Friday, August 25, 2006

Summer Rants and Ramblings, Part Two

Time for more observations and commens on the happenings in the college basketball world, including some predictions and opinions on the upcoming season (only 7 weeks until Midnight Madness, folks)...

- Speaking of the upcoming season, before I get any further, I have to let everyone know that my 2006-2007 College Basketball Preview will begin on September 18th and end on November 7th. The conference previews will start on October 1st, with the MEAC kicking things off. Prior to that, several things will be looked at, including position rankings, impact transfers and freshmen, sleepers, conference rankings, and more. Article after article, prediction after prediction, March Madness All Season will be providing information on every team, player, and conference in the country.

- With schedules from various teams and conferences coming in everyday, I've taken a look at some of the intriguing games and key early-season tournaments. Similarly to last season, the Maui Invitational is the early-season tourney to watch. Likely Top 25 teams UCLA, Memphis, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech anchor the field, while conference sleepers DePaul and Purdue look to make an impression with a solid performance in Hawaii. Besides Maui, there are several other early-season tournaments worth looking at. The NIT Season Tip-off features my preseason #1, North Carolina, in addition to likely NCAA Tournament teams Tennessee, Gonzaga, Winthrop, as well as Indiana. The Guardian's Classic has Duke, Marquette, Stanford, and Texas Tech as the four hosts. A couple of years ago, the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic would seem like an excellent gathering of teams, with St. John's, Michigan State, Texas, and Maryland as the four hosts. However, only one of those teams is a definite NCAA Tournament team this season. The Paradise Jam has some very nice potential match-ups, including a potential final between Alabama and either A-10 favorite Xavier or Villanova. The best early-season tournament game could come in the Wooden Classic, where UCLA takes on Texas A&M. However, the Classic is not a tournament, as it is just a one-day doubleheader. The other game features USC taking on George Washington. Some teams use an early-season tournament championship win as a springboard to a great season; we will see if that happens with any team this season.

- In addition to the tournaments and potential match-ups, the non-conference portion of the season will have plenty of games between top teams. There is not a fan out there that would complain about the amount of high-quality games on this season's slate. Just look at November 25th in the Las Vegas Invitational, where Florida will take on Kansas in what could very well be a Final Four preview. Florida will also face Ohio State--most likely without Greg Oden, though. Kansas also will face Boston College in December. North Carolina takes on Top-10 candidate Arizona, as well as Ohio State and Kentucky. LSU faces five potential Top-25 teams--and that's not counting the SEC schedule. Even Pittsburgh, known as a team that annually plays an easy schedule, has Wisconsin, Washington, and Florida State on their list of opponents. In my season preview, there will be an article on the top non-conference games of the season--it shouldn't be hard filling it up with all these quality games on the docket.

- The list of teams that will compete in the Bracket Buster was released recently, and it brought to mind the George Mason-Wichita State match-up that occurred last season. Both teams used it to boost their at-large profile and also made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. Because the match-ups aren't announced until late January, there isn't much to talk about with the Bracket Buster. However, it gets one thinking about the question that everyone will be asking next March: Who is this season's George Mason? In March, that question means what mid-major will make a deep run in the Big Dance. However, if asked now, it could mean which mid-major that isn't a preseason favorite in their own conference will go from a double-digit seed past the first weekend. I'll attempt to give a short answer to both. For the first one, the teams from the Missouri Valley come to mind. Wichita State, Southern Illinois, and Creighton are the favorites and are all Top-25 material in several preseason polls. Over in the Colonial, Hofstra is returning a fantastic three-guard backcourt that will give teams trouble all season. Nevada and San Diego State from borderline mid-major conferences (WAC/MWC, respectively) have the talent and individual player (Nick Fazekas and Brandon Heath, respectively) to carry them a couple of rounds. MAC favorite Akron is a sleeper possibility. Post player Romeo Travis a beast inside, while Nick Dials and Dru Joyce form a solid backcourt. Other deep sleepers for Sweet Sixteen runs in the Big Dance include Winthrop, Marist, and Bucknell. The second part of the question is tougher to answer. First, I have to find teams that aren't favorites in their conferences but are good enough to make a run in the NCAA Tournament should they make it. Air Force comes to mind. They are ranked behind San Diego State in the preseason rankings, but their style of play and the return from injury of Conference Player of the Year Nick Welch put them in position to give major conference teams problems. Missouri State is another possibility. Looking like the odd man out in the MVC run for first place, the Bears have a team that could create trouble in March. Blake Ahearn is an excellent shooter, while Tyler Chaney is also an anchor in the backcourt. Nathan Bilyeu and Sky Frazier are solid frontcourt performers. Don't be surprised if one or more of the teams I mentioned are still playing during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

