CAA Preview: Northeastern Basketball

nuHead Coach: Bill Coen (12th season)

Last Season: 15-16 (8-10, 6th in CAA); lost to Towson in CAA Quarterfinal

Projected Finish: 6th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Devon Begley (Honorable Mention), F/C Jeremy Miller (Honorable Mention)

 

 

Losses:

  • G T.J. Williams (21.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.7 rpg; CAA Player of the Year)
  • F Alex Murphy (14.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Newcomers:

  • G Vasa Pusica (transfer from San Diego University)
  • G Derrick Cook (Langston Hughes/Fairburn, Ga.)
  • G Myles Franklin (Villa Park/Brea, Calif.)
  • F Tomas Murphy (Northfield Mount Hermon/Wakefield, R.I.)
  • F Jason Strong (Westminster Academy/Coconut Creek, Fla.)

by Matthew MacCormack

 

The 2017-18 season ushers in a new era of Northeastern Huskies’ basketball; life after T.J.

Point guard T.J. Williams exploded onto the scene last season, averaging 21/5/5 en route to a no-brainer selection as CAA Player of the Year. Williams went from averaging just 7 ppg in his junior season to being the undisputed focal point of the Husky offense as a senior.

But Williams in black and red is no more. The dynamic guard is on to the greener pastures of the NBA G-League. Gone, too, is Alex Murphy, a 6’8 combo forward who led the team in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and was the second leading scorer (14.1 ppg).

Therein lies the biggest question of the 2017-18 campaign; who will step up to replace this production?

The returning cast is, in a word, inexperienced – seven of the Huskies 12 active players are either freshman or sophomores.

Devon Begley an All-CAA Defensive selection and Preseason Honorable Mention, is the team’s only senior, and remains as the lone holdover from the 2014-15 Husky squad that won the CAA and nearly upset Notre Dame in the first round of the Big Dance. Begley posted a career-high 9.7 ppg last season, and found his niche as a 3-D wing and occasional playmaker. It’s possible Begley takes a Williams-like leap and becomes an All-Conference caliber player, but don’t count on it.

Around Begley are a cast of three juniors that will likely determine the Huskies’ success this season. Redshirt junior guard Vasa Pusica could find himself with plenty of ball-handling duties. The 6’5 Pusica averaged 8.5 points and 4 rebounds a game in his freshman year at U San Diego, and led the team in assists. The Huskies are thirsty for a playmaking point, and Pusica has the opportunity to deliver.

Center Anthony Green made huge strides on the defensive end last season, and the 6’10, 252 pound behemoth is a nice interior piece to build around.

Questions abound around 6’10 F/C Jeremy Miller. Miller entered Northeastern as a three-star recruit: an intriguing mix of size, length and shooting ability. After averaging 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg as a freshman, Miller regressed last season, largely due to an 11-game absence thanks to a knee injury suffered in a win at Michigan State.

Although Miller didn’t receive a medical redshirt, his classmate Donnell Gresham did. “Red” Gresham was a solid contributor in his freshman season, but missed all but four games with a hand injury suffered against LIU-Brooklyn. The redshirt sophomore has a good chance to earn a starting role, and is a great complementary ball-handler and spot-up shooter (42% from three in his freshman year).

Last year, a trio of freshman – G Bolden Brace, F Shawn Occeus and F Max Boursiquot – all saw extended playing time as injuries mounted later in the season. All three will have an opportunity to solidify their roles this season. Occeus is an athletic wing who flashed plenty of potential last season. Boursiquot is a do-it-all, undersized (6’5) four-man who profiles as a fantastic role player moving forward.

The most intriguing of the three, however, is Bolden Brace. The 6’8 sophomore has a sweet shooting stroke, and showed on multiple occasions last season that he can carry an offense. Brace dropped 20+ in back-to-back games in early February at William & Mary and James Madison, and then tied the school’s all-time record with 10 threes in a 40-point performance at Elon. If Brace can take a step as a playmaker, he might be something special.

Of the crop of four freshman, bigman Tomas Murphy is the most likely to play a large role this season. With his older brother Alex graduated, the 6’8 Tomas has a chance to earn big frontcourt minutes. Murphy was rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN. Players of that caliber rarely enter the CAA – you can thank the Murphy family’s close ties with coach Coen for this one.

Bottom Line: The media picked Northeastern to finish 6th in the CAA in the preseason poll, and that seems fair. Williams’ graduation leaves a massive hole in the playmaking department, but there’s a chance a more equal-opportunity offense opens things up for the young Huskies. Uncertainty is the name of the game here, and the development of players like Pusica, Miller, Gresham and Brace will likely determine how the season goes. If all goes right, the Huskies will be in the middle of the pack in the CAA, and the young guys will get plenty of time to hone their skills for the future.

