A team-by-team glance at the Colonial Athletic Association heading into the 2008-09 season.
(In predicted order of finish)
Strengths: The greatest strength the Rams possess is their ability to pressure the perimeter on defense, which they can do because they have the league's best shot blocker inside, center Larry Sanders. They held opponents to just 38.1 percent shooting last season, and they got after 3-point shooters, allowing only a 26.9 percent success rate. Of course, having Eric Maynor, the CAA Player of the Year, at point guard doesn't hurt, either. Maynor finished second in the league in scoring at 17.9 points a game and led the league with 5.5 assists.
| Defending regular-season champion: |
| Defending tournament champion: |
| Top returning scorer: |
Eric Maynor (VCU), 17.9 ppg
| Top returning rebounder: |
Junior Hairston (Towson), 8.9 rpg
|3. Old Dominion|
|4. George Mason|
|5. Georgia State|
|8. UNC Wilmington|
|9. James Madison|
|11. William & Mary|
|G - Matt Janning, Northeastern|
|G - Eric Maynor, VCU|
|G - Leonard Mendez, Georgia State|
|F - Junior Hairston, Towson|
|C - Gerald Lee, Old Dominion|
season previews & primers
Scouting the newcomers: Terrance Saintil is a strong, athletic forward who possesses a soft touch and should add depth in the low post. He led Monsignor Pace High in Opa Locka, Fla., to consecutive FHSAA 4A state championships in 2007 and 2008 and four straight semifinal appearances. Bradford Burgess is a shooting guard who likes to run the break and is expected to compete for playing time as a freshman. David Hinton is a walk-on from Winston-Salem, N.C., who adds depth in the post.
Strengths: After a pair of consecutive 9-9 seasons in conference play, Northeastern brings a seasoned, battle-tested team into this year. With a strong backcourt led by All-CAA player Matt Janning and an athletic frontcourt that can score and rebound, Northeastern has a balance that will be able to exploit whatever weakness an opponent possesses.
Weaknesses: If Northeastern has any weakness, it's that it needs to improve its offensive production. The Huskies averaged only 63.4 points a game last year. Improved 3-point shooting would help; Northeastern hit at only a .313 clip, which tied for last in the CAA.
Scouting the newcomers: Coach Bill Coen added only one freshman this year, Erik Etherly, an athletic 6-7 wingman from Alexandria, Va.'s, Annandale High. Long-armed and quick, he's expected to be a force on defense.
3. Old Dominion
Strengths: Old Dominion is a team that has great balance. You don't look at the Monarchs and say they rely on this aspect or that aspect of the game, but they have balanced scoring and are solid at all phases. While junior center/forward Gerald Lee is the centerpiece coming off a second-team, All-CAA season that saw him average 12.9 points a game and 5.9 rebounds, he is surrounded by experienced players in forwards Ben Finney and Frank Hassell and guard Darius James. Old Dominion was one of only two teams last year to have a winning record on the road in the CAA, finishing at 5-4. VCU was 7-2.
Weaknesses: The only place Old Dominion might be suspect is at guard, where it lost its three most talented players: Brandon Johnson, who was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year while averaging 7.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game; Brian Henderson, who averaged 9.6 points a game; and reserve Abdi Lidonde, who averaged 5.9 points a game.
Scouting the newcomers: Chris Cooper will give the Monarchs size and strength inside, standing 6-feet-9 and weighing 220 pounds. At Forest Park High in Dumfries, Va., he averaged 9.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, then had an outstanding summer in AAU ball, averaging 16.4 points and 12.4 rebounds. Marquel De Lancey is a 6-foot guard from Alexandria, Va.'s, Mount Vernon High, where he averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 assists, 2.2 steals per game. Trian Iliadis is a 6-3 guard from Perth, Australia, where he was the leading scorer on Western Australia's under-20 national team, averaging 21.4 points a game. He's expected to give a lift to Old Dominion's outside shooting. Nick Wright is 6-8 forward from Suffolk, Va., who averaged 16.1 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks a game while making second-team All-Tidewater.
4. George Mason
Strengths: The steady influence of coach Jim Larranaga is a strength the Patriots will have to lean on this year. John Vaughan gives them a do-everything guard, but it will be crucial for Dre Smith, who set an NCAA record last year by going 10-for-10 on 3-point shots, to regain the stroke he lost following that game.
