Conference Preview: Colonial


The Colonial Athletic Association has seen some fun conference races, and great conference tournament games in recent years.  There is no reason not to expect much of the same this season.  Two of the nation’s most underrated head coaches, Earl Grant at Charleston and Pat Skerry at Towson, have a chance to put their teams in the NCAA Tournament for the first time this millennium.  The third team that figures to be right in the mix for the bid has never been there, the Elon Phoenix.

Beyond the top three, there is a lot of parity in the conference.  UNC-Wilmington begins life without head coach Kevin Keatts, while programs like William & Mary, James Madison and Delaware work on rebuilding depleted rosters and may be a year away from making some serious noise.  At the end of the day, Charleston may appear the easy pick to win this league, but they should not count on an easy path to the title by any means.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. College of Charleston – Earl Grant has done an amazing job in his first three seasons in Charleston and has a team that appears ready to take him to the Big Dance for the first time in his career, and for the first time for the school since 1999.  The Cougars return all five starters from last season, led by senior guard Joe Chealey and junior forward Jarrell Brantley.
  2. Elon – The Phoenix have never made it to the NCAA Tournament, but may have their best chance in their 18 years in Division I this season.  All five starters return for head coach Matt Matheny, four of whom averaged double figures in scoring last season.  Tyler Seibring and Brian Dawkins are forces down low, while Steven Santa Ana should lead the way in the backcourt.
  3. Towson – Pat Skerry is another coach that has done an amazing job building a program in the Colonial.  His Tigers return four starters from last year’s 20 win team, led by guard Mike Morsell, and could be right in the hunt for the league crown this year.
  4. UNC-Wilmington – The Seahawks lost a tough game to Virginia in the Round of 64 last season, then promptly saw their head coach, Kevin Keatts, move to NC State and their top scorer, C.J. Bryce, followed him there.  With only one starter back, this should be a rebuilding year for new head man C.B. McGrath, though having double-double machine Devontae Cacok back down low will be a huge help in his first season.
  5. Hofstra – The Pride have a very strong inside-outside combo pair with Justin Wright-Foreman (over 18 points per game) at guard and Rokas Gustys (over 12 rebounds per game) at forward.  The problem will be finding enough supporting pieces and depth to help those two if they want to be among the league’s top teams.
  6. William & Mary – The Tribe only return one starter from last season, but their bench got a lot of playing time and experience.  Don’t be surprised to see them challenging for the upper half of the league standings as players like David Cohn and Nathan Knight step up.
  7. Northeastern – The Huskies finished below .500 last season and lost their top two scorers, who combined for over 35 points per game.  The pieces just don’t appear to be here to make up for that this season.
  8. Delaware – The Blue Hens are starting to trend in the right direction, though they may be another year away from actually competing for a spot near the top of the standings.  Sophomore guard Ryan Daly is the key to their success.  He averaged 16 points and over 7 rebounds per game in his freshman season.
  9. James Madison – The Dukes only return two players that saw any action at all last season.  The good news is that the newcomers include a solid five-man recruiting class and some strong transfers, so the future remains bright for Louis Rowe’s team.
  10. Drexel – The good news is that the Dragons return three starters from last season.  The bad news is that those players lost 23 times last year and their top scorer, Rodney Williams, is gone, while Kari Jonsson left the team last month.  This could be another long season.
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