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The College of Charleston has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1999, when many of its players were still in diapers. But everything is set up perfectly for the Cougars to break that drought this season.

For starters well, Charleston has five of them returning.

FIVE STORYLINESEXPERIENCE AT THE TOP: The top three teams in conference’s preseason poll were Charleston, Towson and Elon. Those teams return a combined 14 of a possible 15 starters. The Cougars are particularly stacked with forward Jarrell Brantley and guard Joe Chealey both coming back. Behold the CAA’s best one two punch. State. McGrath. He’ll need 6 7 F Devontae Cacok, the CAA’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, to be more of a force on offense.

NEW FACES AT JMU: Counting a pair of transfers who sat out last season, James Madison will have 11 (that’s 11) newcomers on this year’s roster. Which is probably why the Dukes were picked 10th in the conference standings. The team veteran will be senior G Joey McLean, who has started 51 games in his career.

TRANSITIONING TRIBE: William and Mary doesn’t see a lot of transfers, either coming or going. But two returning starters, center Jack Whitman and guard Greg Malinowski, left the program for other destinations. The Tribe has two transfers on its roster: grad student Cole Harrison from Dartmouth and guard Matt Milon from Boston College.

OFF TO CHARLESTON: After a three year run in Baltimore, which followed a 24 year run in Richmond, the CAA tournament is headed as far south as it can go.

OPENER: Nov. 10 at High Point.


Nov. 25 vs. Old Dominion. The Tribe has won five of the last six in this series, including 65 54 last year at the Constant Center.

Dec. 9 at Ohio State. W first game against a Big Ten school since 2012 13 and its first ever against Ohio State. Ex Butler coach Chris Holtmann is in his first season in Columbus.

Jan. 11 vs. James Madison. The Tribe was picked eighth in the preseason poll; the Dukes were picked 10th. The teams split last season with each winning at home.

Feb. 1 at. Elon. The Tribe won two of three against the Phoenix last season, the second win coming in the CAA tournament.

Feb. 24 at Charleston. The final game of the regular season for both teams. The Cougars might need this one to wrap up the top seed in the tournament.

STRENGTH: Shaver says this is the best shooting team he’s had going into his 15th season at William and Mary. G Connor Burchfield is shooting 49.5 percent shooter (90 of 182) from the 3 point arc in his career. G Matt Milon, who sat out last season as a transfer, shot 49.4 percent (39 of 79) as a freshman at Boston College. And word is freshman Jihar Williams from Baltimore has been doing his Steph Curry impression in practice.

WEAKNESS: Nathan Knight (8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), a 6 foot 10 sophomore, and 6 11 grad transfer Cole Harrison are the only true post players. Knight has outstanding potential as a scorer and rebounder. How much Harrison can help is uncertain: He missed all of last season at Dartmouth with an injury and hasn’t played more than 18 minutes before. Paul Rowley is 6 8 and versatile, but he’s only 200 pounds.

PREDICTION: When center Jack Whitman and guard Greg Malinowski unexpectedly transferred, W went from a team projected to finish in the middle of the pack to near the bottom. The Tribe should be able to score, but the lack of size and depth in the post will be hard to overcome.
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