Weaknesses: The entire look of the team will change this year, as the Patriots will have to go without their two leaders, G Folarin Campbell and C Will Thomas. Replacing that leadership and the chemistry that came with it may be almost as difficult as replacing the 32 points a game the team loses, to say nothing of the league's rebounding leader in Thomas.
Scouting the newcomers: It was a busy recruiting year for Larranaga, as he brought in six freshmen. Andre Cornelius is a quick, 5-10, 169-pound guard out of Victory Christian High in Charlotte, where he made the All-State team. Kevin Foster will offer some help in the frontcourt. He stands 6-7 and weighs 209 and played his high school ball at Kathleen High in Lakeland, Fla., where was an All-State performer. Brian Henderson out of Magruder High in Gaithersburg, Md., is a 6-4, 179-pound guard. Michael Morrison is a forward who stands 6-9 and weighs 215 pounds. He made the All-State team out of Lakewood High in St. Petersburg, Fla. Jimmy Nolan is another guard, 6-foot, 170, out of Florida, having played at Archbishop McCarthy in Plantation. Ryan Pearson is a 6-6 forward from Christ The King in Far Rockaway, N.Y. He made the All-State team.
Strengths: They say that college basketball success is dictated by guard play, and if that's the case, the Panthers have a chance to make a huge stride forward. They possess a couple of guards who can ring up points, Leonard Mendez and Trae Goldston, and add transfer Joe Dukes from Wake Forest, who should help them push the ball up the floor. Add to that a strength on the boards from Rashad Chase, one of the league's premier rebounders, and Georgia State seems poised to make a move.
Weaknesses: With a strange concoction of players that includes five major college transfers, Georgia State's first goal will be to develop chemistry. As the season opens, coach Rod Barnes is looking for a leader to emerge. "Joe Dukes seems to be taking charge," Barnes said. "And we need him to. He has the opportunity to be our starting point guard, and it's always better when you have a leader at the point guard position."
Scouting the newcomers: Barnes brought in his first high school recruit this year but has added depth to his team with six transfers, five of them from major colleges. Dukes is a 6-foot-1 junior guard and is expected to challenge for a starting spot. He averaged 2.1 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in two years at Wake, starting one game. Trey Hampton is a 6-7 junior forward who sat out last year after transferring from Mississippi, where he averaged 2.2 points and 1.7 rebounds as a sophomore, starting one game. Familiar with Barnes' system, he's expected to add defense and rebounding. Another Mississippi transfer who is expected to have immediate impact is 6-10 junior forward Xavier Hansbro, who sat out last year after averaging 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in two years at Ole Miss. He can shoot 3-pointers. Bernard Rimmer is another transfer, coming over from Mississippi State. The 6-8 forward sat out last year after averaging 1.4 points in 13 games for the Bulldogs. He runs the floor well and offers defense and rebounding. Dante Curry is a 6-4 wing who played six games as a redshirt freshman at South Florida before electing to transfer. He will be eligible in December. Chris Echols transferred from Arkansas-Fort Smith Junior College, and the 6-6 forward is expected to offer immediate help in the frontcourt. He averaged 11 points and 5.9 rebounds at Fort Smith. James Fields is the first freshman recruit to sign under Barnes. He averaged 21 points, six assists and five rebounds at Urban Christian in Savannah, Ga.
Strengths: The Blue Hens are one of the most experienced teams in the league, having lost only forward Herb Courtney from last year's starters. With veteran Brian Johnson running the show and guard Alphonso Dawson a do-everything sophomore, the Blue Hens should find a way to increase their offensive output.
Weaknesses: Delaware lost a lot of close games last season due because of an inability to score. The Blue Hens finished last in the conference in shooting percentage at .405 and were 10th in 3-point field-goal percentage.
Scouting the newcomers: Adam Pegg is the only scholarship freshman on the Delaware roster this year. Pegg is a 6-foot-9, 235-pound center from Clearwater, Fla., who chose Delaware over James Madison, Tennessee Tech, Princeton and Ole Miss, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Jawan Carter figures to move into the starting lineup at guard. A local product from Tatnall School in Delaware, he sat out last year after transferring from St. Joseph's, where he made the Atlantic-10 all-rookie team as a freshman, averaging 7.6 points a game and dishing out 74 assists. Brian Kelly is a walk-on who is expected to add depth to the backcourt. He averaged 12 points at Lawrenceville (N.J.) Prep.