- While we are on the topic of mid-majors, I figured it would be a good time to show some love to the individual players outside the major conferences. In other words, I'm going to reveal my Mid-Major All-Americans. Players from every conference outside the Big Six are eligible for these honors. In order to include everyone I feel deserves it, I'm going to take a page from the Big East, and put ten players on each team. Without further ado...

First Team
Nick Fazekas, Nevada
Morris Almond, Rice
Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington
Brandon Heath, San Diego State
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
Loren Stokes, Hofstra
Jared Jordan, Marist
Blake Schlib, Loyola (Chicago)
Nate Funk, Creighton
Larry Blair, Liberty

Second Team
Quinton Hoseley, Fresno State
Kyle Hines, UNC-Greensboro
Gary Neal, Towson
Rashaun Freeman, Massachusetts
Jason Smith, Colorado State
Bobby Brown, Cal State Fullerton
Grant Stout, Northern Iowa
Quin Humphrey, Youngstown State
De'Angelo Alexander, Charlotte
Bryant Dunston, Fordham

Third Team
Blake Ahearn, Missouri State
George Hill, IUPUI
Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
Trey Johnson, Jackson State
Nick Welch, Air Force
Lanny Smith, Houston
Ibrahim Jaaber, Pennsylvania
P.J. Couisnard, Wichita State
Reggie Williams, VMI
Jamar Wilson, Albany

Honorable Mention: Dontaye Draper, Charleston; Antoine Agudio, Hofstra; Derek Raivio, Gonzaga; Matthew Knight, Loyola Marymount; Chris Oliver, Radford; Jack Leasure, Coastal Carolina; A.J. Jackson, Robert Morris; Arizona Reid, High Point; Torrell Martin, Winthrop; Chris Bradshaw, Winthrop; Chris McNaughton, Bucknell; Folarin Campbell, George Mason; Jamaal Tatum, Southern Illinois; Romeo Travis, Akron; Quinton Day, UMKC; Bruce Price, Tennessee State; Stanley Burrell, Xavier; Jaycee Carroll, Utah State; Keith Simmons, Holy Cross; Tyrone Nelson, New Mexico State; Andrew Strait, Montana

- Let me know if I forgot anyone obvious on the above list...

- Before I go, I want to remind everyone to come back next week to see my list of the Top 10 College Basketball Cities. I will rank the top ten cities where college ballers come from. I expect some disagreement, so feel free to let me know how you feel. 24 days until the start of my preview...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Eleven Things to Watch in the Big (Eleven)

Note: This article also appears at

The Big Ten last season was like the tale of two seasons. During the regular season, many considered it to be the top conference in America, with the RPI ranking the Big Ten #1. After being considered “down” for a few seasons, it was a welcome change for the conference. There were six teams that had the potential to win the regular season title at some point in the season, and seven clubs were in the Top 25 at one time or another. In the end, Ohio State took the championship at 12-4, finishing one game ahead of Illinois and Iowa. Wisconsin was in the mix until the stretch run, while Indiana was in contention early. At the midseason mark, Michigan was in first, and, of course, Michigan State is always competitive. However, once the NCAA Tournament came, it was a different story. After getting six bids to the Big Dance, no team made it past the first weekend into the Sweet Sixteen. Michigan State and Iowa were upset in the first round, while Wisconsin also bowed out in the opening game. Ohio State was prematurely knocked out in the second round, and Illinois and Indiana were also bounced in the Round of 32. In 2006-2007, the Big Ten is going to be down compared to last year, but there might be more potential NCAA Tournament contenders than last season. Either way, it is going to be a very exciting season for the conference.

