Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the start of the 2012-13 basketball season, which begins with the first games on Nov. 9, with a countdown of the nation’s top conferences. We will release one conference preview each day, counting down to the top conference. For profiles of every team in each conference, check out the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store.
With the Colonial Athletic Association in flux, new blood could represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
This year, with VCU having departed for the Atlantic 10 and Old Dominion ineligible for the CAA title as it prepares to leave for Conference USA, the door is open for some redemption for Drexel.
Drexel set a school record for wins last season, hit the 20-victory plateau for the second straight year and won the CAA’s regular-season title. But the Dragons didn’t win the conference tournament and missed the NCAA Tournament for the 16th consecutive season.
The path is as clear as its been for Drexel, which has contended for a Tournament slot for several seasons, but it’s not automatic. Delaware has its own Tourney drought (since 1999) it hopes to end thanks to one of the highest-scoring duos in the conference.
Traditional CAA contenders George Mason and Old Dominion, which is still eligible for an NCAA at-large spot, are rebuilding to various degrees, but they can’t be counted out.
ATHLON ALL-COLONIAL TEAM
COLONIAL FACTS AND FIGURES
G Frantz Massenat, Drexel*
2011-12 regular season champion: Drexel
G Devon Saddler, Delaware
2012 NCAA Tournament teams: VCU#
F Keith Rendleman, UNC Wilmington
New coaches: None
F Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
Realignment: Lost VCU to the Atlantic 10
C DeShawn Painter, Old Dominion
*preseason player of the year
#conference tournament champion
2012-13 COLONIAL PREVIEW
1. Drexel (29-8, 16-2)
Drexel enters the 2012-13 basketball season as the overwhelming favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Dragons lost only Sammie Givens from last year’s 29–7 squad and return four starters including point guard Frantz Massenat and ’11-12 CAA Rookie of the Year Damion Lee. The Dragons, as usual, got it done on the defensive end last year, leading the CAA in allowing just 56.1 points per game. Offensively, Drexel averaged a modest 65.3 points per game, eighth best total in the league. That’s the most a Flint-coached team has scored in six years, since the 2006-07 version averaged 66.5 points per outing. The jump in offense came, largely, from the continued development of Massenat, who shot well from outside. Forwards Daryl McCoy and Dartaye Ruffin return to give Drexel the size and muscle in the paint. The Dragons can rely on Chris Fouch, one of four players who averaged double-digits in scoring last season, coming off the bench again.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament One & Done
2. Delaware (18-14, 12-6)
Coach Monte Ross posted his best record since taking over Delaware’s basketball program before the 2006-07 season. It was also the best mark for any Blue Hens team since winning 20 games in 2000-01, the year before they joined the CAA. Delaware should take the next step by challenging for a league title. The Hens’ talented backcourt of Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt is a big part of the reason why. Saddler, a second-team All-CAA pick last year, was second in the league in scoring, putting up 18.8 points per game. Threatt came on strong as his freshman year went on, added 10.7 points per game. Add to that, Jamelle Hagins, also a second-team all-conference pick, has steadily become more and more of an offensive threat for the Hens. In addition to leading the CAA in rebounding (11.1 rpg) and finishing second in blocked shots (3.0 bpg), Hagins has become a primary scoring option for Delaware in the post.
Postseason prediction: NIT
3. George Mason (24–9, 14–4)
The coaching change from Jim Larranaga to Paul Hewitt didn’t throw the Patriots off track. George Mason won 20 games for the fourth time in the last five years. Now the Patriots are dealing with the loss of three key players — Andre Cornelius, Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson. That group helped Mason lead the CAA in offense, averaging 70.4 points per game. The return of the athletic and talented Johnny Williams and the addition of Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji should help. Williams could be an all-conference player a year after missing the season due to shoulder surgery.
4. Old Dominion (22–14, 13–5)
The Monarchs lose their top three scorers from last season in Kent Bazemore, Chris Cooper and Trian Illiadis. That trio combined for 34.4 points per game. But if there is one thing that has been a trademark of Blaine Taylor’s program, it’s been consistency. ODU reached 20 wins for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. Expect Nick Wright to help continue that trend. Last year, as always, the Monarchs were one of the CAA’s top teams in the paint. They led the league with 40.2 rebounds per game, beating opponents on the glass by 6.1 boards per night. The addition of DeShawn Painter, a transfer from NC State, should keep ODU near the top of the charts when it comes to rebounding. The Monarchs, however, will not be eligible for the CAA title due to their impending move to Conference USA (’13-14).
