Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
OUTLOOK: The 2014-15 Colonial Athletic Association is expected to have some new names at the top of the standings this season.
Delaware came away with the regular season and postseason tournament titles a year ago, but after losing a number of players, the Blue Hens aren't expected to vie for what will likely be one NCAA Tournament berth this year for the CAA.
Instead, Northeastern is the preseason favorite with William & Mary and Hofstra also expected to be in the hunt atop the conference. Of those three schools, it's the Tribe who had the best campaign last year and have a number of returners coming back to make a difference. The Huskies and Pride both have a number of players coming back who should provide leadership, but those programs are coming off losing seasons and nothing breeds success like winning and if you haven't won before, what makes you think you can win now?
Drexel, James Madison and the College of Charleston are expected to make up the middle of the conference. The Dragons are the only one of the three to have a winning campaign last year and might have the best mental make-up to make a push and be a surprise team. Drexel had a wining season and went 8-8 in the CAA last year, and has a key contributor returning in guard Daion Lee.
It will be interesting to see how the College of Charleston rebounds from an offseason of controversy. Former head coach Doug Wojcik was fired amid allegations of verbal abuse toward players over the summer. Wojcik was replaced by Earl Grant, who didn't even get a full offseason to implement his system or even recruit. Needless to say, it will be an interesting season for the Cougars.
The bottom of the CAA is made up of Towson, Delaware, UNC Wilmington and newcomer Elon.
Towson finished right behind the Blue Hens a season ago and is now picked to finish right in front of them, although both are towards the bottom. Four McGlynn might take the cake for best name in the conference, but with that name comes a nice three-point stroke. So, the big question is can the Tigers use Four from three to go from two to one?
CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Northeastern
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Northeastern, 2. William & Mary, 3. Hofstra, 4. Drexel, 5. James Madison, 6. College of Charleston, 7. Towson, 8. Delaware, 9. UNC Wilmington, 10. Elon
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:
NORTHEASTERN: The Huskies are returning six of the top seven scorers from last season, including four starters, making them the favorite to win the CAA this year. The top returner for Northeastern, which went just 7-9 in CAA play and 11-21 overall last year, is senior Scott Eatherton. One of the top post players in the league, Eatherton averaged a team-best 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, earning All-CAA second team and CAA Defensive Player of the Year honors. Expected to join Eatherton as a team leader is three-year starter Reggie Spencer, who averaged 9.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg last season. Also returning are backcourt mates junior David Walker and sophomore point guard T.J. Williams. Walker was the Huskies' second-leading scorer with 11.5 ppg, while Williams was a member of the CAA All-Rookie squad after averaging 6.9 ppg. Also key for the Huskies this season is the return of forward Quincy Ford. The junior, who average 12.2 ppg two seasons ago, missed all of last season after having back surgery.
WILLIAM & MARY: The Tribe will be led by Marcus Thornton, who was voted the conference's preseason player of the year. The senior guard is coming off a junior campaign that saw him average a team-high 18.7 ppg and earn All-CAA first-team honors. If he continues on his scoring pace, he should at some point during this season become the program's all-time leading scorer. Also expected to make an impact this season for a William & Mary team that went 10-6 in the CAA and 20-12 overall last year is sophomore Omar Prewitt. The CAA rookie of the year last season, Prewitt averaged 11.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg. The Huskies have the pieces in place to appear in the conference championship game for a second straight season and fourth time in eight years.
HOFSTRA: The Pride, who finished last season 5-11 in the CAA and 10-23 overall, add three transfers to a trio of returning starters this season, putting the team in great position to make a push for a conference crown. Junior guard Juan'ya Green leads the group of transfers. Two years ago at Niagara, Green averaged 16.5 ppg and made the All-MAAC first team. He joined by fellow newcomers Ameen Tanksley, formerly of Niagara, and SMU transfer Brian Bernardi. Hofstra's top returning players are guard Dion Nesmith, who averaged 13.3 ppg and 4.2 apg last year, and sophomore forward Jamall Robinson, who tallied 9.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg a season ago. Senior forward Moussa Kone should add the needed size under the boards. He had nearly six rpg last year.
