BY: PRATIK SINHA
After a 2021-22 season in which they went 5-27 and finished ninth in the CAA (out of 10 teams), the William & Mary Tribe men’s basketball team looks to bounce back with a largely revamped roster and make another run at its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. Is this finally the year?
Despite their horrid record last season, there were a few bright spots for the Tribe. Ben Wight, a 6-foot-9 forward, led the team in scoring (11.6 points per game) and rebounding (5.5) while finishing third in the CAA with a field goal percentage of 61.6%. He scored in double figures in 24 of the Tribe’s 32 games, and returns for his junior season looking to ascend to an elite level.
The conference landscape has also shifted greatly from last season. With the departure of James Madison and the addition of Hampton, North Carolina A&T, Monmouth, and Stony Brook, the CAA has expanded from 10 to 13 teams. This means that the league will be more competitive than ever, as several of these programs have recent experience with making the Big Dance, having won their previous conference titles.
Though nobody from the Tribe roster made the All-CAA preseason first or second teams, Wight did receive an honorable mention, as coaches took notice of his efficient scoring. The Tribe are also the beneficiaries of the transfer portal, with 5 new players coming in from other Division 1 schools. Anders Nelson and Miguel Ayesa are notable players to keep an eye on, providing a much-needed boost in 3-point shooting. Nelson averaged 14.6 points per game last season for St. Thomas in their first season as a Division 1 program, and we expect him to be one of the leading scorers for the Tribe this year.
The league’s coaches definitely appear to expect improvement from the Tribe this year, as William & Mary was chosen to finish eighth out of the 13 teams in the CAA preseason poll. The complete projected standings are as follows:
- William & Mary
- Stony Brook
- North Carolina A&T
The Tribe begins their season on Monday, November 7 at home against Navy. Last season, the teams met in Annapolis (a 75-56 win for Navy) and William & Mary will be hoping for a much different result this time around. The teams last played in Williamsburg in 2008, a 102-99 triple overtime win for Navy.
William & Mary’s women’s basketball team also opens its season against Navy on November 7, marking the first game for new head coach Erin Dickerson Davis. In their matchup last season, Navy defeated W&M 66-54.
Coach Davis joins the Tribe from Wake Forest University, where she served as associate head coach. She led the Demon Deacons to a pair of postseason appearances and we are hoping she can carry that level of success over the next few seasons for the Tribe!
The Tribe returns 4 starters from last year’s team – Bre Bellamy, Riley Casey, Dani McTeer, and Sydney Wagner. Bellamy and Wagner started every game last year and will provide invaluable experience for this year’s campaign, with the latter being chosen for the preseason All-CAA First Team by the league’s coaches. Casey is expected to have a big season, as she was also named to the preseason All-CAA First Team. Last year, she shot lights-out from 3-point range, hitting 37.9% of shots from beyond the arc to lead the CAA.
In the preseason standings, William & Mary was projected to finish seventh in the CAA, behind Drexel, Charleston, Stony Brook, Elon, and Delaware.