Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
The Colonial Athletic Association ended in dramatic fashion last season as Delaware defeated William & Mary, 75-74, in the final seconds of the conference title game in Baltimore. There will be plenty of turnover in the CAA heading into this season, as many star players have moved on from their collegiate careers and several programs from the bottom half of the conference standings in previous years look to make the jump into the NCAA tournament conversation.
William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton is the only returning first-team all-conference selection and is the league’s best player. The Tribe also return Omar Prewitt, the CAA 2013-2014 Rookie of the Year, giving W&M one of the best perimeters in the conference. Chasing the Tribe will be two teams that finished below .500, but have the tools to be serious contenders this season. Northeastern returns six of its top seven scorers, including second-teamer Scott Eatherton and Quincy Ford, who was sidelined all but two games with a back injury. The two 6-foot-8 forwards give the Huskies the CAA’s best frontline. Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich is equipped with some offensive firepower to account for the graduation of CAA top scorer Zeke Upshaw. Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, both of whom followed Mihalich from Niagara in 2013, are now eligible, as is SMU transfer Brian Bernardi. That trio joins senior guard Dion Nesmith.
Drexel, Delaware, James Madison and Towson have all lost significant contributions, but could still pieces to offset the lost production. Damion Lee has recovered from last December’s ACL tear. He averaged 17.1 points per game for Drexel as a sophomore in 2012-2013. Gone from Delaware are four double-digit scorers, but Kyle Anderson remains, as the Blue Hens will shift to a strong defensive-minded team in 2013-2014. Two-time player of the year Jerrelle Benimon graduated last spring, but Towson does bring back Timajh Parker-Rivera and Four McGlynn while James Madison won’t have its full roster until late November.
The Dukes suspended talented scorer Andre Nation for the first five games. He missed 15 games last season due to violation of the athletic department. Northeastern has also dealt with personnel issues as starting guard Demetrius Pollard left the program earlier this month, although he remains enrolled at the university.
The CAA welcomes Elon from the Southern Conference. Elon’s Matt Matheny is one of three new CAA head coaches. Rick Pitino’s former assistant Kevin Keatts takes over at UNC-Wilmington while former Clemson assistant Earl Grant got a late start to his first season on the College of Charleston bench after the school fired Doug Wojick in early August.
PRESEASON CAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marcus Thornton, William & Mary
The 6-foot-4 two-guard is the conference’s top returning scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game, going for 20 or more 14 times during his junior campaign that ended with first-team all-CAA honors. Thornton back-rimmed what would have been a game-winning, buzzer-beater in the CAA championship game against Delaware; a missed shot that likely fueled his offseason workouts this summer.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON CAA TEAM:
- Kyle Anderson, Delaware: The Blue Hens lost four of five double-digit scorers. Anderson, the only one to start all 35 games, should see an increase in production this season for the reigning CAA champion.
- Scott Eatherton, Northeastern: The 6-foot-8 forward averaged a double-double last season, posting 15.9 points and 10.2 boards per game.
- Juan’ya Green, Hofstra: One of three transfers eligible this season for a revamped roster. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game for Niagara in 2012-2013.
- Damion Lee, Drexel: Missed all but five games last year due to an ACL tear. When Lee is healthy, Drexel is a contender and he is a player of the year candidate.
ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @CAAHoops
1. William & Mary
6. James Madison
8. College of Charleston