By Jon Rothstein
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FIVE QUESTIONS ENTERING THE CAA
1. HOW WILL DREXEL DEAL WITH EXPECTATIONS?
Absolutely fine. Bruiser Flint has said all summer long that his team has unfinished business after being left out of the NCAA Tournament last March and the Dragons’ guards — Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee, and Chris Fouch are good enough to match up with just about any perimeter in the country. Derrick Thomas, who missed last season’s CAA Tournament should provide a sturdy veteran presence and 6-7 red shirt freshman Tavon Allen could add another dimension with his versatility. The real key for this team will be who backs up Dartaye Ruffin at power forward. Last year, Ruffin was a reserve behind do everything southpaw Samme Givens and the Dragons will need to identify a replacement since Ruffin will now be a starter. The likely candidate is 6-7 sophomore Kaz Abif, who showed signs early last season of being productive before missing most of the year with an illness.
2. CAN DELAWARE WIN THE CONFERENCE?
Without question. Combo guard Devon Saddler is capable of playing in any conference in the country and Jamelle Hagins is hands down the best big man in the CAA. Jarvis Threatt nearly exploded at the end of last season, scoring 31 in a first round CBI game against Butler. If Threatt can be consistent, and St. Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste can add rebounding and intangibles next to Hagins up front, Monte Ross’ team should possess all the necessary firepower needed to win a league title. Keep an eye on freshman point guard Terrell Rogers, the son of former George Washington floor general Shawnta Rogers — his presence could allow Ross to move both Saddler and Threatt off the ball for periods of games.
3. HOW WILL GEORGE MASON REPLACE THEIR FRONT COURT?
By committee. Ryan Pearson was an easy guy to throw the ball to when you needed a basket and Paul Hewitt regularly said that Mike Morrison was an exceptionally intelligent player, but the Patriots have the pieces to replace their departed front court. Both Erik Copes and Jonathan Arledge appear primed for breakout seasons and Johnny Williams, who red shirted last season is down 27 pounds and ready to make a contribution. The real sleeper for George Mason is Marko Gujanicic, a 6-9 skilled face up forward who could play a big role as a freshman thanks to his versatility.
4. HOW MANY GAMES CAN TOWSON WIN?
We think 10 is a legitimate possibility. The Tigers added three Big East transfers in big men Jerelle Benimon (Georgetown) and Bilal Dixon (Providence) along with former South Florida guard Mike Burwell. Pat Skerry also returns leading scorer Marcus Damas and adds a key piece in freshman point guard Jerome Hairston. The X-Factor is JUCO transfer Rafriel Guthrie, who could make a huge impact thanks to his toughness.
5. WHO IS THE SLEEPER?
Hofstra. The Pride added a trio of talented transfers in Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (UConn), Taran Buie (Penn State), and Daquan Brown (Fresno State) and could add a fourth if former Hawaii guard Shaquille Stokes is granted a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately. Mo Cassara also brought in a very deep freshmen class and could have two immediate contributors in hard working forward Jimmy Hall and 6-2 guard Dallas Anglin. The real key for Hofstra could be senior point guard Steve Mejia. After battling injuries last season, the burly Mejia got himself in tremendous shape and dropped 15 pounds during the off season. With more weapons to work with like Coombs-McDaniel and Buie, Mejia should put together a big time season while helping the Pride regain their place as a CAA contender.
CAA PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
THE SKINNY: The Dragons are a borderline Top 25 team.
THE SKINNY: This team will have at least one headline win in their non conference schedule — they’re that good.
3. GEORGE MASON
THE SKINNY: Paul Hewitt has tremendous front court depth.
THE SKINNY: Bill Coen returns his top four scorers from last season.
5. OLD DOMINION
THE SKINNY: NC State transfer DeShawn Painter will be a CAA force.
6. JAMES MADISON
THE SKINNY: Burly big man Rayshawn Goins could make a difference after red shirt year.
THE SKINNY: Thanks to a slew of transfers, the Pride might be the league’s most intriguing team.
THE SKINNY: Pat Skerry continues to increase the talent level in Baltimore.
9. GEORGIA STATE
THE SKINNY: Ron Hunter’s son RJ could have an impact as a freshman.
10. UNC WILMINGTON
THE SKINNY: Rugged forward Keith Rendleman is a walking double-double.
11. WILLIAM & MARY
THE SKINNY: Sophomore guard Marcus Thornton is special — but he needs more help.
CAA PRESEASON FIRST TEAM
Devon Saddler, Delaware
Damion Lee, Drexel
Jonathan Lee, Northeastern
Keith Rendleman, UNCW
Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
CAA PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Frantz Massenat, Drexel
TEN THAT HAVE WAITED AND WILL MAKE A MAJOR IMPACT
1. Tavon Allen, Drexel (red shirt)
2. Rayshawn Goins, James Madison (red shirt)
3. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Hofstra (transfer)
4. Taran Buie, Hofstra (transfer)
5. Carl Baptiste, Delaware (transfer)
6. Marvin King-Davis, Delaware (red shirt)
7. Johnny Williams, George Mason (red shirt)
8. Rafriel Guthrie, Towson (JUCO)
9. Jerelle Benimon, Towson (transfer)
10. Mike Burwell, Towson (transfer)
TEN BREAKOUT PLAYERS
1. Dartaye Ruffin, Drexel
2. Jarvis Threatt, Delaware
3. Steve Mejia, Hofstra
4. Erik Copes, George Mason
5. Jonathan Arledge, George Mason
6. DeShawn Painter, Old Dominion
7. Dimitri Batten, Old Dominion
8. Jerelle Benimon, Towson
9. Quincy Ford, Northeastern
10. Brandon Britt, William & Mary
TEN IMPACT FRESHMEN
1. Terrell Rogers, Delaware
2. Marvin King-Davis, Delaware
3. Marko Gujanicic, George Mason
4. Jimmy Hall, Hofstra
5. Dallas Anglin, Hofstra
6. Tavon Allen, Drexel
7. Jerome Haiston, Towson
8. Zach Stahl, Northeastern
9. Craig Ponder, UNCW
10. RJ Hunter, Georgia State
Do you think Hofstra can make a run at the CAA title? Let us know below…