DMV Preseason College Basketball Power Rankings

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DMV Preseason College Basketball Power Rankings

There are 29 Division I schools in the Mid-Atlantic area ranging from the University of Delaware in Newark to Virginia Tech down in Blacksburg.

At NBC Sports Washington, no team in the region will be left out in our power rankings throughout the 2017-18 college basketball season.

For these rankings, schools in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware are included.

Last season five of these schools made the big dance and potentially more are primed to join the fray this year.


1. Maryland Terrapins (Big Ten):

The Melo Trimble era in College Park is finally over but that will not stop the Terrapins from having another NCAA Tournament year.

Three starters are returning after incredible freshman campaigns from Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan Jr., and Kevin Huerter. Already we saw how talented Jackson can be on the court and is an early favorite for the Big Ten All-1st Team.

2. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC):

Remember the no-fun, low-scoring defensive minded Cavaliers from 2016? 

Not much has changed except their offense in London Perrantes is now gone.  Sure the Cavaliers will be a near-lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but with their offense consistent winning streaks are not on the horizon. Another top-to-middle of the pack season in the ACC for Virginia this year.

3. VCU Rams (A-10):

New head coach Mike Rhoades will have his hands full on his first year with the Rams.

However, VCU has never seemed to have an issue with a coaching change. He has a Preseason All-Atlantic 10 1st Teamer, Justin Tillman leading a squad that will continue with their ‘havoc’ defense. Johnny Williams will be the facilitator in the backcourt and will be more than formidable to replace JeQuan Lewis.

Additionally their post depth was reinforced with grad transfer Kris Lane from Longwood.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC):

This is a tough team to predict what will happen this year. Besides losing Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, there is a lot of experience returning for the Hokies. At the same time, they do not have a post-player that saw minutes in 2016. They shouldn’t be bad but physical teams might give them some trouble especially early on.

5. George Mason Patriots (A-10):

After years of despair, the Patriots returned to their winning ways thanks to the back of Marquise Moore in 2017.

However, with Moore departing with his double-doubles, three starters are returning for George Mason. Become familiar with 5-11 guard, Otis Livingston II who as a junior has 66 starts and averaged double figures in his freshman and sophomore years.

6. Towson Tigers (CAA):

College of Charleston is the popular pick as league champion but Towson has a senior guard duo that can match any team in the league.

Both Mike Morsell and Deshaun Morman are a great all-around package that can take over games offensively and defensively. Their schedule is deceptively decent and might just be an NCAA Tournament team when this season is all said and done.

7. Richmond Spiders (A-10):

Replacing the 2017 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline is no easy task. It doesn’t make it any easier with the leading returning scorer Khwan Fore missing the first couple weeks of the season.

Richmond faces a fair amount of teams on this list throughout their season but making it back to even the NIT may be a stretch for this season.

8. UMBC Retrievers (A-East):

The America East conference could be primed for a huge year and the Golden Retrievers would be a huge part of that of that transformation. Their schedule is balanced and winnable with a line-up that saw a lot of action in 2017.

9. George Washington Colonials (A-10):

Second year head coach Maurice Joseph gets his first off-season under his belt and is looking to get this Colonial squad back into the top half of the Atlantic 10. Like all other A10 teams on this list, they did graduate their best player on the court, Tyler Cavanaugh, but are looking for senior 6-9 guard Yuta Watanabe to take his place.

10. Georgetown Hoyas (Big East):

Everyone’s favorite punching bag this past year finally gets to work with new coach Patrick Ewing.

With a cake-walk of a non-conference schedule the Hoyas should end the season with a winning record, barring they do win a couple of Big East games. Georgetown will be a big team in 2017-18 and hopefully one of the best bigs of all-time can coach them up.

11. Morgan State Bears (MEAC):

Phillip Carr could very easily lead this team to a regular season championship. Last year he was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior. This season he is the favorite to be the conference’s Player of the Year.

12. Hampton Pirates (MEAC):

Another team that is returning a lot of experience, Hampton has four players that started 18 or more games last season. A year ago they were extremely young and it resulted in poor shooting numbers throughout the season.

Expect that to improve and prove they are a contender in the fairly open MEAC.

13. Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC):

The two leading scorers for the Spartans, guard Zaynah Robinson and forward Alex Long, return after impressive seasons last year. Norfolk State is looking to break through and win the MEAC this season after falling short in the championship game for the second time in the past four years.

14. Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA):

You cannot ask for a better facilitator than Ahmad Caver. The junior returns after averaging 13.0 ppg and 4.8 apg, being named to the Conference USA Preseason team. Build the team around him this season and they can make a run during his senior campaign.

15. Liberty Flames (Big South):

Success will continue with the Flames heading into this season. A year removed from their first 20-win season in nearly a decade, Liberty has the tools to continue to remain at the top of the Big South. Because of their schedule, the team will have to rely on an automatic Big South berth to get into the tournament.

16. William & Mary Tribe (CAA):

Quite honestly the Tribe could be a sleeper in the CAA. Yes they lost their two leading scorers from 2016 but Tony Shaver knows how to coach and he has one of the best young talents in the league playing for him, Nathan Knight.

Turnovers should be down this year and like always William & Mary knows how to efficiently shoot.

17. Navy Midshipmen (Patriot):

Four starters are back for the Midshipmen after a semi-final run in the Patriot League. They may not be on pace to contend with Bucknell for the conference title, but their season can go a long way in how the league will look as a whole.

18. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (NEC):

Twelve freshmen are new to The Mount after the squad made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.

Normally this would hurt a team but there are two reasons to still like the Mountaineers; 5-5 guard Junior Robinson and head coach Jamion Christian. With what both of these two accomplished last year, anything is possible.

19. Delaware Blue Hens (CAA):

Delaware fouled too much, continuously turned the ball over, and had atrocious shooting numbers in 2016-17. Bottom line they are going to need to give sophomore guard Ryan Daly some help if they are going to want to make any noise.

20. Loyola Greyhounds (Patriot):

Returning a majority of their line-up from a season ago the Greyhounds may be on track for their best season since 2012-13. Senior guard Andre Walker is coming off of a First-Team All-Patriot League performance and will even be looked at to score more.

21. James Madison Dukes (CAA):

Six freshmen, two transfers who became eligible this season, two junior college transfers, and a grad transfer highlight nine newcomers for the Dukes. That’s all you really need to know for James Madison.

22. American Eagles (Patriot):

The trend at American is having a bad season followed by a good season (and vice versa). If the trend continues it should be a good one for them in the Patriot League. There is no reason not to believe it either because of their 22 losses last year, 13 of them were by 10 points or less.

23. Radford (Big South):

Returning their leading scorer and their leading rebounder in Ed Polite Jr., the Highlanders have a lot to build on heading into a new year.

24. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (MEAC):

Losing go-to scorer Bakari Copeland will be a tough hole to fill in the Eagles line-up this season. UMES believes they can now become a contender after a surprise MEAC semi-final run last year but unless a young blood steps up they will be right around the middle again.

25. Longwood Lancers (Big South):

Ending the season with a 16-game losing streak was just the nail in the coffin from last year. Losing their two best players, the Lancers will have to find a new identity once again.

26. Howard Bison (MEAC):

The Bison face all three of their D.C. opponents in one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the MEAC. No one expects much from Howard in these games but could it prepare them better than any other team in the league?

27. Delaware State Hornets (MEAC):

Losing their two top players from a season ago, the Hornets have a tall task ahead with only senior forward, Kavon Waller leading the troops.

28. Coppin State (MEAC):

The Eagles got Juan Dixon as a new head coach for the 2017-18 season. Hopefully it will help them going forward because they have not had a winning season since 2011.

29. VMI Keydets (SoCon):

Last season VMI only had one non-conference win against a Division I school. The outlook for this year is not much better.

Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill joins Hokies football staff to help Justin Fuente, not replace him

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Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill joins Hokies football staff to help Justin Fuente, not replace him

Virginia Tech is coming off a come-from-behind victory over FCS opponent Furman, they have an opening loss against Boston College which was just blown out by perennial punchline Kansas and, because they are playing two FCS opponents this year, they have to find a way to earn five more wins this season to keep the vaunted bowl streak alive. That was the background for Monday’s announcement from head coach Justin Fuente.

Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has been added to the Virginia Tech football staff as a special assistant to the head coach, Fuente announced. With the lackluster start to the season, Monday’s announcement led to plenty of speculation from Hokie nation as to what this meant for Fuente’s future.

