Nichols Tops CCC Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll

Nichols Tops CCC Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Nichols men's basketball team will try to make it four straight Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournament titles this year as it was picked in the top spot in the 2019-20 CCC Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll.

The Bison garnered 77 points in the voting, including six of the nine first place votes.

The three-time reigning conference tournament champions made history last year becoming the first CCC men's basketball team to ever advance to the Sectional Finals (Elite 8) of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.

Nichols only lost one conference game last year, going 15-1 in league play (28-3 overall) and earning the top seed in the CCC Championship Tournament. After picking up a bye in the quarterfinals, the Bison knocked off No. 5 seed Western New England in the semifinals to earn a chance to defend their title. They defeated No. 2 seed Gordon, 105-90, to earn the league's automatic qualifier.

In the national tournament, Nichols drew Middlebury in the opening round taking a 74-71 victory. They then outpaced Rowan to earn a trip to Amherst for the sectional semifinals. Nichols drew the host Mammoths in the sectional semifinals and picked up a thrilling 62-58 victory to become the first CCC men's basketball team to advance to Elite 8. However, the quest for a trip to the national championship ended there with a 69-65 loss to Swarthmore.

Endicott landed second in this year's poll with 74 points and two first place votes. The Gulls will be looking to return to the championship game after missing it for the first time in four years a season ago.

Last year's tournament runner-up, Gordon, and Roger Williams tied for the No. 3 spot on this year's ledger. The Fighting Scots, which made their first appearance in the conference championship game since 2014 last season, also received the final first place vote. Western New England rounded out the top five with 51 points.

The bottom half of the poll comprised of Wentworth (37 points) in the sixth spot followed by Salve Regina and the University of New England, which tied for seventh with 24 points. Curry landed in the final spot in the poll with 10 points.

The CCC men's basketball season gets underway on Friday, Nov. 8 with three teams in non-conference action. The first CCC contest is on Saturday, Nov. 23 with UNE and Wentworth facing off. At the end of the regular season, the top seven teams will qualify for the 2020 CCC Men's Basketball Championship Tournament. The tournament will begin with the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with three quarterfinal games. The top seed will earn a bye directly into the CCC Semifinals where it will await the winners of the quarterfinal matchups. The semifinals will be on Thursday, Feb. 27. The winners of two semifinal games will meet in the CCC Championship game on Saturday, Feb. 29. The CCC Tournament Champion will earn the league's automatic qualifier into the 2020 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament.

Click HERE to view the whole 2019-20 CCC men's basketball schedule.

 

2019-20 CCC Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll

  Team Points (First Place Votes)
1. Nichols 77 (6)
2. Endicott 74 (2)
T-3. Gordon 54 (1)
T-3. Roger Williams 54
5. Western New England 51
6. Wentworth 37
T-7. Salve Regina 24
T-7. University of New England 24
9. Curry 10

 

2019-20 CCC Men's Basketball Previews

Contributed by each school's sports information department.

1. Nichols

The Nichols College men's basketball team begins its first season under head coach Brandon Linton seeking its fourth-consecutive CCC Championship. The Bison return four starters from last season's Elite 8 team – including All-Conference performers DeAnte Bruton (New London, Conn.) (First Team), Jerome Cunningham (Westbury, N.Y.) (Second Team), and Matt Morrow (Leicester, Mass.) (Second Team) – as well as junior Nate Tenaglia (Tewksbury, Mass.). Senior Kash Jackson (Canton, Ga.) and sophomore Jaekwon Spencer (Bristol, Conn.) are also expected to see key minutes.

 
DeAnte Bruton, NC

2. Endicott

Under six-year head coach Kevin Bettencourt, Endicott will look to make a deep conference tournament run after missing out on the CCC title game for the first time since the 2013-14 season, last year. The Gulls return 2018-19 CCC All-Conference First Team selection and leading scorer Keith Brown (Pelham, N.H.), as well as the team's second-leading scorer and 2018-19 CCC All-Conference Second Team selection Matt McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) and welcome a strong class of new players. Endicott opens its season on Wednesday, Nov. 13 when it hosts MIT at 7:30 p.m.

 Keith Brown, EC

T-3. Gordon

Gordon men's basketball returns two of its top four leading point scorers from a season ago when the Fighting Scots finished as the CCC runners-up. Leading scorer Eric Demers (Acushnet, Mass.) comes off a solid junior season in which he averaged 23.4 points per game, dished out 82 assists, and booked 55 steals to earn a spot on the All-CCC First Team. Big man Parker Omslaer (Jackson, N.J.) will look to make his presence known again in this year's effort after coming off a season where he posted numerous career highs with 7.2 rebounds per game, 9.0 points per game, and 47 blocked shots.

The Scots open the 2019-20 campaign at the Bennett Center with a 7 p.m. tip-off against Emerson on Nov. 12.

  Eric Demers, GC

T-3.  Roger Williams

The Roger Williams men's basketball team had a strong 2018-19 season under head coach Mike Tully. The Hawks finished the regular season with a 14-11 record and boasted an 11-5 conference record. The team clinched the No. 3 seed in the CCC Tournament and advanced to the conference quarterfinals after a 102-87 victory over No. 6 seed University of New England. However, the Hawks' championship bid was ended in the semifinals where they lost to the No. 2 seed Gordon.

