Colonial Athletic Conference Preview
Here is a little recap of last season and a preview of this season for the Colonial Athletic Conference. While the CAA seems like a small unimportant conference there have been a number of teams that have made deep tournament runs out of the CAA. Look for one of these teams to be a sneaky upset pick for your bracket in March. It’s never too early to start preparing for your bracket.
SCHOOL Conference Overall
Northeastern 12-6 23-12
William & Mary 12-6 20-13
James Madison 12-6 19-14
UNCW 12-6 18-14
Hofstra 10-8 20-14
Drexel 9-9 11-19
Delaware 9-9 10-20
Elon 6-12 15-18
Towson 5-13 12-20
Charleston 3-15 9-24
Player of the Year – Marcus Thornton, Sr, William & Mary
Coach of the Year – Kevin Keatts, UNCW
Rookie of the Year – Elijah Bryant, Fr, Elon
Defensive Player of the Year – Terry Tarpey, Jr, William & Mary
Dean Ehlers Leadership Award – Caleb Donnelly, Jr, Northeastern and Tom Schalk, Sr, William & Mary
The Dukes have the players and the coaching to win a CAA championship this upcoming year. JMU returns all five starters from last year. Leading the starters is guard Ron Curry. Curry lead the team with 13.9 points a game as well as earning 2nd team all CAA. Along with Curry, 6-8 forward Yohanny Dalembert leads the big men. Dalembert was named CAA All Defense and 3rd Team All CAA. The big man averaged 11.6 points, 1.1 blocks, and 6 rebounds per game. JMU brings in JUCO star Shakir Brown from Angelica College. At Angelica, Brown had 20.3 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game. The coaching staff believes he has the passing and dribbling skills that will help Brown into the rotation. Red Shirt Junior Devontae Morgan and Freshman Kevin Kanghi will look to contribute. Morgan sat out last season due to NCAA regulations after transferring in from Butler. Matt Brady has led the Dukes to the CAA tournament in 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 seasons. In the 2012 season JMU won the CAA tournament and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. In 2014, JMU won their first regular season title since 1994, and then earned a trip to the CIT. I believe JMU has the players and coaching to help them win a CAA championship.
The Huskies are coming off a very successful year after a shared regular season CAA title, CAA tournament title, and an NCAA tournament appearance. Northeastern entered the NCAA tournament as a 14 seed and lost to 3 seed Notre Dame. NU stayed with the Irish the whole game but lost 69-65. Northeastern graduated their top player, 1st Team All CAA performer, and All CAA Defender, Scott Eatherton. Eatherton averaged 14.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. They also lose sixth man Reggie Spencer who was a key player off the bench. The Huskies will still be a tough team to beat without those two players. David Walker will be back for his senior season. Walker earned 2nd Team All CAA, averaged 13.3 points, and 3.3 rebounds per game. Zac Stahl a 6-5 guard will give NU size at the position. The breakout player for the Huskies this year will be Quincy Ford. Ford is a 6-8 guard who can attack the basket and has a smooth shot on the perimeter. Northeastern is bringing in top freshman talent that includes Jeremy Miller, Sajon Ford, and Anthony Green. Miller is the top recruit who was originally committed to Boston College. He is an advanced player for his age and will look to make his way into a starting role. Ford and Green are both big men who will look to help defensively down low. Head Coach Bill Coen brought NU to the NCAA tournament after a 24-year drought since being there. Coen has led the Huskies to two first place finishes in the 2012 and 2014 season. Northeastern does have the tools to win their consecutive CAA title.
William and Mary
William and Mary will have to try to replace CAA player of the year Marcus Thornton. Thornton is the only starter for W&M not returning. The 6-4 guard is the first player in school history to receive the reward. It will be hard to replace a player that started all 33 games along with averaging 20 points a game. But the tribe does return CAA defensive player of the year and Second Team All CAA Terry Tarpey. Tarpey averaged 11.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Junior Omar Prewitt earned 3rd Team All CAA last year along with averaging 13.5 points per game. Sean Sheldon and Daniel Dixon also return to the starting lineup. W&M is bringing in one freshman; Hunter Seacat is a 6-9 forward from North Carolina. At Lake Norman High School Seacat averaged 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. William and Mary shared the regular season title last year and came up short in the tournament final to Northeastern. The tribe has never had an NCAA appearance. Head coach Tony Shaver has coached in Williamsburg for 12 years; his time is coming for his first NCAA tournament. With a team without Marcus Thornton, The Tribe has a chance to make another CAA final with four veteran starters.
