CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 23–11 (14–4 CAA, second place), won CAA Tournament, lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Third

Losses

  • G Vasa Pusica
  • G Donnell Gresham Jr.
  • G/F Shawn Occeus
  • F/C Jeremy Miller
  • C Anthony Green

Additions

  • G Vito Cubrilo
  • G Tyson Walker
  • G Guilien Smith
  • G Quirin Emanga
  • G/F Shaquille Walters
  • F Greg Eboigbodin
  • F Connor Braun

By Milton Posner

Notwithstanding the clobbering from Kansas that sent the Huskies home, Northeastern had an superb 2018–19 season. They overcame injuries to key players as they battled through a challenging non-conference slate, then finished second in the conference standings behind a balanced offense and crippling perimeter defense.

In the CAA Tournament, they dismissed UNCW, exacted revenge on Charleston for the previous year’s tournament final defeat, then knocked off the Hofstra Pride and its unanimous Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman to capture the conference crown. The March Madness berth was Northeastern’s first since 2015.

Two-time CAA first-teamer Vasa Pusica graduated, as did bruising center Anthony Green and backup big man Jeremy Miller. Northeastern also lost two juniors. Savvy combo guard Donnell Gresham Jr. joined the Georgia Bulldogs for his final college season. Lockdown perimeter defender Shawn Occeus turned pro and was drafted 35th in the NBA G League Draft by the Salt Lake City Stars, the G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz. He joins Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman, both CAA first teamers, in the organization.

Sweet-shooting senior guard Jordan Roland figures to be the Huskies’ biggest offensive threat. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season behind Pusica, with his school-record 99 three-pointers accounting for 60 percent of his points. He did most of his damage as a spot-up shooter, letting Pusica and Gresham create in the pick-and-roll and benefitting from the open looks their gravity created. Without them, Roland may have to create more opportunities for himself through drives, floaters, and off-the-dribble jumpers.

After two productive years coming off the bench — the second one worthy of the CAA Sixth Man of the Year Award — Bolden Brace made the starting lineup last year. He didn’t disappoint, starting all 34 games — the only Husky to do so — and averaging ten points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three. His six rebounds per contest led the team, and his 6’6”, 225-pound frame let him slow speedy guards and hold firm against bruising forwards. The Huskies will need every ounce of his versatility this season.

Redshirt junior Max Boursiquot can provide solid offensive contributions and defensive flexibility, though the hip injury that sidelined him last season may affect his mobility. Jason Strong, Myles Franklin, and Shaquille Walters saw limited minutes off the bench last year, but will likely be called on to score a bit and prop up the Huskies’ formidable three-point defense. Redshirt sophomore Greg Eboigbodin, who practiced with the team last season, will try to fill the hole the graduating Green left in the middle.

Quirin Emanga stands out among the new recruits. He’s an athletic 6’5’ guard/forward with a seven-foot wingspan and a burgeoning skill set. For a more detailed player profile of Emanga, click here.

Connor Braun is a mobile 6’8” forward with solid handles and driving ability. Vito Cubrilo’s speed and quickness earn him buckets on drives, he’s got a sweet-looking perimeter stroke, and, like Emanga, has played high-level European youth ball. Guilien Smith averaged 12 points per game his sophomore year at Dartmouth but missed almost all of the next season due to injury and saw his minutes — and numbers — drop when he returned. If he returns to form, he can mitigate the loss of Pusica at point guard. Tyson Walker, at just six feet and 162 pounds, will look to stand tall with his flashy drives and transition speed. Bill Coen, now the CAA’s longest-tenured coach after the firing of William & Mary’s Tony Shaver, is tasked with blending the new talent.

Bottom Line: This will likely be the first time in six seasons Northeastern doesn’t have an All-CAA first team player. This makes their balanced approach even more important. Unlike last year, they have a slew of new players whose production will prove necessary. How well Bill Coen incorporates the new players, and how well they perform, will determine whether Northeastern contends for a second straight CAA title or falls to the middle of the pack.

