Friday, October 31, 2008

Big Ten Conference Preview


Player of the Year: Raymar Morgan, F, Michigan State

Newcomer of the Year: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State

All-Conference Team:
G- E'Twaun Moore, Purdue
G- Manny Harris, Michigan
G- Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
F- Robbie Hummel, Purdue
F- Raymar Morgan, Michigan State

Second Team:
G- Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin
F- Marcus Landry, Wisconsin
F- Kevin Coble, Northwestern
C- Goran Suton, Michigan State
C- B.J. Mullens, Ohio State

Third Team:
G- Chris Kramer, Purdue
G- Craig Moore, Northwestern
G/F- David Lighty, Ohio State
F- Jamelle Cornley, Penn State
F- DeShawn Sims, Michigan

Projected Order of Finish

1. Michigan State
2. Purdue
3. Wisconsin
4. Ohio State
5. Minnesota
6. Illinois
7. Michigan
8. Penn State
9. Northwestern
10. Iowa
11. Indiana

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Atlantic-10 Conference Preview


1. Xavier
2. Temple

3. Massachusetts
4. Saint Joseph’s
5. Dayton

6. La Salle
7. Charlotte
8. Rhode Island
9. George Washington

10. Richmond
11. Saint Louis
12. Duquesne
13. Fordham
14. St. Bonaventure

Player of the Year: Dionte Christmas, G, Temple

All-Conference Team:

G- Ricky Harris, Massachusetts
G- Dionte Christmas, Temple
G- Kevin Lisch, Saint Louis
F- Derrick Brown, Xavier
F- Ahmad Nivins, Saint Joseph’s

Second Team:
G- Chris Lowe, Massachusetts
G- Rodney Green, La Salle
G/F- C.J. Anderson, Xavier
F- Chris Wright, Dayton
F- Rob Diggs, George Washington

Third Team:
G- Lamont Mack, Charlotte
G- Jimmy Baron, Rhode Island
G- Tasheed Carr, Saint Joseph’s
G- Kevin Anderson, Richmond
G- Tommie Liddell, Saint Louis

Conference-USA Preview


1. Memphis

2. UAB
3. Tulsa
5. Southern Miss
6. Marshall
7. Houston
8. Tulane
9. UCF
10. SMU
11. East Carolina
12. Rice

Player of the Year: Robert Vaden, G/F, UAB

All-Conference Team:
G- Jermaine Taylor, UCF
G- Jeremy Wise, Southern Miss
G/F- Stefon Jackson, UTEP
G/F- Robert Vaden, UAB
F- Robert Dozier, Memphis

Second Team:
G- Tyreke Evans, Memphis
G- Antonio Anderson, Memphis
G- Ben Uzoh, Tulsa
F- Markel Humphrey, Marshall
C- Jerome Jordan, Tulsa

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

West Coast Conference Preview


1. Gonzaga
2. Saint Mary’s
3. San Diego
4. Santa Clara

5. San Francisco
6. Portland
7. Loyola Marymount
8. Pepperdine

Player of the Year: Jeremy Pargo, G, Gonzaga

All-Conference Team:
G- Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
G- Patty Mills, Saint Mary’s
F- Austin Daye, Gonzaga
F- Diamon Simpson, Saint Mary’s
C- John Bryant, Santa Clara

Second Team:
G- Brandon Johnson, San Diego
G- Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga
F- Gyno Pomare, San Diego
F- Dior Lowhorn, San Francisco
F- Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga

Mountain West Conference Preview


2. BYU

3. San Diego State
4. New Mexico
5. Utah

6. Wyoming
7. Air Force

8. Colorado State
9. TCU

Player of the Year: Wink Adams, G, UNLV

All-Conference Team:
G- Wink Adams, UNLV
G- Brandon Ewing, Wyoming
G/F- Lee Cummard, BYU
F- Lorrenzo Wade, San Diego State* (if he plays this season)
C- Luke Nevill, Utah

Second Team:
G- Marcus Walker, Colorado State
G- Tony Dandridge, New Mexico
F- Jonathan Tavernari, BYU
F- Ryan Amoroso, San Diego State
F- Kevin Langford, TCU

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Missouri Valley Conference Preview


1. Creighton
2. Illinois State

3. Southern Illinois
4. Drake

5. Northern Iowa
6. Bradley
7. Indiana State
8. Wichita State
9. Evansville
10. Missouri State

Player of the Year: Osiris Eldridge, G, Illinois State

All-Conference Team:
G- Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State
G- P’Allen Stinnett, Creighton
G- Bryan Mullins, Southern Illinois
G- Josh Young, Drake
F- Jonathan Cox, Drake

Second Team:

G- Andrew Warren, Bradley
G- Jason Holsinger, Evansville
G- Marco Stinson, Indiana State
F- Shy Ely, Evansville
F- Theron Wilson, Bradley

CAA Preview


1. VCU
2. Old Dominion

3. George Mason
4. Northeastern
5. Delaware

6. Georgia State
7. Hofstra
8. William & Mary
9. Towson
10. UNC-Wilmington
11. James Madison
12. Drexel

Player of the Year:
Eric Maynor, G, VCU

All-Conference Team:
G- Eric Maynor, VCU
G- Abdulai Jalloh, James Madison
G- Matt Janning, Northeastern
F- Marc Egerson, Delaware
F- Gerald Lee, Old Dominion

Second Team:

G- Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
G- Leonard Mendez, Georgia State
G- John Vaughn, George Mason
F- Junior Hairston, Towson
F- Larry Sanders, VCU

WAC Preview


1. Nevada

2. Utah State
3. San Jose State
4. Louisiana Tech
5. New Mexico State
6. Boise State
7. Fresno State
8. Hawaii
9. Idaho

Player of the Year: Gary Wilkinson, F, Utah State

All-Conference Team:
G- Armon Johnson, Nevada
G- Kyle Gibson, Louisiana Tech
G- Jonathan Gibson, New Mexico State
F- C.J. Webster, San Jose State
F- Gary Wilkinson, Utah State

Second Team:
G- Brandon Fields, Nevada
G- Anthony Thomas, Boise State
F- Luke Babbitt, Nevada
F- Chris Oakes, San Jose State
F- Tai Wesley, Utah State

Monday, October 27, 2008

Southern Conference Preview


South Division

1. Davidson
2. College of Charleston
3. Georgia Southern
4. Furman
5. Wofford
6. The Citadel

North Division
1. Chattanooga
2. Appalachian State
3. Elon
4. Western Carolina
5. UNC-Greensboro
6. Samford

Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson

All-Conference Team:
G- Stephen Curry, Davidson
G- Brandon Giles, Western Carolina
G- Cameron Wells, The Citadel
F- Nicchaeus Doaks, Chattanooga
F- Jermaine Johnson, College of Charleston

Second Team:
G- Stephen McDowell, Chattanooga
G- Tony White Jr., College of Charleston
G- Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston
G- Andrew Lovedale, Davidson
F- Brett James, Elon

Mid-American Conference Preview


East Division
1. Kent State
2. Miami (Ohio)
3. Bowling Green
4. Akron
5. Ohio
6. Buffalo

West Division
1. Western Michigan
2. Eastern Michigan
3. Central Michigan
4. Toledo
5. Ball State
6. Northern Illinois

Player of the Year: Al Fisher, G, Kent State

All-Conference Team:
G- Al Fisher, Kent State
G- David Kool, Western Michigan
F- Anthony Newell, Ball State
F- Michael Bramos, Miami (Ohio)
F- Jerome Tillman, Ohio

Second Team:
G- Carlos Medlock, Eastern Michigan
G- Tyrone Kent, Toledo
G- Andy Robinson, Buffalo
G- Darion Anderson, Northern Illinois
F- Nate Miller, Bowling Green