UNCW was one of the four teams to share a regular season title. This year the Seahawks will have to go without starters Addison Spurill, Freddie Jackson, and Cedrick Williams. Each senior was part of the starting lineup last year. Spurill was a 1st team selection; he averaged 14.5 points per game and recorded double figures in 23 games. Jackson was a 2nd team selection; he averaged 13.3 points per game along with 5.6 rebounds per game. The Seahawks will miss Williams for his rebounding ability. Williams rebounded double figures in 15 games last season. UNCW is very excited to have the 2014 CAA Rookie of the Year back, Jordan Talley. Talley will be the key to the offense this upcoming year. In 2014, Talley averaged 8.8 points per game, and led the team with assists having 98 on the year. Wilmington brings in 4 newcomers for the 2015-2016 season. Trey Grundy leads the way as the highest ranked recruit, with 3 stars. Grundy stands at 6-7 as a power forward. He has the ability to score from mid range and can rebound on both ends. Mark Matthews, ranked as a 2 star recruit, has the ability to work at a guard position, and can shoot from behind the arc. C.J Bryce is a guard from Charlotte, who has the ability to attack the basket. Devontae Cacok is from Hargrave Military Academy; the forward’s athleticism is what impresses college coaches. Head Coach Kevin Keatts was named Coach of the Year for the CAA after his first year with UNCW. Keatts lead the Seahawks to a shared CAA regular season title. It will be interesting to see what Keatts will do this year without three of his starters from 2014.
Hofstra only won 10 games in 2013; in 2014 the Pride had won 20. This program is on a rise. The team only graduated one of their main starters from last season. Leading the way is 1st team selection Juan’ya Green. Green averaged 17.1 points per game and was 9th in Division 1 with 6.5 assists per game. Senior Ameen Tanksley was named a 2nd team selection in 2014. He averaged 16.7 points, and 5.6 rebounds per game. Junior Guard Brian Bernardi averaged 11.6 points per game last season for the Pride. Malik Nichols will add depth to the lineup and can contribute on the boards. Hofstra lost one of their main bench players Dion Nesmith. Nesmith transferred from Monmouth for his junior and senior year. He averaged 11.1 points per game last year. The Pride brings in two freshmen for 2015-2016. Justin Wright Foreman is a 3 star recruit from Laurelton, NY. Foreman has the ability to lead the fast break and can be an outside shooter. Desure Buie is a 2 star recruit who chose Hofstra over Duquesne, Fairfield, Fordham, Manhattan and Seton Hall. Head Coach Joe Mihalich has done a great job in Hempstead. He is a great recruiter and great coach that come from Buffalo, NY. Mihalich looks improve on another season and bring home a CAA title with an experienced roster.
Drexel comes off a below .500 season, only its second below .500 since joining the CAA since the 2001-2002 season. Drexel returns four of five starters from last year, and their two top players off the bench. Junior guard Damion Lee was named a 1st team all league selction last season. Lee averaged 21.4 points per game, which was good for being the fifth leading scorer in the nation. Lee also was ranked 13th in the nation for free throw percentage (88.7 %). Senior Tavon Allen averaged 11.2 points per game last year and recorded double figures in 19 contests. Rashann London as a freshman last year started in all 30 games and averaged 7 points per game. Mohammed Bah started all 30 games last year and looks to contribute a key player in the lineup. Bah earned a spot on the Mali National Team this past summer. The Dragons graduated one of their starters Freddie Wilson who transferred from Seton Hall for his junior and senior seasons. Wilson averaged 5.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. Drexel will bring in one freshman for the class of 2015 by the name of Terrell Allen. The Maryland native looks to help the Dragons with his basketball IQ. Allen is involved in the game with or without the basketball. Head Coach Bruiser Flint has not had a CAA regular season title since the 2011-2012 season. Flint has had 14 seasons under him and has not made an NCAA tournament appearance. With an experienced lineup that includes Damion Lee there is a possibility to look for his first one.
In the 2013-2014 season Delaware had won the regular season title along with the CAA tournament championship. The Blue Hens ended up losing in the second round to Michigan State. Last Year Delaware was .500 in league play and lost in the first round of the CAA tournament to the College of Charleston. The team only graduated Kyle Anderson who was a part of the starting lineup and their captain. Anderson was a 3rd team all league selection, and averaged 14.4 points per game. The Blue Hens return Chivarsky Corbett and Kory Holden, two freshmen who were apart of the CAA All Rookie team. Corbett will move into the starting five this year. The lefty shooter will be one of the top shooters on the team and has the ability to attack the basket. Holden will be Delaware’s starting point guard. The Salisbury native averaged 12.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Cazmon Hayes and Maurice Jeffers will look to start for the Blue Hens in 2015. Hayes is a very athletic guard who is a quick defender, and Jeffers has excellent shot blocking ability. UD brings in a freshman from Abington High school named Curtis Lochner. Transfers Darian Bryant and Tyler Burns will have to sit out a year due to NCAA regulations. Head Coach Monte Ross will be entering his 10th season with Delaware. The 2014-2015 season was the first losing season Ross has had since the 2010-2011 season. The CAA should look for Delaware as the sleeper of the conference this year.