CAA Preview: William & Mary

Last season: 14–17 (10–8 CAA), lost in CAA quarterfinals

Head coach: Dane Fischer (first season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Seventh

Losses

  • G LJ Owens
  • G Chase Audige
  • G Matt Milon
  • G/F Justin Pierce
  • F Paul Rowley
  • F Chris Clark

Additions

  • G Tyler Hamilton
  • G Bryce Barnes
  • G Rainers Hermanovskis
  • G Miguel Ayesa
  • G/F Thatcher Stone
  • F Ben Wight
  • F/C Andy Van Vliet

By Milton Posner

On March 10, 2019, the College of William & Mary let a 16-point lead slip through their fingers in the CAA Tournament quarterfinal. The Delaware Blue Hens went to the next round; the Tribe went home.

But the future was bright. The Tribe had a versatile lineup with good shooters and a strong inside presence. They were CAA title contenders.

Three days later, it all began to unravel. The team announced that Tony Shaver, the Tribe’s head coach for 16 years, had been fired.

When she was hired two years ago, Athletic Director Samantha Huge conducted an internal review of the team. She declined to elaborate on why Shaver was dismissed, instead alluding to “concerns on and off the court” and not liking how the program was “trending.” She did cite a lack of NCAA Tournament appearances (W&M is one of four original Division I teams to never appear in the NCAA Tournament).

Shaver is the winningest coach in program history despite his losing record (226–268). He won CAA Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2010 and took the Tribe to four CAA Finals, but a championship eluded him. Shaver enjoyed regular season success in recent years; from 2013 to 2018 he posted five consecutive winning seasons, the first such streak in program history. W&M’s 64–42 record over the last six seasons is tied with Northeastern for best in the CAA.

The fallout from the firing was swift. Though CAA first teamer Nathan Knight likely would have explored the NBA Draft regardless, Shaver’s firing undoubtedly motivated Justin Pierce, Matt Milon, Chase Audige, and LJ Owens — the Tribe’s second, third, fourth, and fifth-leading scorers, respectively — to transfer. The quartet accounted for 59 percent of the team’s points and 49 percent of its rebounds and assists last year. New coach Dane Fischer tried to keep the team together but could only watch as his core vanished.

Knight forgoing the NBA draft is the only thing keeping W&M from rock bottom. Last year, he posted 21 points, nine rebounds, and four assists per game, and blocked twice as many shots as all but one CAA player. He was second in the conference in field goal percentage. He was the conference’s third-leading scorer and sixth-leading rebounder despite playing fewer minutes per game (30) than most other CAA stars.

Given the graduation of four of last season’s six CAA first teamers, and given the increased touches he’ll likely see after his teammates’ exodus, Knight — along with Charleston’s Grant Riller — is a favorite to win CAA Player of the Year.

Andy Van Vliet, a 7’0” senior transfer from the University of Wisconsin, will pair with Knight in the frontcourt. Though Van Vliet has a perimeter scoring touch, his and Knight’s play down low is the only area where the Tribe are likely to outplay opponents.

The rest of the squad is lacking in most important respects. After Knight, the most statistically significant returning player is junior guard Luke Loewe, who squeezed out four points, two rebounds, and two assists per game last year as a starter. The new recruits — four freshmen and two grad transfers — will have to overperform just for W&M to match their performance from last season, when they hovered around the CAA average in most stat categories.

Bottom Line: Nathan Knight is a likely 2020 NBA draft choice, and it will be fun to watch him wail on CAA big men for another season. But with the bulk of their 2018–19 offense now playing elsewhere — and the increased defensive pressure on Knight as teams swarm him down low — the Tribe’s benchwarmers and freshmen will have to pick up major slack. W&M is unlikely to escape the depths of the conference standings.

CAA Preview: College of Charleston Cougars

Last Season: 24–9 (12–6 CAA, third place), lost in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Earl Grant (sixth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Second

Losses

  • G Marquise Pointer
  • G Trent Robinson
  • F Jarrell Brantley
  • F Nick Harris
  • F Jermaine Blackmon Jr.
  • F Isaih Moore

Additions

  • G Brenden Tucker
  • G Trevon Reddish
  • G Jeffrey Pizano-McInnis
  • G/F DeAngelo Epps
  • F Dontavius King

By Michael Petillo

The book on the College of Charleston for the 2019–20 season is pretty simple: they have Grant Riller, and he’s the reason the Cougars could recapture the CAA crown.

