Friday, October 30, 2009

Sun Belt Conference Preview


Although the Sun Belt Conference was not as good last season as it was two years ago, when South Alabama received an at-large bid and Western Kentucky reached the Sweet Sixteen, it was not that much of a down year. It featured an outstanding race for the conference title, as Western Kentucky and Arkansas Little-Rock won their respective divisions, both with 15-3 records. WKU beat out Troy by just one game, while UALR was four games clear of its nearest contender. Seven teams finished at least .500 in conference play. Western Kentucky won the conference tournament and then reached the second-round of the NCAA Tournament before falling on a last-second shot to Gonzaga. The Hilltoppers are a threat to make some noise in the Big Dance again this season -- but they will receive plenty of pressure from several Sun Belt teams.

East Division
1. Western Kentucky: A.J. Slaughter is the next Western Kentucky star, while Sergio Kerusch and Steffphon Pettigrew are a tough tandem to match-up with.
2. Troy: The Trojans are a fun team to watch, led by the backcourt of Brandon Hazzard and Richard Delk, and Alabama transfer Yamene Coleman. 
3. Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders have one of the better inside combos in the conference in Desmond Yates and Montarrio Hadcock.
4. South Alabama: The Jaguars took a step back last season, and lose four starters from a year ago; LaShun Watson is the top returnee.
5. Florida International: New coach Isiah Thomas is the headliner, and he brings in a dynamite first recruiting class to kick things off.
6. Florida Atlantic: A team that loses three starters from a 2-16 team is clearly going to struggle; Shavar Richardson and freshman Ray Taylor will lead the way. 

West Division
1. North Texas: The athletic Mean Green return all five starters from last season's 20-win team, starting with all-league forward Eric Tramiel.
2. Denver: Another team that returns all five starters, the Pioneers have an outstanding tandem in wing Nate Rohnert and forward Rob Lewis.
3. Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks could be a real sleeper in the SBC, as they return four starters and regain the services of injured guard Tony Hooper.
4. Louisiana-Lafayette: Yet another team that returns five starters, the Ragin' Cajuns have an excellent frontcourt duo in Travis Bureau and Chris Gradnigo.
5. Arkansas Little-Rock: The Trojans will certainly take a step back after last season's conference title, but Matt Mouzy and Solomon Bozeman are a solid backcourt.
6. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves will try to move out of the division cellar this season, and all-conference guard Donald Boone leads the way.
7. New Orleans: Georgia transfer Billy Humphrey is the key man for the Pioneers; he is a big-time scorer who will make an immediate impact.

Player of the Year: A.J. Slaughter, G, Western Kentucky

All-Conference Team:
G- A.J. Slaughter, Western Kentucky
G- Brandon Hazzard, Troy
G/F- Nate Rohnert, Denver 
F- Desmond Yates, Middle Tennessee
F- Eric Tramiel, North Texas

Second Team:
G- Richard Delk, Troy
G- Tony Hooper, Louisiana-Monroe 
G- Donald Boone, Arkansas State
G- Sergio Kerusch, Western Kentucky
F- Steffphon Pettigrew, Western Kentucky

Big West Conference Preview


The Big West Conference typically is one of the more fun conferences in the country to keep an eye on; it always has a great race for the regular-season title and mostly produces explosive offensive teams capable of putting a scare into their first-round opponents. Well, this season, the first part was right but the second didn't pan out. Cal State Northridge won the league at 11-5, despite losing on the last day of the season to Pacific, which tied with Long Beach State for second place at 10-6. They were the only three to finish above .500 in conference play. Northridge also won the automatic bid but would fall in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Look for another excellent race at the top this season.

1. Long Beach State: The 49ers have plenty of options throughout their lineup, led by all-conference performers Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson.
2. UC Santa Barbara: The key for the Gauchos this season will be Loyola-Marymount transfer Orlando Johnson, who could be one of the best players in the league.
3. UC Riverside: Kyle Austin is one of the best players at the mid-major level, and he has the ability to carry this team to the top of the league.
4. Cal State Northridge: The defending champions lose two starters from last season, but return enough firepower to make another run.
5. UC Davis: The Aggies are slowly improving in the conference, and the inside-outside duo of Mark Payne and Joe Harden will make them a tough out.
6. Cal State Fullerton: The Titans return four starters from last season, including Jacques Streeter, one of the best point guards in the league.
7. UC Irvine: The three-point-happy Anteaters return a solid tandem in guard Michael Hunter and all-conference forward Eric Wise.
8. Pacific: The Tigers are always a factor in the Big West race, but they lose three starters from last season could struggle on the perimeter.
9. Cal Poly: The only team to have fewer than seven league wins last season, the Mustangs will be led by guard Lorenzo Keeler and forward Shawn Lewis.