 

CAA Preview: Elon University Phoenix

elonHead Coach: Matt Matheny

Last Season: 18-14 (10-8), 5th in CAA

Projected Finish: 3rd

Preseason All-Conference Selections: F Tyler Seibring (First-Team), F Brian Dawkins (Second-Team)

 

Losses:

  • G Luke Eddy (7.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
  • F Christian Hairston (2.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
  • G Ryder Bowline (0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg)
  • G Patrick Ryan (1.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg)

Newcomers:

  • F Duje Radja (Fr./Split, Croatia/Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshiref)
  • G Nathan Priddy (Fr./Argyle, Texas/Argyle High)
  • F Simon Wright (Fr./Minneapolis, Minn./Hopkins)

by P.J. Wright

With just one freshman, last season’s fourth-place Elon squad was already pretty experienced. The Phoenix finished in the middle of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with a 10-8 conference record.

Now, with all five starters returning, Elon is poised to make some noise in their fourth year of CAA play.  The Phoenix play a smart, fundamental style of basketball — and with their core another year older, there is reason to believe they will be able to challenge defending champion, College of Charleston.

Last season, Elon was first in the CAA in field goal percentage defense (.417), defensive rebounding (29.1 per game), and second in free throw shooting percentage (.732). And despite their fifth-place conference finish, they were third in scoring margin at +2.4.

The main losses from last year’s team are guard Luke Eddy and forward Christian Hairston, who both graduated in the spring. Eddy found himself in a lesser role than his junior year, but finished his career at Elon with 296 career assists, which ranks 8th in program history. Hairston was one of the most efficient scorers on the team, shooting 56.9 percent from the field in his four years.

This season, the Phoenix will be led by Second Team All-CAA junior forward Tyler Seibring (14.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and senior forward Brian Dawkins (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The two shot 39.5 and 44.6 percent, respectively, from beyond the arc a season ago.

The x-factor for this year’s team might just be junior Steven Santa Ana (11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg). The 6-foot-4 junior hit a team-high 71 triples last season but only on 32.7 percent shooting. Improved three-point efficiency from Santa Ana to go along with Seibring and Dawkin’s scoring could be exactly what Elon needs to put them over the top.

Returning junior guard Dainan Swoope was the fourth player on the Phoenix to average double figures last season at 11.7 points per game to go along with a team-high 37 steals. He was second on the team in minutes a year ago (31.7 mpg), so expect Elon to continue to rely on his playmaking and defense.

Also expected to play a key role this season will be senior guard Dmitri Thompson, who started in 30 of Elon’s 32 games last year. He was the only Phoenix player to record back-to-back 20-point games during the season and was third on the team in rebounding at 5.0 per contest.

The Phoenix will be challenged right away when they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium for their season opener against the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. The Phoenix then play a schedule without any currently-ranked opponents before beginning CAA play on Dec. 30  at home against Drexel.

Bottom Line: Continuity will play a major role in Elon’s success this season. The Phoenix have the experience and chemistry, and if they can string together a strong offensive attack to go along with last season’s stifling defense with an improved backcourt of Santa Ana and Swoope, watch out. Expect Elon to finish near the top of the CAA and potentially make a run of the title if all the pieces come together.

CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

uncwCoach: C.B. McGrath (1st Season)

Last Season: 29-6 Overall, (15-3 CAA), 1st Place, CAA Tournament Champions

Projected Finish: 5th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: Devontae Cacock (First Team), Jordon Talley (Honorable Mention)

 

 

Additions:

  • G Tyrone Taylor (Sophomore, Wichita State)
  • C Trey Kalina (Junior, JUCO/Chattanooga)
  • G Jacque Brown (Junior, Cape Fear CC)
  • G Daniel Etoroma (Junior, Lewis and Clark Community College)
  • G Jeffrey Gary (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sand Creek)
  • G Jay Estimé (Lilburn, Ga./Berkmar)

Losses:

  • G C.J. Bryce (17.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.0 apg)
  • G Chris Flemmings (15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
  • G Denzel Ingram (14.6 ppg, 5.4 apg)
  • G Ambrose Mosely (8.2 ppg, 42% 3PT PCT)
  • C Chuck Ogbodo

by Justin Littman

Last season was another incredible success for the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. They finished atop the CAA for the third consecutive season, and plenty of players received accolades for their performance. Senior guards Chris Flemmings (15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Denzel Ingram (14.6 ppg, 5.4 apg) rounded out their illustrious careers by earning First and Second Team All-CAA Honors, respectively. Sophomore forward Devontae Cacok evolved into a threat on both sides of the court, leading the nation in field-goal percentage (80%) and earning the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award. If that was not enough, they also happened to have the runner-up for CAA Player of the Year, and CAA Tournament MVP, C.J. Bryce. Bryce, only a sophomore last season, led the team in scoring with over 17 points per game, and showed dynamic offensive ability.

