BALTIMORE, Md. – Coming off of back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association championships, the University of Delaware women’s basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the league’s preseason poll, as announced Tuesday morning at the CAA Basketball Media Day. Additionally, senior guard Akeema Richards (Baltimore, Md.) was chosen to the Preseason All-CAA Second Team.

James Madison, which returns three starters from last year’s 25-11 team, was selected to win the 2014 CAA Women’s Basketball title according to a vote of the league’s head coaches.  The Dukes were followed in the voting by Drexel, which captured the 2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship, Northeastern and Towson. The Blue Hens were followed by Hofstra and league newcomer College of Charleston. UNCW and William & Mary rounded out the poll in eighth and ninth place, respectively.

“When you’ve won two consecutive championships, it certainly makes you want more,” remarked Delaware head coach Tina Martin, who is in her 18th season with the Hens.  “On paper, all of the rankings look about right, but the bottom line is, they don’t give out rings for preseason rankings.  The rings are given out at the end, and that’s what matters.”

The Blue Hens, who are currently amidst a 42-game CAA winning streak (regular season and tournament), dating to the 2011-12 season, lost seven seniors to graduation, including a total of over 6,500 points, 3,200 rebounds and 1,100 assists.  A squad that reached the NCAA Sweet 16 a season ago, Delaware will field 11 freshmen and sophomores in 2013-14 with just three juniors and seniors.

“We have a lot of growing to do and we certainly have to catch up on experience,” Martin commented.  “This season is new and fresh and we’re going to take it with that approach.  There are a lot of question marks right now for us, but at the same time, any new challenge makes for an exciting experience for both the players and coaches.  The group that we have right now is excited and they want to prove that they can compete and play well.  They’re hungry to show the conference that we can still compete and try to win a third straight championship.”

Richards, the team’s lone returning starter, averaged 5.5 points overall while scoring 6.2 points in league play last season.  Additionally, Richards dished out 1.8 assists per contest last year.

“Akeema is going to have to change her role a little bit this season,” stated Martin.  “Certainly, she has to step up and be more of a vocal leader, but she will also have to take some of the offensive burden.  She has a great pull-up jumpshot and has a good feel for the game.  Akeema is going to wear many, many hats this season.”

JMU’s Kirby Burkholder was selected as the CAA Preseason Player of the Year.

The league’s television schedule was also announced at Media Day, with the Blue Hens being featured once during regular season action via CAA-TV and Comcast SportsNet when Delaware hosts Northeastern on Thursday, Jan. 30.

The 2014 CAA Women’s Basketball Championship will be held March 13-16 at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.

2013-14 CAA Women’s Basketball Predicted Order of Finish
1.    James Madison        
2.    Drexel
3.    Northeastern
4.    Towson
5.    Delaware
6.    Hofstra
7.    College of Charleston
8.    UNCW
9.    William & Mary
2013-14 CAA Women’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Teams
First Team
Kelva Atkins, UNCW
Kirby Burkholder, James Madison
Precious Hall, James Madison
Tanisha McTiller, Towson
Jewel Tunstull, Northeastern

Second Team
Alyssa Frye, College of Charleston
A’lece Mark, Northeastern
Anma Onyeuku, Hofstra
Akeema Richards, Delaware
Andreana Thomas, Hoftstra
CAA Preseason Player of the Year: Kirby Burkholder, James Madison
Honorable Mention: Meghan Creighton, Drexel; Fiona Flanagan, Drexel; Nyree Williams, Towson.