At least this season, Monte Ross will have a full team to coach. Between suspensions, defections and injuries, the Blue Hens were down to seven players -- including one who served as the team manager the previous season -- last season. The mess understandably showed up on the court; Delaware limped to a 5-22 record that included a humbling home loss to a one-win Iona team. With the problem children gone, Ross welcomes back Herb Courtney
, who averaged 18.1 points per game in the midst of the mess, and sophomore point guard Brian Johnson
, who started all 30 games. Also Pau Geli
, a 6-10 Spaniard who suffered a life-threatening blood clot in his lung in January, is expected to return. Best of all, Ross brings three transfers into the fold. Jim Ledsome
, a 6-9 forward coming from Nebraska, and Brian Young, a 6-7 forward out of Lafayette, bulk up the inside. The real get is forward Marc Egerson
, who averaged better than 7 points per game as a sub at Georgetown before leaving the team for personal reasons in January. Egerson, who will be eligible in December at the end of the fall semester, comes with some issues, though. An April article in The New York Times claimed Egerson had a high school GPA of 1.33 in core courses and finished his academic career at Lutheran Christian Academy, one of a group of schools the NCAA recently decided it would not accept transcripts from because of its questionable academic standards.
The Dragons got more publicity for not making the NCAA Tournament than a lot of programs get when their names are called. The challenge now for Bruiser Flint is to continue to fan the flames but do it without point guard Bashir Mason
, 3-point specialist Dominick Mejia
and defender Chaz Crawford
. Flint, whose team won at Syracuse, Villanova and Creighton but was left off the 2007 NCAA Tournament bracket, said he won't schedule the same way this year. "You've got to pick your spots," Flint said. "But I'm not doing that again, not this year. Last year, we had that kind of team." This season Flint will still have a lot of options. Leading scorer Frank Elegar
, sixth man Tramayne Hawthorne
and backups Scott Rodgers
and Kenny Tribbett
all return. Flint also can turn to Boston College transfer Evan Neisler
. The question mark is going to be at point guard, where Mason set the tone for Flint's all-out defensive style. One of two rookies, Gerald Colds
and Jamie Harris
, could be the answer.
The Patriots nearly pulled off another Cinderella run last year, albeit a much quieter one on a much smaller stage. After stumbling down the stretch, losing five of its final seven regular-season games, Mason pushed into the CAA tournament final. Virginia Commonwealth cut short the dream. But six of Jim Larranaga's top scorers return, including swingman Folarin Campbell
(13.9 ppg) and forward Will Thomas
(13.4 ppg). Also, junior college transfer Dre Smith
only got better as the season went on, leading the Patriots in scoring through the CAA tourney and draining 14 3s. Certainly an early favorite in the league, the trick right now is for the other scorers to up their numbers. John Vaughan
was respectable at 8.3 points per game but can do more, and inside guys Louis Birdsong
and Darryl Monroe
, who together accounted for just 9.5 points and 6.9 rebounds, really need to up their production.
After three consecutive losing seasons, the Panthers fired coach Michael Perry and turned to former Ole Miss head man Rod Barnes. In 2001, Barnes was the Naismith coach of the year. But five years later, he was gone after a 13-3 start degenerated into a 14-14 finish. At Georgia State, Barnes inherits a team that has some potential despite an 11-20 record last season. Leonard Mendez
got plenty of experience in the backcourt and could blossom into a real star after averaging 13.8 points per game. Forward Rashad Chase
is plenty seasoned, a starter in all 31 games last year and Justin Billings lea
showed promise despite missing the first half of the season because of academic problems.
Tom Pecora's three-guard attack was one of the most potent attacks in the league. The trio of Carlos Rivera
, Loren Stokes
and Antoine Agudio
averaged 54.1 points per game for a team that finished 22-10. The problem? Two-thirds of that attack is gone in the form of Stokes, the conference player of the year, and Rivera. Agudio is a scoring dynamo, the third-ranked scorer in the league at 20.3 points per game, but the Pride become a lot more guardable with just one guy to worry about. Agudio, in other words, needs help. Swingman Zygis Sestokas
, who shot 43.8 percent from the arc, has the potential and much is expected from incoming freshman Nathaniel Lester
. The frontcourt has more issues. Sub Chris Gadley
transferred to Canisius and Mike Davis
-Sabb needs to step up.
The good news for Dean Keener? Everyone is back on his roster, including all-rookie point guard Pierre Curtis
and big men Juwann James
(13 ppg) and Terrance Carter
(12.8 ppg). The bad news? All those guys together last season added up to a 7-23 season. Keener has to hope that two eligible transfers can make a big difference right away. Both have the stuff to do it. Abdulai Jalloh
led Saint Joseph's in scoring and rebounding two seasons ago and could be the sort of enigmatic scorer this program desperately needs. Texas Tech transfer Dazzmond Thornton
is a 6-7, 270-pound wide body who should give Carter a ton of help. Regardless of who is on the roster, James Madison has to reverse its numbers to win more games. The Dukes allowed 72.6 points per game last year, dead last in the conference and 262nd in the nation. They scored just 64 points per game. Do the math.