UNCW managed to capture the hearts of every mid-major college basketball fan. They played with passion and energy, and pulled fans in with an attitude that reflected the mentality of head coach Kevin Keatts. The Seahawks ran through the CAA, and earned their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. Led by a rising superstar head coach, and armed with experience, the Seahawks appeared ready to take the nation by storm. Unfortunately, the harsh reality of the NCAA Tournament set in, and the Seahawks joined an unfortunate group of many potential Cinderellas before, unable to earn their shining moment in the Big Dance. A magical season came to a premature end with an opening round loss to Virginia. Fans who saw even greater potential for UNCW learned a painful lesson: Not every magical story turns into a fairytale.

Less than 24 hours after their season ended, NC State announced that Kevin Keatts had agreed to terms to become their new head coach. Following the success that Keatts had with UNCW, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he left for a position of more prestige. It only took a few more months for C.J. Bryce to decide that he wanted to continue playing for his coach, and he followed suit to NC State. Kevin Keatts helped return UNCW to prominence, and even though Cacok is the only starter that will return next season, this program has a lot of momentum to build off.

It is for this reason that new head coach C.B. McGrath felt UNCW was the right situation for him to finally depart from his role as an assistant for the UNC Tar Heels. McGrath played at Kansas under Roy Williams, and continued to serve as his assistant coach at North Carolina for 14 years. He will implement new philosophies as a first-year head coach, and will look to establish a new identity for the Seahawks. With the departure of four starters, there will be various players ready to assume larger roles with the team. To learn more about what to expect this season, I reached out to Noah J. Thomas, sports editor of UNCW’s student newspaper, The Seahawk.  

Justin: UNCW was an up-tempo, offensive juggernaut under Keatts. How will their identity change with a new head coach?

Noah: As far as the change in identity goes, don’t expect the UNCW offense to dip too far in production this season. Will the Seahawks average nearly 90 points per game in 2018? No. But the “Run. Defend. Win.” mentality is still very much alive in Wilmington. The key difference between Keatts’ system and McGrath’s will be what position becomes the focal point of the offense. Keatts used a variety of small lineups to keep opposing defenses guessing and guard play was always the top priority. If McGrath attempts to emulate Roy Williams’ system, expect the big men to become the focal point. That means reigning CAA Defensive POTY Devontae Cacok may see a rise in production in his junior year.

Justin: Coming from the Roy Williams coaching tree, C.B. McGrath appears to be a good hire.

Noah: You’re right. This is the second head coach in a row UNCW has hired who is coming from a Hall-of-Fame coaching tree (Kevin Keatts was an assistant at Louisville under Rick Pitino). On paper, this seems to be the perfect hire for the Seahawks. In his first head coaching gig, McGrath brings in an up-temp mentality similar to what Keatts brought when he arrived in 2014.

Justin: Where will production come from? Are there any players you think will have a breakout season?

Noah: As I said before, look for Devontae Cacok to possibly become the focal point of this offense. He already averaged a near double-double in his sophomore season, and he only has room to improve as he masters his touch around the rim and attempts to raise his free-throw shooting percentage.

UNCW’s breakout star for 2018? Look no further than Jaylen Fornes. The sophomore out of Raleigh, N.C., showed flashes of brilliance at times during his freshman year. There were multiple occasions during last CAA season in which he either 1. Made the difference for UNCW in a tight game or 2. Helped swing the momentum in the Seahawks’ direction. Increased playing time this season and a potential role as the starting shooting guard will only allow him to flourish. Expect Fornes to be the big surprise out of Wilmington this season.

Jordan Talley will contribute a lot, as he will likely become the starting point guard. Expect Ty Taylor, a transfer from Wichita State, to step into a supporting role.

Justin: Where do you see UNCW finishing in the CAA this season?

Noah: Oh boy. I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few months. Let me say this: I don’t think anyone in the CAA will be able to touch College of Charleston this season. The Cougars returned virtually everything that made them great a year ago, so I don’t the Seahawks or any CAA team will be able to match their experience and drive to win.

That being said: I don’t believe UNCW will have a bad year in 2017-2018. It will be a rebuilding year with some growing pains and a fair amount of rebuilding. A new-look team and a first-year head coach doesn’t help in that department, but you never know. McGrath and his guys could surprise us like Kevin Keatts did three years ago. My prediction is UNCW finishes in the top five in the conference — possibly as high as third or fourth — and maybe wins a game in the CAA Tournament if the Seahawks hit their stride. That’s about all UNCW fans can hope for this year, I’m afraid.