Is there anyone even close to Wisconsin and Ohio State on the preseason totem pole?
Considering the Badgers and Buckeyes are both consensus Top-15 teams and no other Big Ten team is getting much consideration for the Top 25, I’d say no. There simply aren’t any other teams as complete as Wisconsin and Ohio State. Michigan does not have a proven point guard; Illinois could have a lot of trouble scoring; Michigan State is too young; I don’t trust Penn State or Purdue to finish that high; and Indiana does not have too many proven players. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Ohio State have all the necessary parts to compete for the league title—as long as the Buckeyes’ freshmen are as good as advertised.

Who are some of the top impact freshmen this season?
Any conversation about Big Ten freshmen has to start with the obvious one—Greg Oden. The consensus #1 recruit in the country, Oden is considered the best center prospect since Shaquille O’Neal or Patrick Ewing. He is the popular choice for National Freshman of the Year. However, his teammate, Daequan Cook may make a similar impact this season. He is extremely athletic and is an outstanding offensive player. Two more OSU frosh, guards Mike Conley and David Lighty, are also expected to see extended time this season. Outside of Ohio State’s group, the incoming freshmen class is still pretty solid. Iowa’s Tyler Smith is very athletic and is a good shooter—he is going to step into the starting lineup immediately. Michigan brings in a star recruit in DeShawn Sims. He is a very good offensive player. Brian Carlwell of Illinois is expected to be a key contributor down low for the Illini. In a rebuilding year, Michigan State brings in Raymar Morgan, Tom Herzog, and Isaiah Dahlman, three frontcourt players who will add depth and talent up front for the Spartans. Preseason favorite Wisconsin will need contributions from incoming guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon.

With the losses of guys like Dee Brown, Paul Davis, Marco Killingsworth, etc., what star power does the Big Ten have this season?
Compared to most of the other major conferences, the Big Ten is headed for a down year, in terms of All-American-caliber players. Alando Tucker is the favorite for conference Player of the Year. He is one of the top five players in the country. Oden gives the Big Ten one of the best big men in the nation. Indiana’s D.J. White and Purdue’s Carl Landry hope to put together a full season so they can show the country their abilities. This could also be Penn State forward Geary Claxton’s breakout season. He is one of the best players in the conference, but it is relatively unknown outside of the Big Ten. Outside of those five—all frontcourt players, coincidentally—the individual talent level of the conference takes a sharp nosedive before the next group of players like Courtney Sims, Jamar Butler, Kammron Taylor, etc.

Does Wisconsin have enough offensive firepower to win the conference?

Every season, Wisconsin does not look all that impressive on paper. However, once January and February roll around, the Badgers are near the top of the Big Ten. This season won’t be any different. The only difference this year is that they are coming into the season with high expectations. Some doubt them as a result of their lack of offensive weapons, though. Alando Tucker is one of the most versatile scorers in the country, while Kammron Taylor is a very good section option on the perimeter. Brian Butch has excellent potential down low. Outside of those three, another scoring option needs to step up. Sophomores Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft could be the answers. Both have very good ability on the offensive end.

How much will Greg Oden’s injury stunt Ohio State’s growth? What will be the newcomers’ impact?

Without Oden, the Buckeyes are going to be very perimeter-oriented. That will hinder them during much of the non-conference season, including games against North Carolina and Florida. However, OSU still has a lot of talent on the perimeter, including returnees Jamar Butler and Ron Lewis, and freshman Daequan Cook. Those three should be able to carry the Bucks to a couple of non-conference victories until Oden returns. The newcomers are going to need to have a huge impact. Only four players come back from last year’s club, meaning Oden, Cook, Mike Conley, and David Lighty are all going to have to contribute mightily every night for Ohio State.

