LWOS continues its conference previews with the 2020-21 CAA Basketball Preview. Hofstra continued its run of success in the league, capturing another regular-season title. However, the Pride finally broke through and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the program did not get to see if they were Cinderella last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Entering 2020-21, the Colonial Athletic Association appears wide open as no one team appears to have an edge over another. That should make for a fun race all season long.
2020-21 CAA Basketball Preview
10. William & Mary Tribe
Key Returners: Luke Loewe, Thornton Scott
Key Losses: Nathan Knight, Andy Van Vliet, Bryce Barnes
Key Newcomers: None
William & Mary was the biggest surprise in the league last season, finishing in second place under first-year coach Dane Fischer. A big reason for that success revolved around star big man Knight, who has graduated and has NBA dreams. However, with he and Van Vliet gone, the frontcourt is suddenly thin and inexperienced. Loewe is the only returning player with any kind of significant experience. Tribe fans will need to be patient this season as a regrouping is in order. However, patience is tough when you have been around for 115 years and never made the NCAA Tournament.
9. Northeastern Huskies
Key Returners: Tyson Walker, Shaquille Walters
Key Losses: Jordan Roland, Bolden Brace, Maxime Boursiquot
Key Newcomers: Coleman Stucke, Alexander Nwagha
Northeastern finds itself in unfamiliar territory after finishing near the top of the league and making NCAA Tournament appearances recently. It could be argued that the Huskies underperformed last season, and now enter 2020-21 without Roland’s scoring ability. The returning players along with the newcomers have little experience heading into the season. Head Coach Bill Coen will make sure this team does not play dead, but this season seems destined for the back half of the standings.
8. James Madison Dukes
Key Returners: Matt Lewis
Key Losses: Darius Banks, Deshon Parker, Dwight Wilson
Key Newcomers: Jalen Hodge (Louisiana-Monroe), Vado Morse (Mount St. Mary’s), Joel Mensah (San Diego State)
James Madison ended up favoring its younger players when it came to playing time last season. The end result was the transferring out of some of the team’s best contributors from a year ago. However, that will pay off in the long run as this team looks to push towards the top of the standings. Lewis will lead this group as the roster meshes together. The incoming transfers should make an immediate impact. The Dukes will be improved and could end up finishing higher than this projection if things come together nicely.
7. UNC Wilmington Seahawks
Key Returners: Jaylen Sims, Ty Gadsden, Shykeim Phillips
Key Losses: Marten Linssen
Key Newcomers: Ian Steere (St. John’s)
UNC Wilmington also enters the season with a younger roster. That does not mean there is not experience here though. Most of the key contributors from last season are back with a year playing together. Injuries also plagued the Seahawks last season. This program has a core group that should continue to grow and improve. Expect a slight rise in the standings this year, and a more realistic chance to contend for a league title is possible next season.
6. College of Charleston Cougars
Key Returners: Brevin Galloway, Zep Jasper
Key Losses: Grant Riller, Jaylen McManus, Sam Miller
Key Newcomers: Payton Willis (Minnesota), Cam Copeland (JUCO)
Charleston will have to figure out life without Grant Riller this season. The talented guard was a mainstay for the Cougars, but has graduated and is looking to find a role in the NBA. Galloway seems like the most likely candidate to step up and fill his shoes. Backcourt depth overall is the strength of this team, especially with the addition of Willis. The play of the guards should keep them competitive, but the early guess here is that the program will take some time to adjust to Riller’s loss.
5. Elon Phoenix
Key Returners: Hunter McIntosh, Hunter Woods, Simon Wright
Key Losses: Marcus Sheffield
Key Newcomers: Ikenna Ndugba (Bryant), Jerald Gillens-Butler (Butler), Ja’Dun Michael
Elon took its lumps last season with the youth on its roster. However, those growing pains should pay dividends heading into 2020-21. It starts with a pair of Hunters. Hunter McIntosh took home rookie of the year honors behind a season that saw him average 11.7 points per game and shoot 40.3 percent from behind the arc. Hunter Wood paired with him in the backcourt for 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. That duo along with the rest of his emerging roster will cause the Phoenix to rise (up in the standings).
