Holy Cross Crusaders
Overall Rank: #131
Conference Rank: #1 Patriot League
2008-09: 18-14, 11-3
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Sean Kearney (First year at Holy Cross, 0-0 overall)
Coach Ralph Willard decided to leave Holy Cross after turning the Crusaders into one of the most successful programs in the Patriot League. The new coach, Sean Kearney, was not named until early July, which is much later than usual, but the transition should be pretty smooth. Coach Kearney is a quality coach who spent the last eight years as the associate head coach at Notre Dame and he is stepping into a situation where he can win right away.
Key Losses: F Colin Cunningham, G Pat Doherty, F Alex Vander Baan
Holy Cross has a nice group of freshmen coming in, but it is St. John’s transfer Mike Cavataio who will make the biggest impact right away. The 6-4 wing never saw much playing time during his one year with the Red Storm, but he is a good athlete who can score around the basket and has the potential to dominate the Patriot League. Jordan Stevens and point guard Dee Goens will compete for playing time off of the bench. The same can be said for fellow freshmen Phil Beans and Eric Obeysekere in the frontcourt. Those two will likely spend the year learning from the bench, but they will make an impact in the coming years.
Even without Cavataio, the Crusaders already have a dynamic backcourt thanks to R.J. Evans and Andrew Beinert. Beinert will bring the ball up the floor, but both are combo guards who will score and can pass. Evans does most of his damage by attacking the basket and he should once again lead the team in scoring after averaging 13.4 points per game last season. Beinert is the only real threat from long range. He made 45.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during the 2008-2009 campaign and between the two of them they make a solid one-two combination in the backcourt. The key to their success will be whether or not they can keep the turnovers down.
The frontcourt lost starter Colin Cunningham and part-time starter Alex Vander Baan. However, Andrew Keister and Eric Meister are proven players who are capable of filling the void. Despite averaging 8.5 points per game and leading the team with 6.3 rebounds per contest, Keister only started 17 games as a sophomore. Now that he is an upperclassman, Keister will be asked to play an even bigger role and emerge as the leader of the frontcourt. Meister is not as effective of a scorer or rebounder, but he is a strong defender and the best shot blocker on the team. With Adam May, who started 12 games as a junior, returning, Holy Cross has enough experience in the frontcourt to cover for their losses.
Who to Watch:
Beinert is only a junior, but he is the experienced player in the backcourt. That means he needs to become a leader on the floor, but he has to do a lot more than that if the Crusaders want to make a trip to the NCAA Tournament. He will bring the ball up the floor and must make better decisions than he did last year and he is also the lone outside shooting threat on the team. If his shot is not falling, the opposition can clog the lane and stop the big guys from getting the ball and prevent Cavataio and Evans from slashing to the basket.
This is a team that looked pretty bad early in the 2008-2009 season. They rebounded very well and ended up with a very impressive 11-3 conference record. American University was obviously the best team in the conference, but it was Holy Cross who gave them their only loss during Patriot League play. The Crusaders might need a little time to get everything straightened out with their new coach, but this should be the team to beat and anything but a conference title should be considered a disappointment.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Andrew Beinert, Junior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
R.J. Evans, Sophomore, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Mike Cavataio, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Andrew Keister, Junior, Forward, 8.5 points per game
Eric Meister, Senior, Center, 6.7 points per game