WINTHROP, Mass. – After receiving eight of a possible 12 first-place votes and 139 points overall, Johnson & Wales University (RI) has been selected atop the 2018 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Preseason Poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches. This winter, Wildcats head coach Jamie Benton and his squad will be seeking its second straight GNAC title and third in a four-year span.
Saint Joseph's College, led by 16th-year Head Coach Rob Sanicola '99, is ranked fifth in the preseason poll with 100 points. The Monks return all but three players from a team that went 16-10 overall, including an 11-5 mark in GNAC play, and earned the #3 seed in the conference tournament last winter.
Four of the Monks' top five scorers are back, as seniors Darian Berry (Rochester, N.H.), Ian Mileikis (Auburn, Maine), and Jae Johns (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) and sophomore Jack Casale (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) return after combining to net over 50 points per game on average last season.
Last season, JWU went 13-3 in GNAC play while Albertus Magnus College secured the top seed in the GNAC Tournament with a 15-1 league mark. But it was the Wildcats who went on the road to upset Albertus in the GNAC Championship, 84-80, before falling to Eastern Connecticut State in the NCAA Tournament.
Albertus finished second in the poll 135 points while receiving the other four first-place votes, as Falcons head coach and reigning GNAC Coach of the Year Mitch Oliver will look to guide the team to its seventh GNAC title and NCAA appearance since 2010. The program will be without two-time reigning GNAC Player of the Year Jaqhawn Walters but does bring back 2018 GNAC Third Teamers Jahmerikah Green-Younger and Ryan Pittman. The Falcons will travel to WPI (Nov. 13) and take on Bowdoin (Nov. 16) after opening the season on the road on Thursday, November 8 at Anna Maria College in what will be a non-conference tilt.
The 2018-19 campaign marks the first-ever for the University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) men's basketball program, as many will have their eyes on the Blue Jays under head coach Jim Calhoun and associate head coach Glen Miller. USJ took the third spot in the preseason poll with 113 points with a roster featuring 17 freshmen. The Blue Jays will play their first-ever Division III contest on Friday, November 9 against William Paterson (7:30 PM) at Trinity.
Johnson & Wales opens up the new season against Babson (3:00 PM) on Saturday, Nov. 10 before taking on RIC and then John Carroll and Brooklyn at the Buffalo State Tournament. Back for the Wildcats is GNAC First Team selection Brian Hogan-Gary, as the junior averaged 17.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season.
GNAC regular-season play in 2018-19 will feature 11 league games as conference foes play each other only once. USJ will host JWU on January 31 and will host Albertus on February 5, while JWU will travel to Albertus on Feb. 12.
Suffolk University was chosen fourth in the preseason poll with 104 points, as the Rams went 9-7 in GNAC play a year ago after going just 6-12 in 2016-17. Saint Joseph's College of Maine rounded out the top-five with an even 100 points after the Monks were the No. 3 seed in the GNAC Tournament last winter.
For the sixth and seventh slots in the voting, Regis (Mass.) totaled 77 points, while Colby-Sawyer College had 75 points as the Chargers gear up for their first season as a full GNAC member. Lasell College finished eighth with 72 points after reaching the 2018 GNAC Semifinals and the 2017 GNAC Championship game.
For the complete poll results, please see below.
2018 GNAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Johnson & Wales (8) - 139
2. Albertus Magnus (4) - 135
3. Saint Joseph (Conn.) - 113
4. Suffolk - 104
5. Saint Joseph's (Maine) - 100
6. Regis (Mass.) - 77
7. Colby-Sawyer - 75
8. Lasell - 72
9. Norwich - 37
10. Anna Maria - 34
11. Emmanuel - 31
12. Rivier - 19
COURTESY OF GNAC SPORTS INFORMATION OFFICE