2020–21 CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 17–16 (9–9, sixth place CAA); lost to Hofstra in CAA Final

Head coach: Bill Coen (15th season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Seventh

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Jordan Roland — 22/3/2 (48/39/88)
  • G/F Bolden Brace — 11/7/2 (45/39/82)
  • G/F Max Boursiquot — 9/5/1 (57/36/67)
  • F Tomas Murphy — 9/3 (71/X/X) played only four games

Additions

  • G J’Vonne Hadley
  • G Jahmyl Telfort
  • F Alexander Nwagha
  • F Coleman Stucke
  • F Chris Doherty (sophomore)

By Milton Posner

Last season was a profoundly strange one for the Northeastern Huskies.

After the graduation of All-CAA First Team point guard Vasa Pusica, there were serious questions about where the scoring and offensive leadership would come from. Within two games, Jordan Roland had broken a single-game Northeastern scoring record held by J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis. That game was a precursor for first-in-the-conference, seventh-in-the-nation scoring season, one powered by volume three-point shooting, stealthy drives, and an arsenal of fearsome floaters deployed with either hand.

For most of conference play, the Huskies’ point differential stood among the best. But because their first five losses came by a combined nine points — and included three game-winning layups —  the Huskies hovered around the middle of the conference. They squeaked into the sixth seed to earn a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament.

And then they beat third-seeded Towson just a week after losing to them in the last regular-season game. And toppled an Elon team that was peaking after upsetting a juggernaut William & Mary squad. And made a dramatic — albeit unsuccessful — run at top-seeded Hofstra in the title game despite Roland’s struggles.

It was hard to know what to expect from the Huskies on any given night, but they were competitive throughout the year and found their groove in time for the conference tournament. Besides the superb, fluid scoring of Roland, they boasted the all-around contributions of Bolden Brace, the electric offense of Tyson Walker, and the suffocating defense of Max Boursiquot.

This season poses even more questions than last season. The loss of leading scorers Roland and Brace to graduation was inevitable. But the transfers hurt. Big man Tomas Murphy, who played just four games last season before injuring his ankle, elected to spend his two remaining years of eligibility at Vermont. Boursiquot entered the transfer portal, but no news has surfaced of him choosing another school, signing a pro contract, or doing anything else. Rising senior Myles Franklin, possibly frustrated at a lack of minutes, bolted for the Division II team at Point Loma Nazarene University.

These departures drain the Huskies’ scoring, and the loss of Boursiquot robs them of a stud who can protect the rim, hold firm on the block, and guard all five positions.

Northeastern is the only CAA squad without a senior or grad student. Every other team has at least two such players, and six teams have four. For the first time in a few years, the Huskies likely won’t have an All-CAA First Team guard running the show.

But if their pieces develop nicely, the Huskies can hang with any CAA team. Head Coach Bill Coen — who is the longest-tenured coach in the conference and sits 10 wins away from the program record — is tasked with making something out of this unproven yet promising team.

It begins with his returners. Sophomore guard Tyson Walker was named to the preseason second team after nearly winning Rookie of the Year last season. He’s an electric dribbler, driver, and finisher, and displayed flashes of elite perimeter shooting last season. But without Jordan Roland to key the offense, Walker’s playmaking will be put to the test.

Shaq Walters showed playmaking promise last year after Walker hurt his shoulder. He protected the rock, made quality reads, and drove the offense in key stretches, albeit in a limited sample size. If he can continue that play, he and Walker can be dual playmaking threats and give the Husky offense a dangerous dimension. But for that to happen, he’ll have to improve his own scoring threat beyond his basic slashing and driving.

Look for Jason Strong to take the next step as well. He’s largely been limited to a spot-up role in his first two years with the team, but has shown flashes of all-around promise and strung together an assortment of quality performances.

Coen has emphasized the positional versatility and length of his newcomers, which include four freshmen and one transfer. All weigh more than 200 pounds and come in between 6’6” and 6’8”. Perhaps the most promising is freshman J’Vonne Hadley, an excellent leaper with a strong first step, handle, and finishing ability in the halfcourt and transition. He’s the sort of athletic wing the Huskies haven’t had since Shawn Occeus went pro.

