Pride’s four-game trip up to Canada during the offseason.
Delaware's second-year head coach Martin Ingelsby has an impressive freshman group to add to last year's CAA Rookie of the Year. (Photo: Mark Jordna/CoBL)
5. Delaware Blue Hens
Coach: Martin Ingelsby, 2nd season (13-20, .394)
Last Year: 13-20 (5-13 CAA), lost in CAA quarterfinal (UNCW, 91-82)
Key Departures: Chivarsky Corbett (6.4 ppg), Cazmon Hayes (8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Devonne Pinkard (6.3 ppg)
Key Returnees: Ryan Daly (16.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Anthony Mosley (10.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Eric Carter (6.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Ryan Allen (Fr./DeMatha, Md.), Kevin Anderson (Fr./St. John Neumann, Pa.), Chyree Walker (Fr./Bullis School, Md.), Derrick Woods (R-Soph./St. Bonaventure)
Outlook: Though the Blue Hens are likely another year away from being a serious competitor in the CAA, Ingelsby has to like his youthful talent, especially out on the perimeter, The second-year head coach and former Notre Dame assistant certainly seems to have scored a coup in landing the 6-4 Daly, as the Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) product led the team in scoring and rebounding while hitting 42.5 percent of his shots and 34 percent of his 3-pointers. Now he’s joined by a talented trio of guards in the 6-2 Allen, 6-5 Anderson and 6-5 Walker, all of whom should see plenty of playing time this season. For the Blue Hens to really be successful, they’ll need a big season out of Carter; the 6-9 redshirt junior from Jackson Memorial averaged 10.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg in the closing 14 games of last season. He’ll get help up front from Woods, a mobile 6-8 forward originally out of Pennsbury (Pa.).
6. UNCW Seahawks
Coach: C.B. McGrath, 1st season (0-0, .---)
Last Year: 29-6 (15-3 CAA), won CAA championship (Charleston, 78-69), lost NCAA first round (Virginia, 76-71)
Key Departures: C.J. Bryce (17.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Chris Flemmings (15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Denzel Ingram (14.6 ppg, 5.4 apg), Ambrose Mosley (8.2 ppg)
Key Returnees: Devontae Cacok (12.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Jordon Talley (7.6 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Jacque Brown (Jr./Cape Fear CC) Ty Taylor (RS-Soph./Wichita State)
Outlook: Kevin Keatts took a Wilmington program that had gone from NCAA regular (four trips between 2000-06) to conference all-ran (9-23 record in 2013-14) and turned it right around, winning 54 games in the last two seasons and a pair of CAA conference championships as well. Now Keatts is off to NC State -- bringing Bryce, a junior guard, along with him -- and so it’s in the hands of longtime UNC assistant McGrath to keep the momentum going. He’s got a lot to replace, however, with four of five starters and a good majority of the team’s scoring gone from last year, leaving only Cacok in the middle. The 6-7 junior is a good piece to start with, as he’s the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year and coming off a season where he set the NCAA single-season field-goal percentage record (80 percent), but teams will collapse on him in an instant if the Seahawks can’t put scorers around him. Look for Brown, a speedy 5-10 junior, and Taylor, a 6-2 redshirt junior, to jump right in and pick up some of the slack.
7. William & Mary Tribe
Coach: Tony Shaver, 15th season (193-239, .447)
Last Year: 17-14 (10-8 CAA), lost in CAA semifinals (UNCW, 105-94)
Key Departures: Daniel Dixon (19.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Omar Prewitt (15.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Jack Whitman (10.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Key Returnees: Nathan Knight (8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), David Cohn (6.2 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Key Newcomers: Matt Milon (RS-Soph./Boston College), Jihar Williams (Fr./Friends’ School, Md.)
Outlook: The Tribe find themselves in this group of teams here that have been generally successful in the league lately but have a lot to replace from last year. William & Mary saw two program stalwarts graduate in the 6-5 Dixon and 6-6 Prewitt, as the pair of three-year starters combined for over 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in their standout careers, and the wings were the exact versatile type of player that Shaver loves to design his teams around. Whitman, a 6-9 forward, planned on doing a grad transfer year at Kansas but backed out and hasn’t found another spot; Greg Malinowski, a 6-6 wing/forward who averaged 7.7 ppg last year, is headed to Georgetown. Knight, a 6-10 sophomore, put up those numbers in less than 20 minutes of action, while Cohn gives them plenty of experience as a fifth-year senior on the ball.
