Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time. The Tribe’s 2017-2018 season (19-12, 11-7 CAA) is officially in the rearview mirror, with W&M having now reached the CAA Tournament Semifinals 5 years in a row, qualifying for the CAA Championship in 4 out of the last 11 seasons. It’s time to add to that mark in the 2018-2019 season, and finally make it to the promised land.
With six freshmen currently on the roster, this is not your typical William & Mary team. There are several new faces that you’ll see donning the Green and Gold this winter, and it’s up to us at the W&M Sports Blog to make sure you’re educated and ready to go to hit the ground running. After all, the team’s first game is NEXT WEEK — November 7 at home against High Point. Below, you’ll find a compilation of projected starting lineups, schedule analysis, freshmen bios and more.
LET’S GO TRIBE.
Despite losing two all-time players to graduation, including W&M’s all-time assists leader (David Cohn) and his running mate Connor Burchfield (the most deadly 3-point shooter in W&M history), in addition to a consistent contributor and ODU-killer in Oliver Tot, the Green and Gold will be led by one of the strongest, if not the strongest, junior classes in the entire CAA. Much will be expected of this talented bunch, as they will be joined by a promising class of freshman this coming season.
Game 1 – Projected Starting Five: Luke Loewe, Matt Milon, Nathan Knight, Paul Rowley, Justin Pierce
Sixth Man: Jihar Williams / Chase Audige (Fr.)
Depth: Thornton Scott (Fr.), L.J. Owens (Fr.), Mehkel Harvey (Fr.), Quinn Blair (Fr.), Chris Clark (Grad Transfer/Alabama), Austin Washburn (Fr.), Miodrag Dronjak
[Projected Starter] #12 Luke Loewe, Sophomore, Guard (6’4”, 192): Following the graduation of David Cohn, the Tribe will have some incredibly large shoes to fill — and that’s an understatement; to start, sophomore Luke Loewe will likely be given the first shot out of the gates. Last season, Loewe saw limited action, averaging 5.2 minutes and 1.1 points per game (just 10 made buckets). We wish Luke could have gained more experience on the court last year, but with David Cohn playing at an ever-increasing level, we understand what Shaver was thinking. During Loewe’s senior year in high school (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin), Loewe shot over 55 percent from the floor and made 34 3-pointers (20.1 points per game) en route to becoming the #1-rated point guard in the class of 2017 in Wisconsin and the #4 overall player in the state. He has the tools to get the job done, and we’d like to see him get back to his scoring ways this season in the collegiate ranks.
[Projected Starter] #2 Matt Milon, Redshirt Junior, Forward (6’5”, 195): Milon joined the Tribe last season after sitting out a year, following his transfer in from Boston College. Last year, Milon proved himself as an absolutely deadly three-point shooter boasting incredible range, connecting on 77 shots from beyond the arc (to Connor Burchfield’s 89). These numbers easily solidified him as one of the top three-point shooters in the CAA. Overall, Milon would finish the season averaging 13 points per game — which we actually thought was lower than his potential. Over the first 16 games of the season, Milon finished with 17+ points in 8 different games. However, over the last 15 games of the season, he reached 17+ points just 2 more times. Again, he’s an absolutely deadly three-point shooter, who can more than adequately fill Connor Burchfield’s shooting guard duties this season. Moving forward, we’d like to see him maintain consistency throughout the year, and we fully expect him to do so this coming season.
[Projected Starter] #13 Nathan Knight, Junior, Forward (6’10”, 235): The Tribe’s undisputed #1 player — the team’s go-to on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court, W&M’s Nathan Knight will be the centerpiece for this Green and Gold team for the next two seasons. Finishing last season averaging 18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, Knight also took home 2nd team All-CAA honors in addition to being named to the CAA’s All-Defensive team. In last year’s CAA Tournament, he was also named to the CAA All-Tournament team — making him the only player who was not on either Charleston or Northeastern’s rosters (the two teams that made the CAA Championship) to earn All-Tournament honors. Yes, he’s that good — a legitimate NBA prospect in Williamsburg. As one might imagine, when the W&M offense ran through #13 last season, the Green and Gold found itself finishing games on top more often than not. However, all too often last season, Knight found himself in foul trouble, as opposing teams would drive to the lane, forcing Knight to take some bad fouls. We’ve said it time and again, the longer Nathan Knight can stay in the game, the greater the odds are that William & Mary will win. If he can consistently stay in contests this season (and new depth this year should help), he has the potential to carry this team all the way to the promised land. We’re not kidding; he’s that good.
