Pre-season predictions can be misleading. Sometimes they're based on the previous year's results. Sometimes a wide variety of opinions can produce deceiving results. In the case of the CAC men's basketball preseason poll, it's not the top two teams that will surprise anyone – it's the gap between the top two and the next group of teams that will challenge for top honors every night.
The CAC men's basketball coaches have picked Christopher Newport and St. Mary's as the top two teams in the conference in 2014-15. In fact, the coaches were exactly split on the Captains and Seahawks – both teams picked up five first-place votes on the way to 76 points in the voting (coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams).
CNU won two playoff games and advanced to the CAC title game after finishing as the fifth seed in the regular-season standings. St. Mary's won four of the last seven CAC playoff titles. Both have strong leaders returning to the lineup in 2014-15.
The next group of contenders in the voting is seemingly far behind CNU and SMC - defending regular-season champion Wesley (58 points), Salisbury (53 points), Marymount (51 points) and defending playoff champion Mary Washington (47 points) – will be in the battle every night. All four teams were playoff teams in 2014 and have deep and talented rosters and feel they're championship contenders again in 2015.
There's another gap in the voting following UMW, including York (32 points), Penn State Harrisburg (28 points), Southern Virginia (18 points) and Frostburg State (11 points). Traditionally, a team(s) is overlooked in the preseason poll and emerges during the season to steal a playoff spot and sometimes advance in post-season play. Which team(s) will do that this year?
The teams will begin to figure out fact from fiction on Nov. 15, when most compete in a season-opening tournament. Marymount, Penn State Harrisburg, Salisbury and York host tournaments on the first weekend of the season.
The goal is to grab one of the six berths in the 2015 CAC Championship Tournament, which culminates with the title contest on Saturday, February 28, 2015. The winner gains an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Here is a brief look at each team heading into the 2014-15 season:
After graduating just one player in 2014, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT will have lofty goals and high expectations in the coming season. Three of the top four leading scorers return for head coach John Krikorian in his fifth season, including senior Mike Cherry who averaged just under 14 points per game last season. Cherry is one of the most prolific three-point shooters in program history, with 172 shots made from long range in his career. Also returning in 2014-15 are starters Connor Laframboise, Tim Daly and Rayshard Brown, giving CNU an experienced combo of four returning starters who averaged a combined 33.0 points and 15.5 rebounds per game.
Five seniors return for 16th-year FROSTBURG STATE head coach Webb Hatch and the group will serve as the backbone for the 2014-15 Bobcats. Senior David Patrick returns after missing last season and should resume his starting point guard role. Seniors Jabari Kamau and James Peters return after leading the Bobcats in rebounding (7.4) and scoring (16.7), respectively.
MARY WASHINGTON won the CAC Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for the first time last year, and while the momentum from that run will inspire this year's squad, there will be many new faces. Leading the way is new head coach Marcus Kahn, who holds the highest winning percentage in all of NCAA Division III over the past five years, having led Cabrini to five NCAA Tournament bids in that time. Heading the list of returnees is All-CAC forward Taylor Johnson, returning for his senior season in 2014-15.
A plethora of newcomers will join an already well-bolstered MARYMOUNT squad this season, as three veterans headline the Saints' returnees – JC Hoellich, Jesse Konadu, and Antonio Rouse. Rouse capped last year's campaign with 11.1 PPG, with Hoellich and Konadu following closely at 11.0 and 9.5. The Marymount offense remains rather well intact, with Michael Anderson and Danny Ferry also returning to the floor in the guard position. Underneath the basket, Hoellich will likely mentor several of the Saints' rookies, as he dominated the boards over the 2013-14 season, collecting 7.1 rebounds per game.
PENN STATE HARRISBURG begins its second year in the CAC with high expectations. Harrisburg was able to surprise conference teams and come away with some very impressive wins. While the Lions went 8-17 overall, second-year coach Don Friday's club was able to achieve upset wins over Marymount and Christopher Newport, which was the 14th-ranked team in the nation. Harrisburg will have a strong core of returners in the backcourt this season. Joey Farthing and Rayshaun Anderson-Brown, along with Josh Johnson and Marques Daniels, will bring much needed experience to a new look Harrisburg roster.
ST. MARY'S two-time all-region and All-CAC selection, Nicholas LaGuerre, and Troy Spurrier will look to guide the team to the program's sixth CAC title as well as sixth NCAA Tournament appearance. Tenth-year head coach Chris Harney looks to blend 11 new players to a roster of 18 total players in the 2014-15 campaign.
SALISBURY enters the 2014-15 season looking to build on the success that the team had late last season, going 10-3 in the Sea Gulls' final 13 games and playing in the first round of the CAC tournament. SU brings back a host of returners to lead the team this season, including last season's CAC Rookie of the Year, sophomore Gordon Jeter. Last season, Jeter finished fourth on the team with 7.8 points per game and led the Gulls with 6.3 rebounds per game. Senior Conor Strickland and sophomore Charles Porter both return, as well, to head up the Salisbury backcourt. The pair combined as the Sea Gulls' top distributors with two and 2.2 assists per game, last season, while Porter scored 9.7 points per game. Sophomore Justin Witmer and junior Kyle Savercool are both primed to step up for the Gulls this season on both the offensive and defensive ends.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA features six returners and a slew of transfers and freshman as seniors Preston Eaton, Wesley Evans and Ben Canevari are expected to lead the new team. Eaton led last season's squad in points per game (16.3) and free throw percentage (77.8)) and ranked fourth in the CAC with his points per game. His accomplishments earned him a spot on the USCAA All-America second team. Evans ranked seventh in the CAC with 6.7 rebounds per game and led the team with 147 boards, while Canevari ranked 10th in the league with a 46.7 field goal percentage. Joining the Knights are junior college transfers Kevin Walker, David Baety, Kaleio Manuela and Kyle Dragnich. The maturity and experience of the returners and transfers will help pave a path for the crop of freshmen joining the ranks. The Knights aim to bounce back from the 2013-14 season and regain its winning tradition as they are now eligible for the CAC tournament.
WESLEY is coming off its best season in program history with 23 victories and first-ever NCAA Tournament victory and were ranked just outside the Top 25 in the D3hoops.com Preseason Poll. Despite the loss of three starters from a year ago, the Wolverines still have very high expectations due to the returns for senior forward Quincy Pettiford, as well as junior guards Wayne Lennon, AJ Tilghman and Anthony Bowers. The Wolverines also have a solid incoming class, led by transfers Donta Jones, Jordan Johnson and freshmen J. Lawson, Chris Scott and Shylier Ringgold.
YORK enters the season with a very young squad as the Spartans have no seniors and just one junior on the 2014-15 roster. Third year head coach Matt Hunter turns to a core of sophomores who will lead the Green and White into action. Forward Dalton Myers and guards Joey Feinberg, Brad Wesner, and Ryan Beaver are the Spartans top returners and will be expected to lead the Spartans. Freshman forwards Max Bell and Zack Galic along with guard Mike Duffy are expected to be key contributors to Hunter's squad this year.
2014-15 CAC Men's Basketball Pre-Season Coaches Poll
|1 (tie).||Christopher Newport (5 first-place votes)||76 points|
|1 (tie).||St. Mary's (Md.) (5 first-place votes)||76 points|
|5.||Marymount (Va.)||51 points|
|6.||Mary Washington||47 points|
|7.||York (Pa.)||32 points|
|8.||Penn State Harrisburg||28 points|
|9.||Southern Virginia||18 points|
|10.||Frostburg State||11 points|