Strengths: Guard Charles Jenkins, last year's CAA Rookie of the Year, is capable of stepping up and helping ease the loss of high-scoring Antoine Agudio. With four returning starters and senior leadership from PG Greg Johnson, F Darren Townes and C Dane Johnson, Hofstra figures to move forward.
Weaknesses: Hofstra has to learn to play without the Aguidio, the league's leading scorer and the man it turned to when things got roughest. Hofstra also has to play better defense than it did a year ago, when it finished 10th in points allowed in the conference.
Scouting the newcomers: Hofstra reached into the junior college ranks to pick up three players whom it hopes will have an immediate impact. Tony Dennison is 6-foot-3 guard out of New York who played at Broward (Fla.) Community College. He earned NJCAA All-America honors both years, third team as a freshman and second team as a sophomore. Last season he averaged 24.1 points on 64.8-percent shooting to go with 6.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.1 steals a game. Miklos Szabo is a 6-9 forward from Szeghalom, Hungary, who also played at Broward Community College. He led the nation in rebounding as a sophomore with 15.3 a game while scoring 14.0 points on 62.7 percent shooting. Cornelius Vines is a 6-2 guard from Syracuse who played at Iowa Lakes Community College and was a NJCAA third-team All-American as a sophomore, averaging 17.6 points with four rebounds and three assists.
Strengths: Benny Moss completed the best turnaround in the NCAA in his second year as coach of Seahawks, transforming a 7-22 squad into one that went 20-13 in the competitive conference, but there's a new cast of characters this season. The backcourt should be fine. Chad Tomko showed himself to be a solid point guard last season as a freshman and Xavier transfer Johnny Wolf is a player who could step right in and provide some punch.
Weaknesses: A lack of experience will slow the development of this young team as it tries to create an identity and chemistry. The Seahawks lost their top four scorers and rebounders from a year ago.
Scouting the newcomers: Jerel Stephenson of Augusta, Ga., is a 6-5 guard who is expected to make an immediate impact. He averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists at Glenn Hills High, leading the school to its first state championship while being named to the All-State team. Rivals.com named him the top shooting guard prospect entering the CAA. Kevon Moore, a thin 6-3 left-hander, is the other freshman guard. He averaged 12 points and five rebounds at Montrose Christian in Bowie, Md., where he was known as a strong defensive player. Will O'Huaregbe is a 6-8 power forward from Fork Union Military Academy. He also played for two high schools in Virginia before attending prep school. Brad Bald is a 6-8 freshman who averaged 17.3 points and 12.8 rebounds at Severna Park, Md., High. He reached double-figure rebounds in every game and had 20 double-doubles. The Seahawks are expecting big things from him.
Strengths: The emotional lift that comes with a new coach (Matt Brady) is certainly a major strength that James Madison will rely on. The team also has perhaps the top guard duo in the conference, with Pierre Curtis dishing out assists and Abdulai Jalloh scoring, rebounding, feeding other players and playing defense.
Weaknesses: James Madison was awful last season on defense, and you can rest assured it was the first matter addressed by Brady. While the Dukes were the conference's highest-scoring team (73 ppg), they gave up a dismal 74. Opponents shot 48.2 percent against them, more than 10 percent worse than what teams shot against conference leader VCU.
Scouting the newcomers: Alvin Brown is a 6-10 freshman from Fort Washington, Md., who also played some high school ball as junior in Martinsburg, W.Va. According to Brady, Brown has "an uncanny ability to protect the basket and block shots." Devon Moore is a slender, 6-4 freshman guard from Columbus, Ohio's Northland High, where he averaged 14.2 points and 8 assists on a 25-1 team. Scooter Renkin is a 6-3 walk-on guard who played at Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va., and was a teammate of JMU signee Andrey Semenov. Semenov is 6-7 freshman from St. Petersburg, Russia, who averaged 14 points and seven rebounds as a senior. He was a member of the Russian national silver medalist 16-and-under team at last summer's European Championships. Julius Wells is a 6-5 freshman forward from Toledo, Ohio, who was ranked No. 19 among college prospects in Ohio by Rivals.com. He averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists a game
Strengths: Bruiser Flint should have his usual tough defense back, normally a trademark of his team. He also will be able to count on reliable play from his guards, with veterans Scott Rodgers, Tramayne Hawthorne and Gerald Colds being joined by slick freshman Chris Fouch out of Rice High in New York.
