CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

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By: Rachel Santo

Head Coach: Matt Matheny (9th season)

Last Season: 14-18 (6-12, 7th in CAA)

Losses:

  • F Brian Dawkins (12.2 ppg)
  • G Dmitri Thompson (12.3 ppg)
  • G/F Collin Luther (0.4 ppg)
  • F Jack Anton (1.2 ppg, )
  • F Jack George (1.3 ppg)

Newcomers:

The beginning of last season was full of hope for the Elon Phoenix, with all five starters returning and a projected third place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Ultimately, though, they could not live up to the hype, tying for last place in the regular season with a 6-12 conference record, and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.

This season, they’ll be missing two of their star players in F Brian Dawkins and G Dmitri Thompson. Dawkins had won Preseason All-CAA Second Team honors, and finished the season with 12.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Thompson, ranked 28th on Elon’s all-time scoring list, tallied 12.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG. The Phoenix also graduated Collin Luther, Jack Anton, and Jack George, who combined for 2.9 ppg.

With Dawkins and Thompson moving on to professional ball, it looks like Normal, Illinois native Tyler Seibring will have to have a better-than-normal season. After leading the team in points and rebounds per game (15.4 ppg and 6.8 rpg), all eyes are on the 6-foot-9 senior forward to lead the team to a winning season. His junior campaign brought him numerous honors, including being named to the All-CAA Second Team for the second consecutive year.

Two more returning starters are senior guards Dainan Swoope (12.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Steven Santa Ana (9.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Swoope has already carved his name in program history, ranking 35th in all-time scoring, 8th in three-pointers made, and is currently tied for 11th in career assists. Assuming he feels an added motivation to move up in the leader boards, you can expect Swoope to step up his offense.

Santa Ana also has history to make – he’s only 87 points away from the 1,000 point mark. He also had the third-highest 3-point percentage last season at 36.1%, improving from 32.7% in 2016-2017. If he can continue to increase this percentage, he’ll be on track to get those last 87 points quickly, and help lead his team to some wins.

The Phoenix are welcoming three freshmen to the squad this year, and with their not-so-experienced bench, there’s a shot these newcomers will get some decent playing time. Six-foot-six forward Chuck Hannah is “a prototypical Elon guy” according to Coach Matheny, and at 230 pounds, it seems like he’ll be able to hold his own against veteran CAA players. Summerfield, NC native Andy Pack, who has attended Elon’s summer camps throughout his early career, and Coach Matheny has deemed him a good fit as well. Kris Wooten, a 6-foot-3 guard, led his hometown high school to a state championship his freshman year before transferring to Arendell Parrott Academy.

Bottom Line: The good news is, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Elon Phoenix. If Seibring continues to take charge on offense and improves his defense, he has the ability to lead his team to a better record. And with veterans Swoope and Santa Ana continuing to improve, there is no doubt the Phoenix will be more competitive than last season. While you can’t expect this team to make a serious run at the conference title, they will get out of that last place position and move up to the middle of the pack.

 

 

 

Northeastern falls 4-1 to Boston U.

Boston,MA. The Northeastern Huskies took on the Boston University Terriers at Agganis Arena Saturday evening. Boston University defeated Northeastern 4-1 with three third period goals.

Scoring opened up at 14:02 in the first period when Patrick Curry fed Dante Fabbro with a stretch pass to split the defense, and rifle one past Cayden Primeau.

The second period would go by without a goal from either team. Northeastern could not capitalize on three power plays over the course of the period.

Fabbro scored his second of the night, a power play goal, 53 seconds into the third period. Chad Krys slid a pass across the blue line and Fabbro beat Primeau clean to send the Terriers up 2-0.

Bobo Carpenter scored an unassisted goal which was good for his fourth of the year putting the score at 3-0. Curry put the final touches on the Terriers trouncing of NU, netting a short handed goal with 2:42 left in regulation. Matt Filipe netted a power play goal with 1:45 to avoid the shutout.

This was Boston University’s first win of the season and Northeastern’s record falls to 4-3-1(1-1-1 HEA). Northeastern is back in action Friday November 9th against UCONN at Historic Matthews Arena.

CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

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By: Milton Posner

Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (3rd season, 27-39)

Last Season: 14-19 (6-12, tied for 7th in CAA); lost to Northeastern in CAA quarterfinals

Projected Finish: 7th

Losses

  • Ryan Daly (transferred)
  • Anthony Mosley (graduated)
  • Skye Johnson (graduated)

Newcomers

  • Nate Darling (transferred from University of Alabama at Birmingham)
  • Ryan Johnson (transferred from Mercer University)
  • Justyn Mutts (transferred from High Point University)
  • Ithiel Horton (freshman)
  • Davis Long (freshman)
  • Aleks Novakovich (freshman)
  • Matt Veretto (freshman)

Last year’s Delaware men’s basketball team was a painful reminder how quickly a squad’s fortunes can change. In mid-January the Blue Hens were 11-8 (4-2 in CAA play) before multiple injuries to top players keyed a 2-10 stretch that effectively sunk their season. Delaware stumbled into the CAA tournament as the 7th seed and was eliminated by Northeastern in a resounding 74-50 second-round loss.

In late March, now-junior guard Ryan Daly announced his intention to transfer. Two weeks later, he chose St. Joseph’s University in his hometown of Philadelphia, where his father and grandfather both played and his grandfather coached. Daly earned CAA Rookie of the Year honors in 2016-17 and was named to the All-CAA Third Team in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In last year’s campaign, he led the Blue Hens with 37.5 mpg and 17.5 ppg and was second in rebounds per game (6.2). Per NCAA transfer rules, Daly will redshirt during the 2018-19 season.

Delaware lost redshirt sophomore and St. Bonaventure transfer Derrick Woods in December. Woods was suspended indefinitely from the team for unspecified violations of team rules. His suspension came following an incident in practice in which teammate Jacob Cushing suffered a broken nose.

With Daly gone, Delaware will likely rely heavily on sophomore guards Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson. Allen is coming off a terrific freshman season, averaging 15.3 ppg and shooting 38.9 percent from downtown en route to becoming Delaware’s second consecutive CAA Rookie of the Year winner. Anderson was logging 13.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg before knee surgery ended his season after 11 games. His injury was arguably the single most important factor in turning the tide on Delaware’s 2017-18 season, and they’ll need him healthy and productive if they are to improve on last year’s mark.

The departure of graduating guard Anthony Mosley (10.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg) deprives the Blue Hens of a consistently productive starter. Similarly productive big man Eric Carter (11.0 ppg and 9.1 rpg) might well have an increased role in the Hens’ attack in his final college season.

The standouts from Delaware’s newcomers are 6’5 guard Nate Darling and 6’7 forward Matt Veretto. Darling, a junior transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, averaged 10.1 ppg last year while shooting 40.9% from three, 47.7% from the field and 83% from the line. Veretto was first team all-state last year at East Catholic High School in Connecticut, posting 19 ppg and 11 rpg.

Bottom Line: Even if Delaware’s key players stay healthy and productive throughout the season, and even if newcomers Darling and Veretto make solid contributions, it’s doubtful they’ll make much noise in the CAA. Ryan Daly’s exit deprives the Blue Hens of their best player and none of their newcomers come close to filling the hole. It’s difficult to imagine them improving on last year’s 7th-place finish in the conference standings or their second-round exit in the CAA Tournament.

CAA Preview: James Madison Dukes

 

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By: Mack Krell

Head Coach: Louis Rowe

Last Season: 10-22 (6-12 CAA); Lost to Drexel in first round of CAA Tournament

Notable Players Lost:

G Joey Mclean

F Cameron Smith

F Ramone Snowden

Newcomers:

G Matthew Urbach

G Jonathan Hicklin

G Deshon Parker

F Devon Flowers

The James Madison Dukes basketball season ended in the same fashion as many of their games during the 2017-18 season. Despite leading 55-54 with 4 minutes to play in the first round of the CAA Tournament, the Dukes lost to Drexel by a score of 70-62. In his third season as the head coach for James Madison, Louis Rowe will look to improve on a last place finish in the CAA.

The Dukes will be saying goodbye to three seniors from the 2017-18 season. Guard Joey Mclean will be the biggest loss of the three for the Dukes. Despite battling injuries much of his senior season, he was a larger part of what the Dukes did offensively. During his junior year he scored in double digits in 17 games and lead the team in assists. In addition to Mclean, the Dukes will also be losing role players Cameron Smith and Romane Snowden.

Despite graduating three seniors, the Dukes will be returning their four leading scorers from last season. The leader of that group is rising senior Stuckey Mosley. Last season, his first with the Dukes, he averaged 18.5 points per game and was awarded third team CAA honors. Mosley will be the leader on the court for the Dukes this season and the go to player late in games.