Horizon League Preview


1. Cleveland State
2. Wright State
3. Wisconsin-Green Bay
4. Butler
5. Illinois-Chicago
6. Valparaiso
7. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
8. Loyola
9. Detroit
10. Youngstown State

Player of the Year:
J’Nathan Bullock, F, Cleveland State

All-Conference Team:
G- Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State
G- Vaughn Duggins, Wright State
G- Josh Mayo, Illinois-Chicago
F- Matt Howard, Butler
F- J’Nathan Bullock, Cleveland State

Second Team:
G- J.R. Blount, Loyola
G- Todd Brown, Wright State
F- Mike Schachtner, Wisconsin-Green Bay
F- Urule Igbavboa, Valparaiso
C- Scott VanderMeer, Illinois-Chicago

Friday, October 24, 2008

MAAC Preview


The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference might have had arguably the best league race of any conference in the country last season. Six teams finished within two games of each other at the top of the league, with Siena and Rider tying for the regular-season championship at 13-5. Niagara and Loyola (Md.) finished one game back at 12-5, while Marist and Fairfield were 11-7. Siena got the top-seed, while Marist received the No. 6 seed. In the conference tournament, Siena made use of its No. 1 seed and won the automatic bid, relegating Rider to the College Basketball Invitational. The Saints pulled off a major upset in the NCAA Tournament, beating Vanderbilt in the first-round before falling to Villanova. Don’t expect such a close league race this year – there is a clear favorite.

Favorite: Siena will be one of the top mid-majors in the country this season. The Saints pulled off an upset of Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March, and they have the pieces to go a round further this season. Kenny Hasbrouck is one of the best guards in the mid-major world, and might be the best player in the MAAC. Edwin Ubiles is an outstanding wing who can really fill it up offensively, while Alex Franklin is a scoring and rebounding machine in the low-post. Two more starters also return in point guard Ronald Moore and forward Josh Duell.

Contenders: Fairfield finished tied for fifth in the conference last season, but the Stags return all five starters. The leader is point guard Jonathan Han, an all-conference candidate who can really pass. Herbie Allen will start next to him. Up front, Anthony Johnson is a very good player at both ends, while Greg Nero and Mike Evanovich are also back. Niagara needs to replace Charron Fisher, who was second in the country in scoring and also averaged 10 rebounds per game. However, the Purple Eagles have the pieces to make run. Tyrone Lewis is an all-conference guard who can fill it up, while Anthony Nelson also returns as a starter. Transfers Rob Garrison (Connecticut) and Bilal Benn (Villanova) will make immediate impacts. Benson Egemonye is the leader up front. Rider will be without lottery pick Jason Thompson, one of the best players in the country last season. The Broncs’ star will be his brother, Ryan. One of the best and most versatile players in the conference, Thompson can do it all. Scoring wing Harris Mansell will start next to him, while Justin Robinson is also back as a starter. Expect Mike Ringgold to pick up his game, while Lamar Johnson will step in for the departed Thompson.

Sleepers: Loyola (Md.), like seemingly every team in the league, lost a marquee player in Gerald Brown, a two-time all-MAAC guard. Picking up the slack will be guards Marquis Sullivan, Brian Rudolph and Brett Harvey. Furthermore, Providence transfer Jamal Barney is eligible. Newcomers will need to make an impact up front, especially freshman Anthony Winbush. Iona improved drastically last season, which isn’t saying much, considering the Gaels had just two wins the year before. If they want to improve this season, it will fall on the shoulders of a very solid forward duo, all-conference candidate Gary Springer and Devon Clarke, an athletic finisher. Look for Louisville transfer Jonathan Huffman and redshirt sophomore Alejo Rodriguez to help out up front. The backcourt is deep, with returnees Milan Prodanovic and Rashon Dwight and newcomers Kashif Pratt, a Seton Hall transfer, and freshman Jermel Jenkins. Manhattan lost just one starter and has the pieces offensively to make noise. Antoine Pearson and Chris Smith are both talented guards, while Darryl Crawford could move into the starting lineup. Devon Austin could blossom into an all-conference player, and Andrew Gabriel is also back.

Rounding out the Pack: The good news for Canisius is that the Golden Griffins return all five starters. Of course, those five starters went just 2-16 in the MAAC last season, good for last place in the league. Frank Turner is one of the best all-around guards in the conference, while Jovan Robinson and Bob Bevilacqua return. Greg Logins, shot-blocker Tomas Vasquez-Simmons and Hofstra transfer Chris Gadley anchor the frontcourt. Marist is a long way removed from its days of Jared Jordan and Will Whittington in the backcourt. Just one starter returns from last season, guard David Devezin. Aside from him, Ryan Schneider and DeJuan Goodwin are the top returnees. JC transfer Javon Paris and several freshmen will make immediate impacts. Saint Peter’s has won a combined 11 games in the past two seasons, and will look to improve on that number this year. The perimeter trio of Wesley Jenkins, Darrell Lampley and Nick Leon is a good place to start. Up front will be Akeem Gooding and Ryan Bacon.

Prediction: The MAAC had an outstanding race for the title last season – it might be the exact opposite this year. Siena is clearly the best team in the league, as the Saints have perhaps three of the four best players in the conference and the experience of winning an NCAA Tournament game. If they start reading their press clippings or overlook their opponents, they can certainly slip-up. However, the conference as a whole lost a lot of talent and the contenders are simply not as good as they were last year. The difference between Siena and the second-place team might be bigger than the difference between the top six teams was last season – and that might be only a slight exaggeration. With Kenny Hasbrouck running the show, Edwin Ubiles creating match-up problems and Alex Franklin dominating down low, the Siena Saints are poised to get back to the NCAA Tournament – and maybe get to the second weekend.

Player of the Year: Kenny Hasbrouck, G, Siena

All-Conference Team:
G- Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena
G- Ryan Thompson, Rider
G- Tyrone Lewis, Niagara
F- Edwin Ubiles, Siena
F- Alex Franklin, Siena

Second Team:
G- Jonathan Han, Fairfield

G- Harris Mansell, Rider
G- Frank Turner, Canisius
G- Marquis Sullivan, Loyola (Md.)
F- Gary Springer, Iona

Sun Belt Conference Preview


The Sun Belt Conference was one of the most exciting conferences in the country last season. It had two of the better mid-majors in South Alabama and Western Kentucky, two teams who fought for the regular-season title until the end of the season. They both finished 16-2 on the year, but USA defeated WKU twice, giving the Jaguars the No. 1 seed. Three teams finished within one game of each other in the West division, but Arkansas-Little Rock got the title via tie-breakers. In the conference tournament, Western Kentucky got its revenge by winning the automatic bid, but South Alabama also got an at-large bid. Once in the Big Dance, WKU represented for the Sun Belt by pulling off arguably the most exciting moment of the tournament, A.J. Rogers knocking down a deep three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Drake. The Hilltoppers then beat San Diego to advance to the second-round before falling to UCLA. USA lost to Butler in the first-round. Don’t expect multiple bids again this year, but there will be a great race at the top of the league.