Earl Grant’s bunch won the conference two years ago but slipped to third in 2018–19 before falling to Northeastern in a close CAA Tournament semifinal game. Now, Charleston will have to overcome the graduation of star forward Jarrell Brantley (now a member of the Utah Jazz), but in a year where most CAA teams are overhauling, the Cougars could do a lot worse than having Riller to fall back on.

Riller burst onto the CAA scene in 2016, averaging 13 ppg as a redshirt freshman, then achieving All-CAA first team recognition each of the past two years. A gifted scorer, he netted 22 ppg in 2018–19 while improving as a passer (4.1 apg). Riller is a terror in the open court, isolation, and the pick and roll who always looks to drive to the rim, where he shot an astronomical 71 percent last year. His offensive rating was fourth in the country, trailing only Zion Williamson, Mike Daum, and Justin Wright-Foreman. This summer, CBB Central ranked him the best mid-major point guard in the country. With Brantley’s departure, the pressure of carrying the scoring load and running the offense falls squarely on his shoulders.

Alongside Riller, the Cougars return an assortment of quality role players looking to take the next step. Chief among them is junior guard Brevin Galloway, a quality shooter who blossomed into a starter last year and will now be a top option. Sophomore guards Jaylen Richard and Zep Jasper will look to build upon solid freshman seasons as they battle for a starting spot.

Replacing Brantley is a tall task, but senior big men Sam Miller and Jaylen McManus both had good moments last season and will be asked to do more. Miller spreads the floor with perimeter shooting; he knocked down 42 percent of his triples last season. McManus, the superior athlete of the two, has improved steadily each year under Coach Grant, and offers some scoring and floor spacing as well.

The Cougars boast a solid class of incoming freshmen, headlined by athletic guard Brenden Tucker. If Tucker — who turned down offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Northwestern, and Xavier — can contribute right away, he’ll provide scoring punch and much-needed depth.

Bottom Line: Riller is the favorite to win Player of the Year. Grant is one of the league’s best coaches, so there is good reason to believe in the continued development of players like Galloway, McManus, and others. The combination of talent and good coaching makes Charleston an upper-echelon group. If Tucker hits right away and other role players take a step forward, Charleston could emerge as the clear-cut favorite by the time conference play begins.

CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

Last Season: 17–16 (8–10 CAA, fifth place), lost in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Martin Ingelsby (fourth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Fifth

Losses

  • G Ryan Johnson
  • G Connor Rufo
  • G Curtis Lochner
  • G Ithiel Horton
  • G Darian Bryant
  • F Matt Veretto
  • F Eric Carter

Additions

  • G Nate Darling
  • G Reggie Gardner
  • G John McCoy
  • G Ebby Asamoah
  • F Dylan Painter

By Michael Petillo

The 2018–19 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Delaware, but the Blue Hens cobbled together a respectable 8–10 conference record and finished fifth. They pulled off a mild upset by knocking off William & Mary in the second round of the CAA Tournament before falling in a close game against Hofstra.

This year’s Blue Hens will have to overcome the graduation of forward Eric Carter and the transfer of standout freshman guard Ithiel Horton to the University of Pittsburgh. Despite those losses, Delaware has the talent to compete in the CAA.

The height of their ceiling largely depends on whether junior guard Ryan Allen takes the next step. Allen established himself as a player to watch as a freshman, averaging 15 ppg while knocking down 39 percent of his three-pointers. It was hoped he’d reach the next level as a sophomore, but his scoring average improved only slightly, to 16 ppg, as he missed the beginning of the season due to injury.

Allen’s backcourt running mate, Kevin Anderson, is another player to watch. A 6’5” guard, Anderson is a long, rangy defender who also dished out 3.8 apg as a sophomore last year. If his shooting improves a bit, he’ll become the second option for head coach Martin Ingelsby. He sat out summer activities — including the team’s trip to the Bahamas — with an injury, but he appears to be back at full strength.

Adding to the backcourt mix is highly touted junior transfer Nate Darling, who averaged 10 ppg in his last season at UAB. The 6’5” Canadian is a knockdown three-point shooter (41 percent as a sophomore) who sat out last year after transferring to Delaware. As with previous CAA transfers (see Pusica, Vasa), Darling could outperform his previous stats after having a year to work on his game and learn Ingelsby’s system. His impact could elevate an otherwise middling team to an elite one, making him one of the conference’s most pivotal players. Though his role at UAB was spotting up from the perimeter, Ingelsby says he has diversified, even playing point guard in practice.