DREXEL: At 16-14 overall and 8-8 in the CAA a season ago, Bruiser Flint's squad looks like an underachieving bunch on the surface. However, a myriad of injuries played a huge part in Drexel's demise. Junior guard Daion Lee is back in 2014-15 and by all accounts healthy. Lee missed most of last year with a knee injury, after averaging 17.1 ppg the year prior. He is joined by junior Tavon Allen, who averaged 11.8 ppg coming off the bench. Forward Rodney Williams (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) started as freshmen a year and should provide even more offense and experience this season, but the team has already felt the sting of injury, as reserve guard Major Canady will miss the season after suffering an ankle injury in practice. Williams earned rookie-team honors last year and will be joined in the frontcourt by newcomers Tyshawn Myles (6-8, 260) and Austin Williams (6-8, 220).
JAMES MADISON: Despite being without a single senior on this year's roster, the Dukes return two starters and eight letter winners from last year's squad that finished 11-20 overall and 6-10 in CAA play. JMU will look to junior guard Andre Nation to carry the load this year. Nation was selected a preseason first-team performer after leading the team with 15.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg in just 14 games last season. Fellow junior guard Ron Curry is coming off a season that saw him average 12.1 ppg. Joining the backcourt this season is junior college transfer Winston Grays, who was a First Team All-American last season at the junior college ranks at Cincinnati State. He averaged 20.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals per outing as a sophomore on his way to being named Ohio Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON: The Cougars begin this season amid some controversy. Back in August the school fired head coach Doug Wojcik amid allegations of verbal abuse toward players and assistant coaches. Wojcik was replaced by Earl Grant, who looks to instill some normalcy and stability within the team, which finished last season 14-18 overall and 6-10 in the conference. Charleston is expected to be led by senior center Adjehi Baru. The Ivory Coast native is a preseason second-team pick after averaging 9.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg a season ago, when he turned in six double-doubles with nine double-digit rebounding performances. He currently ranks eighth all-time in career rebounding (715) in the CofC record books which is also fourth all-time in the program's NCAA Division I history.
TOWSON: After going 13-3 in the CAA and 25-11 overall last year, Towson is expected to suffer a down season after losing three starters from a year ago. Towson's returning starters from last year's record-breaking squad are juniors Four McGlynn and Timajh Parker-Rivera. The 25 wins last year set a new school single-season record for wins at the Division I level. McGlynn averaged 9.2 points and led the CAA with 71 three-pointers, while Parker-Rivera averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Those two will likely carry the load this year as they will be surrounded by an inexperienced group.
DELAWARE: The defending regular-season and tournament champion Blue Hens aren't expect to do nearly as well this season. Delaware also had a record- setting season last year, posting an all-time program best record of 25-10, going 14-2 in the CAA. Senior guard Kyle Anderson is returning from last year's squad and is expect to lead the way for the Blue Hens this season. Anderson started all 35 games and ranked fifth on the team by averaging 11.0 points per game, while he tied for the team lead and tied for third in the league with 85 3-pointers made, one shy of the UD single season mark. He currently ranks third in UD history with 215 career 3-pointers made and needs just 14 more to become the school's career leader.
UNC-WILMINGTON: After three straight 20-loss seasons and a 42-82 record in four seasons, UNC-Wilmington fired head coach Buzz Peterson and replaced him with former Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts. Keatts is looking to change things for the Seahawks, but it probably won't happen this season. UNCW is projected to finish near the bottom of the conference yet again this year. However, senior forward Cedrick Williams is one of the bright spots for the program. Williams was one of the CAA's top big men last season and is poised to have a banner year for the Seahawks. The 6-9 225-pound Williams is UNCW's top returning scorer (11.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.6 rpg).
ELON: The newest member of the CAA, the Phoenix are picked to finish last in the 10-team conference this year after having a number of successful years in the Southern Conference. Last year, Elon went 18-14 overall, posting an 11-5 mark in the SoCon. However, the Phoenix return just two starters from last year, senior guard Austin Hamilton (6.2 ppg, 2.5 apg) and junior guard Tanner Samson (9.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg). Elon will be missing one of the most decorated classes in school history, as four 1,000-point scorers depart in Lucas Troutman, Jack Isenbarger, Sebastian Koch and Ryley Beaumont all graduated. Matt Matheny has his work cut out for him in 2014-15.