Favorites: South Alabama is coming off of a fantastic season, capped by an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Jaguars do lose two starters, but it could have been worse. Guard Domonic Tilford was charged with possession of cocaine in August, but looks likely to start the season. Starting next to him will be either JC transfer Bryan Sherrer or freshman C.J. Garner. The frontcourt is what has people excited, though. Brandon Davis and DeAndre’ Coleman are two of the best big men in the league, while Ronald Douglas is also solid. Middle Tennessee returns all five starters from last season, and will be a threat to win the league. Leading the way will be the frontcourt duo of Player of the Year candidate Desmond Yates and center Theryn Hudson. The perimeter is also well-stocked, with double-figure scorers Kevin Kanaskie and Demetrius Green returning, as well as point guard Nigel Johnson. Calvin O’Neil is recovered from an ACL injury. Arkansas-Little Rock also returns its entire collection of starters from last season. The Trojans have plenty of options, both inside and out. It starts with combo guard Steven Moore, as well as wings Brandon Patterson and John Fowler. Matt Mouzy gets minutes. Up front, Mike Smith is the go-to-guy, but Shane Edwards and Derrrick Bails are also very solid. North Texas loses three starters from its third-place division finish last season, but two of those starters comprise possibly the best backcourt in the league. Josh White can score and shoot the ball effectively, while Collin Dennis can fill it up as well from the guard spot. Tristan Thompson and Adam McCoy return on the wing, while JC transfer Dominique Johnson will see time. The frontcourt will be carried by newcomers.

Contenders: Western Kentucky will obviously take a step back after its Sweet Sixteen run as the Hilltoppers will be without Courtney Lee and two other starters. Returning on the perimeter will be A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, two players will play a bigger role this year. JC transfer Anthony Sally might handle the point. Jeremy Evans and D.J. Magley return up front. Louisiana-Lafayette tied for first in its division last year, and returns four starters from that group. The frontcourt has plenty of talent and depth. Chris Gradnigo and Travis Bureau return at forward, while La’Ryan Gary was also productive last year. UNLV transfer Lamar Roberson will make an impact. Junior Randell Daigle and redshirt junior Ryan McCoy should start at guard. Florida Atlantic welcomes new head coach Mike Jarvis, who inherits a talented, experienced squad. Forward Carlos Monroe might be the best player in the conference, while Paul Graham is another all-conference candidate on the wing. The third key returnee is guard Carderro Nwoii, who might move to the two to make room for freshman Alex Tucker.

Sleepers: Florida International struggled last season, finishing fifth in the division and going just 9-20 overall. However, the Golden Panthers own a dynamite duo in former Kansas transfer Alex Galindo and 7-0 center Russell Hicks – both could be all-conference performers. Nikola Gacesa and Freddy Asprilla could start up front, while Florida State transfer Josue Soto has the first shot at the point guard position. Arkansas State, who finished last in its division last year, could be much-improved. Three starters are back, including forwards Yima Chia-Kur and Shawn Morgan and point guard Ifeanyi Koggu. However, former Vanderbilt transfer JeJuan Brown and JC transfer Donald Boone could make immediate impacts. Denver improved by seven wins last season, and could be better this year. There are a lot of solid returnees, including point guard Kyle Lewis and forwards Nate Rohnert and Rob Lewis. Freshman Brian Stafford could make an impact immediately at the guard position.

Rounding out the Pack: Louisiana-Monroe could finish last in the conference, or they can easily finish in the upper half. There is a lot of talent on the roster, start with all-conference guard Tony Hooper, who can carry the Warhawks. Joining him on the perimeter will be Brandon Roberts, former Southern Miss transfer Jarvis Hill and a host of newcomers. Up front, Rudy Turner and Afam Nweke lead a deep group. New Orleans returns just one starter from last season, and the Privateers lose the all-time leading scorer in Sun Belt history, Bo McCalebb. The top returnee is all-conference candidate Kyndall Dykes, who can score and rebound well on the wing. T.J. Worley is also back, as is 6-10 Jaroslav Tyrna. Leading the newcomers will be JC transfers Ejike Hart and Darrian McKinstry. Troy also returns just one starter, and will rely heavily on newcomers. Luckily, one of those newcomers is Mississippi State transfer Richard Delk, while JC transfers Regis Huddleston and Chris Leggett could also start. Leading the returnees are guard Michael Vogler and Trayce Macon.

Prediction: The Sun Belt won’t be as good at the top as it was last season, but overall, it might be more competitive. There isn’t a definite cellar-dweller in the group, as every team has some solid talent and could make noise. For the title, though, it will likely come down to South Alabama and Middle Tennessee, both teams from the East Division. As usual, the West Division has a lot of quality teams, but they might be the lesser of the two divisions. USA has a great frontcourt, and Domonic Tilford – if eligible – is solid in the backcourt. Middle Tennessee has great inside-outside balance and has plenty of options. In the end, I’m going with Middle Tennessee to unseat the Jaguars. The Blue Raiders have the big guys to compete with Brandon Davis and co. with Desmond Yates and Theryn Hudson, and Kevin Kanaskie and Demetrius Green can score. It should be a great season in the Sun Belt, with Middle Tennessee getting the automatic bid.

Player of the Year: Carlos Monroe, F, Florida Atlantic

All-Conference Team:
G- Josh White, North Texas
F- Alex Galindo, Florida International
F- Brandon Davis, South Alabama
F- Carlos Monroe, Florida Atlantic

F- Desmond Yates, Middle Tennessee

Second Team:
G- Collin Dennis, North Texas

G- Tony Hooper, Louisiana-Monroe
G- Paul Graham, Florida Atlantic
G- Domonic Tilford, South Alabama

C- Russell Hicks, Florida International

Big West Conference Preview


The Big West Conference is always an entertaining and competitive league, and last season was no different. Three teams tied for the regular-season title, with UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge all going 12-4. Pacific finished one game back of those three, at 11-5. UCSB won nine of its last 11 games, including a key road win over Northridge in the next-to-last game of the season, while Northridge lost three of its last five. Fullerton won 11 of its last 13. In the conference tournament, Fullerton outlasted the rest of its first-place colleagues to win the automatic bid over UC-Irvine. They would lose to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament after putting up a fight, while UCSB fell in the NIT. This year, there is a clear-cut favorite at the top of the league.

Favorites: Cal State Northridge lost three starters from last season, but still have three of the best players in the Big West. How is that? Well, Deon Tresvant, the team’s leading scorer, and Tremaine Townsend, who nearly averaged a double-double for the season, started a combined eight games (all by Townsend). With those two in the starting lineup, along with Josh Jenkins, the best point guard in the conference, the Matadors are going to be loaded. Throw in returnees Rob Haynes and Rodrigue Mels, and Tulsa transfer Mark Hill, and this team is going to be tough.

Contenders: UC Santa Barbara loses co-conference player of the year Alex Harris, but returns a dynamite inside-outside combo in forward Chris Devine and guard James Powell. Both are explosive scorers. The Gauchos have a host of serviceable guards, namely Paul Roemer and D.J. Posley. They are hoping point guard Justin Joyner and his wrist will be fully recovered. Pacific, always a contender for the conference title, will be right in the mix again this season. The Tigers have two all-conference candidates in big man Anthony Brown and guard Chad Troyer. Brown needs to become more of a dominant player this season. Bryan LeDuc and Joe Ford return at forward, while JC transfer Royal Edwards will make an impact. Cal State Fullerton returns just one starter from its NCAA Tournament team of a year ago, but Josh Akognon might be the best player in the conference, and is one of the top shooting guards in the nation. Other than him, the only returnee is senior guard Marcio Lassiter. Out of the newcomers, point guard Jacques Streeter, JC transfer Gerard Anderson and 7-2 Adam Thomas could start.

Sleepers: Long Beach State finished eighth in the league last year, but the 49ers return all five starters and will improve. It starts with Donovan Morris, one of the top shooting guards in the country, but who gets overshadowed by Josh Akognon in the Big West. Mo Clady and Greg Plater also return on the perimeter, while Fresno State transfer Stephan Gilling will make an impact. Cornel Williams and Brian Freeman are back up front. UC Davis went just 2-14 in conference play last season, but returns four starters. Mark Payne is an all-conference candidate at whichever position he decides to play, while guards Vince Oliver and David Carter are also back. Up front, Dominic Calegari and Kyle Brucculeri return. Look out for Notre Dame transfer Joe Harden.