Delaware’s obvious weakness is the frontcourt, where they lack a top-end talent to replace Carter. Senior role players Jacob Cushing and Collin Goss will likely see a big uptick in playing time. Both are serviceable big men who can stretch the floor, which should open driving lanes for the guards. They will look to hold the fort down for the first half of the season, at which point Villanova mid-year transfer Dylan Painter will be eligible to play. Painter, a 6’10” redshirt junior, struggled to find playing time for the Wildcats but will look to find his niche with the Blue Hens; he could boost the team at the beginning of conference play.

Bottom Line: Delaware is a talented veteran team, but there are too many question marks to pencil them in now among the CAA’s elite. That could all change by conference season if Darling shines and Allen becomes a first-team all-conference type of player. Until that happens, however, the Blue Hens are a second-tier CAA team with first-tier potential.

CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Last season: 27–8 (15–3 CAA, first place), lost in CAA final

Coach: Joe Mihalich (seventh season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: First

Losses

  • G Justin Wright-Foreman
  • G Kenny Wormley
  • F Jacquil Taylor
  • F Dan Dwyer
  • F Matija Radovic

Additions

  • G Caleb Burgess
  • G Omar Silverio
  • G Jermaine Miranda
  • F Kvonn Cramer

By Matt Neiser

Led by Justin Wright-Foreman and his second-straight CAA Player of the Year season, the Hofstra Pride were a force to be reckoned with in 2018–19. A 16-game winning streak — the longest in the nation before Northeastern ended it on February 2 — helped Hofstra secure the CAA regular season crown before a loss to the Huskies in the CAA Championship game ended their season.

Wright-Foreman has carried the Pride the past few seasons, but he’s gone — off to compete in the NBA and G-League on a two-way contract after being drafted 53rd overall by the Utah Jazz. Now, reigning CAA Coach of the Year Joe Mihalich faces the challenge of replacing 27 ppg (second in the nation) of scoring and the bevy of other contributions the lethal lefty brought to his squad. Hofstra is also losing grad transfer Jacquil Taylor, their starting center and defensive anchor.

Despite the major losses, the Pride still have plenty of talent. Headlining their 2019–20 crew is All-CAA second team senior guard Eli Pemberton, who averaged 15 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game on 45 percent shooting (35 percent from three) last season. The 6’5” guard has been a consistent scoring option behind Wright-Foreman throughout his career and finally has the chance to be top dog. An all-around scorer with playmaking upside, Pemberton will be the key to Hofstra’s success.

Also returning is senior guard Desure Buie, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year. Buie’s 82 steals last season led the CAA, and it wasn’t even close; the next highest in the conference was JMU’s Darius Banks with 56. His defense will be invaluable for the Pride in a conference full of dynamic guards.

Other notable returnees include senior Tareq Coburn and junior Jalen Ray, a pair of sharpshooting guards. Coburn started 25 games last season and shot 43 percent from behind the arc on 3.4 attempts per game, while Ray came off the bench and contributed his own 39 percent from three on 3.7 attempts. The two combined for 16 points per game and are poised to build on those numbers with Wright-Foreman’s departure.

The big question mark for the Pride is their frontcourt. After losing Taylor (6’10”), Dan Dwyer (6’8”), and Matija Radovic (6’7”), they’re left with little experience at the four and five spots. Of the four players on their current roster over 6’6” tall, 6’8” Stafford Trueheart’s 11 minutes per game in 2018 lead the way.

Bottom Line: Losing Wright-Foreman is going to hurt. It’ll take some time for Hofstra to adjust, but the Pride still have more than enough talent to compete in the CAA. If Pemberton rises to the challenge as their primary option and they can scavenge serviceable minutes from their big men, there’s no reason to think Hofstra won’t be back in the title hunt this season.

CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

Head Coach: C.B. McGrath (third season)

Last Season: 10–23 (5–13), tenth place CAA, lost in CAA semifinal

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Ninth

Losses

  • G Ty Taylor II
  • G Jaylen Fornes
  • G Jacque Brown
  • F Devontae Cacok
  • F Jeantal Cylla
  • F Shawn O’Connell

Additions

  • G Mike Okauru
  • G Shykeim Phillips
  • G/F Carter Skaggs
  • G/F Jake Boggs
  • F Imajae Dodd

By Christian Skroce

After a trip to the CAA semifinals in C.B. McGrath’s first year as head coach, UNCW looked to build upon their success in 2018–19. Projected to finish fifth in the conference, the Seahawks had the makings of a CAA dark horse. But looks can be deceiving.