Player of the Year:
 Kyle Austin, F, UC Riverside

All-Conference Team:
G- Larry Anderson, Long Beach State
G- Mark Payne, UC Davis
F- T.J. Robinson, Long Beach State
F- Kyle Austin, UC Riverside
F- Eric Wise, UC Irvine

Second Team:
G- Lorenzo Keeler, Cal Poly
G- Jacques Streeter, Cal State Fullerton
F- Willie Galick, Cal State Northridge
F- Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara
F- Joe Harden, UC Davis

Mid-American Conference Preview


Last season, the Mid-American Conference did not have as good of a season as it is used to, when at least one or two teams seems to be in the mix for an at-large bid. However, it did feature one of the most exciting conference races in the country, with five teams finishing within one game of each other at the top of the East Division standings. On the final day of the season, Buffalo beat Miami (Ohio), Kent State beat Akron and Bowling Green defeated Ohio, leaving Buffalo and BGSU tied atop the division at 11-5. Ball State, Western Michigan and Central Michigan tied for the West Division title at 7-9. Akron eked out the automatic bid, and then gave Gonzaga a very tough game in the first round before falling. This season, several key players are gone from every team, leaving a wide-open conference race ahead.

East Division
1. Akron: The Zips should be a force this season, behind the return of the McKnight brothers, Chris and Brett, and the arrival of freshman Zeke Marshall.
2. Buffalo: Rodney Pierce is one of the league's top players, and Calvin Betts is a solid wing for the Bulls, who fell just short of an auto bid last year.
3. Kent State: Consistently one of the best mid-majors, the Golden Flashes have some work to do to get back to the top of the conference.
4. Ohio: If Indiana transfer Armon Bassett makes as big of an impact as expected, the Bobcats could be a sleeper in the Mid-American.
5. Miami (Ohio): Although they return injured guard Kenny Hayes, the RedHawks need several role players to step up and help him.
6. Bowling Green: The Falcons finished tied for first last season, but they lose three starters and could fall all the way to the division cellar.

West Division
1. Central Michigan: With Chris Kellerman coming back from injury, and Jordan Bitzer and Robbie Harman in the backcourt, the Chippewas will be tough.
2. Eastern Michigan: The Eagles return four starters, including Brandon Bowdry, and regain the services of injured star Carlos Medlock.
3. Northern Illinois: The Huskies might have the best wing duo in the league in Darion Anderson and Colorado transfer Xavier Silas.
4. Ball State: Despite finishing below .500, the Cardinals were tied for first in the division; Jarrod Jones could be primed for a breakout season.
5. Western Michigan: The Broncos won only 10 games last season, but also tied for the division title. David Kool could be MAC Player of the Year.
6. Toledo: The Rockets went 7-25 a season ago, and lose three starters from that group; Justin Anyijong is the leading returnee.

Player of the Year: David Kool, G, Western Michigan

All-Conference Team:
G- David Kool, Western Michigan 
G- Darion Anderson, Northern Illinois
G- Rodney Pierce, Buffalo 
F- Kenny Hayes, Miami (Ohio)
F- Brandon Bowdry, Eastern Michigan

Second Team:
G- Chris Singletary, Kent State
G- Carlos Medlock, Eastern Michigan
G- Armon Bassett, Ohio
F- Jarrod Jones, Ball State
F- Brett McKnight, Akron 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Southern Conference Preview


Heading into last season, the Southern Conference was looked at as nothing more than Davidson’s playground; a league in which the only question was if the Wildcats could go undefeated in it. Well, those people were in for a surprise. Sure, Davidson won it, but it wasn’t easy. The Wildcats suffered two losses, and finished just three games ahead of The Citadel and Charleston, who were 15-5. Both teams defeated Davidson. Chattanooga and Western Carolina tied for the North division title at 11-9. The conference tournament continued the surprise as Stephen Curry and the Wildcats were upset by Charleston, and Chattanooga went on to win the automatic bid. Davidson had to settle for the NIT. With Curry gone, Davidson is no longer the favorite -- expect an exciting conference race.