Bottom Line: The Seahawks are losing four starters who combined to average over 55 points per game. They simply will not be able to make up that production overnight. However, there is an influx of talent that will be joining UNCW this season. Ty Taylor represents one of four transfers who will enter the program. The other three all spent time playing college basketball outside of Division I, following in the footsteps of Chris Flemmings. In total, the Seahawks will add six new players this season. Combined with a new head coach, they will likely need time to gel. UNCW may be in a rebuilding year, but the term rebuilding means something different in Wilmington than it does for most CAA teams. This team will be competitive in conference play and likely finish in the middle of the pack, setting a strong foundation for continued success in the future.

CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

delawareHead Coach: Martin Ingelsby (second season)

Last Season: 13-20 (5-13), 9th in CAA

Projected Finish: 7th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Ryan Daly; All-CAA 2nd Team

 

Losses:

  • G Cazmon Hayes (8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
  • F Chivarsky Corbett (6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
  • F Devonne Pinkard (6.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
  • F Barnett Harris (1.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
  • G Curtis McRoy (0.0 ppg, 0.4 rpg)

Newcomers:

  • G Kevin Anderson (Fr., Williamsport, Pa./St. John Neumann)
  • G Ryan Allen (Fr., Bowie, Md./DeMatha Catholic)
  • G Connor Rufo (Fr., Hockessin, De./Sanford)
  • F Chyree Walker (Fr., Fairfax, VA/Bullis School in Md.)
  • F Collin Goss (Jr., 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg at George Washington in 2016-17)

by P.J. Wright

My, how the mighty have fallen. After Delaware was crowned as the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champion in 2014, the Blue Hens have failed to put together a winning record in each of the past three seasons. In two of those three, Delaware has been at the very cellar of the conference in 10th place.

Heading into last fall with a new coach in Martin Ingelsby, Delaware had lost their two leading scorers from the prior season. 2nd team All-CAA guard Kory Holden transferred to South Carolina while 3rd team All-CAA forward Marvin King-Davis was lost to graduation. The two accounted for 32.5 points per game in the 2015-16 season.

The Blue Hens finished the season 13-20 (5-13) and ninth in the CAA.

However, the team’s lack of offensive weapons opened up an opportunity for Ryan Daly. The 6-foot-4 guard led all CAA freshman in minutes (33.5), points (16.0), and rebounds (7.4) per game. Daly’s remarkable freshman year earned him CAA Rookie of the Year honors, making him only the second Blue Hens’ player to be win the award and first since Devon Saddler in 2010-11. Look for Delaware to rely heavily on his offense this season.

Delaware loses three key players from last year’s rotation. Guard Cazmon Hayes (8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and forward Devonne Pinkard (6.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg) graduated while forward Chivarsky Corbett transferred and will play his senior season at Bellarmine University in Kentucky.

Corbett had planned to transfer to Texas-San Antonio in the wake of Monte Ross firing as head coach in the spring of 2016, but after Martin Ingelsby’s hiring in May, Corbett reconsidered and returned. As last season progressed, Corbett saw his playing time tail off significantly and his role reduced. When the season concluded, the 6-foot-7 forward publicly stated that we wanted out.

Perhaps filling the hole will be newcomer Collin Goss, a transfer from George Washington University. The junior forward only appeared in 13 games last season for the Colonials, but could provide a spark with increased responsibility in Delaware.

Goss’ former teammate, junior guard Darian Bryant, transferred from George Washington last season and became the fourth leading scorer for the Blue Hens at 7.6 points per game in 27.5 minutes per game.

Another big part of Delaware’s offensive attack will be returning senior Anthony Mosley. The 6-foot-1 guard has been a starter on the team in each of the past three seasons and will provide the Blue Hens with some experience to go along with his speed and athleticism. Mosley led the team in assists per game (2.5) and was second in scoring (10.0 ppg) last season.

Bottom Line: Delaware returns four starters of its five top scorers from last year’s 13-20 team. With Ryan Daly back after a tremendous freshman season and Anthony Mosley looking to make a mark in his senior year, the Blue Hens have some intrigue. That intrigue, however, probably won’t lead to many more wins, if any. Their skilled backcourt could steal some games, but expect Delaware to be near the bottom of the CAA once again.

CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

drexelHead Coach: Zach Spiker (2nd season)

Last Season: 9-23 (3-15), 10th place CAA

Projected Finish: 9th

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Kurk Lee; All-CAA Second Team

 

Departures:

  • F Rodney Williams (15.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
  • F/C Mohamed Bah (4.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
  • G Kari Jonsson (10.1 ppg, 43.6% 3 pt)
  • G John Moran
  • F Jeremy Peck
  • G Major Canady

Newcomers:

  • F Alihan Demir (Central Wyoming College/Ankara, Turkey)
  • F James Butler (Navy/Burke, VA)
  • F Jarvis Doles (Mount Zion/Columbia, MD)
  • F Tim Perry (The Phelps School/Cherry Hill, NJ)

by Michael Petillo 

Despite a difficult 2016-17 campaign and the graduation of star forward Rodney Williams, Drexel fans have reason to be optimistic heading into the upcoming season.  Head coach Zach Spiker enters his second year at the helm after guiding the Dragons to a meager 3-15 conference record in what was always going to be a rebuilding year.  This year’s team features a nice mix of young talent and reliable veterans as Drexel looks to begin its ascension up the ranks of the CAA.