Is this the year Michigan finally takes the next step to the NCAA Tournament?

I would say yes, but one could say that nearly every year—and it never seems to happen. Last year, Michigan had a great start to the season, and was even leading the Big Ten at one point. However, they collapsed down the stretch and ended up losing in the NIT championship game. This year should be the season they make the Big Dance. The Wolverines will miss Daniel Horton, but the guard combo of Lester Abram and Dion Harris should be potent enough. Post player Courtney Sims needs to play to his potential every night, while role players like Ron Coleman and Brent Petway have to step up.

How will the new era of Illinois basketball begin without Dee Brown, James Augustine, etc.?

The Illini are going to look like a completely different team than last season. They have several solid players that will keep Illinois in the conference race, but they are not going to be nearly as explosive on offense as last season. Brown and Augustine handled the majority of the scoring load, and with those two gone, players are going to have to step up on the offensive end. Chester Frazier is more of a distributor, while guards Jamar Smith, Rich McBride, and Trent Meachem are all shooters, not guys that can get to the basket consistently. Frontcourt players Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt might be the best options. It will be an interesting season in Champaign, but an NCAA Tournament bid should be in their immediate future.

What sort of impact will new coach Kelvin Sampson have on Indiana? Will D.J. White be the dominant player he showed flashes of before his injury?

The first thing one will notice about Sampson and the Hoosiers is that they will be a lot tougher than they were under Mike Davis. He will immediately instill the same tough, defense-first mindset that was so successful at Oklahoma. How the players react to Sampson, not exactly a "players" coach, will be the key. As for White, he has the potential to be one of the best inside players in the country. If he stays injury-free, he might fulfill that potential this season. He is very athletic, giving him the ability to block plenty of shots near the basket. He is one of the top post scorers in the country. If he can improve his rebounding, look out for White this season.

How much will Michigan State have to rebuild? Are they in danger of missing the Big Dance?
The 2006-2007 season looks very bleak for the Spartans. They lose everyone of note except Drew Neitzel, and did not bring any blue-chip recruits. However, you can never count out coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Looking at their team, it is very easy to say that they won’t make the NCAA Tournament, but I wouldn’t bet on it. When my Big Ten preview comes out, I doubt I’ll have them in the Big Dance, but they can easily be this season’s version of North Carolina. And that’s what every Big Ten team is afraid of. Freshman Raymar Morgan is expected to make a major impact, while Neitzel and Travis Walton form a decent backcourt. Goran Suton and Marquise Gray showed flashes of solid play last season down low, and there are plenty of role players to provide depth. Not very impressive on paper, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team finish 4th or 5th in the conference.

Can Purdue or Penn State break into the upper division of the Big Ten and make a move at an NCAA Tournament?

If I had any sort of backbone, I’d have Purdue #5 in the conference and Penn State as a bubble team. However, it’s tough to trust these two teams. On paper, the Boilermakers look very good. David Teague and All-American candidate Carl Landry come back from season-long injuries, while all-Big Ten freshman Nate Minnoy is also back after missing the second half of the season due to injury. Throw in talented JC point guard Tarrence Crump, and this team could be tough. Penn State has one of the better frontcourt duos in the conference in forwards Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley, two of the top ten players in the Big Ten. Ben Luber is a solid point guard, while Mike Walker and David Jackson provide scoring from the perimeter. If Claxton breaks out as expected, this Nittany Lions team might make a run at the Field of 65.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Big 12: It's Always Tougher at the Bottom

Note: This article also appears at

Does Missouri want to matter this season? How about Texas Tech? Or Nebraska?

Frankly, that question can be asked to any team in the Big Twelve outside of Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State—the projected top five teams in the league. Other than those five teams, there is not one team in the conference that looks remotely ready to challenge for an NCAA Tournament berth. In other words, the bottom seven in the Big 12 is going to be the worst bottom half (plus one) of any major conference in the country.

There is a huge gap between the contenders and the pretenders in the conference. It is fairly clear-cut as to who are the haves and have-nots this season. If a team outside the top five ends up making noise, it is going to be considered a surprise and a minor upset.