8. Northeastern Huskies
Coach: Bill Coen, 12th season (178-176, .503)
Last Year: 15-16 (8-10 CAA), lost in CAA quarterfinals (Towson, 82-54)
Key Departures: T.J. Williams (21.4 ppg, 5.3 apg), Alex Murphy (14.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Devon Begley (9.7 ppg, 3.3 apg), Bolden Brace (7.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) Donnell Gresham Jr. (8.3 ppg)
Key Newcomers: Tomas Murphy (Fr./Northfield Mount Hermon, Mass.)
Outlook: The Huskies stormed into CAA play last year, winning their first five league games to improve to 12-5 overall, but the momentum faltered in mid-January as they lost 11 of their final 14 games. Now they need to replace the 2017 CAA Player of the Year in Williams, a 6-3 guard who had never averaged double figures before becoming the 14th-highest scorer in Division I, as well as Murphy, a 6-8 grad transfer from Florida who knocked down 38 percent of his 3-pointers to help him become the team’s No. 2 scorer. They didn’t lose much else, but the rest of the rotation is still very young, including 6-8 sophomore wing Brace, 6-1 redshirt sophomore Gresham, 6-4 sophomore Shawn Occeus (5.4 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore Maxime Boursiquot (5.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg), all of whom played at least 20 mpg last year; only four players on the roster are in their junior or senior years of eligibility.
9. Drexel Dragons
Coach: Zach Spiker, 2nd season (9-23, .281)
Last Year: 9-23 (3-15 CAA), lost in CAA first round (James Madison, 80-70)
Key Departures: Rodney Williams (15.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Kari Jonsson (10.1 ppg)
Key Returnees: Kurk Lee Jr. (14.9 ppg, 5.0 apg), Sammy Mojica (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Austin Williams (7.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Troy Harper (RS-Jr./Campbell), Tramaine Isabell (RS-Jr./Missouri), Timmy Perry Jr. (Fr./Phelps School)
Outlook: The second season of the Spiker reign already began with some bad news, as Jonsson decided to go back to his native Iceland; the 6-3 guard was coming off a freshman season where led the team with a 43.6 percent clip from 3-point range. Their backcourt is bolstered by the addition of the two transfer guards, Harper and Isabell, who come in with a good deal of experience, but neither have reputations as strong outside shooters. In the middle, they’ll need the 6-9 Austin Williams to step up and provide the same kind of production that Rodney Williams gave them down low, while also hoping their perimeter pieces become more efficient. That’ll start with Lee, a 5-10 sophomore guard and one of the best underclassmen in the league, who turned it over nearly three times per game as well.
10. James Madison Dukes
Coach: Louis Rowe, 2nd season (10-23, .303)
Last Year: 10-23 (7-11 CAA), lost in CAA quarterfinal (Charleston, 67-62)
Key Departures: Jackson Kent (14.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Yohanny Dalembert (9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Shakir Brown (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Paulius Satkus (8.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key Returnees: Joey McLean (9.4 ppg), Ramone Snowden (6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Key Newcomers: Stuckey Mosley (RS-Jr./Toledo)
Outlook: The Dukes had one of the most experienced rosters in the country last year, with seven seniors on the roster, but couldn’t turn that into much success after letting go of longtime head coach Matt Brady despite a 20-win season the year before. So now Rowe must move forward with a rehauled group, and expectations are starting at the ground floor for a program that has made just two NCAA Tournament appearances since 1983. Mosley, who averaged 10.2 ppg as a sophomore at Toledo in 2015-16, brings some expertise to the backcourt, and a class of six freshmen will fight for minutes as well. Considering nobody besides McLean, the 6-6 Snowden and 6-3 Stuckey really has much Division I experience, this is going to be a big learning year for the entire Dukes program.