In order to begin that climb, Drexel is relying on their young star ball handler, Kurk Lee. Lee, who was Spiker’s first recruit at Drexel, is coming off a stellar freshman year in which he finished in the top 10 in the conference in scoring at (14.9 ppg) and was 4th in assists (5.0 apg) while converting on 40% of his threes.  The diminutive point guard ( 5’10, 150 lbs) runs the show for the Dragons and is their most important player.  Lee’s ability to create for himself and others will be essential to keeping Spiker’s offense running smoothly, and look for him to assume more of the scoring load now that Williams is gone.

Drexel’s season prospectus took a blow when sophomore guard Kari Jonsson announced he was returning to his native Iceland, and wouldn’t be rejoining the. Dragons. Jonsson knocked down a scorching 43.6% of his shots from long range last year, good for 1st in the conference. Pairing the knockdown shooting of Jonsson with the drive-and-kick ability of Lee would have been exciting, but alas, the Dragons will have to look elsewhere for complementary production. 

The lack of depth in the frontcourt leaves many skeptical that Drexel can make a serious leap this year.  Losing Rodney Williams and Mohamed Bah leaves the Dragons with little experience down low outside of senior forward Austin Williams.  Williams chipped in 7.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year in just 21 minutes a night, and his physicality and presence on the glass will be essential to Drexel’s success.  

Aside from him, however, Drexel will be relying on senior swingman Sammy Mojica and a myriad of young bigs to get the job done on the backboards.  Mojica is a jack of all trades type of player who rebounds well (5.3 rpg) for his 6’3 frame, but doesn’t bring the type of physical presence Drexel will need when Williams is off the floor.  That responsibility lies with an intriguing yet unproven group of young big men.  

The team brought in Jarvis Doles and Tim Perry Jr. as freshman and acquired Alihan Demir as a JUCO transfer from Central Wyoming College.  Doles is the most intriguing prospect; mix his 6’8 size and length with good handles for a big man, range out to the three point line, and a pretty fall-away jumper from the baseline and you’ve got the makings of a prototypical stretch four.  But there are questions about his strength and athleticism which must be answered before he can become the interior presence Drexel needs.  Perry Jr. is the more traditional big out of the two, with a mean streak on the glass and some solid post moves, and he has a decent chance to step in and play spot minutes when Spiker wants to go big or when Williams needs a rest.  Demir was a standout at the JUCO level, notching 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a night in just a shade over 20 minutes a game.  He’s a sound rebounder and with work could develop into a three point threat as well.  Look for him to find a way into Spiker’s rotation and maybe turn some heads with his energy and scoring touch.

Bottom Line: With a dynamic young point guard and an energetic young coach, Drexel is a team on the rise in the CAA.  They’ll without a doubt have to overcome the significant challenge of replacing the shooting of Jonson, as well as Williams and (to a lesser extent) Bah in the frontcourt. But, if one or more of the new additions steps up this could be an exciting team to watch and one to keep an eye on come tournament time.

CAA Preview: James Madison

jmuHead Coach: Louis Rowe (2nd Season)

Last Season: 10-23 (7-11 CAA T-8th place; lost in Quarterfinals of CAA Tournament to College of Charleston)

Projected Finish: 10th

Preseason All Conference Selections: None

 

Departures:

  • G Jackson Kent (14.0 ppg, 2.3 apg)
  • F Yohanny Dalembert (9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
  • G Shakir Brown (9.0 ppg)
  • F Tom Vodanovich
  • F Paulius Satkus

Newcomers:

  • G Darius Banks (Saint Petersburg High School, Saint Petersburg, FL)
  • G Matt Lewis (Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington, VA)
  • F Greg Jones (John Marshall High School, Richmond, VA)
  • F Dwight Wilson (Lincoln High School, Tallahassee, FL)
  • F Zach Jacobs (Trinity Episcopal School, Richmond, VA)

by Christian Skroce

It was an up and down year for the Dukes in Louis Rowe’s first season at the helm as the team could never gain its footing in a competitive CAA. Now in his second year as head coach, Rowe aims to truly make his mark on the program by adding nine new players for the 2017-2018 season, including an impressive freshmen class.