Alexander Nwagha looks promising as well. At a long-limbed 6’8” and with a quick first-step to the ball, he boasts a sizable catch and influence radius that could make him a viable rim protector. He is a solid leaper for his size, can run in transition, and is mobile enough to function well on the block.

Rounding out the newcomers are Jahmyl Telfort, an aggressive driver with a comfortable-looking pull-up jumper; Coleman Stucke, a knockdown spot-up shooter; and Chris Doherty, a Notre Dame transfer who adds some bulk down low.

Bottom Line: The Huskies have less proven talent than they’ve had the last few seasons, a bad sign in a league often powered by star juniors and seniors. But they also have enough positional versatility, length, and well-roundedness to challenge anyone. If the freshmen can’t contribute, their seventh-place preseason poll finish just might come true. But if they can, the Huskies could find themselves knocking on the door of the CAA’s top tier.

2020–21 CAA Preview: William and Mary Tribe

Last Season: 21–11 (13–5, second place CAA), Lost to Elon in CAA Quarterfinal

Head Coach: Dane Fischer (second season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: 10th

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Bryce Barnes —8/3/3 (45/33/73)
  • G Tyler Hamilton — 3/3/1 (35/27/79)
  • F Nathan Knight — 21/11/2 (52/31/77)
  • F Andy Van Vliet — 13/9/2 (46/36/67)
  • G Jihar Williams — 2/1/1/ (29/17/25)

Additions

  • G Yuri Covington
  • G Connor Kochera (McDonald’s All-American nominee)
  • G Jake Milkereit (Top 20 player in his class in Texas, via Rivals.com)
  • G Kurt Samuels Jr. 

By Peyton Doyle

The Tribe came into last year hoping to take advantage of its frontcourt pairing of Andy Van Vliet and Nathan Knight, and the two did not disappoint. They combined to average 33 points per game and helped their team to a 13–5 conference record, including six straight wins in January. However, William & Mary saw their NCAA tournament hopes fall short as they lost to Elon in the conference quarterfinal, 68–63.

This season will test Dane Fischer’s coaching and player development skills as he has to find replacements for three graduated starters, particularly CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Knight, who recently signed with the Atlanta Hawks. Fischer will look to guards Thornton Scott and Luke Loewe to replace some of the playmaking that was lost when point guard and leading assist man Bryce Barnes departed.

Last season Loewe put up 11 points per game on incredible 44 percent three-point shooting. But he was far from the most consistent producer, failing to register double digit points in half the tean’s games. Scott, while missing 13 games, led the team in assists per game at 4.4. If Scott stays healthy and solidifies his role as the main facilitator of the offense, it should allow for Loewe to expand upon his scoring. 

Fischer will also need redshirt freshman Ben Wight, sophomore Quinn Blair, and sophomore Mehkel Harvey to fill the gaping holes in their frontcourt. Blair played every game last season, but his role will expand this year as he steps into a starting role and picks up offensive slack. 

From their incoming class, Fischer could get immediate help from guards Connor Kochera and Jake Milkereit, who could provide key scoring off of the bench. 

Defensively, it will be hard to replace the pairing of Knight and Van Vliet in the paint; they averaged 1.5 and 1.3 blocks per game respectively last year and no other player on the roster averaged above 0.4. The Tribe coaching staff may have to get creative with this roster, using smaller and faster units to make up for their lack of size. Their tallest player, Mehkel Harvey, stands at 6’9” but saw only 38 minutes of action last year. They will have to capitalize on speed and work on their switchability now that their twin towers are gone. 

Bottom Line: The Tribe may not be as fearsome as they were last season with Knight, Van Vliet, and Barnes, but they could still make a bit of noise. If Fischer can find some production out of his younger forwards to decrease the offensive workload of Loewe and Scott, William & Mary could be a tough opponent to defend. The Tribe still should be able to compete in the CAA and it will be interesting to see how Fischer will move forward with this young team.