The obvious top team in the conference is Kansas. They are absolutely loaded and are one of three legitimate national championship contenders. Brandon Rush and Julian Wright could become superstars in their sophomore years, while guards Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, and Sherron Collins give the Jayhawks plenty of firepower in the backcourt. Up front, freshman Darrell Arthur joins Sasha Kaun and C.J. Giles to provide balance down low. If they don’t win the conference, I’d be shocked.

After them, the nearly unanimous #2 is Texas A&M. However, even though the Aggies have the best shot to give Kansas a run for their money, I don’t see them pushing the Jayhawks for the regular season title. That’s not a knock on A&M—Kansas is simply too good. Acie Law and Joseph Jones form one of the best inside-outside combos in the country, while Josh Carter and Dominique Kirk are two more solid options on the perimeter. Marlon Pompey and Antanas Kavalauskas give Jones help down low. If the Aggies find ways to score more consistently, they will be a threat to go deep in the Big Dance.

Texas looks to be the next in line after A&M. The Longhorns are similar to last year’s North Carolina team—they lost six of their top seven scorers, but bring in an outstanding recruiting class. Returnee A.J. Abrams will anchor the backcourt and could have a breakout season. McDonald’s All-American D.J. Augustin will likely start next to him at the other guard spot. My pick for National Freshman of the Year, Kevin Durant, is going to be an outstanding player on the wing. He is expected to be a star immediately. Damion James, another Top-20 recruit, will also be in the lineup come November. In addition, two Top-20 centers are going to be in the fold for Texas, not to mention returnee Connor Atchley. Don’t cry for Texas.

Oklahoma State and Kansas State round out the teams that can potentially make the NCAA Tournament come March. The Cowboys have great potential although they only went 6-10 in Big 12 play last season. JamesOn Curry is a very good scorer on the wing and will be joined by McDonald’s All-American Obi Muonelo. Marcus Dove is an excellent defender. Mario Boggan is an all-conference player on the inside, and David Monds is solid. The key will be point guard play. Jamaal Brown and Byron Eaton are not terrible, but they were extremely inconsistent last season. If they provide solid ball-handling and can distribute the ball well, watch out for Oklahoma State. Kansas State is the big story this offseason, mainly as a result of the hiring of new coach Bob Huggins. He is expected to instill toughness into the Wildcats immediately. Their season, however, may hinge on the eligibility of star Cartier Martin. He was suspended in the offseason, but should be able to play when the season starts. He might be the best player in the conference. Lance Harris and David Hoskins are two other very solid scorers on the wing that will take some of the pressure off of Martin. Newcomers Blake Young and Jason Bennett are expected to make immediate impacts. Young was one of the top Junior College guards last season, while the 7'3" Bennett was a top-ten center in high school. If the Wildcats get consistent inside play, they should be the fifth Big 12 team in the Big Dance.

After that, the competition for postseason play looks bleak. Oklahoma is falling rapidly with the loss of three freshmen and coach Kelvin Sampson; Baylor is still trying to get their program back to normalcy after a tumultuous couple of seasons; Iowa State and Colorado look downright pitiful; Missouri is entering a new era under coach Mike Anderson; Nebraska loses five of their top seven scorers and don’t bring in anyone of note; while Texas Tech might be the best chance the conference has for a lower-tier team to make a run.

The Red Raiders are ranked in the top 30 by Andy Katz in his latest rankings—I honestly have no idea what he was thinking when he made that decision. Yes, Martin Zeno and Jarrius Jackson form a fantastic backcourt, but that didn’t lead them to the postseason last season and I don’t see them making the Field of 65 this season unless Darryl Dora or someone else steps up in the frontcourt.

Baylor could be a potential sleeper, but they went 4-12 last season so I don’t trust them. However, a slew of guards return for the Bears, including Aaron Bruce and Curtis Jerrells, two very good all-around players. Henry Dugat is an excellent shooter. McDonald’s All-American Demon “Tweety” Carter will also help out right away on the perimter. Until they prove they can win ball games, though, I can’t see Baylor doing much.