UNCW had one of their worst seasons in recent memory, finishing dead last in the CAA regular season standings. In an attempt to show their season wasn’t a total disaster, the Seahawks pulled off a tournament win against seventh-seeded Elon before fizzling out in the quarterfinals with a 80–59 drubbing from Northeastern. For a once-top-tier team in the CAA, there were far more questions than answers, and the bad news continued during the offseason.

While everyone knew the day would come, it was still difficult for many to say goodbye to senior forward Devontae Cacok. The talented forward and fan-favorite had become the face of the program, and UNCW will have to adjust to life without Cacok on and off the court.

Cacok went undrafted but signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in June. Though the team cut him in October before the start of the regular season, his performance in Summer League and preseason was outstanding. He is now on the training roster for the South Bay Lakers, the team’s G-League affiliate.

Three other offseason losses for the Seahawks came as a complete surprise. On the same day, junior guards Jaylen Fornes and Ty Taylor II both announced they would be transferring from UNCW. Although neither were elite players, they provided valuable bench minutes and would have contributed a veteran presence for a team now missing their leader.

But the offseason’s biggest shock came a few days later, when junior forward Jeantal Cylla announced he would be transferring — he eventually landed at the University of Arkansas. Cylla was a key player for the Seahawks last season, averaging 13.7 points and 4.6 rebounds as part of the formidable frontcourt with Cacok.

Despite the losses, the offseason was not all doom and gloom. The Seahawks are bringing in two transfer guards: grad Carter Skaggs from Washington State and junior Mike Okauru from Florida. Both players provide much-needed experience for a team losing several leaders.

Skaggs enjoyed a nice two-year career at Washington State, averaging 7.2 points in 56 career games. Okauru will be the more interesting of the two, as he never quite found his groove at Florida, averaging just 2.6 points in 69 career games. Despite his poor numbers, Okauru has the talent and athleticism to succeed alongside returning point guard Kai Toews, who averaged an astonishing 7.7 assists during this freshman campaign.

Junior guard Ty Gadsden averaged 12 ppg last year on a ridiculous 48 percent from three. He will likely miss the first month of the season after surgery on both hips and for a sports hernia, per Brian Mull.

Joining Okauru and Skaggs this season is a solid freshman class. Among the newcomers are forwards Imajae Dodd and Jake Boggs and guard Shykeim Phillips. While Phillips’ minutes will likely be limited, the Seahawks are likely to ask a lot from Dodd and Boggs. The duo, along with returning forwards John Bowen and Martin Linssen, look to fill the massive shoes left by Cacok and Cylla.

Rebounding is another concern. Cacok pulled down a CAA-best 12.3 boards per contest last year and was the nation’s top rebounder the year before. Cylla, at 4.6 rebounds a night, was second on the team. Without them, the rebounding will likely be done by committee.

Bottom Line: Expectations are low for the Seahawks this season, as they probably can’t replace Cacok and Cylla in one year. Gadsden and Toews bring intelligence and athleticism to the backcourt, but if the newcomers can’t pick up the pace on the boards, it’ll be a long season for the Seahawks.

CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

Last Season: 10–22 (6–12, ninth in CAA); lost in CAA first round

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (ninth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Sixth

Losses

  • G Quinton Drayton
  • G Jordan McNeil
  • C Alex Thomas

Additions

  • G Demetrius Mims
  • G Nigel Haughton
  • G Jason Gibson
  • F Charles Thompson

By Mack Krell

Sporting an almost entirely new squad in 2018–19, coach Pat Skerry and the Towson Tigers struggled to a 10–22 record (6–12 CAA). The Tigers finished the season with five straight CAA losses, ending with a 74–73 loss to James Madison in the first round of the CAA tournament.

But Skerry has a few reasons to be optimistic this season. His returning players are more experienced, his newcomers more exciting, and his schedule more advantageous.

