WASHINGTON – The Catholic University of America men's basketball team is ready to defend its 2015-16 Landmark Championship title. The Cardinals were selected to finish second in the Landmark Conference Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Thursday afternoon. The standings are predicted by the conference head coaches.
Susquehanna was tabbed first with 60 votes and four first-place votes while Catholic and Scranton were just behind with 52 points and a first-place vote each. Juniata rounded out the top-four with 41 points and two first-place votes
The Cardinals return two starters and 12 members of its championship team but graduated All-American Bryson Fonville and 2015-16 captains Kyle and Kevin Phanord.
Catholic is still one of the favorites to keep the conference crown in 2016-17 thanks to the second-winningest coach in program history, Steve Howes, and All-America candidate, junior Jay Howard.
Howes is just 18 wins away from setting the program record which currently stands at 251.
Meanwhile, Howard has already reached the 1,000-point plateau after just two seasons and is on pace to be a top-three all-time scorer at Catholic. He was also recognized this preseason by DIII News as the predicted Landmark Player of Year and ranked as one of the top-24 players in the nation.
Senior guard Louis Khouri, who joined the starting lineup late last season, also returns to the starting five. Khouri is potentially the best 3-point shooter in the conference after ranking second last season in field goal percentage from distance at 45.5 percent; the best mark returning in 2016-17.
Classmate Jeff Holland provides leadership, athleticism and shooting on the wing next to Khouri for Coach Howes as evidenced by both players hitting two 3-pointers in the exhibition at Notre Dame.
Sophomore guard Andre Mitchell started 16 games last season and topped double-digits in scoring six times. He boasts a quick first step and ability to get the hole, knocking down 31 free throws at a 79.5-perecent clip.
The Cardinals open their season on Saturday, November 19 at 1 p.m., at the Pablo Coto Tip-Off Tournament in nearby Arlington, Va., against Hamilton. Catholic's first home game is also its first Landmark Conference game as they host Drew on Saturday, December 3 at 4 p.m.
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