2020–21 CAA Preview: UNCW Seahawks

Last season: 10–22 (5–13, ninth in CAA); lost to Drexel in first round of CAA Tournament

Head Coach: Takayo Siddle (first season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Eighth

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Carter Skaggs — played seven games
  • G Kai Toews — 5/2/4 (31/33/69)
  • F Marten Linssen — 11/5/0 (60/X/70)

Additions

  • G Jamahri Harvey
  • G Joe Pridgen
  • G Ja’Juan Carr
  • F Ian Steere

By Josh Chaskes

Coming off a last-place finish in 2018–19, the Seahawks couldn’t do any worse in 2019–20, but they didn’t do much better either, moving one spot up the table to ninth. The squad had seen a lot of upheaval before the season and losing two elite players midyear didn’t do them any favors either. Grad student guard Carter Skaggs departed the program for personal reasons and sophomore guard Kai Toews, who had set a CAA record with 253 assists in his freshman season, left to pursue a professional career in his native Japan.

The Seahawks also lost their third-leading scorer during the offseason, as forward Marten Linssen transferred to SLU. However, to cover these losses, they brought in four new faces, among them freshman guard Jamahri Harvey, who shot 43 percent from three for his high school team and 51 percent for his AAU squad. Freshman guard Ja’Juan Carr was named third team all-state in high school, while 6’9” junior St. John’s transfer Ian Steere will provide size for a Seahawks squad in sore need of it. 

However, the highlight of their additions is redshirt sophomore guard Joe Pridgen. In his freshman season at Holy Cross he averaged 17 points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game on 56 percent shooting. He was named ECAC Rookie of the Year, and his 521 points are the second-most by a freshman in Patriot League history, behind only Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. Pridgen is a proven talent, and he should make an impact in Toews’s spot right away.

The team returns a fair bit of its scoring power from last year, as guards Jaylen Sims, Ty Gadsden, and Shykeim Phillips averaged 32 combined points. But the Seahawks will be anxious about their frontcourt. Only three players are listed as forwards, and the two who were on the team last year, Imajae Dodd and John Bowen, did not start or score much last year. This will be a massive hurdle to overcome in a short period of time, having to adapt to starting as forwards on a guard-heavy team after not playing much last year. Ian Steele, the remaining forward, also had limited playing time before transferring, and the frontcourt’s ability to adapt will be essential.

New coach Takayo Siddle said the preseason poll “doesn’t really mean anything” to him and the team’s eighth-place finish is not on his mind coming into the season. The new coach is trying to acclimate his squad to his intended play style, which he described as “press 94 feet and try to create some chaos” as well as shooting a lot of threes. The team didn’t have any standout three-point shooters last year, but still managed to outshoot their opponents by about two percent on average. With the addition of players like Harvey and Pridgen, this edge could be honed.

Bottom Line: The team is largely the same as last year, but they have to rally around Siddle and devote themselves to his high-energy, small ball approach. Even if the former role players can adapt to the starting lineup — a big if considering the large holes in the team — the Seahawks won’t take the conference by storm, but could build on last year’s slight improvement and continue their rebuild.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

Last season: 19–13 (12–6, third in CAA); lost to Northeastern in CAA quarterfinals

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (10th season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Fourth

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Allen Betrand — 14/3/1 (44/39/89)
  • G Nigel Haughton —  played 27 mins
  • G Brian Fobbs — 16/5/2 (43/34/83)
  • F Dennis Tunstall — 4/6/1 (53/26/70)
  • F Nakye Sanders — 9/6/2 (49/X/69)

Additions

  • G Zane Martin
  • G Curtis Holland III
  • G Cam Allen
  • G Darrick Jones Jr.
  • F Chris Biekeu

By Josh Chaskes

After a strong third-place finish last year, the Tigers were eliminated in the CAA quarterfinals by a Northeastern team that had more talent than its record suggested. A respectable showing, but the team then lost its three top three scorers, with guard Brian Fobbs and forward Nakye Sanders graduating, as well as guard Allen Betrand transferring to Rhode Island.

