YORK, Pa. -- Christopher Newport was selected as the unanimous preseason favorite to repeat as champions in the CAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll, voted on by the head coaches around the conference. CNU received nine first-place votes and totaled 81 points to land atop the poll.
Salisbury, last year's runner-up, received 69 points to rank second in the voting, just ahead of third-place Mary Washington (67 points; 1 first-place vote). St. Mary's finished fourth in the poll with 54 points, while York rounded out the top five with 42 points.
Penn State Harrisburg (38 points) and Wesley (38 points) tied for sixth place in the poll, followed by Marymount (31 points), Southern Virginia (16 points), and Frostburg State (13 points).
2016-17 CAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
|1. Christopher Newport (9 first-place votes)||81 points|
|2. Salisbury||69 points|
|3. Mary Washington (1 first-place vote)||67 points|
|4. St. Mary's||54 points|
|5. York||42 points|
|6T. Penn State Harrisburg||38 points|
|6T. Wesley||38 points|
|8. Marymount||31 points|
|9. Southern Virginia||16 points|
|10. Frostburg State||13 points|
Christopher Newport put together one of the finest seasons in CAC history last winter, capturing its first CAC crown and advancing all the way to the NCAA Final Four before falling to St. Thomas in the semifinal round.
The Final Four appearance was the first in the 49-year history of CNU men's basketball, and the first in the CAC since 2005. The two previous CAC teams to reach the Final Four were York in 2005 and Catholic in 2001.
Salisbury also qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, narrowly falling to Middlebury in the opening round.
Led by All-American and CAC Player of the Year Marcus Carter, and guided by Division III national coach of the year John Krikorian, CNU enters the 2016-17 campaign as the clear-cut favorite in the conference.
Here is a closer look at each team heading into the 2016-17 season:
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT is coming off its first Final Four in program history and a perfect 18-0 run through the CAC, which was followed by the school's first league title. John Krikorian begins his seventh season with a roster full of returning players from a year ago, including first team All-American Marcus Carter, now a junior. The Captains, ranked second nationally in the pre-season poll from D3hoops.com, also return key senior starting guards Kevin Regimbal and Rayshard Brown as well as senior big man Tim Daly and junior wing Aaron McFarland, who both came off the bench for last season's squad that finished with a mark of 30-2.
FROSTBURG STATE lost three of its top four scorers from a year ago, but 18th year head coach Webb Hatch is optimistic that his 18-man roster has plenty of talent and depth to overcome the losses. Junior Tyler Michael returns is FSU's returning leading scorer from a year ago at 13.9 ppg, including 4.2 rpg. Junior Zachary Coalmon is an impressive defensive presence for Frostburg as he ranked sixth in Division III last year with 3.21 blocks per contest and was 12th nationally with 77 total blocks. Junior Dalton Gaus also returns to the team after scoring 114 points and knocking down 20 three-pointers last winter.
MARY WASHINGTON returns four starters from last year's 15-12 team that advanced to the CAC semifinals. Leading the way is junior forward Eric Shaw, who gained all-conference honors despite missing a large portion of the season with injury. Also back are guards Jacob Williams, Mark Madison, and Brent Mahoney, as well as forwards John Lutkenhaus and Johnny Cronin.
MARYMOUNT enters its campaign with 11 new faces on a squad that lost a handful of talent from last year. Returning as the senior leadership is seniors Michael Anderson and Pat Dumais, who have each put in substantial minutes for the Saints, while juniors Dimitri Rucker and Alex Danko both return to build on the experience in the program. Head Coach Chris Rogers returns for his eighth season at the helm.
Coming off a 12-13 season PENN STATE HARRISBURG will look to leading scorer from last year, Jazmon Harris, to lead the Lions on both ends of the court. Sophomores Gbolahan Alliyu and Kahlil Williams will also give the Lions a much needed boost on the defensive end while the Blue and White look to replace three of their top five scorers from last year. With a group of freshmen coming in the Lions will look to improve on last year's record.
After its first losing season in 10 years, ST. MARY'S is ready to bounce back with a new cast of players being led by returning All-CAC selection, Delaszo Smith. Smith and fellow team captain, Marsalis Hurley, will look to help St. Mary's on its challenging road back into the national spotlight. The Seahawks feature 16 newcomers and nine veterans this campaign. Smith picked up his first-ever all-conference honor last season after leading the conference in free throw percentage (88.9%) while ranking sixth in three-point field goal percentage (40.2%). The 6-1 guard also ranked seventh in steals per game (1.6), 10th in scoring with 13.9 points per game, and 12th in field goal percentage (45.8%).
SALISBURY brings three former All-CAC performers to the floor this season, after advancing to the CAC tournament championship game in 2015-16 and collecting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Senior Gordon Jeter was a first-team All-CAC pick in 2015-16, while classmates Justin Witmer and Wyatt Smith each earned the honor in 2014-15. Smith is back after missing a year due to injury, and a wealth of returning talent and newcomers surrounds the senior trio. Jeter was one of just three players in the league last year to rank in the top 13 in the conference in scoring, rebounding, and block average. Witmer has been one of the league's top three-point shooters for the past three years and Smith was second in the league in scoring and rebounds in 2014-15.
Under the direction of fifth-year head coach Tony Caputo, SOUTHERN VIRGINIA is looking to return to the CAC tournament after a tough loss in the first round last season. Southern Virginia returns starters Justin Langford, Aarun Rumbaugh and Cale Thornton from last year's squad.
WESLEY loses two outstanding performers in Wayne Lennon and Anthony Bowers, but returns a solid nucleus of strong contributors in hopes of earning their eighth consecutive CAC Tournament appearance. The Wolverines return seven players that averaged at least 10.0 minutes per game last season and have added several strong interior players to their ranks. Under second-year head coach Dean Burrows, the Wolverines will look to build off of a late run last season and improve their record this year.
YORK welcomes back their top three scorers and five of their top six from last year's squad. Headlining the returners are senior All-CAC forward Dalton Myers. Myers averaged 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year as he shot 57.4% from the floor and 77% from the free throw line. Junior guard Matt Scamuffo was York's other double figure scorer as he averaged 15.2 points per game as he shot 44.1% from the floor, 39.6% from three and 78.7% from the free throw line. Other key returners for York include junior Blayde Reich, senior Brad Wesner, junior Zack Galic and sophomore Jason Bady. The Spartans also welcome in a class of five new players who should make an impact on the Spartan lineup.