Oklahoma has a decent returning cast, but their program seems like it is going to be sliding for a couple of years. Michael Neal is a very good shooter, while Nate Carter is a versatile forward. Austin Johnson and David Godbold also return on the perimeter. The Sooners lack a capable post player, though, which will end up being their Achilles’ heel all season long unless they find a go-to-guy down low.

The bottom four teams are going to be RPI killers for the top teams in the conference. Nebraska returns all-conference center Aleks Maric and a solid guard in Jamel White, but that’s it. Iowa State lost the star backcourt of Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock to the NBA Draft, and only return four players who averaged ten minutes or more per game. Rahshon Clark is a very good all-around player, while Jiri Hubalek is a decent center. JC transfer Corey McIntosh could be a surprise, though. Colorado has one of the better players in the country in Richard Roby, but the Buffaloes lost ten seniors, leaving the cupboard very bare. Missouri could steal a few games here and there because of new coach Mike Anderson, but as long as their go-to-guy is Marshall Brown, the Tigers aren’t going to be far from last place in the conference.

If you are optimistic about the Big 12’s chances for an overly successful season, you obviously did not read the above carefully. There is one national championship contender, a couple of Sweet Sixteen possibilities, and two more NCAA hopefuls. Then there are three teams that are hoping to make the NIT and four teams that are going to rotate out of the last-place spot throughout the season. The top half is not bad at all—it’s the bottom seven that is going to reflect poorly on the conference as a whole. As a result, it could end up costing the Big 12 an NCAA Tournament bid come March. Therefore, for the sake of everyone in the conference, teams 6-12 have to be somewhat competitive. And, frankly, I can’t see that happening. It could be a rough year in the Big 12—especially at the bottom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hey, Don't Forget These Guys

Division-1 transfers. The forgotten ones. Transfers are often overlooked when analyzing a team's prospects for the upcoming season. Everyone notices the new freshman recruits, but some people fail to remember about the transfers that had to sit out a season. However, transfers often have more of an immediate impact than freshmen as a result of the experience that they have. Just look at last season. Marco Killingsworth was one of the best big men in the country for Indiana. Don’t forget that he started at Auburn, though. What about Ryan Appleby? The part-time starter for Washington’s Sweet Sixteen team originally came from Florida. The list goes on. Charlotte’s De’Angelo Alexander, one of the best scorers in the Atlantic-10, was previously filling up buckets at Oklahoma. Ohio State might not have won the Big Ten title if not for Bowling Green transfer Ron Lewis. Louisville’s hopes this season bank on All-Big East big man David Padgett, who came over from Kansas two seasons ago. Derrick Byars (Virginia to Vanderbilt). Mohamed Abukar (Florida to San Diego State). Mohamed Kone (Kentucky to Valparaiso).The number of impact transfers always seems to outnumber the impact freshmen across the country. This season might be different with the new age-limit rule in the NBA. However, there is still an abundance of talented transfers ready to make people remember them.

J.R. Giddens (from Kansas)/Aaron Johnson (from Penn State), New Mexico: The buzz surrounding the Lobos this season is as loud as it has been since the days of Danny Granger, mainly as a result of these two newcomers. Giddens never really lived up to the hype he had while he was at Kansas, but might be able to return to his high school form with less attention on him. He is extremely athletic and can get hot from behind the arc. Johnson is going to be a go-to-guy on the interior for New Mexico. While at Penn State, he averaged nearly a double-double per game, leading the Big Ten in rebounding in 04-05. He is expected to control the paint for the Lobos in the upcoming season. If these two live up to the expectations they have coming in, watch out for New Mexico in the Mountain West.

Andrew Lavender, Xavier (from Oklahoma): The Atlantic-10 favorites will get an immediate starter with the addition of Lavender. Lavender started 28 of 32 games during his sophomore year at Oklahoma. He is not afraid to shoot the ball, and loves getting out and running the floor. He is a solid passer and has quick hands on the defensive end. His ability to knock down free throws will be key late in games. If he can distribute the ball to all of Xavier’s weapons, the diminutive point guard will be leading his new team to a conference title.