This year, one name will be on everyone’s radar: Zane Martin. The redshirt senior started his college career with two seasons at Towson, averaging ranking third in the conference in scoring his second year. He transferred to New Mexico and averaged 10 points and three rebounds last season while only starting about half their games. With all the notable departures Towson has suffered, Martin’s senior leadership and ability to reacclimate to head coach Pat Skerry’s play style will be big influences on the team’s success.

Some of last year’s role players are also making convincing arguments to play larger roles this time around. Skerry confirmed CAA Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake would “not come off the bench and that he’s been the team’s “most consistent performer in practice,” even going so far as to say he would have started last year if not for his injury. Timberlake and redshirt senior forward Juwan Gray, who put up seven points and four rebounds off the bench last year, will be expected to fill the gaps left by last year’s leaders.

Gray will be looked upon to fill the forward role abandoned by Sanders, as Towson’s only new forward is freshman Chris Biekeu. Junior guard Curtis Holland III, who transferred this year from High Point, could also factor into the team’s positional battles, having averaged 13 points per game in his sophomore year.

The presence of the Uyaelunmo brothers, Solomon and Victor, gives the Tigers a bit more depth this year, as Solomon, a 6’7” forward, was injured last year and Victor, a 7’0” center, could not play due to transfer rules. The two likely won’t revolutionize the squad, but they could give it a bit of bully ball potential down low, offering valuable minutes and rebounding.

The team will likely start slow, and the improvements expected of every player won’t be seen immediately, but their schedule is well-suited to their story this year, with most of their home games coming in the second half of the season, including four of their last six. If the new stars hit their strides at the right time, Towson could make a late push up the standings and put themselves in a good position for the playoffs.

Bottom Line: Towson has a talented team, and if everyone performs as Skerry expects and hopes, they could approach last season’s strong finish. But with so many notable departures, the returning Martin’s play early on will be a huge indicator of how they’ll end up. If their role players struggle to adapt to the steep learning curve of the starting lineup, we could see them slip right back down.

2020–21 CAA Preview: James Madison Dukes

Last season: 9–21 (2–16, 10th place CAA), lost to Elon in CAA First Round

Head coach: Mark Byington (first season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Ninth

Departures

  • G Deshon Parker — 10/3/4 (44/24/53)
  • G Darius Banks — 12/5/2 (36/33/81)
  • F Dwight Wilson — 10/9/0 (53/X/51)
  • F Devon Flowers, F Dalton Jefferson, G Antanee Pinkard, G Zyon Dobbs, G Quinn Richey — played few minutes

Additions

  • F Justin Amadi
  • G/F TJ Taylor (junior transfer)
  • G Rashawn Fredericks (senior transfer)
  • G Vado Morse (junior transfer)
  • G/F Terrence Edwards
  • G Terell Strickland
  • G Tyce McNair
  • G Jalen Hodge (junior transfer)
  • G Hollman Smith
  • F Joel Mensah (junior transfer)

By Milton Posner

Only in the Trump cabinet is this kind of turnover normal.

It began when James Madison dismissed Head Coach Louis Rowe just two days after a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Elon in the first round of the CAA Tournament. In four seasons in Harrisonburg, Rowe never notched a winning season, winning just 29 percent of conference games and never finishing higher than seventh. His final season wound up being his worst record-wise, as the Dukes went 2–16 in conference play before their first round exit.

The press conference after that game spoke volumes, especially given what came next. A visibly emotional Rowe took the blame for the outcome and spoke sincerely and movingly about his love for his players, his dedication to them, and their inspiring persistence and dedication in the face of adversity. In most circumstances those sentiments would be written off as sports interview clichés, but it was obvious in Rowe’s voice and demeanor — as well as the reactions of his players — that there was a lot of mutual love and respect there.

I have no idea whether the players Rowe recruited saw his dismissal and decided to transfer because of it. But given that more than half of the would-be returners did not return, it was likely a big factor in their decisions.

