Hofstra hoops has unique situation in CAA

Hofstra's men's basketball head coach Mo Cassara watches Hofstra's men's basketball head coach Mo Cassara watches the game from the bench during game Binghampton University vs Hofstra University men's basketball. (Dec. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Joe Rogate

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Opportunity knocks for the Hofstra men's basketball team in the Colonial Athletic Association. Time will tell if the Pride can take advantage of a unique situation in a conference that will have only seven schools eligible for its men's tournament.

Virginia Commonwealth already has departed for the Atlantic 10. Old Dominion (Conference USA) and Georgia State (Sun Belt) are leaving after this season and are not eligible to compete in the tournament. The field was reduced further when UNC-Wilmington and Towson failed to qualify under the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate.

Hofstra was picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll announced Tuesday, but coach Mo Cassara said of the remaining field, "I think it presents a great opportunity to us. We're a young team with a lot of new players. I think we're the type of team that is going to get better as the year goes on. We get down to March with only seven teams left. If we can be playing good basketball by that point, with seven teams in the tournament, if you win that first game anything can happen."

The winner of the CAA Tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

It will take a while for Hofstra's full team to get on the floor. After solid returnees in forwards David Imes and Stephen Nwaukoni and guard Stevie Mejia, Cassara may rely on freshmen in guard Dallas Anglin and forward Jordan Allen.

Reinforcements will arrive with transfer forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and guard Taran Buie, who are eligible Nov. 16 after sitting out the first two regular-season games for a violation of team rules. Transfer guard Shaquille Stokes and 6-10 forward Daquan Brown could be big contributors. Both are awaiting waivers from the NCAA.

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"We're certainly talented and going to be deep when we get everybody on the same page," Cassara said. Hofstra begins the season Nov. 9 at Monmouth.

Pride women No. 3. The Hofstra women were picked third, with honorable mention All-American senior forward Shante Evans selected first team All-CAA. Hofstra's biggest obstacle remains Delaware and All-American Elena Delle Donne.

Coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey also returns forward Candace Bond, guard Andreana Thomas, swing player Annie Payton and forward Anma Onyeuku . There's also a host of outstanding freshmen, led by guard Asia Jackson and forward Dee Thomas-Palmer.

"You are always trying to put all the pieces together to build around Shante," Kilburn-Steveskey said. "I knew I was excited about these young kids I have here. We just have skill and athleticism like I've never coached before." The women open Nov. 9 against Stetson at a tournament in Daytona Beach.