South Division
1. College of Charleston: The Cougars need to build on last season's upset of Davidson behind guards Andrew Goudelock and Tony White.
2. Wofford: The Terriers have one of the best tandems in the conference in guard Junior Salters and forward Noah Dahlman.
3. Davidson: Without Stephen Curry, forwards Steve Rossiter and Will Archambault and guard Bryant Barr need to step up.
4. The Citadel: Don't count out the Bulldogs this season; guards Cameron Wells and Zach Urbanus keep them competitive every night.
5. Georgia Southern: The Eagles could be a major sleeper behind the return of injured Willie Powers and three other players who averaged at least 9.9 ppg.
6. Furman: The return of five starters, including Jordan Miller, brings optimism to a team that lost 24 games and finished last a year ago.

North Division
1. Appalachian State: The Mountaineers are going to be a huge threat this season, led by guards Kellen Brand and Donald Sims.
2. Western Carolina: Another team buoyed by its backcourt, the Catamounts are led by the tandem of Brandon Giles and Harouna Mutombo.
3. UNC-Greensboro: Ben Stywall is a solid forward, while Mikko Koivisto provides some perimeter balance for the Spartans.
4. Samford: The Bulldogs run the Princeton offense, which makes them a tough team to play. Bryan Friday anchors the team down low.
5. Chattanooga: The defending tournament champions lose their top four scorers, but Vanderbilt transfer Keegan Bell will make an impact.
6. Elon: Chris Long leads the way for the Phoenix, who are bringing in former Davidson assistant Matt Matheny to man the sidelines.

Player of the Year: Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

All-Conference Team:
G- Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston
G- Cameron Wells, The Citadel
G- Kellen Brand, Appalachian State
G- Harouna Mutombo, Western Carolina 
F- Noah Dahlman, Wofford

Second Team:
G- Junior Salters, Wofford 
G- Donald Sims, Appalachian State
G- Tony White Jr., College of Charleston
G- Brandon Giles, Western Carolina
F- Ben Stywall, UNC-Greensboro

Summit League Preview


The Summit League had a very solid season in 2009, finishing No. 17 in Ken Pomeroy’s conference ratings. It also featured an excellent race for the regular-season title, with the championship coming down to the final day, when North Dakota State defeated Oral Roberts to win the league outright. ORU finished 14-4, two games back of NDSU. Oakland was the only other team to finish above .500, going 13-5. Demonstrating how top-heavy the league was, every other team went .500 or worse. NDSU won the conference tournament, and gave Kansas a very tough game in the NCAA Tournament. However, with several key players gone for the Bison, the conference race has a new look this year.

1. Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies could be one of the best mid-majors in the country, with Keith Benson, Johnathon Jones and Derick Nelson.
2. South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits were just 7-11 last season, but they have several all-conference candidates and plenty of talent.
3. IUPUI: The Jaguars have a deep and talented frontcourt, led by all-conference forward Robert Glenn and senior Jon Avery.
4. Oral Roberts: Despite some personnel losses, the Golden Eagles do have a solid forward tandem in Kevin Ford and Dominique Morrison.
5. IPFW: D-I's youngest coach, Dane Fife, returns four starters from a fifth-place team, including Ben Botts and Deilvez Yearby.
6. Southern Utah: Guard Davis Baker is one of the top players in the conference, and freshman Matt Hodgson will make an impact. 
7. North Dakota State: After losing Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman, the Bison have to rebuild behind lone returning starter Michael Tveidt.
8. UMKC: The Kangaroos won just three conference games last season, but they return several key pieces, namely Spencer Johnson.
9. Western Illinois: The Leathernecks struggled mightily last season, and their leading returning scorer averaged just 8.4 ppg (David Nurse).
10. Centenary: The Gents are moving to D-III in two years, and leading scorer Chase Adams left the team to transfer to Pittsburgh.