Mike Cook, Pittsburgh (from East Carolina): The knock on the Panthers the past few years is that they don’t have enough variety on the offensive end. Cook may have the ability to change that this season. He was a do-it-all type of player for East Carolina, leading the team in scoring at 15 points per game, and also pitching in 4 rebounds and 3.4 assists a contest. He is a tough, strong player that uses his size and strength at both ends of the floor. He is not a very good outside shooter, but he can get into the lane and finish. If he can provide scoring from the wing, Pitt might be able to make a run at the Final Four.

Toney Douglas, Florida State (from Auburn): The Seminoles are getting mention in several preseason Top 25s and the addition of Douglas is a main reason why. The 6-1 guard was an All-SEC performer and a freshman All-American in 04-05 but never really fit into Auburn’s style of play. He is a very good scorer and a solid rebounder for his size. He can fill it up in a variety of ways, and is a decent shooter from long-range. Douglas is a good athlete and is deceptively quick. Leonard Hamilton is lucky to have his services.

Dameon Mason, LSU (from Marquette):
The Tigers are another Final Four hopeful banking heavily on an incoming transfer. Mason is a very athletic wing who will form an outstanding scoring duo on the perimeter with forward Tasmin Mitchell. He is at his best when he is running the floor and getting into the lane for easy finishes. Mason is also a decent rebounder from the wing. He shot 52% from beyond arc in his first season at Marquette, but only 24% in 04-05. If he can find his outside shot again, LSU is a contender to make another deep run in the Tournament. The Tigers also get Texas Tech transfer Terry Martin, who will add to their depth on the wing.

Justin Hawkins (from Utah)/Martin Iti (from Charlotte)/Fred Peete (from Kansas State), New Mexico State: The Aggies are a threat in the WAC this season as a result of the influx of talent over the past two seasons. Last year, Elijah Ingram and Tyrone Nelson came into the program and made an immediate impact. This year, the trio of Hawkins, Iti, and Peete is expected to have a similar effect on the team. Hawkins is a swingman who can do a little bit of everything. He is a solid slasher-type who can score and rebound well. Iti is a very talented big man who has not developed into the player many thought he would be coming out of high school as the top-rated center. However, he is still a very good defender who is also efficient from the floor. Peete might be the best of the bunch. The 6-4 guard is a very good outside shooter who is also an above-average defender. Peete can also distribute the ball and is a good rebounder. This trio is going to make a huge impact for the Aggies.

Gary Ervin, Arkansas (from Mississippi State): With the loss of Ronnie Brewer and Jonathan Modica, the Razorbacks need someone to step up on the perimter. Ervin might be that guy. He is one of the fastest players with the ball in college basketball, although he sometimes plays out of control and inconsistently as a result. However, he is a good distributor and does not turn the ball over that much. Ervin is not much of a shooter, but can penetrate into the lane. He also has quick hands on defense. It will be interesting to see how he fits with Arkansas.

Justin Cerasoli, Mississippi (from Seton Hall): Another point guard transfer expected to make a big impact in the SEC. While at Seton Hall, Cerasoli shared the point guard role with Donald Copeland, but showed flashes of brilliance when he played. At 6-5, he has excellent size but also has a variety of talents, making him difficult to defend. He does not turn the ball over often and is a very good passer. Cerasoli has demonstrated the ability to score in the lane, and can also shoot the three. With the point guard job all his, Cerasoli could break out.

Gary Forbes, Massachusetts (from Virginia): Similarly to New Mexico and New Mexico State, the Minutemen are considered sleepers for the conference crown due to the incoming players. While UMass also gets Etienne Brower and Luke Bonner from Boston University and West Virginia, respectively, Forbes is the player that can change the Minutemen’s fortunes. He is an outstanding scorer who can fill it up from both inside and outside the arc. Some sources around the league say he has a chance to become the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year. If that is the case, there’s a chance that 06-07 could be a special season for UMass.

