Blue Hens among the favorites in CAA basketball
Delaware may not have the proven lineup that was expected to make it a sure-fire 2020-21 preseason favorite in Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball.
But the Blue Hens still have the makings of a contender.
That was evident when the preseason CAA poll came out Wednesday morning, placing Delaware second behind favorite and defending champion Hofstra.
Delaware received 11 of the 38 first-place votes to Hofstra’s 16. No. 3 Drexel and No. 4 Towson also received seven and four first-place assessments, respectively, in what’s expected to be a competitive race, barring COVID-19 interruption.
"I do think we have a high ceiling," Martin Ingelsby said as his fifth season as UD coach begins.
Blue Hen senior guards Kevin Anderson and Ryan Allen were preseason All-CAA second-team selections.
Voting is done by league head coaches, school sports information personnel and media who regularly cover CAA teams.
While Hofstra graduated its stellar All-CAA guard duo of Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton, it does return preseason first-team All-CAA pick Isaac Kante and starting guards Tareq Coburn and Jalen Ray. Hofstra is missing coach Joe Mihalich, who is out on medical leave with assistant Mike Farrelly stepping in.
"It's a different team. It's the same goal," Farrelly said.
The Blue Hens have two of the conference’s best and most experienced guards in 2019 third-team All-CAA pick Anderson (11.5 ppg last year) and 2017 CAA Rookie of the Year Ryan Allen (12.2).
Fellow senior Dylan Painter, the 6-foot-10 Villanova transfer, shot 61.7 percent after becoming eligible last year in December. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Delaware would have returned all five starters from last year’s 22-11 finish, the first winning season since the 2013-14 CAA title run. That remains the Blue Hens’ lone championship in 19 seasons as Colonial members.
But Justyn Mutts, who had two years of eligibility and the freedom granted by earning his undergraduate degree in three years, wanted to test his talents at a higher level and transferred to Virginia Tech.
First-team All-CAA guard Nate Darling then decided to enter his name in the NBA Draft and, to the surprise of many closely associated with Delaware, decided to keep it there at the August pull-out deadline. The Canadian is not expected to be drafted Nov. 18 but has drawn interest from NBA teams and will likely get the chance to at least prove himself in the G League.
With Mutts and Darling gone, Delaware will expect increased production from 6-5 sophomore Johnny McCoy, who averaged nearly 14 minutes per game as a reserve last year and was called "one of the best perimeter-defending guards in the league" by Ingelsby.
The 6-9 red-shirt sophomore Aleks Novakovich needs to supply outside shooting acumen and rebounding force. Freshmen Gianmarco Arletti, a 6-5 point guard from Italy, and 6-10 Andrew Carr are poised to make immediate contributions.
The Blue Hens also have sophomore defensive stopper Ebby Asamoah, North Carolina Central transfer Reggie Gardner at guard and East Carolina transfer Logan Curtis, also a guard, has been granted immediate eligibility.
"I think this will be the most depth that we've had in our basketball program and we've got to be able to utilize those guys," Ingelsby said.
Delaware has not gotten a decision yet on its appeal to have Anthony Ochefu, the forward who transferred from Stony Brook, granted immediate eligibility.
Drexel went 1-10 to close the regular season last year but returns two of the CAA’s best players in guard Camryn Winter and forward James Butler. Towson’s revamped lineup is boosted by the return of Zane Martin, a second-team All-CAA pick in 2018 for the Tigers before transferring to New Mexico. Elon returns two All-Rookie players, has a strong recruiting class and was fifth in the poll.
"I think the thing's wide open," Towson coach Pat Skerry said.
Rounding out the 10-team league’s preseason picks were Charleston, Northeastern, UNCW, James Madison and William & Mary. JMU’s Matt Lewis was voted the CAA Preseason Player of the Year.
Delaware opens the CAA schedule at home with a pair of games against Charleston Jan. 2 and 3. The rest of the league schedule will follow a similar format as a health and safety precaution during the coronavirus pandemic, with Delaware playing each league foe on a Saturday and Sunday at the same location.
The lone exception is a home-and-away series with travel partner Drexel.
Delaware is not selling season tickets for basketball this season but has not yet announced how many, if any fans, will be allowed at home games.
The UD nonconference schedule has not been announced other than the Blue Hens’ participation in the “Bubbleville” event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut the week of Nov. 25-Dec. 2.
Delaware State’s schedule shows a Dec. 5 home game against the Blue Hens and La Salle’s indicates a Dec. 19 visit from Delaware. The Blue Hens are expected to play George Washington and LIU-Brooklyn at home but, because of COVID-19, schedules have been altered regularly and will remain subject to change., 1
Preseason CAA men's basketball poll
1 -- Hofstra (16 first-place votes), 290 points
2 -- Delaware (11), 270
3 -- Drexel (7), 242
4 -- Towson (4), 230
5 -- Elon, 215
6 -- Charleston, 196
7 -- Northeastern, 167
8 -- UNCW, 110
9 -- James Madison, 101
10 -- William & Mary, 69
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