Player of the Year:
 Keith Benson, C, Oakland

All-Conference Team:
G- Johnathon Jones, Oakland
G- Davis Baker, Southern Utah
G- Garrett Callahan, South Dakota State
F- Derick Nelson, Oakland
C- Keith Benson, Oakland 

Second Team:
G- Clint Sargent, South Dakota State
F- Kevin Ford, Oral Roberts
F- Alex Young, IUPUI
F- Anthony Cardova, South Dakota State
F- Robert Glenn, IUPUI 

Big Sky Conference Preview


The Big Sky Conference did not feature much of a conference race a year ago. During the regular season, Weber State set the tone early by knocking off favorite Portland State on the road en route to a 15-1 campaign. PSU finished tied for second with Montana, with both teams going 11-5. Idaho State also finished above .500, with Northern Colorado going 8-8. Portland State, which had arguably the most talent in the conference, proved that in the six-team conference tournament by winning the automatic bid for the second consecutive season. The Vikings fell to Xavier in the first round of the Big Dance. This season should be completely wide-open.

1. Weber State: The Wildcats only lost one conference game last season, and have the necessary pieces to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Portland State: The Vikings lose three starters, but guard Dominic Waters and forward Phil Nelson form a dynamite inside-outside duo.
3. Montana State: The Bobcats look to be a candidate to make a big move in the standings behind the return of four starters and plenty of options.
4. Montana: Player of the Year favorite Anthony Johnson leads the way for the Grizzlies, who also bring back shooter Ryan Staudacher. 
5. Eastern Washington: A sleeper team -- Benny Valentine and Brandon Moore form the best inside-outside combo in the entire conference.
6. Idaho State: The Bengals could struggle a bit this season with the loss of several key parts, but guard Amorrow Morgan does return.
7. Northern Arizona: The Lumberjacks were a major disappointment last season, but Cameron Jones will try to change that this year.
8. Northern Colorado: One of the top backcourts in the league, Will Figures and Devon Beitzel, lead the way for the rebulding Bears.
9. Sacramento State: After winning just one conference game and going 2-27 overall, the Hornets have a long way to go in order to improve.

Player of the Year: Anthony Johnson, G, Montana

All-Conference Team:
G- Anthony Johnson, Montana
G- Damian Lillard, Weber State
G- Amorrow Morgan, Idaho State
G- Benny Valentine, Eastern Washington 
C- Brandon Moore, Eastern Washington

Second Team:
G- Dominic Waters, Portland State
G- Will Bynum, Montana State
G- Cameron Jones, Northern Arizona
F- Phil Nelson, Portland State
F- Bobby Howard, Montana State

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ivy League Preview


The Ivy League did not feature much of a conference race last season, as Cornell won the regular-season title -- and therefore the automatic bid -- by a full three games over both Princeton and Yale. Princeton started 4-0 before losing its next three and effectively dropping out of the conference race, while Yale was too inconsistent throughout the league season to be a serious threat. On the other hand, Cornell jumped out to a 7-1 start in the Ivy, and coasted the rest of the way to a league title. Columbia and Dartmouth both finished 7-7 in the league, but neither posed much of a legitimate threat to the Big Red. Cornell fell to Missouri in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but the Big Red return the necessary pieces to easily repeat and be a factor in the first-round this year. 

1. Cornell: The Big Red have three of the league's five best players, and have a chance to go through the conference undefeated.
2. Princeton: The Tigers have a lot of work to do to get back on top of the League; Douglas Davis and Dan Mavraides are a good place to start.
3. Penn: The Quakers were a disappointment last season, but Tyler Bernardini is one of the league's best players and will carry them.
4. Harvard: Expect Tommy Amaker and co. to get some publicity this season, thanks to outstanding all-around performer Jeremy Lin.
5. Columbia: The Lions could be the sleeper this season, behind La Salle transfer Brian Grimes and several quality returnees from a year ago.
6. Yale: Can the Bulldogs finish .500 for the tenth straight season? If they do, it will be as a result of guard Alex Zampier, an all-conference player.
7. Brown: The Bears finished in last a year ago by a full three games, but Matt Mullery and Peter Sullivan form a dynamite forward tandem.
8. Dartmouth: The Big Green lose Player of the Year Alex Barnett, and could struggle to repeat their 7-7 mark of a season ago.

Player of the Year: Ryan Wittman, F, Cornell

All-Conference Team:
G- Louis Dale, Cornell
G- Jeremy Lin, Harvard
F- Matt Mullery, Brown
F- Ryan Wittman, Cornell
C- Jeff Foote, Cornell 

Second Team:
G- Tyler Bernardini, Penn
G- Alex Zampier, Yale
G- Zack Rosen, Penn
F- Douglas Davis, Princeton
F- Peter Sullivan, Brown

Big South Conference Preview


The Big South Conference featured an exciting race for much of the season, before Radford pulled away towards the end of the campaign, putting some separation between itself and VMI, which led the league for the early part of the conference season. Radford won nine straight games before falling to Liberty in the season finale, while VMI lost three straight in the middle of February to lose its hold on the league. Liberty and UNC-Asheville finished above .500, while three more teams finished at 9-9. Radford won the conference tournament before losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in the first round. The Highlanders are the primary favorites once again, but there are several teams nipping at their heels.