Cheyenne Moore, George Washington (from Clemson):
Yes, the Colonials lose J.R. Pinnock, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall, and Omar Williams, but GW fully expects to return to the NCAA Tournament. One of the reasons why is the addition of Moore. He is an outstanding athlete who can finish with the best of them in transition. In addition, he is a solid rebounder and distributor. He should make a great fit for the Colonials’ wide-open, fast-paced system.

Micah Downs, Gonzaga (from Kansas):
If there was ever a time for Gonzaga to have a McDonald’s All-American fall into their laps, this was it. With the loss of Adam Morrison, a scoring wing is exactly what they needed. Downs fits the profile. Much-heralded going into his freshman season, he never seemed to fit with the rest of the Jayhawks. He was known as a selfish player while in high school, and the lack of playing time at Kansas could have played a role in his transfer. Either way, he is still a very good shooter and scorer who could develop into a big-time scorer in the WCC. Downs will be eligible after the first semester.

Dion Dowell, Houston (from Texas): Tom Penders has the Cougars on the way up, and the addition of Dowell from in-state rival Texas is a big-time pick-up. Dowell was injured for part of last season, and then he decided to transfer after the playing time wasn’t increasing after his return. He is an athletic swingman who is a very good defender. He is also a solid scorer. After the beating that the Longhorns took at the hands of Duke last season, coach Rick Barnes said that Dowell—who was out with an injury at the time—was the one player who could have kept Texas in the game on the defensive end. That’s high praise. It will be interesting to see if Dowell lives up to that potential with the Cougars. He will eligible after the first semester.

Lawrence McKenzie, Minnesota (from Oklahoma): Another Oklahoma transfer, McKenzie is expected to step in right away for the Golden Gophers and contribute. He is an outstanding long-range shooter who can get hot from the outside and single-handedly keep his team in the game. He was a consistent scorer while with the Sooners and should increase his production with an expanded role with Minnesota. He does not contribute much besides scoring, but the Golden Gophers will be happy with similar numbers to the ones he had at Oklahoma. They’ll likely get more than that.

Dwight Brewington, Liberty (from Providence):
Every year, there seems to be a player that moves from a major-conference school to a mid-major and all of a sudden starts averaging 23 points per game. Brewington could be that guy this season—he is that good offensively. He averaged over 13 points per game in the Big East in 04-05 and suddenly left the team last November after saying he wanted to concentrate on academics. Liberty gladly welcomes him into their fold. Combine him with All-Big South guard Larry Blair, and you could be looking at 45-50 points per game from those two players. If that happens, watch out for the Flames in the Big South.

10 other transfers to keep an eye on:
Qwan Prowell (Furman to Auburn)- Good scorer and rebounder; he will help the Tigers’ frontcourt right away.
Trent Meachem (Dayton to Illinois)- Excellent outside shooter will contribute off the bench, giving Illini another solid all-around player.
Keith Butler (Temple to DePaul)- Will add depth and size on the interior; is a solid rebounder and defender.
Steve Hailey (Boston College to Iona)- Part-time starter for BC, will step in immediately for the Gaels.
Tyrelle Blair (Loyola (Chicago) to Boston College)- Big man is a solid rebounder and defender, and can also get some garbage baskets on the inside.
Ricky Lucas (George Washington to Stony Brook)- Has the potential to be a big-time scorer in the America East.
Antonio Kellog (Connecticut to San Francisco)- Kicked off the Huskies prior to the ’04 Tournament; will make immmediate impact on the Dons.
Jack McClinton (Siena to Miami (Fl.)- Will have to replace Guillermo Diaz; put up outstanding numbers in the MAAC.
Dominic McGuire (California to Fresno State)- 6-8 swingman can do it all; size and talent make him a tough match-up in the WAC.
Pat Ewing, Jr. (Indiana to Georgetown)- Adds to the Hoyas’ ridiculous frontcourt depth; will provide solid rebounding and all-around play.