Lemons? Bill Coen had lemons. His top scorers graduated, his top rebounder bolted. The lemonade took a while to make, but by season's end, the Huskies reeled off six wins in their final eight games, a stunning run for a team that really was in shambles. Coen will need to squeeze even more out of his team this year. Three of Northeastern's top four scorers are gone. At least the one who remains, Matt Janning
, is the kind you can build a team around. The CAA Rookie of the Year, Janning led all rookie scorers in the league with 11.6 points per game last season. His help comes in the form of sixth man Eugene Spates
, who likely will be pushed into a starting role this year. Spates proved he could handle the task, averaging 10.8 points in his final six games. Coen also can call on center Nkem Ojougboh, a transfer from Texas-San Antonio who averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds there. The real trick for this team, that finished a respectable 9-9 in the league and 13-19 overall despite the turmoil, is to win on the road. The Huskies were just 2-14 outside of Boston.
Together, Drew Williamson
, Valdas Vasylius
and Arnaud Dahi
won 93 games (the winningest class in school history) and accounted for more than half of the Monarch's offense last season. And now they're gone. Even after that trios departures, coach Blaine Taylor has good players to pick from. How quickly they go from playing in that trio's shadow to owning the spotlight will tell whether or not this is simply another great year at ODU or a rebuilding one. Guards Brian Henderson
and Brandon Johnson
are both seniors, which bodes well for the Monarchs. Henderson becomes the top returning scorer, averaging 9.4 points last season, while Johnson produced not 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds out of his guard spot. It would help Taylor tremendously if Gerald Lee
and Marsharee Neely
became steady scorers.
Can Josh Thornton
be the next Gary Neal
? Pat Kennedy is hoping so. Two years ago, Kennedy welcomed Neal to Towson after he was forced out of La Salle amid rape allegations (Neal later was acquitted) and the guard flourished with his second chance, averaging 25.3 points per game last season, fourth in the nation. Thornton comes to Towson under less troubling circumstances. Seeing a glut of guards on the Georgetown roster -- and with more coming to D.C. -- he elected to go to a team that had more minutes available. He's eligible in December, just as Neal was two seasons ago, and the Tigers will need him. Neal, along with fellow senior Dennard Abraham
averaged 36.5 points per game last season, more than the rest of the team combined. And Towson still finished 15-17. Tommy Breaux
showed promise after transferring from junior college, averaging 5.9 points per game. Junior Hairston, a transfer from the College of Charleston, could provide a needed injection. C.C. Williams
is a savvy point guard who dished out 4.1 assists per game.
Benny Moss is pinning his hopes on T.J. Carter
's return and the assumption that up is the only direction the Seahawks can go. A year after winning the league title, UNCW tumbled down the loss column, failing to win back-to-back games all season. The nadir came at George Mason, when the Seahawks could muster just two field goals in the first half, tying a shot-clock era record for futility. Carter, a front-runner for league player of the year honors, certainly is a boost. But he'll need guys like Vladimir Kuljanin
, who played all summer with the Canadian senior national team, and Todd Hendley
, who really emerged at the end of the season, to regain their form. For the short time at least, the Seahawks will have to make due without guard Darryl Felder
, who moved into the starting lineup by season's end but had back surgery at the end of August. His status remains up in the air.
In the amount of time it takes one arcing 17-foot jump shot to finish its trajectory through a hoop, Eric Maynor
went from unknown superstar to poster boy of the NCAA Tournament. The MVP of the conference tourney, the junior guard was another guy slogging away in a mid-major league until he buried the jumper over Duke's Jon Scheyer, sending the Blue Devils packing in the first round. Now it's time for an encore for Maynor and the Rams, and although they lost B.A. Walker
and Jesse Pellot-Rosa
, the guys who sandwiched Maynor in the scoring ledger, this team isn't exactly playing on last year's angel dust. Three seniors join Maynor on the court -- Wil Fameni
, Jamal Shuler
and Michael Anderson
-- and the incoming rookie class is among the best in the mid-majors. The real issue will be whether Grant can keep this group level-headed after such a heady 2007 season. "It's a new year," Grant said. "We're not going to be able to get anything off of what we did last year. For us the success we have will be based on the maturity we show."
William & Mary
The Tribe won 15 games last year. It also lost 15, which to outsiders doesn't seem like reason for jubilation. Tony Shaver disagrees. Those 15 victories represented the second-most games won by William & Mary in the past 20 years and the fifth-most in school history. And with all but one starter back, there are reasons to believe a middle-of-the-pack season could bode well for the future. Shaver wisely made his team a defense-first group last season. The Tribe allowed just 64.5 points per game, a number that kept them in games they might otherwise have struggled in. Now it's time to get the offense in order. Only two guys topped double-digits in scoring average last season and one of them -- Adam Payton
-- graduated. That leaves Laimis Kisielius
, a forward who averaged 11.3 points and can step out and shoot 3s, and rookie David Schneider
as the best returning threats. But others, namely Peter Stein
and Alex Smith
, need to contribute to turn .500 into a winning record.