Make no mistake, however, Kill is headed to Blacksburg to assist Fuente, not replace him.

"Jerry Kill will serve as a tremendous resource for our football program," Fuente said in a statement. "Coach Kill possesses over three decades of expertise and will be great addition to our staff. In addition to over 20 years of experience as collegiate and high school head coach, he's served as a coordinator on both sides of the ball. He can dissect the game from virtually every angle and will be able to provide his unique perspective on everything from recruiting, to personnel and facilities.

"After Coach Kill spent some time with our staff during preseason camp, it was apparent that he possesses a passion for being involved with a football program on a daily basis," Fuente continued. "I have all the respect in the world for Coach Kill. I'm excited that he'll be an integral part of our program at Virginia Tech and can't wait for him to get on campus."

Kill was the head coach of Minnesota from 2011 to ‘15 and took the team to three bowl games. He also was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2014. His epilepsy, however, forced him to step down. The rigors of coaching consumed Kill to the point that he was not taking care of himself or adequately managing his condition. He suffered multiple seizures while at Minnesota, many of which came during games.

Since then, Kill has served as an associate athletics director at Kansas State, the offensive coordinator at Rutgers and the athletics director for Southern Illinois.

During this time, however, the desire to coach and be involved with a football team never went away. That was really the genesis of how he ended up at Virginia Tech.

According to Andy Bitter of The Athletic, Fuente invited Kill to watch a few of the team’s August practices and Kill provided feedback on what he saw. Originally , his relationship with the Hokies was not expected to go beyond that and Fuente did not intend for a job to come from that, but Kill’s desire to get back into football was enough for him to leave his job as an AD to join Virginia Tech.

"While it was a difficult decision to leave so many wonderful friends and colleagues at Southern Illinois, I am thrilled for the opportunity to join Coach Fuente and his staff at Virginia Tech," Kill said in a statement. "I've long appreciated and admired Justin as a coach and teacher of the game. I respect his penchant for identifying talent and helping young men reach their potential. He has assembled a fabulous coaching staff and roster of talented players at Virginia Tech. I can't wait to help the Hokies in any way I can."

The timing of this announcement may lead to speculation, but Kill’s health will not allow for him to get back into coaching. This is just a situation in which Fuente had the opportunity to help a fellow coach follow his passion and, in turn, Kill will help the Hokies.

Tony Bennett turned down a pay raise because his staff needed it more

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Tony Bennett turned down a pay raise because his staff needed it more

Tony Bennett is one of the few people in sports to be offered a raise and turn it down.

Instead of adding dollars to his current contract, the Virginia men's basketball head coach would rather that money be used for other purposes. He wants additional funding, that would be used for a raise, to be given to his assistants or to help other aspects of the program. 

“I have more than I need,” Bennett said in a release. “I’m blessed beyond what I deserve.”

This past season Bennett lead the Cavaliers to their first NCAA men's basketball national championship. Rewriting UVA's history books, of course, warrants Bennett to be rewarded with a new deal and with it an increase in pay. But in a meeting with athletic director Carla Williams and university president Jim Ryan, where a "substantial raise" was discussed, he turned it down.

“This just does not happen in our industry,” Williams said in the release.

He did, however, add another year to his contract. It keeps Bennett in Charlottesville for seven more seasons.

Additional salary money for his assistants is definitely a huge boost to the program is trying to build. Every year several of the top 'Power Five' assistant coaches are the sought out targets of new head coaching candidates and lower programs. For example, Dennis Gates moved as an assistant at Florida State to the head coaching spot at Cleveland State this offseason. Year-in and year-out, a coach has to expect to deal with staff turnover.

In his 10-year tenure with the Cavaliers, Bennett has turned Virginia into national contenders. Since 2014, the Cavaliers have earned a No. 1 seed into the NCAA Tournament four times, including the past two years. They've also won two ACC tournament championships and three regular-season titles in that span.

Currently, all three of his assistants from last year's championship team are staffed for the upcoming season. His top assistant, Jason Williford, has been with Bennett ever since he took over the program.

This practice of requesting money being diverted to assistants is not new. Jim Larranaga left George Mason for Miami because of his request to pay assistants more money was declined. 

Bennett is even showing further support for the program. He has donated $500,000 toward a career-development program in place for current and former players of the program.