Three of those transfers were rotation mainstays. Defensive stalwart and second-leading scorer Darius Banks bailed for Chattanooga. Scorer and top playmaker Deshon Parker set sail for Appalachian State. And the conference’s third-leading rebounder, bruising big man Dwight Wilson, packed his bags for Ohio.

This leaves Preseason Player of the Year Matt Lewis, four other returners who averaged a combined 12 points per game last year, and ten newcomers — five freshmen and five upperclassmen transfers.

Perhaps appropriately, the head coach tasked with guiding this new team is a newcomer himself. Mark Byington comes to James Madison after seven years at Georgia Southern, during which he won 59 percent of his conference games. While William & Mary’s Dane Fischer had a stellar first season last year — he was voted CAA Coach of the Year — he was gifted two all-conference players and a solid supporting cast. Byington is not so lucky, and as he admitted on last month’s preseason conference call, he is still trying to figure out which play style is best for his new squad.

Bottom Line: Matt Lewis is arguably the best scorer in the conference, and possibly the best overall. But after the Dukes sank to last place in 2019–20, then lost three of their top four scorers, this year is not shaping up well for them. They will need a few major surprises from newbies to keep them out of the cellar.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Hofstra Pride

Last Season: 26–8 (14–4, first place CAA); CAA Conference Champions

Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (eighth season)

Note: Mihalich has been on medical leave since August and it is unknown when he will return. Associate Head Coach Mike Farrelly, in his eighth season with the Pride, is serving as interim head coach.

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: First

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Desure Buie — 18/4/6 (45/42/85)
  • G Eli Pemberton — 18/6/2 (45/38/85)
  • G Jermaine Miranda — played 45 mins
  • F Hal Hughes — played 60 mins
  • G Connor Klementowicz — played 19 mins

Additions

  • G Shawndarus Cowart (13/7/7 at Pensacola State College)
  • G/F David Green (18/9 at Ocoee High School)
  • G Zion Bethea (18/8/4 at Immaculate Conception)
  • G Vukasin Masic (21/6/6 at Hoosac High School)
  • G Cole Eiber (18 ppg at Western New England University)

By Justin Diament

The Pride ended the 2019–20 season on top, earning the number one seed in the CAA tournament and defeating Drexel, Delaware, and Northeastern to earn their first-ever CAA title. After the Pride avenged a CAA tournament finals loss to the Huskies the season prior and earned their first March Madness bid since 2001, the pandemic cut their dreams short.

This year the Pride will be without two players who keyed that championship season: senior guards Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton. Buie, who was honored as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after contributing a team-high 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the title game, led the Pride in points and assists during the regular season. Pemberton, who joined Buie on the all-tournament team after contributing 19 points and seven rebounds of his own in the championship game, was second on the team in scoring, playmaking, and rebounding.

Fortunately for the Pride, there is a lot to like about their returners. Jalen Ray, who joined Buie and Pemberton on the all-tournament team last year and was a preseason All-CAA honorable mention, notched 12 points per game last year while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc and adding over a steal per game. Coburn, a preseason All-CAA honorable mention alongside Ray, likewise averaged double figures and nearly 40% from downtown last season. If Hofstra wants to live up to its number-one preseason rank, Ray and Coburn must justify the hype.

However, the biggest returning star for the Pride is senior forward and preseason first teamer Isaac Kante. The 6’7” Kante, the lone big man in last year’s four-guard starting lineup, led the team in rebounding with eight boards per contest. He added 11 points a night as well on a CAA-best 66 percent shooting clip. Kante is expected to take over as the focal point for the Pride in Buie and Pemberton’s stead.

Among Hofstra’s additions, one player to watch is junior guard Shawndarius Cowart, who was named to the All-Panhandle Conference First Team at Pensacola State last year after contributing a well-rounded 13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and two steals per game. The Pride could use his defensive prowess and playmaking to offset their departures. 