Unlike last season when 11 new players joined the club, this year’s Tigers return 90 percent of their scoring and 86 percent of their rebounding from last year. Their leader is 6’5” senior guard Brian Fobbs, who averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game last year and made the All-CAA second team.

Also returning is leading rebounder Dennis Tunstall. The 6’9” senior forward supplied the Tigers with 7.7 rpg last year, including 2.9 offensive rebounds per game. The Tigers will rely on Fobbs and Tunstall to lead an otherwise young team. If these seniors can continue to perform, the Tigers could outperform last season’s ninth-place finish.

Two incoming freshman — 6’7” forward Charles Thompson and 6’1” guard Jason Gibson — both won 2019 Winter All-Met honors and are cause for optimism.

The Tigers benefit from a favorable early schedule. Their first three games are at home, providing the young team a chance to find a groove before November games against fourth-ranked Florida and 20th-ranked Xavier. Both games should test the mettle and chemistry of a team whose biggest asset — like Northeastern last year — is year-to-year roster consistency.

The Tigers also wield the early home game advantage in conference play; five of their first seven CAA games are in their building.

Bottom Line: Towson is coming off a disappointing season. However, they return their three leading scorers and rebounders and a roster of players used to playing together. Taking advantage of this familiarity could allow them to move out of the CAA cellar into the middle of the pack. However, if Towson relies purely Fobbs’ scoring and can’t reduce last year’s 12 turnovers per game average, they will find themselves back at the bottom.

CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Last Season: 11–21 (7–11 CAA, eighth place), lost in CAA first round

Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Tenth

Losses

  • G Dainan Swoope
  • G Sheldon Eberhardt
  • G Steven Santa Ana
  • G Nathan Priddy
  • F Tyler Seibring
  • F/C Karolis Kundrotas

Additions

  • G Hunter McIntosh
  • G/F Zac Ervin
  • G/F Hunter Woods
  • G/F Jerald Gillens-Butler
  • G/F Marcus Sheffield II

By Gabe Bibliowicz

A disappointing 2018–19 season sent Elon head coach Matt Matheny from the hot seat to unemployed. In his 10 years as Elon’s head coach (151–169 record) Matheny suffered through five losing seasons, last year’s being his worse since his inaugural. A disappointing CAA finish and three players entering the transfer portal was enough to end Matheny’s tenure.

Director of Athletics Dave Blank took only a month to replace Matheny, settling on Mike Schrage (SHRAW–gee). The Atlanta native spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Chris Holtmann and worked under college basketball legends Mike Krzyzewski (nine seasons) and Bob Knight (four seasons).

Along with a new coaching perspective, Schrage will look to improve Elon’s recruiting. Over his years as an assistant, he helped recruit multiple nationally ranked classes, including a top-25 class at Ohio State in 2018 and a top-10 class in 2019.

In May, Schrage announced the addition of the 6’5” forward Zac Ervin to Elon’s 2019 recruiting class. Ervin was awarded the 2018–19 Mountain 7 District Player of the Year after averaging 33 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. He was a three-time First-Team All-State selection.

The Phoenix graduated their top four scorers from last season, including Tyler Seibring, a perennial all-conference forward who led the team in points and minutes. The 6’9” forward was an efficient scorer and a deft passer, and his departure leaves a gaping hole in Elon’s offense. Sheldon Eberhardt snagged the CAA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last year and finished ninth in the CAA in assists. Steven Santa Ana, Elon’s second-leading scorer, won Player of the Week on March 4th after averaging 27 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists that week. Elon was a bottom-tier team with them, and now they’re gone.

Guard Nathan Priddy (seven ppg last year) was expected to be the Phoenix’s top returning scorer. But Priddy has decided to leave school and work for his brother, per Brian Mull.

The only returning rotation players are sophomores Chuck Hannah and Kris Wooten. The 6’6”, 230-pound Hannah is a defensive asset and rebounds well, but lacks Ervin’s offensive upside. Guard Kris Wooten was fourth on the team last year with 43 three-pointers, though he shot just 34 percent from beyond the arc. Guard Marcus Sheffield II, a grad transfer who averaged six points per game in three years at Stanford, is perhaps their best hope for a consistent top scorer.

Bottom Line: Schrage’s hiring is a move in the right direction, and his recruiting skill means the program is primed for a speedy rebuild. But this year’s team is short on talent and experience. Anything besides a last-place finish would be a surprise.

