CAA Preview: William & Mary Tribe

tribeBy: Justin Littman (@JLitt_Man)

Head Coach – Tony Shaver (14th Season)

Last season – 20-11 (CAA: 11-7), T-3rd place

Losses: 

  • G/F Terry Tarpey (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, CAA Defensive POTY)
  • F Sean Sheldon (9.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Newcomers: 

  • F Nathan Knight (Kimball Union/Syracuse, NY)
  • G/F Justin Pierce (Glenbard West/Glen Ellyn, IL)

Last year, William & Mary proved that consistency in the CAA may just be possible. After losing star guard Marcus Thornton to graduation, it was “next man up” for the Tribe. Led by All-CAA wings Omar Prewitt (First Team) and Terry Tarpey (Second Team), the Tribe worked hard on both ends of the court to fight their way to a third consecutive 20-win season.

Coach Tony Shaver’s highly efficient offense led the CAA in field-goal percentage and assists per game. They showed promise throughout the season, but once again fell just short when it mattered most, losing to Hofstra by three points in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. The Tribe remain one of five original Division I basketball teams never to qualify for an NCAA Tournament.

Expect the Tribe’s efficient offense to carry over this season. They return experienced veteran guards in Prewitt and Daniel Dixon, as well as starting point guard David Cohn. Prewitt, who averaged nearly 18 points per game on close to 50% shooting last season, will be the Tribe’s main offensive option once again. He proved last year that he can carry a big workload and will likely be in contention for CAA Player of the Year this season. Cohn was a key distributor for the Tribe last season, and his 2.88 assist to turnover ratio was one of the best in the entire nation. He will have plenty of shooters to pass to once again, and Dixon as well as junior guard Greg Malinowski are poised to benefit.

While all still appears to be good on the offensive end, William & Mary may take a big step on the defensive side of the court this season. They lost starting big man Sean Sheldon to graduation, and remain without a formidable answer as to who might fill his role. The larger issue, however, is that much of William & Mary’s defensive success was due to the presence of two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year Terry Tarpey. Even with Tarpey keeping their defense afloat, the Tribe were still a middle tier defense in the CAA. The Tribe will need to make up for the loss of Tarpey’s defense much like they made up for the loss of Thornton’s offense last season.

Bottom Line: The Tribe still have players capable of competing at the highest level in the CAA, and their offense should be one of the best in the league once again. Prewitt has serious Player of the Year potential. However, if this team hopes to contend for a CAA crown, they will need to find a way to keep it together defensively. The loss of Tarpey is huge, and it will take a big team effort to make sure they can hold their own on the defensive end. This is a fundamentally sound team with plenty of veteran experience. It may not be the best team they’ve had over the last few years, but if it all breaks right, the Tribe may have another chance at finally earning that illustrious NCAA Tournament berth.

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