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CAA Preview: This is the year for Charleston to take control of the league race

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the CAA.

The CAA has been UNC Wilmington‘s league over the course of the last three seasons, as Kevin Keatts built the Seahawks into a powerhouse. They won a share of the league’s regular season title in his first two season’s on campus before winning the outright league title this past year. Throw in two straight NCAA tournament appearances – where the Seahawks gave both Duke and Virginia a run for their money in the opening round – and it’s no surprise that Keatts landed himself a job in the ACC.

It also should come as no surprise that UNCW looks like they will take a bit of a step back in C.B. McGrath’s first season at the helm. Chris Flemmings, the Player of the Year in 2016, and C.J. Bryce, the Player of the Year in 2017, both left the program, Flemmings to graduation and Bryce to N.C. State along with Keatts. With two other starts gone along with the man who built the roster to fit his style of play, McGrath is going to have his work cut out for him this year.

What that means is that the top of the CAA is going to be wide open this year, and on paper it seems as if two teams are in the driver’s seat to take over the title of ‘CAA’s Best’.

The obvious pick is College of Charleston, who finished last season just a game off of UNCW’s pace. The Cougars return essentially everyone from last year’s team, including the best one-two punch in the conference in Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley. Throw in rising sophomore Grant Riller, who was one of the best newcomers in the league a season ago, and Earl Grant’s club as plenty of firepower to go along with being the league’s best defensive team last year, according to KenPom.

I firmly expect Elon to be in the mix for the CAA title as well. Like Charleston, the Phoenix essentially bring back their entire roster, led by junior forward Tyler Seibring. The difference, however, is that Charleston simply has more firepower. Seibring could end up being the CAA Player of the Year if he can lead this group to a league title. Charleston has two players that could end up being the league POY and a third that is a sleeper to finish as a first-team all-conference player.

If there is a sleeper to win the league, it’s probably Towson. The Tigers bring back Mike Morsell and DeShaun Morman, but replacing Arnaud William Adala Moro and John Davis is going to be a difficult thing to do. Beyond that, the CAA is tough to project. Northeastern lost T.J. Williams, who came out of nowhere to be arguably the best player in the conference last season, but they return a number of veteran players, get some guys back from injury and add Tomas Murphy, the youngest brother of Alex and Erik.

Hofstra brings back the league’s best scorer (Justin Wright-Foreman) and best rebounder (Rokas Gustys), and Delaware has some young talent on the roster, led by last year’s Freshman of the Year Ryan Daly, but then the rest of the league gets pretty ugly. William & Mary is going into full rebuilding mode with Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon gone. Drexel still is in full rebuild mode, while James Madison loses just about everyone not named Jackson Kent or Ramone Snowden.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON CAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joe Chealey, Charleston

Chealey was the best player for the Cougars a season ago, and that isn’t going to change this season. A senior point guard on a team that returns, essentially, everyone from a group that finished second in the CAA a year ago, Chealey is the easy pick for Preseason Player of the Year.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-CAA TEAM

  • Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra: Wright-Foreman should end up leading the CAA in scoring this season. The Pride should end up being better than they were a year ago with the amount of talent that is returning.
  • Tyler Seibring, Elon: The Phoenix return all five starters, but the most notable is Seibring, a 6-foot-8 junior who will likely end up being the CAA Player of the Year if Elon can find a way to win the league.
  • Devontae Cacok, UNCW: UNCW lost a ton this offseason but they did return Cacok, who is one of the most dominant interior presences in the mid-major ranks. He’ll be asked to do a lot more this season.
  • Jarrell Brantley, Charleston: Brantley was a first-team all-CAA player last season and he’ll be back, which is a major reason why the Cougars seem to be the favorite to win the CAA this year.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Charleston
2. Elon
3. Towson
4. UNCW
5. Hofstra
6. Northeastern
7. Delaware
8. William & Mary
9. James Madison
10. Drexel

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.