Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mid-Continent Conference Preview


The Mid-Continent Conference did not have a very successful overall season, as their #29 rank in the RPI was their lowest in years. However, the race at the top of the league was as tight as could be. Oral Roberts and IUPUI ended up tying for the conference title at 13-3. IUPUI lost their final two games while ORU won their last two to forge a tie. UMKC finished two games back at 11-5, while three teams finished at 8-8. In the conference tournament, Oral Roberts left no question as to who was the best team, winning their three games by an average of 13 points per game. IUPUI was upset by Chicago State, who reached the title game despite coming in with a six seed. ORU entered the NCAA Tournament as arguably the best #16 seed of all time, but could not match Memphis' talent and fell in the first round. This season will feature a very tight race at the top, with as many as four teams making a run at the title.

Favorite: Oral Roberts came into last season with high expectations, and did not exactly live up to them during the majority of the season. However, they played very well down the stretch and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years. The Eagles lose six players from last season, including three starters, but two-time Mid-Con Player of the Year Caleb Green returns. He is one of the top power forwards in the country and is capable of dominating a game. Green is very efficient from the field and had 16 double-doubles a season ago. Taking the pressure off of him from the perimeter is guard Ken Tutt. An outstanding three-point shooter, Tutt was injured for ten games last season. However, he came back and won Mid-Con Tournament MVP. Two newcomers are expected to make a major impact. Wichita State transfer Adam Liberty will take over at the pont guard spot, while JC transfer Shawn King will combine with Green to form an excellent inside duo. Moses Ehambe and Marchello Vealy will fight for the other vacant starting spot.

Contenders: IUPUI should have won the regular-season title last year, but the Jaguars collapsed down the stretch and then lost in the semi-finals of the conference tournament. It was a disappointing finish to arguably the best season in school history. They have the talent to make a run at the championship again this season, though. George Hill is one of the best players in the conference and could be considered one of the top shooting guards in the entire country. He is an excellent all-around player who can shoot it from deep, take it to the basket, create opportunities for his teammates, and is also one of the best 6-2 rebounders in the nation. The Jaguars return three other starters. Joining Hill on the perimeter are seniors David Barlow and Matt Burks. Barlow is a very good point guard, while Burks is an outstanding defender. Angelo Smith is a solid player up front. JC transfer Fred Kounkorgo and Bowling Green transfer Austin Montgomery could also start in the frontcourt with the loss of all-Mid Con performer Brandon Cole. UMKC had a very solid season last year, finishing third in the conference. They had a strong end to the season, and will contend for the league title this year. Quinton Day is the key for the Kangaroos. One of the best all-around point guards in the country, Day is a first-team all-conference player who is an excellent scorer and defender who is also one of the better passers in the conference. He had 15 games with at least 20 points, 13 with at least 4 rebounds, 15 with at least 5 assists, and 14 with at least 3 steals. Providing balance on the interior is all-conference forward Dee Ayuba. He is a very good inside presence, putting up impressive scoring and rebounding numbers. Guard Tim Blackwell is a good scorer on the wing, while forward Jeremiah Hartsock also returns as a starter. Dane Brumagin and Brent Stephens were solid players off the bench last season. Oakland did not have a very impressive season last year, partially due to the fact that all five starters had not played D-I basketball the season before. However, they could see a drastic improvement this year with three starters--and potential all-conference performers--returning. Calvin Wooten is a big-time scorer who is a very good three point shooter and a solid defender. If he gets hot from long-range, he is capable of taking over a game. Joining him in the backcourt is Rick Billings. He contributes in every aspect of the game, and is a solid complement to Wooten. Up front, Vova Severovas has the potential to dominate a game. He is one of the better big men in the conference, leading the league in field-goal percentage and averaging over 19 points and 9 rebounds down the stretch. Brandon Cassise and David Carson could round out the starting lineup after performing admirably off the bench last season.

Sleepers: Valparaiso has had a winning record in 12 of the last 13 years, but that streak could be in question this season. The Crusaders, a staple in the title race, lose four starters and only return three players that were key contributors last season. Point guard Jarryd Loyd is the lone returning starter and needs to improve his numbers. Jimmie Miles and Shawn Huff will have expanded roles this year and need to become go-to-guys on offense. The recruiting class brought some immediate help. Wings Samuel Haanpaa and Paul Guede are big-time scorer, while 7-1 center Calum MacLeod might start right away. Western Illinois finished one game out of the conference cellar last season, but could make some noise in the league this year. All-conference candidate David Jackson returns at the guard spot. He is one of the league's best scorers and could have an even better season this year. Point guard Sammy Hunter and wing Troy Okeson will likely join him on the perimeter. Both are solid scorers and give the Leathernecks decent size in the backcourt. Purdue transfer Xavier Price will also contribute. Up front, NaVonta Kentle leads the way. The lone returning starter in the frontcourt, Kentle has a developing offensive game but makes an impact on the boards and on the defensive end. Lorenzo Taylor could see an expanded role this year, while JC transfer Louis Johnson will make an immediate impact in the frontcourt.

Rounding Out the Pack: Centenary finished last in the conference a year ago, going only 4-23 overall and 2-14 in the conference. Expect an improvement this season, though. Wing Alexander Starr could be poised for a breakout season this year after showing flashes of his potential last season, while Tyrone Hamilton will become the team's go-to-guy after redshirting last year. He averaged almost 13 points per game two season ago. Bryan Baumann is a returning starter on the perimeter, while Clarke Jackson is a solid player off the bench. Larry Logan returns up front and could be ready for a leading role for the Gents. Transfer Lance Hill could join him in the frontcourt. Several other newcomers are expected to contribute, as well. Southern Utah only went 10-20 overall last season, but finished tied for fourth in the conference in what was deemed a successful season for the Thunderbirds. However, only one starter returns from that surprising team. Point guard Steve Barnes is one of the best playmakers and lead guards in the Mid-Con, but will need to improve his scoring in order to keep Southern Utah competitive. Wing Justin Allen has the potential to be a big-time scorer and could become the go-to-guy this season, while Marcus Carson could step into the starting linep after redshirting last season. Up front, a plethora of JC transfers will be expected to contribute immediately, namely Tate Sorenson and Brad Kanis.

Prediction: The Mid-Continent has a chance to be very underrated conference this season after one of their worst seasons in history a year ago. Oral Roberts is the preseason favorite, returning the best inside-outside combo in the Mid-Con in Ken Tutt and Caleb Green. They have led the Eagles to 63 wins in their careers. However, there are a couple of teams that will be on their heels the entire season. IUPUI has George Hill, UMKC has Quinton Day, while Oakland has arguably the best trio in the conference. As long as Tutt and Green stay healthy, though, Oral Roberts is tough to bet against. Green is the most dominant player in the conference and will carry ORU to another conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Player of the Year: Caleb Green, PF, Oral Roberts

All-Conference Team:
G- Quinton Day, UMKC
G- George Hill, IUPUI
G- Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts
G- Calvin Wooten, Oakland
F- Caleb Green, Oral Roberts

Second Team:
G- Steve Barnes, Southern Utah
G- Rick Billings, Oakland
G- David Jackson, Western Illinois
F- Dee Ayuba, UMKC
F- Vova Severovas, Oakland


  1. You need to remove Calvin Wooten from your preview. He is no longer on the Oakland team.

  2. Wow, I did not know that. He was on every roster I saw up until the time I wrote it.

    Now I'm looking at the team website, and he's not on the roster.

    What happened?