Bottom Line: With defending CAA champion Hostra receiving preseason number one rank despite the departure of their two top scorers, in the words of Joe Mihalich, ‘it’s time to prove ‘em right.’ Senior backcourt mates Coburn and Ray provide an experienced duo that can fill the gap left by Buie and Pemberton, while Kante provides a strong scoring and rebounding presence in the middle. If this trio takes a step forward and newcomers like Cowart provide a boost, there’s no shortage of reasons to believe that the Pride can repeat as CAA champs.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

Last Season: 13–21 (7–11, seventh place CAA); lost to Northeastern in CAA semifinal

Head Coach: Mike Schrage, Second Season

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Fifth

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Seth Fuller — 1/0/1 (26/19/100)
  • G Andy Pack — 2/1/0 (23/28/85)
  • F Duje Radja — played six games
  • G Marcus Sheffield II — 18/5/3 (42/40/82)

Additions

  • G Darius Burford (Top 15 player in his class in Illinois, via Prep Hoops Illinois)
  • F Michael Graham (Three star recruit, via 247 sports)
  • F Brandon Harris (Three star recruit, via Rivals.com)
  • G Charles Mendys (Transfer from Roanoke College, stats N/A)
  • G JaDun Michael (Four Star Recruit, via 247 sports)
  • G Ikenna Ndugba (2019–20 with Bryant: 7/5/3, 42/31/69)
  • G Lars Nilsen

By Peyton Doyle

Last year Elon improved under first year head coach Mike Schrage. Although they ended up finishing seventh in the CAA and started off conference play with a 1–7 stretch, the Phoenix made impressive strides as the season went on and upset William & Mary in the CAA quarterfinal before being eliminated by Northeastern in the next round.

Last season their scoring came from their backcourt, with grad transfer Marcus Sheffield II setting a program record for most points in a Division I season. The dynamic freshman Hunters (Woods and McIntosh) combined for 22 points and five assists per game. McIntosh was also named to the Kyle Macy Freshman All American team last season. Sweet-shooting sophomore Zac Ervin showed scoring potential last season, but will sit out this year after undergoing knee surgery to fix a torn ACL.

Elon’s biggest addition is four-star recruit JaDun Michael. Michael earned All-State honors his last two years in high school and should fit well with the duo of McIntosh and Woods to solidify a strong perimeter attack for Elon. But he is recovering from a late May shoulder surgery that may dampen his minutes and production for a bit.

Shrage will also hope for significant production from incoming freshmen Michael Graham and Brandon Harris, who were ranked 41st and 51st at their positions nationally. Graham provides a 6’10” presence in the paint, Harris versatility on the wing.

Another notable addition is grad transfer Ikenna Ndugba, who notched 14 points and five assists per game in 2017–18 with Bryant University. The following year, however, Ndugba suffered a season-ending injury and did not have quite the same production in 2019–20, so it will be interesting to see how Schrage uses him.

Similar to last year, Elon will get most of its production from small, versatile lineups. The only true “big” they have is newcomer Graham.

Bottom Line: It will be difficult for the Phoenix to make up for Sheffield’s scoring, but there is hope for this young squad. Woods and McIntosh already showed their talents in their freshmen seasons, and if they can get help from newcomers JaDun Michael, Michael Graham, and Brandon Harris, the Phoenix could be an explosive offensive squad with a tournament run in its future.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

Last Season: 14–19 (6–12, eighth place CAA); Lost to Hofstra in the CAA quarterfinals 

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (fifth season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Third

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • F Sam Green — 5/1/2 (40/38/X)
  • F Jarvis Doles — played five games
  • G Kurk Lee — played three games

Additions

  • G Xavier Bell — 25/7/2 at Andover Central High School
  • G/F Lamar Oden, Jr. — 19/8 at Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy
  • G/F Luke House — 13/6/3 for California University (PA)
  • F Amari Williams — 10/5/2 at the U20 European Youth Basketball League Championship)
  • G Chuka Mekkam — 8 ppg at Vincennes University
  • G Anto Keshgegian — played in two games for Temple University last season

By Justin Diament

Drexel again improved its record by a thin margin last season, going from 13–20 in 2017–18 to 13–19 in 2018–19 and finally to 14–19 in 2019–20. The Dragons entered the CAA tournament as the eighth seed and defeated UNC Wilmington before falling to eventual champion Hofstra in the quarterfinals.