1. Radford: The Highlanders are the favorites to repeat, led by center Art Parakhouski and forward Joey Lynch-Flohr in the frontcourt.
2. UNC-Asheville: The Bulldogs have the talent to compete with Radford, as Matt Dickey and John Williams form a solid inside-outside duo.
3. High Point: The Panthers finished in last place a season ago, but Nick Barbour is a scorer and Cruz Daniels is a terrific shot-blocker. 
4. Winthrop: Always one of the conference contenders, the Eagles need role players to step forward and become go-to-guys offensively.
5. Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers shouldn't be overlooked this season; forward Joseph Harris is a double-double machine up front.
6. VMI: With their up-tempo offense and attacking defense, the Keydets will be a tough team to match-up with, led by guard Austin Kenon.
7. Charleston Southern: One of the best guards in the league, Jamarco Warren, is set to become a big-time scorer for the Bucs.
8. Gardner-Webb: The Bulldogs return four starters from a team that finished .500 in the conference, including guard Grayson Flittner.
9. Liberty: With Seth Curry transferring to Duke, the Flames are going to struggle; Kyle Ohman is an all-conference candidate at guard.
10. Presbyterian: The Blue Hose are redshirting their three best players so they will be eligible for when Presbyerian can play in the postseason.

Player of the Year:
 Art Parakhouski, C, Radford

All-Conference Team:
G- Jamarco Warren, Charleston Southern
G- Grayson Flittner, Gardner-Webb
F- Joey Lynch-Flohr 
F- Joseph Harris, Coastal Carolina
C- Art Parakhouski, Radford

Second Team:
G- Nick Barbour, High Point
G- Matt Dickey, UNC-Asheville
G- Austin Kenon, VMI
G- Kyle Ohman, Liberty
F- John Williams, UNC-Asheville 

Ohio Valley Conference Preview


The Ohio Valley Conference had a wide-open regular season and conference tournament last season. Tennessee-Martin won the title by one game over Murray State and Austin Peay, with Morehead State finishing in fourth at 12-6 and Eastern Kentucky also having an above .500 record in conference play. Morehead State had the lead, but lost its final four games overall. Morehead State ended up winning the conference tournament, and then beat Alabama State in the NCAA Tournament play-in game before falling to Louisville after a solid first half. The Eagles are the favorites to repeat, but don't hand them the title just yet.

1. Morehead State: Behind dominant big man Kenneth Faried, the Eagles are poised for their second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Murray State: The Racers could get back to the top of the conference, led by the trio of Isacc Miles, Danero Thomas and Ivan Aska.

3. Eastern Illinois: The Panthers are a sleeper in the OVC this season; scorer Romain Martin leads a very solid group of returnees.
4. Austin Peay: Can the Governors get to the OVC title game for the fourth straight season? Wes Channels will have to be the leader.

5. Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks struggled mightily down the stretch last year, but Jeremy Bynum and Nick Murphy form a nice backcourt.
6. Eastern Kentucky: Mike Rose will be a major loss, but the Colonels' tough defense and the presence of Josh Taylor will help the healing process.
7. Tennessee-Martin: Without Lester Hudson, the Skyhawks will take a major step back. Marquis Weddle needs to step up his production.
8. Tennessee Tech: The backcourt of Frank Davis and Will Barnes will help the Golden Eagles be competitive this season.
9. Tennessee State: Gerald Robinson Jr. transferred to Georgia, leaving double-double threat Darius Cox to pick up the pieces.
10. Southeast Missouri State: The Redhawks went 0-18 in conference play last seaosn, and things don't look like they will get much better.

