Ladies and gentlemen get your brackets dusted off as a new season of college basketball is upon us ladies and gentlemen. Let’s rank the seven teams DI teams that reside in the Bay State.
- Harvard – Crimson had the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation in 2016, according to ESPN. Harvard, despite the losses of four-year starter Siyani Chambers and big man Zena Edosomwan, shouldn’t skip a beat. Returnees Bryce Aiken (27.8 MPG), Justin Bassey (27.2), Seth Towns (24.8) and Corey Johnson (23.6) all logged significant minutes last season for the 18-10 Crimson. Rebounding appears as it will be the Crimson’s Achilles’ heel, but their defense should make up for their lack of size. Let’s not forget, Harvard is led by one of the best coaches in the nation in Tommy Amaker. Harvard opens at home with MIT on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. It will then remain home Sunday for a 2 p.m. tip against UMass.
- UMass Lowell – Ranking the River Hawks as the No. 2 team locally may be a bold statement by some people’s standards, but not to me. UML will return three of its top four scorers from last season’s team that finished at 11-20. Headlining the group is senior guard Jahad Thomas who pumped in 18.3 points per game and snatched 9.0 boards per contest. Now-junior Ryan Jones took a huge step forward in 2016-17 and finished second on the team with 13.8 PPG. Jones’ presence helps to alleviate the possible offensive struggles when Thomas endures a double-team. The River Hawks will be tested right out of the gate with a match on the road against UMass on Friday, No. 10, at 7 p.m. They will then return home to face UMass Boston on Sunday at 1 p.m.
- Boston University – Terriers, who are seemingly always a guard-driven team, will go as far as senior Cedric Hankerson carries them. Hankerson certainty has the capability to light it up from the floor as he displayed during his sophomore campaign when he played a career-high 982 minutes and averaged 15.9 points per game. 2016-17 was a struggle for him as he was working his way back from a torn ACL that ended his 2015-16 campaign. He looked a bit rusty – shooting just 35.6 percent from the field. Hankerson will be joined by classmate Cheddi Mosely, who will replace Eric Fanning, in the backcourt. Up front, it will be Tyler Scanlon and a bunch of question marks as the Terriers are tasked with filling the void left by Justin Alston. BU, which finished last season at 18-14, opens at home against Northeastern on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m.
- UMass – Life after Derek Kellogg is set to begin for the Minutemen. For some, it’s a sign of hope, for others it’s a time they feared. There is no doubt, Kellogg did a miraculous job at bringing talent (Chaz Williams, Donte Clark, etc.) to Amherst, but inconsistency consistently plagued him. Now under the leadership of Matt McCall, UMass, which is coming off a 15-18 campaign, has a bit of a new look. Highly touted freshman going into last fall – Dejon Jerreau, Tryn Flowers and Brison Gresham – followed their former coach out the door, and the team’s leading scorer Donte Clark (12.6 PPG) opted not to return to the team. However, the Minutemen will have big man Rashaan Holloway and the speedy Luwane Pipkins as solid go-to options on offense. As mentioned, UMass squared off with UMass Lowell and Harvard to open the season.
- Boston College – No. 5 may be a little low for the Eagles, but time will tell if that is truly the case. For the Eagles, they bring back three of their top four scoring threats from last season in Jerome Robinson (18.7 PPG), Ky Bowman (14.3) and Jordan Chatman (8.6). The big issue for BC is the rigorous ACC schedule, which has gotten increasingly harder as more tournament caliber teams flock to the conference, it endures year in and year out. The Eagles finished just 2-16 in the ACC last season and 9-23 overall. One player to keep an eye out for is Illinois State transfer Deontae Hawkins the 6-foot-8 forward adds some much-needed scoring in the backcourt to complement Robinson. BC opens at the Conte Forum for its first three games. First up is Maine on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. before South Carolina State comes to town on Sunday for a 1 p.m. start time.
- Northeastern – Huskies need to find an identity this season, and they need to find it fast. T.J. Williams (21.4 PPG, 5.3 APG and 4.7 RPG) stole the show for them just a season ago, en route to being named CAA Player of the Year. Former Duke Blue Devil and Florida Gator Alex Murphy (14.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG) provided a steady presence alongside Williams. However, the Huskies are fortunate to have a slew of young talent in Devon Begley, Donnell Greshman Jr. and Bolden Brace, who appear to be ready to step up. Begley hit some big-time shots for Northeastern down the stretch in a few games. He was pivotal in their wins against comeback wins against Oakland and Vermont – both of which were games the Huskies weren’t expected to win. If the Huskies can cut down on the turnovers, they should surpass their 15-16 mark of a season ago. After BU, the Huskies will host Wentworth on Sunday at 4 p.m.
- Holy Cross – Crusaders finished last season at 15-17, and there isn’t much hope they will exceed that mark in 2017-18. Holy Cross just needs to stay competitive, a few of its losses (81-49 to South Carolina, 90-46 to Syracuse, 68-51 to Lehigh, 82-68 to Bucknell) last season were ugly. Now in his third year at the helm of Holy Cross, Bill Carmody’s time to win is now. Junior forward Karl Charles and junior guard Patrick Benzan are likely to carry the load on offense, but other than that, the Crusaders are an inexperienced bunch. They open up on the road at Sacred Heart on Friday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m.
Power rankings are decided with the help of several factors: record, strength of schedule, and record against top-tier opponents. The colleges in our coverage area include: Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Holy Cross, Northeastern, UMass and UMass Lowell. Power rankings will be published on Mondays, with the exception of the first and last game of the year, throughout the season.