Rounding out the Pack: UC Riverside has won a total of 30 games in the past four season, but it returns four starters and could move upwards in the standings. In the backcourt will be Sean Cunningham, Jalonni Diggs and Cleavon Barlow, but JC transfer Javon Borum will get time. Aaron Scott and Christian Soto return up front. Cal Poly has the talent to stay out of the cellar this season. Double-figure scorers Lorenzo Keeler and Trae Clark return in the backcourt, as does point guard Chaz Thomas. Forward Titus Shelton is the main man up front, while freshman David Hanson is expected to make an immediate impact. UC-Irvine will definitely take a step back this season after finishing fifth in the league last year. Still, the Anteaters have a solid perimeter trio in juniors Michael Hunter and Chad DeCasas and senior Brett Lauer. Kevin Bland is the main returnee up front.

Prediction: Last season, the Big West featured a tremendous title race, with three teams eventually splitting the championship. Don’t expect the same this year, as there is one clear-cut favorite – Cal State Northridge. The Matadors have a fantastic trio in guards Josh Jenkins and Deon Tresvant and forward Tremaine Townsend, as well as several solid role players. No one has the personnel to match-up with them. UC Santa Barbara and Pacific have good inside-outside duos, but not much else, while Cal State Fullerton (Josh Akognon) and Long Beach State (Donovan Morris) rely too much on one player. Northridge has balance offensively and the Matadors also play solid defense. Expect to see them playing in March – perhaps for more than one game.

Player of the Year: Josh Akognon, G, Cal State Fullerton

All-Conference Team:
G- Josh Akognon, Cal State Fullerton
G- Donovan Morris, Long Beach State
G- Josh Jenkins, Cal State Northridge
F- Tremaine Townsend, Cal State Northridge

F- Chris Devine, UC Santa Barbara

Second Team:
G- Deon Tresvant, Cal State Northridge

G- Mark Payne, UC-Davis
G- James Powell, UC Santa Barbara
G- Chad Troyer, Pacific

F- Anthony Brown, Pacific

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Summit League Preview


In its first year under a new name, the Summit League – formerly the Mid-Continent Conference – was one of the most underrated conferences in the country. It featured a tight two-team race at the top of the league, with Oral Roberts edging out preseason favorite IUPUI by one game. ORU started 13-0 but faltered somewhat down the stretch, while IUPUI won 10 of its 11 league games to make it close. Two other teams finished above .500, with two more going 9-9. The two regular-season titans met in the conference tournament title game, with Oral Roberts prevailing once again and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders fell to Pittsburgh in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, North Dakota State – which has averaged more than 17 wins per season the past three years – is finally eligible for the postseason, which should add another contender to the mix.

Favorites: Oakland is coming off of a fairly successful season which saw the Golden Grizzlies finish in third, going 17-14 overall. They return five starters from that group. Chief among them is all-conference forward Derick Nelson, a double-double threat every night out who can carry the team. Furthermore, the all-conference backcourt duo of Johnathan Jones and Erik Kangas might be the best in the league. 6-11 Keith Benson and 6-10 Dan Waterstadt also return up front. North Dakota State has been a contender near the top of the standings for a couple of seasons, but they are finally eligible for the postseason. Luckily, the Bison return five starters, including the best inside-outside duo in the league in guard Ben Woodside and forward Brett Winkelman. Both players are supremely productive and difficult to defend. Don’t forget scoring wing Mike Nelson, either. Lucas Moorman and Josh Vaughan will likely round out the lineup. Oral Roberts will take a step back after losing four starters from its 24-win, NCAA Tournament campaign. Still, the Crusaders return an excellent inside-outside duo in sixth man extraordinaire Robert Jarvis and forward Marcus Lewis. Andre Hardy and Kelvin Sango are two more solid returnees, while Ball State transfer Kevin Ford and JC transfer Reggie Guyton have a chance to make an impact.

Contenders: IUPUI suffered the biggest loss in the league when George Hill decided to forego his final season to enter the NBA Draft, where he was drafted in the first-round. Still, the Jaguars return a solid duo in guard Gary Patterson and forward Jon Avery, two all-conference candidates. Billy Pettiford also returns, while newcomers Robert Glenn and Alex Young could start. IPFW has steadily improved under the guidance of former Indiana guard Dane Fife, and this year should be no different. Two double-figure scorers return in forward David Carson and guard Ben Botts, while guards Jakari Johnson and Zach Plackemeier are solid. Kansas State transfer Deilvez Yearby and Central Michigan Aaron Richie could start immediately.

Sleepers: UMKC will go as far as its talented backcourt can take it. The Kangaroos return all-conference guard Dane Brumagin, one of the better all-around players in the conference, and Reggie Hamilton, a versatile guard. Forward James Humphrey returns in the frontcourt, but newcomer Latreze Mushatt could make an impact. Southern Utah finished tied for fifth last season, going .500 in league play despite going just 11-19 overall. David Marek and Davis Baker lead the way in the backcourt, with Rick Roberts also chipping in. Tyler Quinney came on strong down the stretch at forward.

Rounding out the Pack: Centenary does have some solid pieces which could enable it to make moves upwards in the standings. Nick Stallings is an all-conference performer at guard, while forward Lance Hill can score and rebound. Chase Adams is a very good player at both ends of the floor, and Anthony Gatlin and Jerald Bonham also return. South Dakota State has a chance to improve on its three-year average of fewer than eight wins per season. Kai Williams should be an all-conference candidate at forward; he is very productive. Garrett Callahan is a double-figure scorer at guard, while Clint Sargent can shoot the ball. Mackenzie Casey will run the point for the Jackrabbits. Western Illinois will depend very heavily on newcomers after losing three starters from last season. For the returnees, David Dubois and David Nurse lead the way. Outside of him, Josh Rivers is the only other key player coming back. Guard Tommie Tyler and forward Julian Jones are the best of the newcomers.

Prediction: Despite Oral Roberts being the defending champion and bringing back Robert Jarvis, this looks like a two-team race for the title. Oakland has the best trio in the conference in Derick Nelson, Erik Kangas and Johnathan Jones, while North Dakota State has two of the best in the league in Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman. Nelson and Woodside’s battle for Player of the Year should be as close as the race for the championship and berth to the NCAA Tournament. The difference come March will be Oakland’s depth and overall talent level. They have everything necessary to win the conference – size, shooting, guards, go-to-guys – and it will come together for the Golden Grizzlies to head to the Big Dance.

Player of the Year: Ben Woodside, G, North Dakota State

All-Conference Team:
G- Ben Woodside, North Dakota State
G- Robert Jarvis, Oral Roberts
G- Dane Brumagin, UMKC
F- Derrick Nelson, Oakland

F- Brett Winkelman, North Dakota State

Second Team:
G- Gary Patterson, IUPUI

G- Nick Stallings, Centenary
G- Erik Kangas, Oakland
G- Johnathan Jones, Oakland

F- Kai Williams, South Dakota State

Big Sky Conference Preview


The Big Sky Conference had a rather ordinary season last year, ranking No. 25 in conference RPI, with Portland State winning the league by three games over Northern Arizona. The Vikings started just 2-2, but won their last 14 Big Sky games to run away with the conference. NAU seemed like a contender until it lost four of five games in the middle part of the league season. Only one other team finished above .500 in league play. Not surprisingly, PSU continued its winning ways in the conference tournament, defeating Northern Arizona in the title game to win the automatic bid. The Vikings were blown out by Kansas in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, but they are the favorites heading into the season and will look to advance this time.