Player of the Year: Kenneth Faried, F/C, Morehead State

All-Conference Team:
G- Romain Martin, Eastern Illinois
G- Wes Channels, Austin Peay
G- Marquis Weddle, Tennessee-Martin
G/F- Danero Thomas, Murray State
F/C- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State 

Second Team:

G- Maze Stallworth, Morehead State
G- Jeremy Bynum, Jacksonville State
G- Isacc Miles, Murray State
F- Ivan Aska, Murray State
F- Darius Cox, Tennessee State

Southland Conference Preview


The Southland Conference, despite not getting much publicity nationally, featured one of the best races in the entire country last season. East Division champ Stephen F. Austin ended up winning the title, going 13-3, while Nicholls State and West Division champion went 12-4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi finished 11-5. Five of the eight games between these four teams were decided by five points or fewer. Texas-Arlington was the only other team to finish above .500, going 9-7, while Texas-San Antonio finished 8-8. Stephen F. Austin loses several key players, but the Southland will still have plenty of quality teams and should have another tight race.

East Division
1. Nicholls State: Anatoly Bose is one of the league's best frontcourt players, and Freshman of the Year Fred Hunter also returns.
2. Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions will be led by center Patrick Sullivan, who has a chance to become an all-conference performer.
3. Stephen F. Austin: The defending champs lose Matt Kingsley and Josh Alexander, but Eric Bell and Eddie Williams will lead the way.
4. Northwestern State: A solid defensive team, the Demons have a solid inside-outside duo in Damon Jones and William Mosley.
5. McNeese State: The Cowboys struggled down the stretch a year ago, but Diego Kapelan hopes to get them to the SLC Tournament.
6. Central Arkansas: Still in their transition to Division-I, the Bears will likely struggle again to become competitive in the conference.

West Division
1. Sam Houston State: As the league favorites, the Bearkats will be led by the best backcourt in the conference, Corey Allmond and Ashton Mitchell.
2. Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners fell one game short of the NCAA Tournament, but defensive menace Devin Gibson could change that.
3. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: The Islanders have the league's best player in swingman Kevin Palmer, who can carry them to a bid.
4. Texas-Arlington: Don't count out the Mavericks -- they have an outstanding guard duo in Marquez Haynes and Brandon Long.
5. Texas State: The Bobcats have one of the more exciting offenses in the country, and John Rybak and Cameron Johnson are solid.
6. Lamar: After going through an injury-plagued season, the Cardinals will hope to use their size and depth to make a run in the league

Player of the Year: Kevin Palmer, G/F, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

All-Conference Team:
G- Marquez Haynes, Texas-Arlington
G- Corey Allmond, Sam Houston State
G- Ashton Mitchell, Sam Houston State
G/F- Kevin Palmer, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 
G/F- Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State 

Second Team:
G- Devin Gibson, Texas-San Antonio
G- Omar Johnson, Texas-San Antonio
G- Brandon Long, Texas-Arlington
C- William Mosley, Northwestern State 
C- Patrick Sullivan, Southeastern Louisiana 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patriot League Preview


The Patriot League featured a decent race for the regular-season title last season, but it ended much the same way most people projected, with American winning the championship. The Eagles lost just one conference game all season, in late-January to Holy Cross. The Crusaders, who lost two of their last five games, finished in second, two games back of American. Only one other team, Navy, was above .500 in conference play, with four teams finishing 5-9 or worse. This season, American loses five starters, leaving an opening for someone to take over the top spot.

1. Holy Cross: New head coach Sean Kearney will continue the Crusaders' winning ways behind four returning starters and transfer Mike Cavataio.
2. Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks might have the most talent in the league, led by inside-outside combo Marquis Hall and Zahir Carrington.
3. Colgate: Look out for the Red Raiders this season; they return three double-figure scorers and star Kyle Roemer, who is back from injury.
4. Bucknell: The Bison finished last in the conference a year ago, but the return of forward Patrick Behan and a healthy team will help.
5. Army: The Black Knights are coming off of their best Patriot League finish ever, and return four starters from that successful group.
6. Navy: The Midshipmen lose all-league Kaleo Kina, but stud shooter Chris Harris will try to carry them back to third place in the league.
7. American: The Eagles lose five starters from an NCAA Tournament team, and face an enormous rebuilding project in order to get back to the top.
8. Lafayette: The Leopards have two potential all-league players in Jeff Kari and Ryan Willen, but they need to improve on their eight wins.