Mosley will most likely be joined in the backcourt by guards Matt Lewis and Darius Bank, both incoming sophomores. As a freshman last year, Banks was named to the CAA all rookie team and acted as a lockdown defender for the Dukes; he led the team with 48 steals on the year. Lewis was also named to the CAA all rookie team and was second on the team with 72 assists tallied. The Dukes will rely on both these young players to help Mosley in the scording column.

One of the major reason the Dukes struggled last season was from the inability to consistently make shots. They finished the 2017-18 season in last place in overall field goal percentage with just a 42 percent rate. The team finished in 8th place in the CAA in three point field goal percentage at a rate of 33.2 percent. Much of the shooting struggles this past season can be attributed to a combination of poor shot selection and rushed shots, issues often seen with young players. The Dukes can expect this part of their game to improve next season with many of their young key players having a year of experience behind them.

However, in order to be successful in that improvement, they will need the incoming freshmen to play well. One of those freshmen that could see playing time as the season progresses is 6-8 forward Devon Flowers. From Hyattsville, Maryland, Flowers was named to the VISAA All-State team as a senior and led his team in points, rebounds, and blocks. The Dukes will look for him to have an impact on both ends of the court his freshman season.

Bottom Line: Despite a disappointing 10-22 season last year, the Dukes will enter this season with confidence and the belief they can improve both in the CAA and overall. They graduated just three seniors and return all four of their leading scorers. Last season they started two freshman guards, each of whom will come into this season more experienced and poised to perform. As a guard heavy team that likes to run, the Dukes will hope these sophomore guards can provide some help to the Dukes team and scoring leader, Stuckey Mosley. If this happens, and forward Develle Phillips holds down the fort in the frontcourt, the Dukes can cause some trouble for teams in the CAA and improve on their last place finish from last season.

CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

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By: Michael Petillo

Coach: C.B. McGrath (2nd season)

Last Season: 11-21 (7-11), 6th place CAA

Newcomers:

  • G Ty Gadsden (Charlotte, N.C./Believe Prep/Vincennes)
  • F Shawn O’Connell (Roswell, GA./Milton/Georgia Southern)
  • G Kai Toews (Tokyo, Japan/Northfield Mount Hermon Mass.)
  • G Jaylen Sims (Charlotte N.C./United Faith Christian)

Departures:

  • G Jordon Talley (16.9 ppg)
  • F Marcus Bryan (5.7 ppg)
  • G Nick Powell

Any discussion of this year’s UNCW team has to begin with Devontae Cacok.  The senior forward is coming a monster season which saw him named to the all-CAA first team as well as the CAA all-defensive team for the second straight year.  After playing a supporting role on offense two seasons ago, Cacok assumed much more of the scoring load as a junior.  He tallied 17.8 ppg and once again was a nightmare on the glass, racking up 13.6 rpg.  Cacok also flashed signs of a real post-up game and began to emerge as a threat away from the rim.  He showed an improved face-up game, knocking down mid-range jumpers and driving past bigger, slower defenders.  On top of that, the 6’7 big continued to be a force on defense and earned his team easy baskets on second chance points and lobs.

Outside of Cacok, however, the Seahawks have major questions.  Jordon Talley was the team’s best backcourt player and his departure leaves a large hole at the point guard position.  The good news for head coach C.B. McGrath is that he has a number of experienced backcourt players who will look to take steps forward.  Ty Taylor and Jaylen Fornes are the most established of the group.  Both players are upperclassmen who started for the majority of last year alongside Talley, each averaging double figures.

The Seahawks also have experienced bench players such as Jay Estime’, Jacque Brown, and Jeff Gary who will compete for backcourt minutes.  All three were consistent role players for Coach McGrath last season.

A couple of big man transfers will look to earn minutes as the starter next to Cacok.  Redshirt junior Jeantal Cylla sat out last after transferring to UNCW from FAU, where he averaged 8.5 ppg and 3.4 rpg over two years.  Shawn O’Connell comes to the Seahawks as a graduate transfer from Georgia Southern.  They will combine with senior big Trey Kalina to try and replace Marcus Bryan’s 6.9 rpg.

Keep an eye on the two freshman guards, Jaylen Sims and Kai Toews.  Sims is a long, explosive leaper with a good looking jumper.  Toews has a smooth handle and is a solid distributor.  It may be tough for either player to get minutes in such a deep backcourt, but both guys are worth monitoring if they can get on the floor.

 Bottom Line:  UNCW has a deep backcourt and an experienced roster.  That combined with an elite player in Devontae Cacok seems like it should be enough to make waves in the CAA, but without Talley they don’t have the scoring to hang with the conference’s best teams.  Look for a similar season to 2017-18 with the Seahawks finishing as a middle of the pack group.

