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Five Question Friday: Who is the best team in New England?

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NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and nobody will blame you if your headspace has been occupied by topics that aren’t related to college basketball. There are undoubtedly more important things going on than prognosticating about a sports season of which we still don’t know what it will actually look like.

But here we are. Everybody needs a brief reprieve from the stress of daily life, especially during These Unprecedented Times. So let’s entertain some reader questions in a mini-mailbag to help get through the dog days of summer.

The Horizon League will welcome not one but TWO new faces to the mix this season with the arrivals of Purdue Fort Wayne and Robert Morris. PFW is coming off of a 14-19 campaign that ended in a seventh place finish in the Summit League, while RMU won 20 games for the fifth time in Andy Toole’s 10 seasons as head coach.

Robert Morris should be able to compete right from the jump. The Colonials return 65% of their minutes, according to T-Rank, and four of their top seven scorers. It’s reasonable to expect Robert Morris to be in the top half of the league, and a top four finish isn’t out of the question. AJ Bramah should be a candidate to be an all-league player like he was in the NEC.

The ‘Dons don’t really move the needle much, at least in the first year. Jarred Godfey and Deonte Billups are a promising backcourt, and they’ll have to carry a lot of the scoring load. Jon Coffman’s teams play fast and shoot a bunch of threes, but they struggled to win consistently in a Summit League that has been a tougher conference than the Horizon League in recent years. However, the mere shift in the geography of their opponents should be to their benefit. Their Summit League road trips were BRUTAL.

The New England area has had some really talented teams over the last couple of seasons, and next year should be a lot of the same. Here are five that should be solid next season.

  • Yale: Despite the departure of Jordan Bruner, the duo of Paul Atkinson and Azar Swain gives James Jones one of the best inside-out duos in the country and two of the best players in the conference. The Bulldogs should be the slight favorite to win their third consecutive Ivy League title.
  • Massachusetts: Tre Mitchell was a monster as a freshman, averaging 17.7 points per game and just over seven rebounds to take home the Atlantic 10’s Rookie of the Year nod. He’ll be among the Overall, UMass was one of the youngest teams in the country last year. Another year of development and continuity will give Matt McCall his most talented team since taking over in Amherst.
  • Rhode Island: In Fatts Russell we trust. The departures of Cyril Langevine and Jeff Dowtin leave huge holes to fill, but David Cox has some pieces that should take a leap. Jermaine Harris, Jeremy Sheppard and DJ Johnson should all be capable of stepping into the fold. Rhody won’t be in the upper echelon of the A-10, but they’re solidly in the second tier.
  • Vermont: It’ll be jarring watching Vermont without Anthony Lamb, but the Catamounts still return a roster that will be comprised of almost entirely upperclassmen. As long as John Becker is still there, the America East goes through Burlington.
  • Harvard: The highly touted 2016 recruiting class has finally moved on, but don’t get it twisted: Tommy Amaker always has talent. Noah Kirkwood has shown the ability to be a go-to guy, and Chris Ledlum showed promise as a freshman in the frontcourt. They might not quite at the level that they’ve been at over the last couple of years, but the Crimson are still going to be as tough as anyone in the Ivy League.

Hampton’s Ben Stanley finished second in the Big South last season at 22.0 points per game. The leader was Hampton guard Jermaine Marrow, who checked in at 24.8 with a usage rate of just under 35%. Marrow graduated, which is going to open up a TON of opportunities for Stanley. It seems like the scoring title is Stanley’s to lose.

  • Isaiah Miller, UNCG: Assuming he returns to UNCG and withdraws from the NBA Draft, the reigning SoCon Player of the Year should be the frontrunner to take home the award again. He’s established himself as one of the best two-way guards in the country.
  • Mason Faulkner, Western Carolina: Faulkner was half of the duo that made the All-SoCon First Team last season for the Catamounts. He was among the best stat sheet stuffers in the country last year with averages of 17.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. Without Carlos Dotson, Faulkner will have to take on a bigger workload and should put up even gaudier numbers.
  • Ramon Vila, Chattanooga: The All-SoCon Third Team honoree proved himself to be an efficient post scorer for a Chattanooga team that sneakily won 20 games last year. The Spaniard is the highest returning scorer for the Mocs and will form a great inside-out tandem with David Jean-Baptiste. The Mocs are going to be legit next season.
  • Clay Mounce, Furman: Mounce has been a staple for the Paladins over the last couple seasons as he’s expanded his game to be able to score inside and out while also being a solid rebounder. Furman has a strong core of returning upperclassmen that should make them the SoCon favorite, and Mounce will be looked upon to build on his All-SoCon Third Team finish.
  • Patrick Good, ETSU: Things are going to look a lot different in Johnson City, but Good will still be around to usher in the Jason Shay era. Good has been a steadying presence since his arrival to the program, but with the departure of key contributors like Tray Boyd and Bo Hodges, Good will get the chance to be more assertive.

Any and all live dog mascots are extremely good dogs. It’s official blog policy to include dog pictures whenever possible. Time to spend the afternoon looking at pictures of Handsome Dan.