By Jon Rothstein
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FIVE QUESTIONS ENTERING THE CAA
1. HOW WILL TOWSON HANDLE EXPECTATIONS?
It’s a completely new dynamic for the Tigers, but it’s one they should relish. Pat Skerry’s team won 18 games last season after only winning one the year before. Now there’s only one thing left for Towson to earn — a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have hands down the best player in the CAA in burly power forward Jerrelle Benimon, who may be the one athlete in college basketball with the best chance of averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Sophomore point guard Jerome Hairston should have a breakout season, and Vermont transfer Four McGlynn will give Skerry another perimeter option next to Mike Burwell. The most underrated thing about Towson? The intangibles they get from Marcus Damas and Rafriel Guthrie. These two forwards own every 50-50 ball they come across, and bring an element of toughness to the Tigers that’s evident each time they step on the floor. If Skerry can keep this team hungry and motivated, there’s no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t reach the field of 68 just two years after finishing 1-31.
2. CAN DREXEL GET OVER THE HUMP?
It all depends on Chris Fouch. The 6-2 guard was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after missing most of last year with a foot injury. Without Fouch’s ability to space the floor, Drexel’s offense never had the same type of feel or flow. Frantz Massenat — who broke out two years ago as a sophomore — really struggled offensively last season and a big reason why may have been Fouch’s absence. Fouch made 65 three-point shots two seasons ago when the Dragons won 29 games and was shooting 48% from deep last year before his injury. Without his presence, this team didn’t have the same spacing offensively. The Dragons’ perimeter — Massenat, Fouch, and junior Damion Lee — is good enough to match up with most back courts in the country and has a combined 13 years of collegiate experience. If Bruiser Flint can get mileage out of freshmen big men Rodney Williams and Mohammad Bah, Drexel should have enough up front to complement veteran post player Dartaye Ruffin. Two other names to watch for the Dragons? Tavon Allen and Freddie Wilson. The versatile Allen needs to emerge as a scoring threat off the bench while Wilson is a transfer from Seton Hall who will be eligible in December. If Wilson can give this team another capable ball handler, it could free up Massenat to move off the ball in spurts offensively.
3. WILL DELAWARE BE ABLE TO REBOUND?
It’s the million dollar question surrounding the Blue Hens. Monte Ross’ team has serious offensive talent with Jarvis Threatt, Devon Saddler, and Mississippi Valley State transfer Davon Usher — but how will they handle themselves on the backboards? Delaware lost its top interior presence from last season in Jamelle Hagins and while the 6-6 Usher is a potent scorer (18.8 PPG last season), he’s more of a face-up type at power forward. If fifth-year veteran Carl Baptiste can have a breakout season, and Ross can get production from 6-9 red shirt freshman Maurice Jeffers, the Blue Hens could find themselves in mix at the top of the CAA.
4. WHAT CAN ANDRE NATION DO FOR AN ENCORE?
Become one of the better players in the CAA, because that’s just what he looked like down the stretch of last season. The 6-5 Nation was dominant during the Dukes’ final four games of last year, averaging 15.0 points and 4.75 rebounds per contest. With the graduation of A.J. Davis, Devon Moore, and Rayshawn Goins — three players who were crucial to James Madison winning the CAA Tournament last March — Nation looks like the player on Matt Brady’s team that’s most ready to take the baton moving forward. Also keep an eye on sophomores Ron Curry and Charles Cooke, who should have an expanded role on the perimeter during their second season of college basketball.
5. WHO IS THE SLEEPER?
William & Mary. The Tribe return their top four scorers from last year’s team that went 13-17 and might have the best player no one knows about in guard Marcus Thornton. The 6-4 Thornton averaged 18.8 PPG last season and will join veteran Brandon Britt in what should be one of the CAA’s best back courts. Forwards Tim Rusthoven and Kyle Gaillard also return, providing Tony Shaver with a core that is capable of making a jump into the top half of the conference standings.
CAA PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
THE SKINNY: Pat Skerry should have one of the better mid-major teams in the country.
THE SKINNY: The Dragons’ starting perimeter will have a combined 13 years of collegiate experience.
THE SKINNY: Monte Ross’ team can score with anyone, but will they be able to rebound?
THE SKINNY: Adjehi Baru immediately becomes the best defensive big man in the CAA.
THE SKINNY: Quincy Ford should emerge as a junior.
6. WILLIAM & MARY
THE SKINNY: Marcus Thornton may be the least appreciated player in college basketball.
7. JAMES MADISON
THE SKINNY: 6-5 guard Andre Nation is the CAA’s version of a swiss army knife. He does a little bit of everything.
THE SKINNY: The Joe Mihalich era begins in Hempstead.
THE SKINNY: The Seahawks are in rebuilding mode after losing do-everything forward Keith Rendleman.
CAA PRESEASON FIRST TEAM
Marcus Thornton, William & Mary
Devon Saddler, Delaware
Damion Lee, Drexel
Jerrelle Benimon, Towson
Adjehi Baru, Charleston
CAA PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jerrelle Benimon, Towson
FIVE IMPACT TRANSFERS
Four McGlynn, Towson (Vermont)
Freddie Wilson, Drexel (Seton Hall)
Davon Usher, Delaware (Mississippi Valley State)
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern (St. Francis PA)
David Wishon, Charleston (Tulsa)
FIVE IMPACT FRESHMEN
Rodney Williams, Drexel
Maurice Jeffers, Delaware
Chris Jenkins, Hofstra
Walter Foster, Towson
Yohanny Dalembert, James Madison
FIVE BREAKOUT PLAYERS
Timajh Parker-Rivera, Towson
Tavon Allen, Drexel
Ron Curry, James Madison
Moussa Kone, Hofstra
David Walker, Northeastern
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