COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team was selected to place eighth in the eight-team Northeast Division in the Northeast-10 Conference's preseason poll, which was released by the league office on Thursday and chosen by the member institutions' head coaches.
The Purple Knights totaled 16 points while Saint Anselm College topped the poll (94). The Hawks won last year's NE10 Championship and qualified for their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. The 38-year-old NE10 begins its fifth season with its 15 teams split between two divisions, with eight competing in the Northeast Division and seven in the Southwest Division. All teams will play either 20 or 21 conference games, depending upon division, and the top five squads from each division will qualify for the 10-team NE10 Championship.
The Saint Michael's squad went 5-21 overall and 4-17 in the league for the 2016-17 season. The Purple Knights opened the season with a narrow 96-88 loss to No. 8 Saint Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) College, which had been ranked as high as second in the nation during the preseason. The Purple Knights' highlight of the season was an 84-81 victory over 24th-ranked Southern New Hampshire University, which finished as NE10 Championship runner-up and an NCAA Tournament qualifier, on Feb. 4. Last year's team tied for the program's best three-point percentage (38.9%) since 1993-94, notched the best free throw percentage (72.5%) since 2007-08, tallied the second-best scoring average (77.3) and field goal percentage (45.7%) since 2000-01.
This year's Purple and Gold squad returns a deep veteran core with 10 returners, who are joined by three rookies and a transfer. Junior Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) is the top returning scorer as he averaged 15.2 points and 3.0 rebounds, and placed fifth in Division II with a three-point percentage of 47.5 and was fourth in the NE10 with a free-throw percentage of 87.1. Junior guard Derek Cheatom (Buffalo, N.Y./The Park School of Buffalo) averaged 5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while sophomore Thomas Jackson III (Middletown, Conn./Holderness School) had 4.4 points and 1.3 rebounds with a 52.9 three-point percentage as a first-year.
The Purple Knights' fifth season under head coach Josh Meyer begins this weekend when they head to the two-day Spartan Invitational at Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Michael's opposes Mercy (N.Y.) College on Saturday at 6 p.m. before facing the hosts, who are ranked seventh in the D2SIDA National Media Poll and first in the region, on Sunday at 2 p.m.