|Logan Bailey||Matthew Mancuso||Kyle DeVerna|
In search of their eighth Landmark Conference title in program history, The University of Scranton men's basketball team will begin their 2019-20 season on top of the conference, as the Royals were voted first in the Landmark preseason coaches' poll, which was released on Wednesday morning.
In the ranking, Scranton garnered 70 total points and seven first place votes to be the overwhelming Landmark Conference favorite entering the season. Susquehanna was slotted second with 53 points and a first place vote, while Drew came in third with 52 points and Moravian (the two-time defending Landmark Conference champion) came in fourth with 36 points.
For the full release on the preseason poll from the Landmark Conference, click here: https://www.landmarkconference.org/sports/mbkb/2019-20/releases/11062019-mbb-preseason-poll
With the 2019-20 season set to open for the Royals (who are receiving votes in the D3hoops.com Preseason Top 25) on Saturday night inside the John Long Center against Stevenson at 7 p.m., veteran head coach Carl Danzig (entering his 19th season at Scranton) welcomes the increased expectations the new season brings.
"Being picked number one is what we strive for," said Danzig. "It's a representation of what this program stands for. The good thing for us is that this is nothing new, we've been preseason number one on other occasions before. We're used to it and expect it, and the guys on the team really embrace it."
Danzig has every reason to be optimistic coming into the 2019-20 season, as the Royals come off a 20-win season, a Landmark Conference playoff berth, and return literally their entire starting five from a season ago, along with nine other letterwinners.
Leading the group of returnees is a strong senior class paced by captains guard Kyle DeVerna (Rockville Centre, N.Y./Kellenberg Memorial) and forward Matthew Mancuso (Bridgewater, N.J./Bridgewater-Raritan), both of whom were All-Landmark Conference selections a season ago.
In 2018-19, DeVerna started all 26 games for the Royals at guard, averaging 13.6 points a game on his way to All-Landmark Conference second team accolades, while also taking the program's John "Les" Dickman Award signifying the team's MVP.
Mancuso, meanwhile, averaged 15.3 points a game and was the team's leading rebounder with 9.3 'boards a contest on his way to First Team All-Landmark accolades and a selection to the D3Hoops.com All-Middle Atlantic Region Second Team.
The pair, along with fellow seniors Danny Doolan (Basking Ridge, N.J./Ridge), Jack Dreisbach (Allentown, Pa,/Parkland) and Lucas Hackett (Millington, N.J./Watchung Hills Regional) look to add leadership and poise to the Royals this season.
"These five seniors were in an NCAA Tournament and won a conference championship (in 2017), that's invaluable experience," said Danzig. "They're excited. All five have their own valuable roles, especially Doolan, Dreisbach, and Hackett every day at practice. They understand their role in making sure everyone is prepared and ready to go when we play night in, night out. This is their time and they're looking forward to being that next group to try to lead us to a conference championship."
The Royals also return the team's leading scorer from a season ago in junior guard Logan Bailey (Scranton, Pa,/Scranton Prep), who was Scranton's breakout performer in his first campaign on the floor.
In all, Bailey averaged 16.3 points a contest and posted seven 20-plus scoring performances throughout the course of the season on his way to nabbing both the Landmark Conference and D3hoops.com Mid-Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year accolades He was also named to the All-Landmark First Team. Coming into his second season of the floor for Scranton, Danzig expects much of the same from Bailey.
"[Bailey] is a unique talent," Danzig said. "He has an ability and a gift that not many in the [Landmark] Conference have with his quickness and ability to get through tight spaces. The thing we love most about him is that he brings such a high energy level on the court and that's really infectious with his teammates."
Another top returnee is sophomore guard Jackson Danzig (Clarks Green, Pa./Abington Heights), who last season ran the point from the beginning of the season as a freshman, starting all 26 games, while leading the team in assists (113) and averaging 12.5 points a game. He also nailed a team-high 40 three-pointers throughout the course of the year, as well.
This also marks the second year Jackson will play for his father, a moment that the elder Danzig continues to relish each and every day.
"It's great," said Danzig. "To be able to talk hoops with your son every day and spend an extra four years with him is really special. On the court, he's maturing and growing. He did a great job last year and being our 6-foot-6 point guard is unique in itself. He's a typical coach's son, he's going to make the right decisions and keep everyone involved. He's very versatile, too, we can post him up and put him on the perimeter. We're excited to put him in those positions."
The program also added three newcomers to the roster entering the year in guards Stephen Braunstein (Colts Neck, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) and Jack Lambert (Cooperstown, N.Y./Cooperstown), along with forward Ryan Ems (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern Regional). Danzig expects all three to contribute throughout the course of their careers at Scranton and expects some to get playing time throughout the course of the season.
"[Assistant coach Ryan] Van Zelst did a great job with this recruiting class," said Danzig. "All three of them bring different things to the table. If their skill set is needed at some point throughout the course of the year, we will give them an opportunity."
Schedule wise, a tough non-conference slate awaits the Royals throughout the first two months of the season, which kicks off Saturday with the match-up against Stevenson at home.
Included in the non-conference slate includes the 2019 Hilton Scranton Invitational that will see the Royals welcome Houghton, Sarah Lawrence and William Paterson to the Long Center on Nov. 18-19.
After hitting the road to take on Wilkes (Nov. 20) and Cabrini (Nov. 23), Scranton comes back home on Dec. 4 to take on defending Captial Athletic Conference Champion York at home. The following Saturday (Dec. 7), Scranton will head to Goucher to open Landmark Conference play for the year.
On Dec. 16, DeSales comes to the Long Center, as the Bulldogs are the defending MAC Freedom champions. The Royals will then close out 2019 with a pair of games at the HoopsMIA D3 Holiday Shootout in Miami, where they'll take on Bates (Dec. 18) and UMass-Dartmouth (Dec. 20).
To start the new year, Scranton takes on King's at home on Jan. 4, then travels to their third defending conference champion in their final non-conference game on Jan. 8 when they take on MAC Commonwealth champion Arcadia. Landmark Conference action then takes over the schedule, with the slate coming to a close on Feb. 22 at home against Goucher.
For the full 2019-20 University of Scranton men's basketball schedule, click here: https://athletics.scranton.edu/sports/mbkb/2019-20/schedule
With high expectations, a returning core group of players, and a challenging slate of games in front of them, Danzig and his 2019-20 Royals are ready for what the season may bring and have already set their sights high entering the year.
"We have built-in goals every year," he said. "Let's win 20-plus game, let's win [the Landmark] Conference, and let's advance in the NCAA Tournament. If we do those three things, that's a pretty good year."