Each of the past two years, UNC Wilmington has dazzled in the Colonial Athletic Association, with last year being an incredible 29-win season. The balance of power is likely going to shift, though, as coach Kevin Keatts left the program for North Carolina State while several other teams in the conference have improved.
Towson got to a mark of 20-12 last season with just two seniors on the roster. The Tigers achieved that mark despite being 341st in the nation in made 3s and 329th in 3-point shooting percentage at just a tick over 31 percent. It is vital that leading scorer Mike Morsell is back after registering 13.5 points with 33.3 percent 3-point shooting efficiency as a junior.
Tigers coach Pat Skerry has done a wonderful job of finding gritty guys who are willing to do what it takes to win. The program has not been able to celebrate an NCAA Tournament berth since 1991, but this could be the year.
The College of Charleston put up a 25-10 record and did it with none of the top players being seniors. And none of them left campus during the offseason.
Joe Chealey was both the team's top scorer and 3-point shooter, making 39.2 percent of his 3s while averaging 17.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Chealey could be the top player in the conference. He had help from 6-foot-7 stretch player Jarrell Brantley, who led the team with 8.4 rebounds per game to go with 15.2 points. He’s also a threat from behind the line as he made 36.2 percent of his 3s.
Much like Towson, it has been a while since the College of Charleston has gone to the NCAA Tournament as its last trip was in 1999. It's hard to call anyone else the favorite in the CAA with all of the experience returning coupled with the outstanding job Cougars coach Earl Grant has done in recruiting.
UNC Wilmington is the reigning champion in this conference, but the overhaul is significant as its high-powered trio of guards from last year is gone along with Keatts. Leading scorer C.J. Bryce elected to follow Keatts to N.C. State in the offseason after he did it all with 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
It will be up to C.B. McGrath to keep this program operating at full strength after playing for Roy Williams at Kansas from 1994-98 and spending the past 14 years as an assistant at North Carolina.
UNC Wilmington is a notch behind Towson and two notches below the College of Charleston at this point. The CAA as a whole is getting much better, though there isn't a team as strong as Wilmington was the past two years.
Greg Peterson’s Colonial Athletic Association forecast:
1. College of Charleston
3. UNC Wilmington
5. William & Mary
8. James Madison