5. Northeastern (14–7, 9–9)
The Huskies’ lineup boasts a trio of players with all-league talent in Jonathan Lee, Joel Smith and Quincy Ford. That group combined to average nearly 40 points per game. They did lose Kauri Black, Alwayne Bigby and Ryan Pierson, all players who started multiple games last year but transferred in the offseason. Still, with their top four scorers back from last season, Bill Coen’s team should improve on its offensive production. Last season, the Huskies were 10th in the CAA averaging just 62.6 points per game. If Coen can integrate his five newcomers with the returning core, Northeastern could be a contender.
6. Hofstra (10–22, 3–15)
No CAA team is harder to get a handle on this offseason than Hofstra. The Pride lost its top players in Mike Moore and Nathaniel Lester and solid contributors in Dwan McMillan and Shamiye McLendon. Moore led the league in scoring, putting up 19.9 points per game. Lester was eighth in the CAA at 14.6 points per game. But Hofstra adds a ton of transfer talent, including UConn’s Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Penn State’s Taran Buie and Fresno State’s Daquan Brown, all of whom sat out last year. If Hawaii’s Shaquille Stokes is ruled eligible for this season, Mo Cassara’s team might have the pieces to challenge the CAA’s upper-echelon squads.
7. James Madison (12–20, 5–13)
This could be Matt Brady’s last chance to turnaround the Dukes’ basketball program. He’ll make a run at it with his most veteran, experienced lineup during his time at JMU, a group led by point guard Devon Moore and athletic wing A.J. Davis. Forward Rayshawn Goins is back from injury and in the best shape of his college career, checking in at under 270 pounds for the first time in his JMU tenure. The Dukes need Enoch Hood to develop into a presence in the post. Brady has high hopes for freshman Ron Curry to contribute this year. Of course, the Dukes will need to avoid the injuries that have plagued the program since Brady took over.
8. Georgia State (22–12, 11–7)
The Panthers lose four starters and two of their top bench players. And they get to rebuild with an early-season trip to Duke. Devonta White, who averaged 12.9 points per game, returns. And Georgia State has loaded up on transfers, including Virginia Tech’s Manny Atkins and USC’s Curtis Washington. In all, the Panthers are adding four transfers and five incoming freshmen to rebuild. Georgia State had the second-best scoring defense in the CAA last year, giving up 58.9 points per game. It led the league in blocked shots, ranked second in steals and was stout on the perimeter. Opponents shot just 31.5 percent from 3-point range, third lowest mark in the league.
9. William & Mary (6–26, 4–14)
Guard Marcus Thornton had a strong rookie year. The Tribe will need him to avoid a sophomore slump this season as they try to replace the production of Quinn McDowell. Getting Kyle Gaillard back should help. Gaillard missed all of last season redshirting with an injury. Those two combined with Tim Rusthoven, Brandon Britt and Matt Rum give the Tribe an experienced core that knows how to play in coach Tony Shaver’s system.
10. Towson (1–31, 1–17)
Pat Skerry’s revival effort continues. He’s got a way to go. This season, the Tigers are not eligible for the postseason because of their lack of performance in the APR. And they lost three starters. Leading scorer Robert Nwankwo graduated, Deon Jones transferred, and Erique Gumbs won’t play due to a medical condition. So Skerry and Towson will turn to a trio of Big East transfers (Georgetown’s Jerrelle Benimon, South Florida’s Mike Burwell and Providence’s Bilal Dixon) to try to be competitive while the young coach reshapes his program. Marcus Damas returns after matching Nwankwo’s production of 12.5 points per game last year. Kris Walden will need to take a step forward.
11. UNC Wilmington (10–21, 5–13)
The Seahawks are again in a state of flux. They lost three players who transferred out, three of their top four scorers from last season. The defections included promising young scorer Adam Smith (Virginia Tech), who scored 13.7 points per game as a rookie, second on the team. They add a Big East transfer in Rutgers’ Tyree Graham. The biggest news might be that top player Keith Rendleman will play this season. With UNC-W not eligible for the CAA Tournament because of a poor showing under the NCAA’s APR metric, Rendleman had considered redshirting this year. But the all-conference forward told coach Buzz Peterson in June he would play.
More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store
Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
8. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
19. Notre Dame
More from the 2012-13 College Basketball Preview:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13
Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury
Gonzaga leads International Dream Team