Hofstra guard Jalen Ray (20) drives on Towson guard Allen...

Hofstra guard Jalen Ray (20) drives on Towson guard Allen Betrand (2) during the second half on February 27, 2020 Credit: Lee S. Weissman/Lee S. Weissman

It was an exceptional 2019-20 season for Hofstra but, as was the case for every college basketball program, it ended in disappointment. The Pride went 26-8 and won the Colonial Athletic Association’s conference tournament. But it was denied its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2001 when the tourney was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. That sense of loss will be a big motivator this season.

Here are five keys for the Pride this season:

Farrelly at helm: Head coach Joe Mihalich has taken a medical leave of absence and associate head coach Mike Farrelly is moving one seat over on the bench to step in. Hofstra will still be running the same system, and Farrelly said that "I’ve learned from the best" in Mihalich, but he knows making decisions instead of recommendations will be harder.

Needing a big shot: The cornerstone for the Pride’s recent run of successful seasons — four 20-win seasons and a 19-win season in the past six years — has been dominant go-to players. Last year it was Desure Buie and before that Justin Wright-Foreman and Juan’ya Green. Hofstra is going to need someone to emerge to take the big shots. There are three candidates in forward Isaac Kante and guards Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn, but none is the ball-dominant type of player that Buie, Wright-Foreman or Green was.

Pointing the way: Hofstra will have a new point guard who needs to keep everyone involved in the offense. Farrelly said returner Caleb Burgess is a strong candidate to start the season running things, but junior college transfer Shawndarius Cowart could work his way into sharing time at the position.

Freshmen help: Farrelly said Hofstra "has done well because we have counted on older guys — veterans and transfers — and that’s what tends to work best at the mid-major level." However, this year it will need production from some freshmen. On the front line either 6-7 first-year David Green or 6-6 redshirt freshman Kvonn Cramer is likely to start alongside Kante, who averaged 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds. "Cramer has been around the team for a year and knows the system," Farrelly said. "Green is getting used to the speed and effort required for success in the college game. We need them to come along." The last time Hofstra started a freshman was 2016-17 when Eli Pemberton cracked the lineup; but the Pride went 15-17 that year.

Lack of practice: By Farrelly’s count, Hofstra will have just 20 days of 5-on-5 practice under its belt going into Wednesday night’s opener at Monmouth. The team usually hits that number in the summer, but wasn’t able to because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How quickly the team becomes a cohesive unit could be an issue.

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