Despite six straight losing seasons, there’s a lot to be excited about in Philly. For one, the Dragons return nearly all their key contributors from last season, with the only major loss being the graduation of starting forward Sam Green.

Two standouts among Drexel’s returners are rising junior guard Camren Wynter and rising senior forward James Butler, who were voted to last season’s CAA second and third teams, respectively. Wynter contributed 16 points and five assists per game last year, while Butler averaged a double-double with 13 points and a conference-best 12 rebounds.

Wynter, the team MVP in each of the last two seasons, is a dynamic facilitator and scorer, while Butler is a dominantes the middle. Butler’s rebounding prowess in particular powers Drexel on both sides of the ball. Butler also committed to improving his outside shooting in the offseason, hoping to add another dimension.

The Dragons will go as far as this duo can take them. Both players were voted to the Preseason All-CAA First Team, and if they can live up to that billing, opponents will find mitigating both Butler and Wynter’s strengths to be among the tallest orders in the CAA. 

Drexel also returns most of its other major contributors. Guard Zach Walton added over 12 points a night for the Dragons last season on an efficient 53 percent from inside the arc and figures to expand his role in his third season with the team. Forward Mate Okros posted a promising rookie season last year, scoring over five points per game and shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. Defensive-minded guard Matey Juric, who added over five points and a steal per game, rounds out the returning starters.

But there are also exciting additions, namely guard Xavier Bell and guard/forward Lamar Oden, Jr. Bell, who averaged a sizzling 25 points and seven rebounds per game for Andover Central High School, was named Mr. Kansas Basketball by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association in 2020 and was a 2020 McDonald’s All-American nominee. Bell figures to provide an offensive spark and strong rebounding instincts.

Oden, who is a second cousin of former NBA first overall pick Greg Oden, was an all-state selection for Georgia in his senior high school season, where he poured in 19 points and eight rebounds per game for Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy. Drexel’s additions don’t stop with Bell and Oden, with transfer Luke House and overseas addition Amari Williams also figuring to post strong minutes. 

Bottom Line: Drexel hasn’t posted a winning record since 2013–14, but they have steadily improved each season under coach Zach Spiker and appear poised to make a huge leap forward this season. Returning stars Wynter and Butler both contribute significant scoring, with Wynter adding dynamic playmaking and Butler a commanding board presence. Drexel also returns nearly all of its major contributors from last season and adds two highly touted freshman recruits in Xavier Bell and Lamar Oden, Jr, who figure to add to the Dragons’ stable of scorers. Between internal improvement and new talent, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Drexel can compete for the top spot in the CAA.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Delaware Blue Hens

Last season: 22–11 (11–7, fifth place CAA), lost to Hofstra in CAA Semifinal

Head coach: Martin Inglesby (fifth season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Second

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Nate Darling — 21/4/3 (45/40/85)
  • F Jacob Cushing — 3/1/0 (44/34/X)
  • F Justyn Mutts — 12/8/2 (54/11/74)
  • F Collin Goss — 6/4/1 (64/15/53)

Additions

  • G Gianmarco Arletti
  • F Andrew Carr
  • F Anthony Ochefu (senior transfer)
  • G Logan Curtis (sophomore transfer)

By Milton Posner

Hofstra may have won the conference’s preseason poll, but Delaware is arguably the best team in the CAA this year.

This is not to say the Blue Hens didn’t lose talent from the squad that opened last season with nine straight victories. Top scorer Nate Darling went pro, signing a two-way contract with the Charlotte Hornets to join former Charleston guards Grant Riller and Joe Chealey. Strong, athletic forward Justyn Mutts transferred up for the second time in two years, joining powerhouse Virginia Tech. And role-playing big men Jacob Cushing and Collin Goss graduated.

But the Blue Hens were so stacked to begin with that they remain a major threat.

