CHARLESTON, SC - College of Charleston, which returns all five starters from last year's 25-win team, has been picked to capture the CAA men's basketball championship in 2017-18 according to a vote of the league's coaches, media relations directors and media members.
The Cougars were followed in the voting by Towson, Elon and Hofstra. Two-time defending CAA champion UNCW was selected fifth, followed by Northeastern, Delaware, William & Mary, Drexel and James Madison.
Charleston is coming off an impressive 25-10 campaign that included a first-ever trip to the CAA Championship game and a berth in the NIT for the first time since 2011. The Cougars are led by senior guard Joe Chealey, who earned first-team All-CAA honors after ranking fourth in the league in scoring (17.8 ppg) and eighth in assists (3.2 apg). Junior forward Jarrell Brantley received second-team All-CAA accolades after contributing 14.2 ppg and ranking third in the conference in rebounding (8.4 rpg). Also back are sophomore guard Grant Riller (13.1 ppg), who made the CAA All-Rookie team, senior guard Cameron Johnson (7.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), a two-time member of the CAA All-Defensive Team, and junior forward Nick Harris (5.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Towson welcomes back four starters from a squad that reached the 20-win mark (20-13) for the third time in the past four years. Senior guard Mike Morsell scored a team-high 13.4 ppg last season and picked up All-CAA third team honors for the second consecutive year. Senior guard Deshaun Morman added 9.9 ppg and was voted to the CAA All-Defensive Team after ranking fourth in the league in steals (49). Other returning starters include senior guard Brian Starr (6.0 ppg) and junior forward Alex Thomas (3.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg). The Tigers have plenty of experienced depth led by senior guard Eddie Keith II (5.1 ppg) and talented sophomore Zane Martin (5.5 ppg).
Elon has all five starters back from an 18-14 team that posted a best-ever, fourth-place finish in the CAA last year. Topping the group of returnees for the Phoenix is junior forward Tyler Seibring, who earned a spot on the All-CAA second team after scoring a team-high 14.4 ppg and ranking sixth in the league in rebounding (6.9 rpg). He's joined up front by senior Brian Dawkins, who contributed 12.9 ppg and 5.3 rpg while shooting 51.5% from the floor. Junior guards Dainan Swoope (11.7 ppg) and Steven Santa Ana (11.7 ppg) combined to make 132 three-pointers a year ago, while senior guard Dmitri Thompson added 8.9 ppg and 5.0 rpg.
Hofstra is expected to make a move up the CAA standings as three starters return from last year's 15-17 squad. The Pride is led by junior guard Justin Wright-Foreman, who received second-team All-CAA accolades after ranking third in the league in scoring with 18.1 ppg. Sophomore guard Eli Pemberton contributed 12.8 ppg last season and earned a spot on the CAA All-Rookie team. Anchoring the post is senior forward Rokas Gustys, who scored 9.2 ppg and ranked fourth in the nation with 12.1 rebounds per game. Transfers Joel Angus III and Kenny Wormley are expected to make an immediate impact.
Two-time defending CAA champion UNCW was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. The Seahawks, who are in their first season under new coach C.B. McGrath, return just one starter from last year's 29-6 team. Junior forward Devontae Cacok averaged 12.3 ppg while shooting an NCAA-record 80% from the floor and also grabbed 9.8 rebounds per contest. He was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17 and was selected to the all-conference third team.
CofC's Chealey and Brantley were named to the preseason All-CAA first team, with Chealey being picked as the Preseason Player of the Year. They were joined by UNCW's Cacok, Elon's Seibring, Hofstra's Wright-Foreman.
Voted to the preseason second team were Delaware sophomore guard Ryan Daly (16.0 ppg/7.4 rpg), Drexel sophomore guard Kurk Lee (14.9 ppg, 5.0 apg), Elon's Dawkins, Hofstra's Gustys, Towson's Morsell and CofC's Riller.
2017-18 CAA MEN'S BASKETBALL PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. College of Charleston (38 first-place votes) 362
2. Towson (2 first-place votes) 306
3. Elon 297
4. Hofstra 236
5. UNCW 197
6. Northeastern 159
7. Delaware 156
8. William & Mary 120
9. Drexel 102
10. James Madison 65
2017-18 CAA MEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAMS
First Team Cl. Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
Jarrell Brantley, Col. of Charleston Jr. F 6-7 250 Columbia, S.C./Notre Dame Prep
Devontae Cacok, UNCW Jr. F 6-7 240 Riverdale, Ga./Alpharetta
Joe Chealey, Col. of Charleston Sr. G 6-4 190 Orlando Fla./Apopka
Tyler Seibring, Elon Jr. F 6-8 225 Normal, Ill./Normal Community
Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra Jr. G 6-1 185 Queens, N.Y./High School of Construction
Second Team Cl. Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
Ryan Daly, Delaware So. G 6-4 185 Ardmore, Pa./Archbishop Carroll
Brian Dawkins, Elon Sr. F 6-8 240 Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny
Rokas Gustys, Hofstra Sr. F/C 6-9 260 Kaunas, Lithuania/Oak Hill Academy
Kurk Lee, Drexel So. G 5-10 150 Baltimore, Md./St. Frances Academy
Mike Morsell, Towson Sr. G 6-5 210 Fort Washington, Md./St. John's College HS
Grant Riller, Col. of Charleston So. G 6-3 195 Ocoee, Fla./Ocoee
CAA Preseason Player of the Year: Joe Chealey, College of Charleston