After struggling during their non-conference schedule (3-12 record in such games) to start the season, the Dukes rebounded during their CAA schedule, posting a 7-11 record in conference play. Even though the team finished strong to end last season, how James Madison will fair this upcoming year is still a mystery, as the Dukes lost several key players this offseason, including three senior leaders in Jackson Kent, Yohanny Dalembert, and Shakir Brown. Kent started every game for the Dukes last season and led the team in scoring with 14 points per game. However, the impact of these losses will be most felt on the defensive side of the ball, which ranked third in scoring in the CAA last season. The three seniors combined to account for 77 steals and 32 blocks last season, which will be greatly missed on the defensive end.  

Although Dalembert and Brown battled injuries during significant parts of last season, the duo still provided crucial veteran leadership that will be missed this season. Seniors Joey McLean and Ramone Snowden, the only two players on the roster with in-game experience for James Madison, will attempt to fill these leadership roles and help prepare the freshman class for future campaigns. Sophomore forward Gerron Scissum and junior guard Stucky Mosley will also aim to provide a spark after redshirting this past year after transferring from VCU and Toledo, respectively.

Rowe will hope that his strong incoming freshmen class will be able to aid the few upperclassmen on the roster by gelling quickly and contributing once the conference slate begins. Leading the new crop of freshmen is talented guard Darius Banks. Coming in at 6’4, Banks brings good length and athleticism that should benefit the Dukes on defense. In addition to his strength and size, Banks’ well-balanced jump shot will allow him to provide consistent offensive output, something the Dukes were lacking in last season. Despite his lack of experience, Banks could have the opportunity to help Joey McLean run the point for Rowe’s team this season. Alongside Banks in this class is forward Greg Jones who hopes to provide versatility on the offensive end throughout this season and his career at James Madison. Jones has been described as physically gifted and his high motor could make a significant impact for the Dukes immediately.

Bottom Line: After not having any incoming freshmen last season, Rowe is clearly aiming to build for the future with the new group of players he brought in for this campaign. Although several of the newcomers have the talent to contribute right away, most of the incoming class will need close to a full season to adjust to the higher level of play, and it is too early to tell how the new-look squad will play together. On paper, James Madison has the capacity and coaching ability to finish in the middle of the pack in the CAA this year. However, the team’s lack of experience and loss of significant senior leadership could doom the Dukes this year. JMU will most likely finish closer to the bottom of the standings this season as the team continues to figure things out, though the future looks bright for Louis Rowe’s squad.

Men’s basketball releases non-conference schedule

Head Coach Bill Coen (left) and the Huskies will be racking up cross-country miles this fall.
Head Coach Bill Coen (left) and the Huskies will be racking up cross-country miles this fall.

by Michael Petillo

BOSTON -The Northeastern men’s basketball team released their non-conference schedule last Wednesday, unveiling a challenging twelve game slate that’s sure to get Huskies fans excited about the start of the new season.  Coach Bill Coen’s squad will certainly be racking up their frequent flyer miles this fall, with trips all over the country throughout the season’s first month and a half.

An appearance in the PK80 tournament, including away games at Big 5 powers Stanford and Ohio State, headline the non-conference slate.

Per tradition, NU will start the season on Nov. 10 against Boston University, this time on the Terrier’s home court.  Last year the two teams squared off twice, with each side winning one game apiece.  After a home contest against Wentworth, the Huskies will jump into the heart of their non-conference slate when they head out to California to take on Stanford on Nov. 17 as part of the PK80 Invitational.  The tournament is being held this year to celebrate the birthday of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who will turn 80 in February.  

The Huskies will face a quick two day turnaround as they travel from Palo Alto to Columbus to take on Ohio State and first year head coach Chris Holtmann, who takes over for the Buckeyes after the surprise firing of Thad Matta early this summer.  Coming off a huge upset win at Michigan State last year, Northeastern will be hungry to knock off another Big 10 opponent on the road.  The Huskies PK80 appearance concludes in Nashville with two neutral site games against Utah State and Furman on the weekend of Nov. 24.

Coming off that long stretch of road games, Northeastern will return to the friendly confines of Matthews Arena for a four-game homestand.  The team will play host to Harvard, Cornell, Bucknell, and Vermont.  Last season NU dropped road contests against the two Ivy League schools, while squeaking past Vermont in Burlington.  

The end of the out-of-conference schedule sees Northeastern back on the road, with games against Kent State and St. Bonaventure.  The Golden Flashes gave NU a tough game at Matthews last season, with the Huskies hanging on to record a narrow three point victory.

Following a ten-day Christmas break, Northeastern will return for the start of the CAA schedule which tips off on the road against James Madison on Dec. 30.

Northeastern falls to Towson in CAA Quarterfinals

By: Matthew MacCormack

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Northeastern had its share of peaks of valleys in the 2016-17 season, but Saturday’s 82-54 loss to Towson to end the year may have been the low point.