[Projected Starter] #34 Paul Rowley, Redshirt Senior, Forward (6’8”, 205): THE JUDGE! What more can we say about the personification of the W&M basketball team itself, Phi Beta Kappa recipient and 2nd Year W&M Law Student, Paul Rowley — hence, the Judge (was there ever a more apt nickname?). In a season where W&M was thin on the depth chart, Rowley filled in admirably for Nathan Knight last year when Knight would get into foul trouble playing down in the post. A player that can not only shoot threes consistently, Rowley played well on the defensive end/in the paint when called upon. After averaging 19.5 minutes and 6.2 points per game last year, we expect both of those numbers to shoot up, including Paul’s points per game total to double digits. However, we can also envision a scenario in which Shaver starts Jihar Williams or one of the true freshmen (such as Chase Audige) over Paul, so that he can sub in Rowley to replace Nathan Knight at the big man spot. We’ll wait and see here, but big things are coming for the Judge.
[Projected Starter] #23 Justin Pierce, Sophomore, Forward/Guard (6’7”, 215): After a fast start last season (double digit point totals in his first 7 games), Justin Pierce would cool off, finishing with double digit point totals in 3 out of the next 9 games, before going on a tear to end the year. One such stretch over the back half of the season saw Pierce finish with the following point totals: 27, 23, 30, 15, 9, 33, 24. A pure scorer who can make his own shot, Pierce will be one of the Tribe’s most valuable assets this season. Don’t be surprised of he finishes with the most points per game this year, as his 14.7 PPG was second only to classmate Nathan Knight this past year.
Additional Info (for super-fans only): To read more about W&M’s star-studded freshman class this season, check out our article on Chase Audige, L.J. Owens, Thornton Scott, and Quinn Blair — which includes game tape and high school accolades. Also be sure to check out our article on Mehkel Harvey, who was a late commit out of California; the 6’9″ big man is expected to back up Nathan Knight this year.
Preseason Rankings & Accolades
Keep in mind that preseason rankings don’t mean much. With the CAA as competitive as it is year after year, we’ve seen teams jump from the bottom half of preseason rankings to the top-3 of end-season standings. Referencing the graphic above, W&M was chosen #4 overall this preseason — not unexpected by any means. Charleston won the league last year, Northeastern nearly (and should have) beat them, Hofstra has last year’s CAA Player of the Year in sharpshooter Justin Wright-Foreman (who was also chosen as this year’s preseason CAA Player of the Year), and W&M has the talent and depth to beat anyone in the league on any given day.
Let’s also not forget that W&M is the only team in the CAA to have won 10 or more conference games in the past 5 seasons, finishing 4th or higher in each of those seasons. W&M returns 4 of 6 of the team’s leading scorers from last season, and yes, we still have Tony Shaver. This year, we like our chances.
In addition to the release of preseason rankings, the league released both preseason 1st and 2nd Team rosters. Again, these were not unexpected, but we did think that W&M’s Nathan Knight deserved to be recognized with a 1st-team selection. Ultimately, both Knight and Justin Pierce were chosen as preseason 2nd-team selections — no small feat in itself.
Schedule Analysis – First Four
November 7: vs. High Point (Last Season: 14-16, 9-9 Big South)
W&M will face off against High Point for the 6th time in the past 7 seasons. High Point has a new head coach in Tubby Smith, who won a national championship with Kentucky in 1998. The Panthers always give W&M trouble, defeating the Tribe in the first game last season 100-66. HPU actually leads the all-time series 5-3. Let’s hope the Tribe can start off with a victory this year.
November 10: at Duquesne (16-16, 7-11 A-10)
Duquesne is a beatable A-10 team (much like George Mason last year), and the Tribe could pick up a nice road victory over an A-10 opponent. But let’s not take the Dukes lightly — the A-10 is certainly one of the most powerful “mid-major” conferences in all the land. It would be W&M’s first ever victory over Duquesne if the Green and Gold were to pull off the upset on the road.
November 15: at University of Illinois-Chicago – UIC (20-16, 12-6 Horizon)
We don’t know much about the University of Illinois-Chicago (other than the fact that their logo is straight fire — see what we did there?); we do know that they made CollegeInsider.com’s Tournament championship game a season ago. Just look at their record above — it was impressive. W&M’s contest against UIC will be one of the Gotham Classic games that W&M plays this upcoming season.
November 17: at Notre Dame (21-15, 8-10 ACC)
Notre Dame was one of the “First Four Out” in the NCAA Tournament last year (meaning they just barely missed the NCAA Tournament), and had it not been for a season-long injury to their star player, Bonzie Colson, the Fighting Irish would likely have made the Tournament. This will be only the second time in program history that W&M has played Notre Dame, with the first game taking place way back, on December 30, 1982 — a contest in which Notre Dame triumphed 83-60.
Additional Info (for super-fans only): Read short game previews (like those above) for each W&M out of conference game in our article here.
W&M boasts perhaps the strongest cohort of juniors in the CAA this season. But will it be enough? It’s likely that a couple freshman will have to work their way into the rotation this coming year if the Green and Gold is looking to make a run at the CAA crown — with Northeastern and Charleston coming in as the preseason favorites following an incredible 2018 CAA Championship game. Coach Shaver has the boys lined up and ready to go, and we’re excited to see what the 2018-2019 season holds. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!