The future was looking bright with Elijah Bryant the CAA Rookie of the year, but on July 28th Bryant announced that he was transferring to BYU. The Phoenix also lost Austin Hamilton, Kevin Blake, and Ryan Winters, each were part of the starting lineup.
Hamilton averaged 8.9 points per game and 2.5 assists per game. Blake averaged 8.1 points per game as a guard. Winters had rebounding ability that helped him average 4.8 boards per game. Tanner Samson and Tony Sabato are the two senior leaders and are part of the starting five. Samson averaged 12.5 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game and 2.7 assists per game last year. Sabato will look to be the center and improve on his rebounding. The Phoenix is bringing in five newcomers: Sheldon Eberhardt, Karolis Kundrotas, Steven Santa Ana, Tyler Seibring and Dainan Swoope. Highlighting the group is Steven Santa Ana. The Charlotte Native was ranked a 3 star recruit by ESPN. Santa Ana has the ability to shoot the basketball and is a skilled passer. Head Coach Matt Matheny experienced a rude awakening joining the CAA coming from the Southern Conference. Elon is recruiting and still trying to find players to fit the CAA to compete. Elon is a young team and will look to develop for them to be contenders for a CAA title in the future.
Last season the Tigers never had a consistent starting five. They were never able to find five players that can do the job every game. Every player on the Towson roster started at least one game last year. The team only lost Alex Gavrilovic and Jamel Flash. Both players saw limited action last season. Gravrilovic started in five games and Flash started in one. Towson did lose Four Mcglynn the teams leading scorer and one the most consistent players. Four transferred to Rhode Island University immediately following last years season. 3rd Team All CAA player John Davis returns for his Junior season. Davis averaged 11.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He also led the CAA with double doubles with 12. Mike Morsell looks to be a future star for the Tigers. Morsell was named to the CAA All Rookie Team last season. Morsell averaged 6.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last year. Rounding out the key returners are Byron Hawkins and Timajh Parker-Rivera. Hawkins will be a sophomore; he averaged 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game as a freshman. Parker-Rivera started 31 games last season, averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. The Tigers bring in Alex Thomas and Dennis Tunstall for the 2015-2016 season. Thomas was ranked as a 2 star recruit according to ESPN. Tunstall chose Towson over Winthrop, Niagara, NJIT, Fordham, Saint Peters and Tennessee Tech. Head Coach Pat Skerry took over a program in 2011 that had 15 straight losing seasons. After the 2012-2013 season Skerry lead the Tigers to an 18-13 season, it was the largest single season turnaround in NCAA history. The Tigers and Skerry look to get back to a winning season in 2015-2016.
College of Charleston
Head Coach Earl Grant had a rough time for his first year in Charleston. The Cougars look to rebuild this upcoming year after winning 3 CAA games and 9 regular season games. The team graduated three seniors: Adjehi Baru, Pat Branin, and Anthony Stitt. Baru was a former CAA Defensive Team member; last season he averaged 7.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Stitt averaged 8.2 points per game last year and was a former 2013-2014 All CAA Preseason member. Branin was a reserve player off the bench. C of C does return Canyon Barry. Barry averaged 12.5 ponts and 5.1 rebounds a game last season. Junior guard Joe Chealey averaged 12.4 points per game and led the team with 109 assists. As a freshman last year Donovan Gilmore started in 21 of 32 games last season and will look to help the Cougars on the boards. Charleston will bring in four freshmen this upcoming year named Marquise Pointer, Grant Riller, Payton Hulsey, Jarrell Brantley. Marquise Pointer highlights the class as the top rated player coming in. The Arkansas native was ranked a 3 star recruit by ESPN. Pointer has the ability to finish through traffic and has the ability to shoot behind the arc. James Bourn is a transfer from Winthrop that will look to bring experience down low defensively. Earl Grant will be entering his second year with the College of Charleston. This will be a rebuilding year for the Cougars. But I do believe with Grant’s background and his experience it could be a breakout year for the Cougars who will look to grow and develop this season.
It looks like it will be a great year in the Colonial Athletic Association with a great combination of young talent and veteran experience fighting for the crown this season. Great basketball doesn’t just happen in the major conferences and the CAA is prove of that. Look for a CAA team to bust the bracket in March! Stay tuned for a future article with conference award predictions for the CAA.
Baldwin Wallace ’18