Favorite: Portland State could be a mid-major team to watch this season late in the year. The Vikings are coming off a great season, in which they won their final 14 Big Sky games, including the conference tournament, before falling to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the loss of two starters, PSU could be even better this year. Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez returns, as does guard Andre Murray and forward Kyle Coston. It’s the transfers that have people excited, though, namely guard Dominic Waters (Hawaii), forward Phil Nelson (Washington) and forward Jamie Jones (Portland).

Contenders: Idaho State finished in a tie for fourth last season, but the Bengals will be improved this season. Leading the way will be the perimeter trio of all-conference guard Matt Stucki, Amorrow Morgan and Austin Kilpatrick. They have the size and talent to create mismatches in the backcourt. Lucas Steijn is the main man up front. Montana is perennially near the top of the standings, and this year won’t be any different. The Grizzlies have an imposing frontline with all-conference forward Jordan Hasquet, Oregon State transfer Jack McGillis and forward Joey Sharp. The backcourt duo of shooter Ryan Staudacher and senior Ceylon Elgin-Taylor is solid. Northern Arizona is coming off a second-place finish, but will likely fall back. The Lumberjacks are led by their perimeter group, starting with all-conference point guard Josh Wilson. Flanking him will be seniors Matt Johnson and Jermaine Bishop, and journeyman transfer Jermaine Calvin. Up front, Zarko Comagic and Nick Larson will be the go-to-guys.

Sleepers: Weber State is coming off a solid season which saw the Wildcats go 16-14 and finish in third place. However, they lose three starters. Fortunately, they return a variety of serviceable players and bring in some solid newcomers. Daviin Davis is an all-conference candidate, while guard Kellen McCoy can score. Steve Panos and Trevor Morris can play up front. Northern Colorado is expected to be much-improved after winning 13 games last year. In the backcourt will be Will Figures and Robert Palacios, as well as junior college transfer Yahosh Bonner. The frontcourt is the team’s strength, with all-conference performer Jabril Banks the headliner. Jefferson Mason also returns up front.

Rounding out the Pack: Eastern Washington returns four starters from last season, most of which is on the perimeter. Adris DeLeon is an all-conference candidate at the point, with fellow starters Trey Gross and Gary Gibson joining him. Milan Stanojevic can score off the bench. Leading the way down low is Brandon Moore. Montana State brings back just one starter, not a good sign considering the team finished in sixth-place last year. The one starter is very good, though, as Divaldo Mbunga could be an all-conference selection down low. Branden Johnson and Bobby Howard also return up front. Only one player has experience in the backcourt, James Hennesey. Newcomers will have to make a huge impact. Sacramento State will look to get out of the cellar after winning just four games overall last season. Loren Leath is still gunning for the Hornets, but there is not much besides him. Donald Thomas and Justin Eller are solid up front, while guard Antonio Flaggs leads a deep recruiting class.

Prediction: Portland State could be a real threat this season, not just in the Big Sky. The Vikings have a lot of talent, including conference player of the year Jeremiah Dominguez and a host of transfers. Dominic Waters and Phil Nelson immediately become two of the best players in the league. No one came close to catching PSU last season after its early struggles, and it looks like the Vikings will be even better this year. Idaho State has a great backcourt and Montana has a solid frontline, but neither has the inside-outside balance to compete with Portland State. Watch out for the Vikings come March – they will definitely be in the Big Dance.

Player of the Year: Jeremiah Dominguez, G, Portland State

All-Conference Team:
G- Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State
G- Josh Wilson, Northern Arizona
F- Jabril Banks, Northern Colorado

F- Jordan Hasquet, Montana
F- Divaldo Mbunga, Montana State

Second Team:
G- Adris DeLeon, Eastern Washington
G- Matt Stucki, Idaho State

G- Loren Leath, Sacramento State
G- Amorrow Morgan, Idaho State
F- Daviin Davis, Weber State

America East Conference Preview


The America East Conference looked like it might feature a tight league race down the stretch last season, but the second half destroyed any of those thoughts. From mid-January on, it was Maryland-Baltimore County’s league. The Retrievers won nine of their last 10 games to finish in first-place by three games over Hartford and Albany. Three teams finished 9-7, with just three teams finishing below .500 in conference play. On the other hand, just one team finished more than one game above .500 overall. The conference tournament was more of the same, as UMBC won the automatic bid by knocking off Hartford in the finals. The Retrievers’ hot streak wouldn’t continue in the NCAA Tournament, as they fell to Georgetown in the first-round. This season features two perennial favorites as the frontrunners.

Favorites: Boston University
returns five starters from last season’s fourth-place finish, and the Terriers have the pieces to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a longer-than-usual hiatus. Corey Lowe is one of the best players in the league, while John Holland and Carlos Strong are also double-figure scorers. Tyler Morris is another solid guard. Up front, Scott Brittain can score and rebound, and Matt Wolff is a versatile performer. Vermont returns perhaps the best inside-outside duo in the league in guard Mike Trimboli and forward Marquis Blakely. Blakely is one of the most productive players in the country at both ends, while Trimboli is a very good point guard. Michigan State transfer Maurice Joseph will likely step in immediately at guard, and Evan Fjeld leads a solid group of role players.

Contenders: UMBC will look to return to the NCAA Tournament after improving by 12 wins last season. The Retrievers bring back four players who saw starting opportunities, including all-conference performers Jay Greene, a terrific point guard, and Daryl Proctor, one of the best players in the America East. Matt Spadafora and Justin Fry also return to the lineup. Hartford tied for second last season, and the Hawks will be a contender once again. Joe Zeglinski is one of the better guards in the league, while Jared Von Rosenburg is a nice complement to him in the backcourt. Michael Turner is a very versatile forward who pairs with Morgan Sabia in a solid frontcourt.

Sleepers: Binghamton will be one of the most intriguing teams in the America East this season. The Bearcats bring in former Syracuse and Massachusetts transfer Tiki Mayben and Gonzaga transfer Theo Davis, who are both very talented but have had off-court problems in the past. Guard Malik Alvin is another transfer who will be counted on immediately. Leading the returnees are Reggie Fuller and Dwayne Jackson. Albany might fall back to the pack this year after several seasons at or near the top of the standings. Brian Connelly, Jerel Hastings and Tim Ambrose are solid returnees, with Connelly looking to become a go-to-guy. Virginia transfer Will Harris and two newcomers in the backcourt will likely make immediate impacts. New Hampshire returns four starters from last season, but the Wildcats went just 9-20 last season. However, they have a talented and deep backcourt, with all-conference candidates Tyrece Gibbs and Alvin Abreu, as well as Eric Gilchrese and Tyrone Conley. They do need help in the frontcourt, though, which is where Dane DiLiegro will have to step up.

Rounding out the Pack: Stony Brook has finished with single-digit wins the past three seasons, but may improve on those numbers this year. Returning to the backcourt are Michael Tyree and Chris Martin, but Bryan Dougher could make an impact as a freshman. Dayton transfer Desmond Adedeji and senior Demetrius Young lead the frontcourt. Maine returns a lot of experience in the way of four starters, but the Black Bears have a lot of room to improve. The strength will be on the perimeter, with all-conference wing Mark Socoby and double-figure scorers Junior Bernal and Kaimondre Owes. Phillipe Tchekane Bofia and Sean McNally are solid up front.

Prediction: The America East has a lot of contenders for the top spot this season, with Boston University, Vermont and Hartford returning plenty of talent and UMBC the defending champion. BU might have the best overall balance; Vermont will have three of the league’s best in Marquis Blakely, Mike Trimboli and Maurice Joseph; UMBC has Jay Greene and Daryl Proctor; and Hartford has several all-conference candidates. In the end, I think UMBC lost too much and Hartford doesn’t have the inside depth to contend, meaning that it will come down to Vermont and BU. If Joseph has the type of impact that is expected, the Catamounts will have a nearly unstoppable trio – which will be too much for BU. Give Vermont the nod for the automatic bid.

