CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University men's basketball team opens the 2016-17 season with high hopes, as the Spartans look to move back into the top half of the North Atlantic Conference standings and contend for the conference title.
Castleton went 9-17 overall in 2015-16, including 8-10 within the NAC to finish the regular season in a tie for sixth place. Last season, the Spartans averaged 67.5 points per game, but allowed 76.8 points per contest as Castleton's opponents made 44.7 percent of their field goal attempts and 86 more free throws than Castleton.
Chad Copeland has returned for his fifth and final season after missing the majority of the 2015-16 campaign with an injury. Before he was forced to the sidelines, Copeland was averaging 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, hitting 49.0 percent of his field goal attempts and 78.4 percent of his free throw attempts.
Two other starters also come back for this year's Spartan squad, as juniors Tondi Mushandu and Pavin Parrish averaged significant playing time for Castleton last season. Mushandu hit 50 percent of his field goal attempts as he averaged 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game throughout the season, including 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in conference play. Parrish led the team with 78 assists and 31 steals while contributing 8.5 points per game.
In total, nine players are back for Castleton, along with seven newcomers to the program. Sophomore Jordan Nelson transferred from Hudson Valley Community College, where he averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.4 steals per game in helping his team post a 20-10 record last season. Six freshmen will also contend for playing time and give the Spartans added depth as the year goes along.
The tough test in Castleton's non-conference schedule comes right away, as the Spartans open the season Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Skidmore College, a team receiving votes in the D3hoops.com men's basketball top 25 preseason poll. Castleton will host Curry and Plymouth State in the next two games before making the short trip to Southern Vermont on Thanksgiving weekend.
After five conference games, Castleton heads to the Bronx for the CUNY Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Dec. 29-30, taking on Stevens Tech and Lehman College. The Spartans play five more conference games before the non-conference finale at Pine Manor Jan. 24, and then close out the season with eight league contests with the goal of finishing in the top six to qualify for the NAC Tournament.
Skidmore College won its second straight Liberty League title last season and defeated Franklin & Marshall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing a close second round game to Tufts. The Thoroughbreds posted a 19-9 record last season and are led by sophomore Edvinas Rupkus, who averaged 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game in his first collegiate season. Three-time all-conference guard Aldin Medunjanin is back for a fifth season after injury limited him to five games last year.
This will be the fourth straight season that Castleton opens its season against Skidmore, with the Thoroughbreds winning the previous three games, including an 86-67 victory at Glenbrook Gym last season in which Skidmore made 55.2 percent of its field goal attempts. Overall, Skidmore has won six straight games over Castleton, with the Spartans last defeating the Thoroughbreds Jan. 3, 2010, at Glenbrook Gym, 72-68.