4. Delaware Blue Hens
Key Returners: Ryan Allen, Kevin Anderson, Dylan Painter
Key Losses: Nate Darling, Justyn Mutts
Key Newcomers: Reginald Gardner (North Carolina Central), Andrew Carr
The Blue Hens would have been the preseason favorites if not for the departures of Darling and Mutts. Darling decided to test the NBA waters while Mutts transferred away to find power conference glory at Virginia Tech. The backcourt still possesses experience in Allen and Anderson, who was a third-team finisher last season. Otherwise, the rest of the team is younger and lacking minutes. Delaware has enough to stay relevant in the top half of the standings, but a league title may just be out of their reach due to the losses.
3. Drexel Dragons
Key Returners: Cam Wynter, James Butler, Zach Walton
Key Losses: Sam Green
Key Newcomers: Chuka Mekkam (JUCO)
Drexel’s youth movement last season actually turned out decent, as the Dragons were fairly competitive. An expected continuation of that improvement vaults the program higher up the standings with a shot at a title. One reason for that optimism is the continued growth of Wynter, who averaged 15.7 points and 5.1 assists per game as a sophomore last season. That was good enough for second-team all-league honors. However, this is a big growth year overall for all of the guards, who have built a rapport with each other. Drexel is a sleeper for the CAA title.
2. Hofstra Pride
Key Returners: Jalen Ray, Isaac Kante, Tareq Coburn
Key Losses: Desure Buie, Eli Pemberton
Key Newcomers: Shawndarius Cowart (JUCO)
Hofstra will still be a player in the outcome of the league title race this season. However, they will have to do it without Buie and Pemberton, a duo that averaged 35.8 points per game combined last season. Still, Joe Mihalich has a history of producing talented guards here recently, and Ray fits the mold as next in line. Kante provides a steadying force in the paint. Hofstra does not rebuild, it reloads. This season will be more of the same, with the Pride having the potential to repeat last season’s success.
1. Towson Tigers
Key Returners: Jason Gibson, Nick Timberlake, Juwan Gray
Key Losses: Brian Fobbs, Allen Betrand
Key Newcomers: Cam Allen (Cal State Bakersfield), Demtrius Mims Jr. (Long Beach State), Victor Uyaelunmo (USC), Zane Martin (New Mexico), Curtis Holland III (High Point)
Towson has a fantastic mix of youth and experience on the roster this season. Gibson finished on the all-freshman team a season ago and is poised to be the leader in the backcourt. He is joined by talented transfers Mims, Allen, Martin, and Holland. The Tigers were in contention for a league title for most of last season, and that roster has only improved heading into 2020-21. If this team meshes together quickly, Towson has what it takes to capture the CAA crown.
2020-21 CAA Basketball Preview Award Projections
Player of the Year: Cam Wynter, Drexel
Wynter’s stats from last season have already been touched upon. However, he also averaged 1.6 steals per game, making him a playmaker on both ends of the court. If Drexel ends up finishing as high as they are projected (and maybe even more), Wynter will be at the forefront. He appears to be one of, if not the best, player in the CAA this season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brevin Galloway, Charleston
Galloway led the Colonial Athletic Association in steals per game with 2.2 a season ago. He was also rated in the top ten in defensive rating. His defense has improved each season, which is a scary thought given how well he performed last year. However, he seems primed to bring this award home to Charleston this season.
Rookie of the Year: Ja’Dun Michael, Elon
Michael is the highest-rated recruit to ever commit to Elon, ranked as a four-star by 247 Sports. He chose the Phoenix over a few power conference programs and is the type of player that can shift a program. He should get some opportunities right away to show off his talent and contribute towards Elon’s continued improvement.
Sixth-Man of the Year: Ty Gadsden, UNC Wilmington
Gadsden was cemented in a bench role for the Seahawks last season. With almost everyone returning, he is poised to continue that role. Gadsden averaged 26.8 minutes off the bench, averaging 10.6 points, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He does a little of everything for UNCW, and if he can improve his numbers from last season, he can win this honor.
Coach of the Year: Pat Skerry, Towson
Skerry has done a remarkable job since taking over the Towson program. After going 1-31 in his first season, he has won at least 18 games or more in six of eight seasons since. Now, he has a team that can take home a CAA title, which is the next goal in his coaching career with the program. If the Tigers finish at the top, he will add this award to his trophy case.
All-Conference First-Team Projection: Cam Wynter (Drexel), Matt Lewis (James Madison), Kevin Anderson (Delaware), James Butler (Drexel), Isaac Kante (Hofstra)