Player of the Year: Marquis Blakely, F, Vermont

All-Conference Team:
G- Corey Lowe, Boston University
G- Jay Greene, UMBC
G- Joe Zeglinski, Hartford
F- Marquis Blakely, Vermont

F- Darryl Proctor, UMBC

Second Team:
G- Mike Trimboli, Vermont

G- Mark Socoby, Maine
G- Tyrece Gibbs, New Hampshire
F- John Holland, Boston University
F- Michael Turner, Hartford

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Patriot League Preview


The Patriot League did not turn out as expected last season. Holy Cross was the clear favorite heading into the season, but the Crusaders finished just 5-9, good for last in the conference. On the other side, Navy was projected to finish near the bottom of the league, but it used a strong finish to get the No. 2 seed heading into the conference tournament. American had control of the Patriot race throughout the second half of the year, finishing one game ahead of the Midshipmen. Just five games separated the first and last-place teams in the conference. The conference tournament did not reflect the parity, though, as American won the automatic bid, defeating Army in the title game. The Eagles then gave Tennessee a run for their money in the NCAA Tournament before falling. They will look to get back to the Big Dance this year.

Favorite: American has the players to repeat as Patriot champions, and even pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament this season. It starts with Garrison Carr, one of the best shooters in the country and a dynamite scorer. Derrick Mercer is the best point guard in the conference and complements Carr well. On the wing, Bryce Simon will start, while Bryan Gilmore and Jordan Nichols will get time in the post.

Contenders: If American has the best backcourt in the league, Lehigh might own the best inside-outside duo in the conference. Marquis Hall is a very good scorer and distributor at the point, while Zahir Carrington is tough to stop down low. Rob Keefer is a good three-point shooter in the baccourt, while Matt Szalachowski returns as a starter. Navy has a lot of scoring potential on the perimeter, and will be a threat. Kaleo Kina and Chris Harris are both big-time scorers on the wing who can really fill it up. Idaho transfer O.J. Avworo is likely to start at the point. Mark Veazey leads the way down low. Colgate returns just two starters from last season, but that includes all-conference wing Kyle Roemer, one of the best scorers in the league. Willie Morse and Alex Woodhouse are two more solid performers in the lineup. Ben Jonson will get chances up front.

Sleepers: Holy Cross loses one of the best centers in the country in Tim Clifford, but will likely improve on its last-place finish of last season. Alex Vander Baan will pick up some of the slack down low, as will Colin Cunningham and Eric Meister. If he is healthy, Pat Doherty will anchor the backcourt. Bucknell had a drastic drop-off last season, going from averaging 24 wins a year the three prior seasons to just 12 last season. The Bison are looking to bounce back. Stephen Tyree is an all-conference candidate at forward, while 6-11 Josh Linthicum and Patrick Behan are also solid up front. Veteran Jason Vegotsky and sophomores G.W. Boon and Darryl Shazier lead the perimeter.

Rounding out the Pack: Army returns four starters from last season’s 6-8 finish, but the lone loss is all-conference wing Jarrell Brown. Looking to step up in the backcourt will be returnees Josh Miller and Marcus Nelson, as well as Cleveland Richard. Chris Walker and Doug Williams lead the way up front. Lafayette finished exactly .500 last season overall, but lose three starters from that campaign. Leading the way, though, will be all-conference guard Andrew Brown. Michael Gruner also returns to the backcourt, while Jeff Kari will likely start. Up front, Ryan Willen could be an immediate impact player as a freshman.

Prediction: The Patriot League will be American’s to lose this season. The Eagles return the best player in the league in Garrison Carr, and the best backcourt in the conference in Carr and point guard Derrick Mercer. Those two were too much for anyone to handle last season, and they will be even better this year. Lehigh will pose a threat with Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington, while Navy has plenty of scorers, but American has the pieces both offensively and defensively to stifle any opponent. As long as Carr doesn’t go ice-cold at the wrong time, expect to see the Eagles in the NCAA Tournament again this season.

Player of the Year: Garrison Carr, American

All-Conference Team:
G- Garrison Carr, American
G- Derrick Mercer, American
G- Kyle Roemer, Colgate
G- Marquis Hall, Lehigh

F- Zahir Carrington, Lehigh

Second Team:
G- Andrew Brown, Lafayette

G- Kaleo Kina, Navy
G- Chris Harris, Navy
F- Stephen Tyree, Bucknell

C- Alex Vander Baan, Holy Cross

Southland Conference Preview


The Southland Conference was one of the most underrated conferences in the country last season. It finished as the No.19-ranked conference according to the RPI, and had two teams in the top-100 of the RPI. Furthermore, there was a great race for the conference title, with Stephen F. Austin and Lamar eventually tying for the championship. Lamar had a one-game lead heading into the final day, but it lost to Southeastern Louisiana and had to settle for a tie. Sam Houston State was the only other team to finish with double-digit wins in conference play. The conference tournament featured a surprise, as Texas-Arlington, who finished just 7-9 in league play after playing well in non-conference play, won the automatic bid after knocking off Northwestern State in the title game. UTA fell to Memphis in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, while Stephen F. Austin lost to Massachusetts in the NIT. This season will feature a wide-open league race at the top.

Favorites: Stephen F. Austin
was outstanding last season, until it fell prematurely in the conference tournament and was relegated to the NIT. This season, the Lumberjacks will look to take the next step. Leading the way is returning Player of the Year Josh Alexander, an outstanding long-range shooter. Point guard Eric Bell and Eddie Williams man the backcourt, while all-conference big man Matt Kingsley and Nick Shaw start up front. Texas-Arlington got off to a great start last season before faltering during conference play and then winning the automatic bid. The Mavericks are aiming for more consistency this year. It starts with the inside-outside duo of guard Rog’er Guignard and forward Anthony Vereen, two of the best players in the conference. Anthony Long and Jeremy Smith are solid guards, while Tommy Moffitt can do a variety of things up front. Lamar won the East Division last season at 13-3, but returns just two starters. Luckily, one of those two returnees is Kenny Dawkins, perhaps the best point guard in the league. He is flanked by Brandon McThay in the backcourt. Up front, Justin Nabors is a good scorer and rebounder, but the Cardinals need help from Lawrence Nwevo and Jay Brown.

Contenders: Sam Houston State looked like an at-large threat for much of the season before dropping several games late in the year. Only two starters return. DeLuis Ramirez is primed for a breakout season as the go-to-guy, while Ashton Mitchell will also be more of a factor. Domas Kvedys is the leader up front. Southeastern Louisiana could look like the league favorite during the first half of the season, but might fall back after that. That is because Kevyn Green only has one semester of eligibility remaining. Aside from him, though, there is still talent. Center Patrick Sullivan and forward Warrell Span are both double-figure scorers up front, while Jeremy Dunbar and Chris Cyprian are solid in the backcourt. Northwestern State will field a young team this season, but will remain a title threat. The strength is in the backcourt with Keithan Hancock and Damon Jones as the scorers and Michael McConathy the point guard. C.J. Clark and Devin White form a solid frontcourt tandem.

Sleepers: Texas-San Antonio could make some noise this season, mainly because of its all-conference tandem. Devin Gibson is an excellent all-around point guard, while forward Travis Gabbidon can score and rebound well. Joey Shank also returns as a starter; newcomers will round out the lineup. McNeese State returns two starters from its 7-9 league campaign of a year ago. John Pichon and Kleon Penn are solid up front, while Diego Kapelan is the top perimeter option. However, a solid recruiting class led by three junior college transfers and a highly-touted freshman will make an immediate impact. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will undoubtedly improve this season as it returns four starters from its fifth-place finish in the division. Kevin Perkins and Tim Green form a solid backcourt, while Justin Reynolds is an all-conference performer in the frontcourt. Demond Watt also returns up front. Nicholls State also has promise heading into the season. The Colonels are led by the forward duo of Ryan Bathie and Anthony Bose, two very solid scorers, as well as guard Michael Czepil, who will return after tearing his ACL last season. Dominic Friend and Justin Payne also return.

