MADISON, N.J. - The University of Scranton men's basketball team has been picked as the favorite in the first season of competition in the Landmark Conference as selected in the Landmark Preseason Men's Basketball Poll. The head men's basketball coaches and sports information directors at each institution were polled for the preseason ballot.
Scranton was picked first or second on nearly all the ballots to accumulate 84 points, 11 clear of the second-place team. Susquehanna University holds the second spot with 73 points while The Catholic University of America and Juniata College round out the top-four with 65 and 61 points respectively.
Scranton's high ranking comes with the team bringing back all five starters from a squad that went 19-7 a season ago, and earned a conference postseason berth. Seniors Tom Bicknell and Randy Arnold are two of the returning starters and each were each All-Conference choices in 2006-07 while Arnold was also an All-Region selection in his sophomore season.
Graduation was also kind to Susquehanna as the Crusaders also have five starters back, and a remarkable 17 returning letterwinners overall. Susquehanna went 16-10 a season ago and was also a participant in the conference postseason. Seniors Kevin Cuff and Joel Patch were each All-Conference selections and senior Josh Robinson averaged 22 points per game as a junior though he missed half the season with an injury.
Catholic is the lone Landmark team to enter the season coming off an NCAA Tournament berth as the Cardinals went 23-6 and reached the second round of the Division III Tournament last season. The team did lose six seniors from that squad but the team has history on its side as Catholic has finished with 20 or more wins in 10-straight seasons.
Juniata's primary history came last season when the Eagles established a new program-record for wins in a season with a 17-12 record. The Eagles earned spots in the conference and ECAC postseason during the year, but now must replace four departed starters. Senior Brian Cannon averaged nearly 15 points en route to earning All-Conference honors last year, while also leading the team in rebounding.
Moravian checks in at the fifth spot in the poll with 51 points. Like Scranton and Susquehanna the Greyhounds bring back a large portion of their roster from their team that went 11-14 a year ago. All five of the team's top scorers were juniors last year, and four of those players scored more than 10 points per game a season ago.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy pulled in 36 points to claim a tie for sixth place. USMMA brings back three starters from a 14-12 team that reached the first round of its conference tournament in 2006-07. Sophomore Ryan Samuel was named the Conference Rookie of the Year last season while junior Pat Grace is the top returning scorer after averaging 13.3 points per game last year.
Drew University matched USMMA with 36 points accumulated in the poll. Seven players who were regulars in the rotation last year are back for the Rangers, who posted a record of 9-15 a year ago. Three starters are back including two-time All-Conference pick senior Chris Lopez who led the team in points, rebounds and steals in his junior year.
Goucher picked up 14 points overall in the poll to round out the voting. The Gophers will try and bounce back from a 7-18 campaign in 2006-07 and have three returning starters to help the team be in the mix in the conference standings. Senior Cameron Brown is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder after he averaged nearly 10 points and six boards per game as a junior.
The first weekend of competition for Landmark teams will be Nov. 16-18, with all eight teams competing in season-opening tournaments. The first Landmark match-ups of the year will be Dec. 1 as Juniata hosts Susquehanna and Scranton welcomes Moravian.