Connecticut Rivals Clash In GNAC MBB Preseason Poll

Connecticut Rivals Clash In GNAC MBB Preseason Poll

WINTHROP, Mass. - The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team was picked to finish second in the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Preseason Coaches' Poll, announced Tuesday by conference officials. The annual poll is voted upon by the conference's 12 head coaches. The Blue Jays, who received three first-place votes and 129 poll points, open the 2019-2020 season at home inside the O'Connell Center against Rhode Island College on Saturday, November 16 at 7:00 p.m.

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Fresh off its sixth Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Men's Basketball Championship in eight years, Albertus Magnus College has been selected first. 13-year head coach Mitch Oliver won his eighth GNAC title overall this past winter, knocking off the Blue Jays in their first-year men's program, under the direction of Hall of Fame Head Coach, Jim Calhoun. USJ went on the road as the seven seed in the GNAC Tournament, defeating Suffolk University and Saint Joseph's College of Maine in a 48-hour span, setting up an all-Connecticut title game, where Albertus staved off a persistent challenge from the Blue Jays, 81-77, before ultimately falling to Christopher Newport in the NCAA Tournament.

The two programs made impressions that have carried over into the 2019-20 campaign, as Albertus received eight of a possible 12 first-place votes and 139 points to take the top spot, while USJ garnered three first-place votes and 129 points in the poll. The intrastate rivals will meet head-to-head for the first time since the GNAC Championship at Albertus on Wednesday, January 29 at 7:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Wales University took the third spot in the poll with 117 points, as the Wildcats bring back 2019 GNAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year, senior guard Brian Hogan-Gary (Staten Island, N.Y.) for a final season. Hogan-Gary averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds per game last year, and is best known in We-Ha for breaking the hearts of the Blue Jay faithful on January 31, nailing a game-tying jumper at the buzzer to force a second overtime, a game the Wildcats eventually won, 98-97.

Suffolk took the fourth spot with one first-place vote and 111 points, as head coach Jeff Juron was named the 2019 GNAC Coach of the Year, after leading the Rams to the two seed in 2018-2019. Emmanuel College rounded out the top-five in the poll with 96. The remainder of the poll included Saint Joseph's of Maine (82 points), Colby-Sawyer College (76), Lasell University (61), Regis College (52), Anna Maria College (31), Norwich University (26), and Rivier University (16).

2019-20 GNAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Albertus Magnus (8) – 139
2. Saint Joseph CT (3) – 129
3. Johnson & Wales – 117
4. Suffolk (1) – 111
5. Emmanuel – 96
6. Saint Joseph's Maine – 82
7. Colby-Sawyer – 76
8. Lasell – 61
9. Regis – 52
10. Anna Maria - 31
11. Norwich – 26
12. Rivier - 16

The Blue Jays are more than happy to have sophomore point guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) directing traffic again in 2019-20. Jackson Jr., an All-GNAC Third Team selection last year, became the first student-athlete in USJ history to earn the Northeast Region Rookie of the Year award, and the fifth to earn GNAC Rookie of the Year honors (the first male). "DJ" started all 28 games, averaging 16.5 points (second on the team), four rebounds and four assists per game (fifth in GNAC). He was just outside the top-10 in the conference in three-point field goal and free-throw percentage. He also got to the foul line more than any other player in the GNAC (113 attempts). The three-time GNAC Rookie of the Week returns another year older and another year wiser in the quest for a GNAC championship. Sophomore forwards Ryan O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.) and Jake Sullivan (Branford, Conn.) [Pictured], who won rookie of the week honors once each last year, also return for the 2019-20 campaign.

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About the GNAC
The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 22 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience.

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