CAA Preview: James Madison University Dukes

Last season: 14–19 (6–12, eighth place), lost in CAA quarterfinal

Head coach: Louis Rowe (third season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Fourth

Losses

  • G Stuckey Mosley
  • G Matthew Urbach
  • F Greg Jones
  • F Develle Phillips
  • F Cameron Smith

Additions

  • G Zyon Dobbs
  • G Quinn Richey
  • G Jayvis Harvey
  • F Dalton Jefferson
  • F Julien Wooden
  • F Michael Christmas

By Adam Doucette

The JMU Dukes will look to rebound from their lackluster, eighth-place 2018–19. It won’t be easy after graduating second-leading scorer Stuckey Mosley, but JMU returns the other four starters and has added some depth with new recruits.

One of those recruits is Michael Christmas, a three-star prospect according to 247sports. He is ranked as the 14th best prospect from the state of Virginia for 2019.

Junior guards Matt Lewis and Darius Banks look to build on fantastic sophomore seasons. Lewis averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game, making the All-CAA third team in the process. He will likely become the offensive centerpiece. Banks averaged 12 points and five assists per game, and his 56 steals were second only to Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie. Banks also made a mind-boggling 49 percent of his threes last year.

Sophomore point guard Deshon Parker will look to become a leader after earning a starting spot last season and averaging six points, two rebounds, and three assists per game. JMU also returns 6’8” junior forward Zach Jacobs, who paced the team defensively with 26 blocks.

JMU will face one of the nation’s toughest teams early on. In just their second regular season game, the Dukes will travel to Charlottesville to play the reigning national champion Virginia Cavaliers. JMU has faced Virginia ten times in the past; they’ve lost all ten.

The Dukes head into the season under the direction of head coach Louis Rowe. Rowe played two years at JMU, was an assistant coach for five, and has been head coach for the last two. In his first season at the helm, the team finished last in the CAA; last year they finished eighth. The Dukes have not earned a top five seed in the CAA tournament since they were third in 2015–16.

Bottom line: JMU has hung out at the bottom of the CAA standings for the better part of the last three seasons. Digging themselves out won’t be easy, especially with the loss of leading scorer Mosley. But with an added year of experience for coach Louis Rowe, the maturing of Lewis, Banks, and Parker, and the addition of some talented recruits, the Dukes should jump in the standings.

CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

Last Season: 13–19 (7–11 CAA, sixth place), lost in CAA quarterfinal

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (fourth season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Eighth

Losses

  • G Troy Harper
  • G Kevin Doi
  • G Alihan Demir
  • G Trevor John

Additions

  • F Mate Okros
  • F T.J. Bickerstaff

By Alex Bensley

Despite finishing last season under .500, the Dragons improved slightly from 2017–18 when they went 13–20 and 6–12 in CAA action. They entered conference play with a 6–7 record before early losses to Northeastern and Hofstra put them in an early hole. Their season ended in a 12-point loss against third-seeded Charleston in the CAA semifinals.

This year, sharpshooting guard Trevor John is gone, as is premier scorer and All-CAA third-team standout Troy Harper (16 ppg). Harper is a substantial loss, although the guard shot only 39 percent from the field and 25 percent from three last season. The Dragons also lost Alihan Demir (15 ppg), who transferred to Minnesota.

The tall task of replacing last year’s top three scorers starts with sophomore guard Camren Wynter. He averaged 11 ppg and 5.3 apg last year en route to the CAA Rookie of the Year award. Expect him to run the show this year.

Senior guards Zach Walton and Kurk Lee are key backcourt assets as well, particularly Walton, whose 48 percent clip from the floor led Drexel guards last season. Forward James Butler looks to be the main man up front, as he shot a bristling 60 percent last season. Keep an eye on freshman forwards Mate Okros and T.J. Bickerstaff, who could provide some much-needed depth. It’s difficult to tell how much they can help, but their performances will be integral to the team’s success.

Bottom Line: Drexel has had some impressive wins over the years, but they haven’t posted a .500 record since 2013–14. That said, the team has improved every year, so if Wynter emerges as a top player and the team overcomes losing its top three scorers, Drexel could improve their record once again. But the task is quite tall for this group.