 

CAA Preview: William & Mary Tribe

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By: Michael Petillo

Coach: Tony Shaver (16th season)

Last Season: 19-12 (11-7), 4th place CAA

Newcomers:

  • G Chase Audige (Coram, N.Y./The Hill School Pa.)
  • G/F Quinn Blair (Livonia, Mich./Dearborn Divine Child)
  • F Mehkel Harvey (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View)
  • G L.J. Owens (Annapolis, Md/Severn School)
  • G Thornton Scott (Glen Cove, N.Y/Holy Trinity/Vermont Academy)

 

Departures:

  • G David Cohn (14.2 ppg, graduated)
  • G Connor Burchfield (12.6 ppg, graduated)
  • G Jamison Glover
  • G Tommy Papas
  • F Cole Harrison
  • G Oliver Tot
  • G Omar Mostafa
  • G/F Amir Shafi

Heading into last season there was a feeling around the CAA that William & Mary was headed for a rebuilding year.  The team had just graduated two all-conference wings in Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt, and as a result were projected to finish a lowly 8th in the conference’s preseason poll.  Despite that ranking, the Tribe managed to put together a solid season, finishing 4th in the CAA before falling in the semifinals of the conference tournament to the eventual champion Charleston.

As they prepare for the 2018-19 season, William & Mary will again have to replace two stellar perimeter players after guards David Cohn and Connor Burchfield graduated, but they remain in contention atop the CAA thanks primarily to three all-conference caliber players and coach Tony Shaver’s run and gun system.

Coming off a freshman year in which he flashed as a role player off the bench, forward Nathan Knight burst onto the scene last year as a sophomore.  He stepped into a starting role and emerged as one of the best bigs in the CAA, posting 18.5 points ands 7.7 rebounds per game.  Knight also began expanding his range out to the three point line, where he connected on 30% of his shots.  That marked a major improvement from his freshman year in which he shot just 17% from beyond the arc.  Knight was a force on defense as well, swatting away almost two shots per game.  As he enters his junior year, look for Knight to continue to improve his jumper and his handle while becoming the unquestioned best player for the Tribe.

The other two returning starters for William & Mary will also likely be in the all-conference discussion by seasons end.  Forward Justin Pierce is coming off a year in which he averaged 14.7 ppg en route to a 3rd team all-CAA finish.  The 6’7 junior swingman also knocked down almost 42% of his threes and paced the Tribe with 8.6 rpg.  Redshirt junior Matt Milon is the third starter returning for Coach Shaver.  The sharpshooting southpaw transferred to William & Mary from Boston College and turned in a quietly productive season in his first year in the CAA, scoring 13 ppg while connecting on 43% of his triples and 92% of his free throws.

The man running the ship will once again be Tony Shaver, who is entering his 16th year at the helm for William & Mary.  His run and gun offense emphasizes ball movement, off-ball action, and a lot of three point shooting.  Last year the Tribe shot a whopping 43.4% from three, good enough to lead all of division one.

Outside of Knight, Pierce, and Milon, redshirt senior Paul Rowley is the only other returning player who saw significant minutes last season.  It will be on Shaver and his staff to identify which of the incoming freshman will be able to step into the William & Mary system and contribute right away.  If one or more of the freshman are able to provide Shaver with some much needed depth, William & Mary will once again be primed to compete for the conference title.

Bottom Line:  Nathan Knight is a beast and will be in the CAA Player of the Year discussion.  Pierce and Milon join him to form a legit big three, but the concern here is depth with only six returning players.  Finding reinforcements will be key towards the Tribe competing with teams like Northeastern and Charleston for an NCAA tournament bid.

Men’s hockey skates to a 5-5 tie with Boston U.

65 minutes of hockey was not enough to declare a winner between Northeastern and Boston University. The Huskies and Terriers skated to a 5-5 tie at Historic Matthew Arena on Thursday evening.

Grant Jozefek opened up scored 2:07 into the first period streaking past the BU defense on the right side and getting a goal past Max Prawdzik. Bobby Hampton would tack on another for the Huskies and chase Prawdzik from the game not even four minutes into the first period.

BU responded quickly, as Logan Cockerill scored his first on the year, a short-handed goal off a turnover on the NU powerplay. Three minutes into the second period, Patrick Curry tipped home a shot from Kasper Kotkansalo to knot the game at two goals apiece.