The Huskies (15-16) never led on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum, as the No. 3 Tigers dominated the six-seeded Huskies from tip-off to final whistle. NU shot just 27% from the floor and 20% from three-point land, as the physical Tigers won the rebounding battle (42-25), and throttled Northeastern in bench-scoring (44-12).

“We came to a basketball game and a football game broke out. We didn’t bring our helmets or pads,” head coach Bill Coen said post-game. “Tonight, it was all about them exerting their will pretty much everywhere on the floor.”
Zane Martin came off the bench to lead Towson with 17 points, and William Adala Moto and Brian Starr each chipped in 12 for the Tigers, who advance on to face No. 2 Charleston in a semi-final matchup on Sunday.

Towson did a stellar job containing senior guard and CAA Player of the Year T.J. Williams all evening. Williams led the Huskies with 15 points, but went just 3-16 from the floor in his final collegiate game.

“I tip my hat off to them,” Williams said.

“I felt that they came with a good game plan. I tried to make some plays down the stretch to find some players on my team. We got some good looks but the shots didn’t fall.”

The Tigers (20-12) jumped out to a 15-3 lead, with Adala Moto dropping eight points in that stretch. The first-half lead ballooned to as large as 16, as the Huskies seemingly couldn’t buy a bucket.

There was some hope late in the second half, when NU cut the deficit down to 12 points off a three from Bolden Brace with 6:42 to go. After a Husky steal, a three from Jimmy Marshall rattled in-and-out, and Martin responded with a three of his own to push the lead back to 15. The game got no closer.

“We made a nice little run there,” Coen said.

“I thought Jimmy’s shot was down, but then right away they come back and bang a three. It was a little bit of a back-breaker and a dagger.”

Williams and Marshall logged their final minutes in Black and Red. Williams graduates with 1,377 career points, good enough for 15th in NU history.. His scoring output this year (642 pts) was the sixth highest single-season mark in program history.

“We knew it would be a physical game,” Williams said.

“I wish the outcome of the game would have been different, but they came ready to play.”

Three Keys: How Northeastern Can Upset Towson

Towson's William Adala Moto tallied 24 points and seven boards in NU's loss 74-67 at Towson on January 14 (Image credit: pressboxonline.com)
Towson’s William Adala Moto tallied 24 points and seven boards in NU’s loss 74-67 at Towson on January 14 (Image credit: pressboxonline.com)

By: Matthew MacCormack

Northeastern takes on Towson in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament on Saturday night. WRBB coverage begins at 8 p.m, with Jeremy Leopold, Justin Littman and Matt MacCormack on the call on our exclusive live stream: http://www.wrbbsports.com/listen-live/.

CHARLESTON, S.C — It seems all-too fitting that after 30 games, the Northeastern men’s basketball team sits exactly at .500.

The Huskies’ performance in the 2016-17 regular season has been, in a word, schizophrenic. Senior point guard T.J. Williams (21.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) pieced together one of the best seasons in program history, carrying the Huskies to multiple wins almost single-handedly. But the core around the newly-minted CAA Player of the Year has been inconsistent: a revolving door hampered by inexperience and injuries. Consistency and continuity have eluded the Huskies all year long.

The season’s bright spots were riveting. NU (15-15, 8-10 CAA) pulled off gritty road wins at basketball bluebloods Connecticut and Michigan State, upended America East regular season champ Vermont in the Green Mountain State, and beat out conference foe Elon in double overtime with just seven active players.

After starting out conference play 5-0, Northeastern looked like Colonial Athletic Association contenders. Head coach Bill Coen’s squad then won just three of their final 13 games, as the Huskies seemed unable to overcome a wave of injuries. Opening day starters Donnell Gresham and Jeremy Miller have missed most of the season, and the recent absences of starters Devon Begley (wrist) and Alex Murphy (personal reasons) have thinned out the bench.Three freshman have been forced to take on pivotal roles: Bolden Brace, Max Boursiquot and Shawn Occeus.

The roller-coaster season will culminate in this weekend’s CAA tournament. The winner of the tournament will snatch an automatic bid and dance on to the NCAAs.

Despite the competition moving to the Charleston Coliseum for the first time, the Huskies first-round matchup hasn’t changed. Just like last season, NU earned the No. 6 seed, bypassing the play-in round and setting up a matchup with No. 3 Towson. The Tigers will be looking to avenge last year’s 71-60 loss.

Towson provides a tall task for Coen and the rest of the NU coaching staff. The two teams split the season series, with each side gaining a single-digit victory at home (Towson won 74-64 at SECU Arena; Northeastern got by with a 69-62 win at Matthews Arena).

We’ve outlined three keys for NU to be successful in Saturday night’s matchup:

Note: All-CAA Third team member John Davis will miss his fifth straight game for Towson after suffering a gunshot wound in early February. Davis was the team’s third leading scorer (11.8 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.6 rpg). 