Rounding out the Pack: Texas State is one of the most exciting teams in college basketball to watch due to its scoring ability, but the Bobcats’ defense leaves a lot to be desired. They are led by Brandon Bush, one of the best players in the conference. Joining him in the frontcourt are center Ty Gough and forward Dylan Moseley. On the perimeter, Brent Benson is a very good three-point shooter and Corey Jefferson and Ryan White split point-guard duties. Central Arkansas is not eligible for postseason play as they are still in the transition phase between being an Independent and a full-fledged Southland member. York Sims and Marcus Pillow form a solid backcourt.

Prediction: Will the Southland be as successful as it was a season ago, finishing in the top-20 of the RPI and having a team with a legit shot at an at-large bid? It looks doubtful, but there will certainly be a terrific race at the top of the standings. Stephen F. Austin returns most of its top guns from last season, while Texas-Arlington has the momentum of its run to the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. Those two should battle all season long, but I think SFA will win the title when it comes down to it. The Lumberjacks have the league’s best player in Josh Alexander, a great point guard in Eric Bell and a dominant inside performer in Matt Kingsley. Those three will lead Stephen F. Austin to the Big Dance – they won’t falter in the conference tourney this time around.

Player of the Year: Josh Alexander, Stephen F. Austin

All-Conference Team:
G- Devin Gibson, Texas-San Antonio
G- Josh Alexander, Stephen F. Austin
G- Kenny Dawkins, Lamar
F- Brandon Bush, Texas State

C- Matt Kingsley, Stephen F. Austin

Second Team:
G- Rog’er Guignard, Texas-Arlington

G- Eric Bell, Stephen F. Austin
F- Justin Reynolds, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
F- Anthony Vereen, Texas-Arlington

F- Travis Gabiddon, Texas-San Antonio

Ivy League Preview


The Ivy League finally saw someone break the Penn/Princeton stranglehold last season, as Cornell went 14-0 during conference play to end 20 years of domination by those two schools. Coincidentally, Cornell was the last school besides Penn and Princeton to win the league before last season – in 1988. Last year was not even close. Cornell jumped out to an early lead and finished three games ahead of Brown, six games ahead of Penn. As for Princeton, the Tigers finished tied for last place at 3-11. Once in the NCAA Tournament, Cornell was obliterated by Stanford in the first-round. This year, Cornell will look to start its own dynasty at the top of the Ivy League.

Favorite: Cornell dominated the conference last season, and returns four starters from that campaign. The Big Red have arguably the two best players in the league in guard Louis Dale, the reigning Player of the Year, and forward Ryan Wittman, one of the best shooters in the country. Adam Gore is another all-conference candidate. Up front, Jeff Foote and Alex Tyler hold down the fort in the paint.

Contenders: Penn looks to get back atop the Ivy League after falling to third last year. The Quakers are led by their talented frontcourt of all-conference forward Tyler Bernardini and big men Jack Eggleston and Andreas Schreiber. In the backcourt, Harrison Gaines and Kevin Egee lead the way. Brown was the surprise second-place finisher last season, and want to take the next step. The Bears own perhaps the toughest match-up in the league in Chris Skrelja, a 6-6 point guard who can do it all. He is flanked at guard by Peter Sullivan. Adrian Williams is a solid defender, while Matt Mullery and Scott Friske lead the frontcourt.

Sleepers: Harvard has the offensive options to be a real threat this season. The Crimson have one of the best forward tandems in the conference in Pat Magnarelli and Evan Harris, two solid scorers and rebounders. The perimeter also has plenty of skill, namely all-conference guard Jeremy Lin and double-figure scorer Drew Housman. Yale finished tied for fourth last season, but return just two starters. Ross Morin and Travis Pinick are a very good inside duo, while Alex Zampier could be poised for a bigger role this season on the perimeter for the Bulldogs.

Rounding out the Pack: Columbia was expected to be a title contender last season, but the Lions finished just 7-7 and now lose four starters. However, there is still some talent left on the roster. Patrick Foley is a solid point guard, while Niko Scott and K.J. Matsui can score. La Salle transfer Brian Grimes will make an immediate impact down low. Dartmouth will be carried by the league’s top returning scorer and rebounder, all-conference forward Alex Barnett. Outside of him, there is not much. Elgin Fitzgerald and Kurt Graeber are good frontcourt options, while Marlon Sanders is the top option on the perimeter. Was last season an anomaly for Princeton? The Tigers have been slipping in recent years, but they hit rock-bottom last season, going just 6-23 overall. They do have one of the league’s best big men in Zach Finley, an all-conference candidate, but Jason Briggs and Marcus Schroeder will have to step up on the perimeter.

Prediction: After 20 years of Penn and Princeton domination over the league, it looks like it will be time for a new dynasty to start – for two years, at least. Cornell ran roughshod through the Ivy last season, and return enough personnel to do the same this year. However, the league might be better as a whole than it was last season. Penn will always be in the mix, Brown has some serious height and Harvard has the guns offensively to hang with anyone. While I do expect Cornell to lose at least one game this season, the Big Red are too good at both ends of the floor to finish anywhere but first. The fact that they have perhaps the two best players in the league helps, too. The next step will be a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Player of the Year: Louis Dale, G, Cornell

All-Conference Team:
G- Louis Dale, Cornell
G- Chris Skrelja, Brown
F- Alex Barnett, Dartmouth
F- Ryan Wittman, Cornell

F- Tyler Bernardini, Penn

Second Team:
G- Jeremy Lin, Harvard

G- Adam Gore, Cornell
F- Pat Magnarelli, Harvard

C- Ross Morin, Yale
C- Zach Finley, Princeton

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ohio Valley Conference Preview


Heading into last season, Austin Peay was expected to be the clear-cut favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference – and the season turned out exactly that way. The race for the regular-season title was a two-team race for the majority of the year between APU and Murray State, but the latter lost four of its last eight conference games to finish in second-place, three games back of the Governors. Austin Peay did not disappoint once the conference tournament began, running the table to win its second straight conference title by defeating Tennessee State in the title game. The Govs came back to Earth in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Texas in the first-round after garnering a No. 15 seed. Will Austin Peay win its third straight trip to the Big Dance, or will someone else step up to take the Govs’ spot?

Favorites: Tennessee-Martin is a threat to win every night because of one player – Lester Hudson. One of the best pure scorers and shooters in the country, Hudson can carry the Skyhawks. Combine him with fellow scorer Marquis Weddle, and UTM has options. Djero Riedewald and Olajide Hay also return as starters for the Skyhawks. Murray State also returns four starters from last season, including an excellent perimeter trio of Danero Thomas, Tyler Holloway and Kevin Thomas. Thomas is one of the best players in the conference. Creighton transfer Isacc Miles and returning starter Tony Easley will also be factors this season.

Contenders: Morehead State’s success hinges on the performance of its outstanding frontcourt trio of Kenneth Faried, Leon Buchanan and Maze Stallworth. All three have all-conference aspirations, and could get it if MSU reaches its potential. In the backcourt, Demonte Harper and a group of newcomers need to step up. Austin Peay will have some work to do if it wants to return to the NCAA Tournament, as the Govs lose three starters. However, forward Drake Reed does return; he is one of the best players in the league. On the perimeter, Kyle Duncan and Wes Channels are the main options. Ernest Fields could be poised for a breakout year. Tennessee State will look to improve on its .500 OVC record last season. Leading the way is all-conference wing Gerald Robinson, Jr., who will have to become more of a go-to-guy with the departure of Bruce Price. Jerrell Houston and Darius Cox form a very solid forward tandem up front for the Tigers.