Despite multiple injuries throughout his college career and an efficiency drop-off last season, senior guard Ryan Allen is still a force. Though he is just 6’2”, his powerful frame and bursts to the rim make him a challenge for any guard to stay with. He was named to the conference’s preseason second team, as was his backcourt mate Kevin Anderson, a longer 6’5” guard who showed improved shooting efficiency last year and led the team in assists and steals. Anderson has been one of the CAA’s best all-around guards for a season or two now, and he is poised to become even more of a weapon.

Rounding out Delaware’s top trio is Dylan Painter, the 6’10” midseason transfer from Villanova who will have more room to work down low with Mutts gone. While Head Coach Martin Inglesby rightly asserted that Mutts was so versatile he’d have to be replaced by committee, more of that work will fall on Painter than on anyone else. He is a big, powerful, bona fide center in a conference often lacking for such players, and could be a huge force on the block this season.

Junior transfer Reggie Gardner has garnered some attention as a possible difference-maker. While he was second team all-conference in his freshman year at North Carolina Central, he lost his starting spot the next year and his shooting efficiency wasn’t great in either season. He’ll need to step his game up to raise the ceiling of a team as strong as this.

Bottom Line: Though the Blue Hens have lost in the conference semifinals two years in a row, they’ve improved their win total in each of Inglesby’s four seasons at the helm. They’ve kept more of their star core intact than any other CAA team, and if they get even modest contributions from their role players and newcomers, they’ll be the favorite to win the whole thing.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Charleston Cougars

Last season: 17–14 (11–7, fourth place CAA), lost to Delaware in CAA Quarterfinals

Head coach: Earl Grant (seventh season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Sixth

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Jaylen Richard — 3/1/0 (33/24/77)
  • G Grant Riller — 22/5/4 (50/36/83)
  • G Quan McCluney — 1/1/0 (26/13/X)
  • F Sam Miller — 8/6/1 (49/42/79)
  • G Trevon Reddish — 1/1/1 (23/X/47)
  • F Jaylen McManus — 9/5/1 (41/23/84)
  • G Zach Rabinowitz — played five minutes

Additions

  • G Payton Willis (senior transfer)
  • G D’Avian Houston
  • G Dontavius King (redshirted last year)
  • G/F Cameron Copeland (junior transfer)
  • F Keegan Harvey
  • F Lorenzo Edwards (senior transfer)
  • F RJ Ogom

By Milton Posner

It took him a couple of years to move the needle, but Head Coach Earl Grant turned the College of Charleston into a perennial CAA powerhouse. In the last four years, the Cougars have never finished worse than 11–7 in conference play. In 2017–18, they won the conference’s regular-season and tournament crowns, then came five points shy of upsetting fourth-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament.

Three players keyed this run: adept showrunning guard Joe Chealey, versatile powerhouse Jarrell Brantley, and elite rim finisher Grant Riller. At their peaks, each averaged about 20 points per game. When Chealey graduated and signed with the Charlotte Hornets in 2018, Brantley and Riller held down the fort just fine, winning 12 of 18 conference games. When Brantley went to the Utah Jazz in the 2019 NBA Draft, Riller fared fine in his absence, guiding the Cougars to 11 conference victories.

But with Riller graduating and signing a two-way contract with the Charlotte Hornets — the Hornets are a magnet for recent CAA studs — the Cougars’ big three has finally faded completely. Add in the graduations of sweet-shooting, floor-stretching big man Sam Miller and athletic, energetic forward Jaylen McManus, and Earl Grant’s squad projects lower in the conference than at any point in the last five years.

This is not to say that they don’t have assets. Upperclassmen guards Brevin Galloway and Zep Jasper are poised to take the next offensive step in Riller’s absence, and Minnesota transfer guard Payton Willis could be a major shot in the arm. Touted sophomore guard Brenden Tucker, who played just nine minutes per game in his freshman campaign, will have a chance to prove himself, as will redshirt freshman and Brantley-sized forward Dontavius King.

Bottom Line: Earl Grant has a solid-looking, athletic team on his hands, with three strong veteran guards captaining the offense. But for the first time in a few years, the Cougars are not a given to finish among the CAA’s elite, with a middle-of-the-pack finish looking more likely.