Stay out of foul trouble

Most intramural basketball teams have more healthy bodies than the Huskies had in last weekend’s North Carolina road trip. Just seven players made the trip for the final two games of the season at Elon and UNCW. While the Huskies emerged with a win and a loss from the road trip, playing well with only seven active players isn’t sustainable.

Jeremy Miller (knee) looks like he’ll be back in the lineup, but the word is still out on whether Begley (an All-CAA defensive selection) and Murphy (the team’s second-leading scorer) will be available in Charleston.

This is a particularly dire problem when you consider the Huskies’ first round opponent. Towson has a reputation as the most physical team in the conference, and the numbers back it up; the Tigers averaged more than 26 free throw attempts per game this season, which led the CAA. Northeastern, on the other hand, averaged just over 20.

Here’s another one: Towson is 14-2 when they shoot more free throws than their opponents.

Especially with an undermanned bench, the Huskies must play sound defense without fouling to have a chance to win. Pay particular attention to Towson senior forward William Adala Moto, who attempted 13 free throws (and hit 12) when NU loss at Towson, but attempted just four (and hit three) when the Huskies were victorious at Matthews Arena.

Connect from deep

You know the old cliché “live by the three, die by the three”? The Huskies take that tired phrase to an extreme.

In their 15 wins, the Huskies shot 40.8% from beyond the three-point line. This mark, if extrapolated across the whole season, would rank 8th nationally.

During the Huskies’ 15 losses, that number drops to 33.6%, which would rank right around 250th in the country.

The Huskies don’t usually have a problem getting open looks; Williams draws a lot of the defense’s attention, allowing for easy drive-and-kick opportunities. The biggest factor is, quite literally, whether or not those shots fall. Look for freshman Bolden Brace, fresh off a career-high 40 points at Elon last week, to have his fair share of open triples.

Stay competitive on the boards

From a CAA perspective, Towson is an elite rebounding team; thanks to a slew of physical big men and athletic guards, the Tigers led the conference with a rebounding margin of +7.9 (i.e, Towson pulls down 8 more boards than their opponents, on average). But the Tigers aren’t just good rebounders at a mid-major level; they rank 8th nationally in rebounding, one spot ahead of No. 4 Gonzaga, who was undefeated until a loss last week to BYU.

Staying competitive on the boards is as much mental as it is physical, and the Huskies did a stellar job, relatively, in their two bouts with Towson this year. Overall, the cumulative rebounding total from those two contests was 62-61 in Towson’s favor. The Tigers lost all four of the games in which they lost or tied the rebounding battle this year, and with Davis on the sideline, the Huskies have a legitimate shot to grab more caroms than their fearless opponents.

Williams’ captures Player of the Year, Begley tabbed for All-Defensive team

(Image Credit: CAA)
(Image Credit: CAA)

By: Jeremy Leopold & Matthew MacCormack

For the first time since 2006, the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year trophy is returning to Huntington Avenue.

T.J. Williams became the second CAA Player of the Year in program history Thursday night, joining NBA veteran J.J. Barea as the only Huskies to bring home the award.

“It definitely means a lot,” Williams said in the CAA’s video announcement of the award winners. “I know before the season I sat down by myself and I kinda transformed my mind.”

You can find the full CAA awards list here.

Despite receiving no preseason award recognition, the senior point guard emerged as the POTY favorite early in the season. The Pflugerville, Texas native led the CAA in scoring with 21.6 points per game, and finished tied for first in assists with 5.3 per game. Williams topped the 20-point mark 18 times in 2016-17, all while playing the 3rd most minutes per game in the nation.

Last Thursday night at Elon, Williams also became the first NU player since Barea to tally a triple-double, with a 26-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist effort in the Huskies’ double-OT victory.

Perhaps making William’s season even more impressive was the improvements he made from last year’s campaign. After averaging just 6.8 points per game in 2015-16, Williams’ +14.8 year-over-year scoring increase was one of the best marks in the country. In his four years on Huntington Avenue, Williams has amassed 1,362 points, good for 15th all time on Northeastern’s scoring list.

“I’ve been here for four years and I feel like each year has been a learning experience,” Williams said.

Begley quietly enjoyed a breakout campaign this year as well, enjoying career-highs in points (9.7), rebounds (3.7) and assists (3.3). The junior’s defensive contributions were highlighted by the conference thanks to a CAA-leading 1.8 steals per game. The 6’4 guard from Pearland, Texas showed off his defensive prowess at the top of NU’s 2-3 zone, and earned a starting role after sophomore Donnell Gresham was sidelined with injury.

You can catch both Williams and Begley in action on Saturday night, when the No.6 Huskies take on the No. 3 Towson Tigers in the CAA Tournament in Charleston, South Carolina. WRBB coverage will start at 8 pm. Listen here: http://www.wrbbsports.com/listen-live/