Weaknesses: Flint is going to be stressing shooting this year; last year's team finished at the bottom of the CAA in scoring, averaging just 59.5 points and hitting a league worst .313 on 3-point field goals. Only Delaware shot worse as a team. While Drexel got to the free-throw line a lot last year, it didn't help much: The Dragons were by far the worst free-throw shooting team in the league.
Scouting the newcomers: Leon Spencer is a 6-8 junior forward who transferred from Brunswick Community College (Supply, N.C.), where he shot 70 percent from the floor while averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. Kevin Phillips is a good-sized freshman forward at 6-6, 220 pounds, out of Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn, N.Y. He averaged a double-double as a senior with 15 points and 12 rebounds and should offer rebounding and defense. Chris Fouch is another freshman out of New York, having played at Rice High and averaging better than 15 points and shooting 46 percent from 3-point range as a senior. The 6-foot guard was Most Valuable Player at the Nike Super-6 Invitational and scored 72 points with 16 3-pointers in a single game in the AAU IS8 Spring League Tournament. Flint calls Fouch "one of the purest shooters in the country."
11. William & Mary
Strengths: The resurgence of basketball at William & Mary last year got the team and the school believing in the program, and that might be the biggest strength the Tribe takes into the season.
Using an unorthodox offense patterned off Princeton's style of play, the Tribe does what it can do and is difficult to prepare for. William & Mary set a conference record last year when it canned 257 3-pointers.
Weaknesses: William & Mary is not quite as athletic as some other teams, but it makes up for it with its team concept and solid defense. The Tribe will be looking to improve both its shooting and rebounding this season.
Scouting the newcomers: William & Mary brings in three freshmen and a transfer to help fill the void left by losses from one of the school's best teams ever. The transfer is a junior guard with top-line credentials. Sean McCurdy played high school ball at the nationally ranked St. Anthony's of Jersey City, N.J., before attending Arkansas, where he played 61 games in two years, starting six. Arkansas reached the NCAA tournament both years. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.3 assists a game for the Razorbacks. Kendrix Brown is 6-3 freshman point guard who averaged 17.5 points a game at Norfolk, Va.'s, Norview High. Quinn McDowell is a guard out of Cincinnati's Moeller High, where he averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists despite missing 10 games as a senior with an injury. John Treherne, 6-4, 180, is from Chesapeake, Va., and both Norfolk Academy and Fork Union. As a senior, he averaged 21 points and seven rebounds a game.
Strengths: With 461 career victories, Pat Kennedy is the winningest active coach in the CAA. Kennedy should have a balanced team with frontcourt depth. If the rebounding is as strong as it looks, that should eliminate one of last season's greatest problems, which was keeping the opposition off the boards. Senior Tommy Breaux, a rugged 6-8 forward who pulled down 4.5 boards a game two years ago before sitting out with a broken foot last year, returns. Tony Durant established himself as a force inside last year. Towson last year was the best team in the league in avoiding turnovers, and that should carry over.
Weaknesses: While Towson was careful with the ball last season, it must try to get away from shooting as many 3-pointers as it did. The Tigers took the second-most 3-point shots in the conference but shot only the ninth-best percentage. With a stronger inside game, they might change some of their offensive philosophy away from long-range bombs.
Scouting the newcomers: Calvin Lee is a 6-8 junior forward out of Allegany College of Maryland, where he averaged 14.9 points and 9.5 rebounds a game last year. Kennedy says he has "great offensive skills to go along with his ability as a strong rebounder." Jimmy Smith is a 6-4 swingman out Van Nuys, Calif., who sat out last year after redshirting a year at Colorado State. He has overcome knee problems. Kennedy says he is one of Towson's top defensive players, and he'll be joined up front by his brother Jarrel, also transferring from Colorado State. Brian Morris is a 6-6 sophomore out of Camp Hill, Pa., who sat out last year after transferring from Richmond, where he led the team in minutes played (31.0), assists (85), steals (30) and 3-point baskets (44) in 2006-07.