WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s capital may have served as a backdrop for the Colonial Athletic Association’s media day on Tuesday, but maybe a city further south would’ve been more appropriate. Conversations at the event revolved around two major themes: UNC-Wilmington being the favorite to repeat as conference champions, and the league’s postseason tournament moving from Baltimore to Charleston.
Still, in between the hype and hoopla, there were some valuable information to glean from the event.
Flemmings tabbed as Preseason POY
There were a couple different directions that coaches and media could have gone with Player of the Year voting, but in the end, they chose the guy who should be the best player on the best team. Chris Flemmings may not put up as many points as William & Mary senior Omar Prewitt or become a double-double machine like Hofstra’s Rokas Gustys, but his two-way play is a big reason why the 2016 CAA champs are the team to beat.
Joining this trio on the preseason All-CAA team were Towson big man William Adala Moto and 2016 Rookie of the Year Jarrell Brantley of Charleston.
UNCW received 361 total votes, including 37 of a possible 40 first place nods, to run away with the title of preseason favorite. After that, the predicted order of finish is more muddled. Towson (278), William & Mary (275) and Charleston (267) are nearly interchangeable and you could make the argument that any one is the next best contender.
The full preseason poll:
1. UNCW (37)
2. Towson (2)
3. William & Mary (1)
4. College of Charleston
5. James Madison
Talent at the Top
The top four teams each placed one player on the All-CAA first and second teams.
- UNCW (Chris Flemmings, Denzel Ingram)
- Towson (William Adala Moto, Mike Morsell)
- William & Mary (Omar Prewitt, Daniel Dixon)
- College of Charleston (Jarrell Brantley, Cameron Johnson)
Complete first and second teams:
William Adala Moto, senior, Towson
Jarrell Brantley, sophomore, College of Charleston
Chris Flemmings, senior, UNCW
Rokas Gustys, junior, Hofstra
Omar Prewitt, senior, William & Mary
Shakir Brown, senior, James Madison
Daniel Dixon, senior, William & Mary
Denzel Ingram, senior, UNCW
Cameron Johnson, junior, College of Charleston
Mike Morsell, junior, Towson
Pat Skerry takes sides in Great Burger Debate
Coach Pat Skerry named captains for the first time in his tenure at Towson as a nod to the consistency of his two bruising senior forwards. With those two locked in, along with Mike Morsell, the rest of the team is free to play their roles. Skerry says his 8-9 best players are probably the best top-to-bottom group he’s had yet.
In talking about his captains, he took a side in the great debate of national burger chains.
“You go to Five Guys because you know what kind of burger you get. With [Davis] and [Adala Moto], you know what you’re getting every day.”
Charleston adds scoring punch
Defense has been the calling card for the Cougars since Earl Grant took the helm, but a lack of scoring and depth really hurt the team down the stretch. That’s why Cougar fans should be happy to hear Grant say this year’s team has more firepower than ever before. That scoring punch is going to come from guards Joe Chealey and Grant Riller returning from injury, as well as four talented freshmen expected to contribute. In games where Charleston produced points at a rate higher than the national average, it was 10-3 last season.
Familiarity an asset for Louis Rowe
New head coach and JMU alumnus Louis Rowe has familiarity with the program that goes well beyond his knowledge of the late night hot spots around campus. As a JMU assistant coach in 2012, he scouted many of his team’s seven current seniors. Those relationships have eased the transition for Rowe, who has said that getting a head start on recognizing player strengths has put him ahead of the curve during the transition.
Martin Ingelsby had to re-recruit his own players
Delaware did not announce the hire of Martin Ingelsby until late May, testing the patience of players and giving them time to assess their options. So for his first day on the job, Ingelsby got to work on convincing his upperclassmen of his vision for the program. It seems to have worked. The longtime Mike Brey disciple will enter his rookie campaign with a well-rounded roster of players who have fully bought in.
Elon developing high-major athletes
Like most teams making the jump from one conference to another, Elon coach Matt Matheny identified the talent gap between the SoCon and the CAA as an early obstacle for his program. Not only is the Colonial a much more physical league, but in the words of Matheny, “there are seven to eight guys on every team that can put 15-plus points on you.” Elon, entering its third season in the CAA, had some talented freshmen last year that can become CAA-caliber players sooner rather than later. The next step, Matheny says, is getting them in the weight room so they can compete with the league’s best every night.