Pat Schule scored a goal off the crossbar that was initially waived off but ultimately reviewed and deemed a good goal at the next stoppage of play, almost three minutes later.

The Terriers immediately responded when Joel Farabee and Bobo Carpenter beat Cayden Primeau and the Husky defense early in the third period. In total, Northeastern allowed 50 shots on goal.

Jozefek got his second of the night when Northeastern found themselves on the positive end of a 5-3 power play. Davies worked the puck side to side along with Tyler Madden, and ultimately gave Jozefek the time and space he needed to sneak one past Oettinger.

Biagio Lerario poked a loose puck into the neutral zone where Schule sprinted ahead and worked past one final BU defender to slip a goal five-hole on Oettinger to give Northeastern a 5-4 lead.

Ultimately, it would be Chad Krys who would have the last laugh as he rifled a shot past Primeau on a late BU power play.

The Huskies and Terriers both exchanged shots in overtime but both teams were held off the scoreboard.

Both teams are back in action at Agganis Arena on Saturday night at 7pm. WRBB will have pre-game coverage starting at 6:45.

CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

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CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (6th season)

Last Season: 19-12 (12-6, 3rd in CAA); lost to UNCW in CAA quarterfinals

Projected Finish: 3rd

Key Departures: C Rokas Gustys

Key Returnees: G Justin Wright-Foreman, G Eli Pemberton

by Justin Littman

After a single-season rebuild, the Hofstra Pride returned to CAA relevance last year. The Pride finished third in the CAA regular season standings, but once again faltered in the conference tournament. After a first round bye, Hofstra fell 93-88 to UNCW in the quarterfinals, bringing their season to an abrupt finish.

Though the season may not have ended how they wanted it, Hofstra returns star power from last year. Justin Wright-Foreman, a 6’2” guard who led the CAA in scoring last year (24.4 ppg), enters his senior season as the preseason nominee for CAA Player of the Year. Wright-Foreman topped 30 points in seven games last season, and any success with this team starts with his ability to perform.

Adding to the offensive firepower is 6’5” junior guard Eli Pemberton, who averaged nearly 16 points per game last season, and shot over 40% from three. The Pride will need to see consistency out of Pemberton, as he faltered when it mattered most last season. In Hofstra’s quarterfinal loss, Pemberton shot just 1-9, and finished with four points; his lowest scoring output of the season. With an additional year of experience, Pemberton and Wright-Foreman should become one of the most reliable duos in the CAA.

While there is no denying the top-level talent of the Pride, there are serious question marks surrounding the rest of the roster. Rokas Gustys was the only other player to average double-figures in scoring last season (10.5 ppg), and he was lost to graduation. What Hofstra will miss most about Gustys is his rebounding ability. He averaged at least 12 rebounds per game over each of the last three seasons.

There is not a clear solution on Hofstra’s roster from last season that will step in and fill that role. The Pride have two players joining the program as graduate transfers this season, who will likely have big roles from the outset. Jacquil Taylor is a 6’10” forward from Purdue, who played in 19 games last season. Dan Dwyer is the other transfer, a 6’8” forward from the University of Pennsylvania. They will be leaned on heavily to pull in rebounds and provide a presence in the paint.

The Pride have a few other players to keep an eye on this year, as they look for a third reliable option to lean on. Guards Jalen Ray and Desure Buie came on strong towards the end of last season, each scoring double digits in each of their last three games. They will look to maintain the momentum into this season. Also look for sharpshooting forward Matija Radovic, who played a limited role as a freshman last season, to be more involved in the offense this season.

Bottom Line: The pair of Justin Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton is as talented as any duo in the league, but the Pride still lack depth. Jalen Ray and Desure Buie have shown flashes, but have not been able to put it together for an entire season to this point. The loss of Gustys is painful, and it is unlikely that anyone on the roster will be able to replace that production. The Pride will still score, but they may struggle on the defensive end. Hofstra has the top-level talent to compete in the CAA, but they will need some serious growth if they want to compete among the best in the league this season.

Men’s hockey upsets No. 2 St. Cloud State

by Matt Neiser

Coming off a 4-1 win at UMass Lowell on Friday, the No.18 Northeastern men’s hockey team had no time to rest on their laurels. With No. 2 St. Cloud State Huskies coming to town, the Huskies knew they were in for a dogfight, and the game did not disappoint.

Despite facing 2-0 deficit in the second period, the Huskies rallied, scoring three unanswered goals to seal a massive 3-2 victory and improve their record to 4-2.