The Hawks lost three seniors from last year to graduation, including CCC Player of the Year and two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American Austin Coene. To make up for their loss, RWU will add four newcomers to this year's team while returning nine players from last year's squad. Looking to help lead the way for RWU is junior Drew Hart (Cheshire, Conn.). Hart was named to the All-CCC Third Team last season, averaging 10.5 points per game and finishing third in the CCC with a .605 field goal percentage.

  Drew HartRWU

5. Western New England

Western New England is looking to build on a strong finish to the 2018-19 season that saw the Golden Bears win seven of their final ten contests, including a road victory over Endicott in the opening round of the CCC Tournament.

Head coach Colin Tabb begins his fifth season at the helm of the Western New England men's basketball program in 2019-20. Despite losing three-time All-CCC selection Mikey Pettway to graduation, Tabb brings back 13 student-athletes from last year's roster. The Golden Bears will be led by senior guard Mike McGuire (Garden City, N.Y.), who ranks in the top-five in program history in three-point field goals, three-point field goal percentage, and free throw shooting percentage.

McGuire, who averaged 12.8 points and 2.9 assists per game a season ago, will serve as team co-captain along with senior guard Tim Reilly (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.). Junior guard Alex Sikorski (Rocky Hill, Conn.) and junior forward Zachary Tavitian (Milford, Conn.), the 2017-18 CCC Rookie of the Year, will also play key roles for the Golden Bears.

Western New England opens its 2019-20 campaign on the road at crosstown rival Springfield on Friday, Nov. 8. The Golden Bears then return to the AHLC for their next four games, including the home opener against Becker on Tuesday, Nov. 12. CCC play gets underway on Saturday, Nov. 30 when Western New England hosts Roger Williams.

Mike McGuire, WNE

6. Wentworth

Having lost just one senior to graduation from a team which made an unprecedented 14th straight appearance in the CCC Tournament, the Wentworth men's basketball team looks to contend for the CCC title. The Leopards return their top three scorers from a season ago, with these three each averaging over 10 points per game. Two-time All-CCC selection senior Stephen Azums (Hyde Park, Mass.) leads the way, as he is coming off a junior season which saw him average 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor. On Feb. 13, Azums became the 16th player in program history to reach 1000 career points. Junior Kyle Henseler (Coventry, R.I.) returns after averaging 12.5 points and 2.8 assists per game as a sophomore while classmate Gavin Keough (Dunstable, Mass.) averaged 10.8 points a season ago.

 
Stephen Azums, WIT

T-7. Salve Regina

Salve Regina head coach Sean Foster returns three Seahawks who averaged double-figure scoring last season -- second-year Seahawk Mikey Spencer (Abington, Mass.) led the team with 17.8 points per game (ninth in the league), and was followed by juniors Cameron Collins (Oakdale, Conn.) with 13.5 points per game and Kevin Kelly (Valhalla, N.Y.) with 12.2 points per game (12th and 18th in CCC respectively).

Collins had the league's fourth-best field goal percentage (57.8 percent) and topped the Seahawks in rebounding (127). Spencer, the league's Rookie of the Year, led the Seahawks with 72 three-pointers.

Andrew Bronstein (Needham, Mass.), the lone returning senior and captain, enters his final season with 260 assists, seventh all-time on the school's all-time record book.

 
Andrew Bronstein, SRU

T-7. University of New England

The University of New England and eighth-year head coach Ed Silva return 12 players from the 2018-19 group, including junior All-Conference guard Alex Kravchuk (Mansfield, Conn.) (All-CCC Third Team; 14.7 ppg). The Nor'easters' system led the league in scoring (92.9), steals (12.3), and offensive rebounds (13.4) a season ago.

  
Alex Kravchuk, UNE

9. Curry

Curry returns eight players from last season to the 2019-20 roster, highlighted by senior guard/forward Jared Thorpe-Johnson (Dorchester, Mass.), a Third Team All-CCC selection last season, who averaged a team-high 19.6 points per game a year ago. Also headlining the returners are seniors Kieran Carroll (Greenwich, Conn.) and Spencer Feng (Keene, N.H.). Carroll averaged 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Feng posted 5.8 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game last season as the team enters its second season under head coach Joe Busacca. Also returning for the Colonels are Daymeann Stewart (Milwaukee, Wis.), Jon Joel (Cranston, R.I.), Seth Foley (Bristol, Conn.), RJ Hadfield (Warwick, R.I.), and Dwayne Boothe (Jamaica, N.Y.). The Colonels are excited to bring in a big class of newcomers, featuring eight freshman and one senior newcomer.  


Jared Thorpe-Johnson, CC 

  

ABOUT THE COMMONWEALTH COAST CONFERENCE

The Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC), founded in 1984, is an NCAA Division III athletic conference comprised of nine full member and two associate member institutions throughout the New England region. Its membership aims to provide student-athletes with a positive experience in their pursuit of excellence through high academic standards, quality competition, and a meaningful student life. The conference administers championships in 18 intercollegiate sports. In 2020, the conference will expand to 10 full members and 19 championship sports with the addition of Suffolk University and women's ice hockey, respectively.

 

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