Sleepers: Recent history points to Eastern Kentucky having a successful season this year, but its personnel suggests to limit expectations. Mike Rose returns at forward; he is an all-conference performer and the main scorer for the Colonels. Justin Stommes and Josh Taylor also return to the frontcourt. Tennessee Tech loses its dynamic duo of Anthony Fisher and Amadi McKenzie, and will have to rely more on all-conference center Daniel Northern. He should be up for the task. In the backcourt, Will Barnes and Frank Davis will combine to form a solid guard tandem. Freshman Zach Bailey will look to make an impact.

Rounding out the Pack: Southeast Missouri State loses four starters from its 12-19 campaign of a year ago. However, a solid wing duo returns in Jaycen Herring and Kenard Moore. Both were double-figure scorers and will shoulder the load this year. Calvin Williams and Jajuan Maxwell lead the way up front. Eastern Illinois brings in a plethora of newcomers to fight for starting spots, but the Panthers’ success will rest on the returnees. Romain Martin is a big-time scorer when healthy, while Ousmane Cisse has talent and is a good rebounder. Tyler Laser is the third returnee looking to play a bigger role this year. Jacksonville State could be the most likely out of this group to reach the conference tournament (only the top eight teams reach the tourney). The Gamecocks return four starters from last season, including a solid nucleus of perimeter players in sophomores Nick Murphy and Jeremy Bynum, and seniors Jonathan Toles and De’Andre Bray. Amadou Mbodji is a very good rebounder and shot-blocker up front.

Prediction: It looks the Ohio Valley is poised for a close race at the top of the standings this season. Tennessee-Martin has an outstanding scoring duo in Lester Hudson and Marquis Weddle, while Murray State has good inside-outside balance. Furthermore, Morehead State is absolutely loaded in the frontcourt and Austin Peay will still be a factor. In the end, though, I think that the presence of Hudson for Tennessee-Martin will be the difference. He can single-handedly keep the Skyhawks in the game and carry them to victory. There is no one else in the league that compares to him – he will lead Tennessee-Martin to the NCAA Tournament.

Player of the Year: Lester Hudson, G, Tennessee-Martin

All-Conference Team:
G- Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin
G- Marquis Weddle, Tennessee-Martin
G- Mike Rose, Eastern Kentucky
F- Drake Reed, Austin Peay

F- Daniel Northern, Tennessee Tech

Second Team:
G- Romain Martin, Eastern Illinois

G- Danero Thomas, Murray State
G- Gerald Robinson, Jr., Tennessee State
F- Leon Buchanan, Morehead State

C- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State

Northeast Conference Preview


The Northeast Conference featured one of the best title races in all of college basketball last season. Three teams finished within three games of each other at the top, and Robert Morris knocked off both Sacred Heart and Wagner in the final three games of the season in order to hang on for the championship. Sacred Heart had the early lead in the race, but it lost three of its final five games to drop to third. Overall, five teams finished at least 11-7, while four teams were 4-14. The conference tournament featured even more surprises, as fourth-place Mount St. Mary’s made a run to the NCAA Tournament by beating Sacred Heart in the title game after knocking off top-seeded Robert Morris in the semifinals. The Mountaineers won the play-in game against Coppin State before falling to North Carolina in the first-round. Can MSM repeat and get back to the Big Dance?

Despite finishing fourth last season and losing one of its best players, Mount St. Mary’s seems like the consensus favorite to win the Northeast this season. Jeremy Goode leads the way; he is arguably the best player in the league. He is joined in the backcourt by Will Holland and Jean Cajou, who came on strong late in the year. Sam Atupem and Markus Mitchell are returning starters up front.

Contenders: Central Connecticut State will be on MSM’s heels all season long. The Blue Devils have a great sophomore duo in guard Shemik Thompson and center Ken Horton, both all-conference candidates. Joe Seymore and Marcus Palmer are also double-figure scorers for CCSU. Robert Morris loses a lot of talent, but still returns guard Jeremy Chappell, one of the top players in the conference. Guards Bateko Francisco and Jimmy Langhurst will flank Chappell on the perimeter. The Colonials need help up front, though. Sacred Heart could make some noise as the Pioneers go for their third straight 18-win campaign. Guards Chauncey Hardy and Ryan Litke both return in the backcourt, while Corey Hassan can score on the perimeter. Up front, Joey Henley is an all-conference candidate when healthy, while Ryon Howard has talent at forward.

Sleepers: Fairleigh Dickinson won only four NEC games last season, but the Knights could be vastly improved this year. Sean Baptiste is a big-time scorer at guard, while Cameron Tyler returns from injury at the point guard position. Buffalo transfer Eric Moore will make an immediate impact. John Galvin and DeJuan Pursley lead the way up front. Wagner fell short of the NCAA Tournament last season, and will fall back to pack this year. Two starters return in guard Joey Mundweiler and forward Jamal Smith, an all-conference candidate. Llewchean Radford could be poised for a bigger role this season. Long Island returns four starters from last year’s .500 campaign. Jaytornah Wisseh is an all-conference guard in the backcourt, while Kyle Johnson can shoot the ball. David Hicks and Tyrone Mattison are also solid perimeter players. Aurimas Adomaitis needs a bigger season up front. Quinnipiac was another team that went .500 last season, and will look to improve. The key could be Evan Baker, who had knee surgery in the offseason and is questionable for the start of the year. If he returns, this team could be decent. Brian Geffen and James Feldeine form a solid backcourt duo, while Justin Rutty and Louis Brookins will start in the frontcourt.

Rounding out the Pack: Monmouth does return four starters from last season, but the Hawks went just 7-24 overall. They do have a deep backcourt though, with all-conference candidate Whitney Coleman leading the way. Yaniv Simpson, James Hett and Alex Nunner also return on the perimeter. Nick DelTufo is the leader up front. St. Francis (N.Y.) will also count on its backcourt with 5-8 Jamaal Womack and Ricky Cadell headlining the Terriers. Kayode Ayeni and Croatian forward Stefan Perunicic will be the main contributors in the frontcourt. St. Francis (Pa.), yet another team that went 4-14 in the conference last season, returns three starters. Devin Sweetney is an all-conference candidate, while Marquis Ford and double-figure scorer Cale Nelson form a solid backcourt tandem.

Prediction: Can Mount St. Mary’s carry the momentum it gained from its hot finish last season over to this year? That will be the biggest question for the conference favorites. Jeremy Goode might be the best player in the conference, and the Mountaineers have plenty of scoring and talent in the starting lineup. There are a plethora of teams competing with MSM, though, including Central Connecticut State, Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson. If CCSU’s young guns develop, Sacred Heart stays healthy and FDU plays to its potential, this will be a great league race. In the end, though, Mount St. Mary’s has the scoring versatility and experience to get the league title.

Player of the Year: Jeremy Goode, G, Mount St. Mary’s

All-Conference Team:
G- Jeremy Goode, Mount St. Mary’s
G- Jeremy Chappell, Robert Morris
G- Jaytornah Wisseh, Long Island
G- Sean Baptiste, Fairleigh Dickinson

C- Ken Horton, Central Connecticut State

Second Team:
G- Cameron Tyler, Fairleigh Dickinson

G- Shemik Thompson, Central Connecticut State
G- Whitney Coleman, Monmouth

F- Joey Henley, Sacred Heart
F- Jean Cajou, Mount St. Mary’s