St. Cloud took control of the game early, grabbing a 1-0 lead five minutes in through Blake Lizotte. A goal by Jack Ahcan with five to go in the second period doubled that lead, and it looked for a second like St. Cloud might run away with it.

Spoiler Alert: they didn’t. Senior captain Eric Williams put Northeastern on the board with 1:38 to go in the period, and the Huskies never looked back from there. Biagio Lerario evened the score less than two minutes into the third, firmly placing the momentum in Northeastern’s favor. 

What ensued was a hectic, back and forth third period with both teams finding quality chances to grab the lead. At one point, AJ Villella crashed into St. Cloud netminder Jeff Smith, leading to a Northeastern “goal” that was eventually waved off for goaltender interference. Both Smith and Northeastern sophomore Cayden Primeau had fantastic games in net, saving 29  and 25 shots apiece. Primeau earned the 2nd star of the night for his efforts, including a game-saving snag on a point blank shot with only a few minutes left.

Buoyed by Primeau’s excellence, Northeastern kept the pressure on St. Cloud throughout the period. With 6:25 to go in the game Grant Jozefek finally broke the stalemate, firing past Smith to give Northeastern a 3-2 lead. St. Cloud gave their best effort to get back into the game, but the Northeastern defense refused to crack.

The Huskies have a few days to recuperate from the frenetic night, with their next bout coming Thursday night against local rival Boston University.

CAA Preview: Charleston Cougars

charlestonHead Coach: Earl Grant (5th season)

Last Season: 26-8 (14-4, 1st in CAA); defeated Northeastern in CAA finals

Projected Finish: 2nd

Key Departures: G Joe Chealey, G Cam Johnson

Key Returnees: F Jarrell Brantley, G Grant Riller

by Matthew MacCormack

While only five of the 40 polled media members chose Charleston as the favorite to repeat as CAA champions, head coach Earl Grant and the Cougars have to think they have the means to repeat as conference kings and make their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Two Preseason All-Conference selections (senior forward Jarrell Brantley and junior guard Grant Riller) anchor an experienced team fresh off a CAA title.

2018 was the year of the Cougars in the CAA; Charleston narrowly edged Northeastern for the regular season title (thanks to a 2-0 sweep of the Huskies during the regular season), and then rode the energy of a home crowd at the North Charleston Coliseum to complete a thrilling 17-point comeback and win the conference tournament championship in overtime in early March. That 83-78 overtime victory gave Charleston an automatic bid to the Big Dance — their first such appearance since 1999. The Cougars even fought 4-seeded Auburn hard in the first round, falling 62-58.

While Northeastern (35 votes) was widely seen as the CAA favorite, it’s hard to ignore Charleston. The main reason for the lack of love, though, likely stems from the graduation of senior Joe Chealey (18 ppg, 3.7 apg). The First-Team All-CAA point guard held the keys to the Charleston offense, and his combined 10-10 free throw mark in the second half and overtime of the CAA Final victory over Northeastern show off his clutch knack for closing games.

With Chealey and All-CAA Defensive team swingman Cam Johnson out of the fold, the 2018-19 Cougars will look slightly different. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Coach Grant — a rising star in the college ranks who just might find himself at the helm of a big-time program in the next few years.

One thing that should stay the same is defense. Grant’s team led the CAA in defensive efficiency in 2017-18, and also topped the conference with a 2.15 average turnover margin. Good defense and smart basketball have become a staple for Charleston.

Then comes the star tandem of Riller and Brantley.

Riller broke out as a sophomore, leading the Cougars in scoring (18.6 ppg) and three-point percentage (39.4%). With Chealey gone, Riller will be unleashed as a go-to-scorer, and should continue to develop his bucket-getting habits from all three levels. A four game stretch towards the end of conference play last year — in which Riller topped 28 points in each game — could foreshadow what’s to come.

Brantley is a 6’7, 255 pound matchup nightmare. The big man averaged 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, all while posting 50/39/82 shooting splits — ridiculous numbers for a power forward. He can create from the low post and the high post, and could possibly be the most talented player in the whole conference.

Outside of those two, Charleston will lean on senior guard Marquise Pointer, a 6’0 bulldog defender who provides secondary ball-handling duties. The 6’10 senior Nick Harris and 6’7 junior Jaylen McManus should feature heavily in the rotation, as well.

Bottom Line: Make no mistake about it; Charleston has the ammo to return to the NCAA Tournament. The losses of Chealey and Johnson should be eased by another year of development for All-CAA talents Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley. While Northeastern has a deeper team on paper, it’s likely that the Cougars will give them everything they can handle come March.