Player of the Year:
 Zahir Carrington, F/C, Lehigh

All-Conference Team:
G- Marquis Hall, Lehigh
G- R.J. Evans, Holy Cross
G- Chris Harris, Navy
F/C- Zahir Carrington, Lehigh
C- Andrew Keister, Holy Cross 

Second Team:
G- Cleveland Richard, Army
G- Bryan Cohen, Bucknell
G/F- Kyle Roemer, Colgate 
F- Ryan Willen, Lafayette
F/C- Patrick Behan, Bucknell

America East Conference Preview


As usual, the America East was the scene of an exciting race that ended in a first-place tie between the two hottest teams in the league, Vermont and Binghamton. Binghamton received the top seed in the tournament, though, as the Bearcats swept the Catamounts. The conference was tight throughout the season, as even Vermont started the league season 0-2. Boston University finished two games back of the leaders, while three teams tied at 8-8. Binghamton got to the Big Dance by winning the automatic bid, but a tumultuous offseason leaves the Bearcats with a possible first-to-worst scenario on their hands.

1. Boston University: With Binghamton falling, John Holland, Corey Lowe and the Terriers are the clear-cut favorite to win the league.
2. Vermont: The always-tough Catamounts will be in the mix once again, led by two-time Player of the Year forward Marquis Blakely.
3. Albany: The Great Danes could be a sleeper in the conference because of the inside-outside duo of Tim Ambrose and Will Harris.
4. Stony Brook: The Sea Wolves feature an outstanding defense, and a solid offense led by all-conference guard Muhammad El-Amin.
5. New Hampshire: The Wildcats are on their way up in the conference, and Alvin Abreu will have to keep the positive change going.
6. Maine: The Black Bears have been struggling for a few years, but Gerald McLemore and Sean McNally will keep them competitive.
7. Hartford: Don't be surprised to see the Hawks make a move in the standings this year; Joe Zeglinski will have to carry them.
8. UMBC: The Retrievers dropped off after reaching the NCAA Tournament, and will likely struggle somewhat again this season.
9. Binghamton: The Bearcats were the favorite before the dismissal of six players and the suspension of their coach -- this season will be a disaster.

Player of the Year: Marquis Blakely, F, Vermont

All-Conference Team:
G- Joe Zeglinski, Hartford
G- Corey Lowe, Boston University
G- Muhammad El-Amin, Stony Brook 
G/F- John Holland, Boston University
F- Marquis Blakely, Vermont

Second Team:
G- Tim Ambrose, Albany
G- Alvin Abreu, New Hampshire
G- Gerald McLemore, Maine 
F- Will Harris, Albany
F- Jake O'Brien, Boston University

Northeast Conference Preview


The Northeast Conference did not have much of a regular-season race for the top spot last season, as Robert Morris took the reigns of the league early in conference play and never let them go, winning the title by three games. However, three teams jockeyed for second-place, with Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart and Long Island all tying at 12-6. Quinnipiac made a nice run late to finish above .500 in conference play, the only other team with double-digit NEC victories. RMU continued its winning ways by emerging victorious in the conference tournament. With several of the top teams losing key players, it should be a wide-open race this year.

1. Mount St. Mary's: The Mountaineers return the league's best player in guard Jeremy Goode, and his backcourt mate, Jean Cajou.
2. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats have arguably the best inside-outside tandem in the NEC in guard James Feldeine and forward Justin Rutty.

3. Long Island University: The Blackbirds will be led by the best backcourt in the league in Jaytornah Wisseh and Kyle Johnson.
4. Robert Morris: The defending champs return three starters, and forward Rob Robinson looks like the next Colonials' star.
5. Central Connecticut State: The Blue Devils could be a sleeper; they return all five starters, namely Ken Horton and Shemik Thompson.

6. St. Francis (N.Y.): If Kayode Ayeni returns completely from injury, he and Ricky Cadell form an outstanding inside-outside duo.
7. Sacred Heart: The Pioneers will likely take a step back this season, but Corey Hassan and Chauncey Hardy make a nice backcourt.
8. Monmouth: Whitney Coleman returns from injury in the backcourt, and big man Travis Taylor anchors a formidable frontcourt.
9. Fairleigh Dickinson: Interim coach Greg Vetrone inherits a team that has had 20-plus losses two years in a row -- but returns Sean Baptiste.
10. St. Francis (Pa.): The Red Flash are coming off of a last-place finish; swingman Devin Sweetney needs to carry them this season.
11. Wagner: Look for the Seahawks to take a big fall in the standings this season after losing four starters from a 16-win team.
Bryant: Not eligible for the postseason yet, the Bulldogs will try to improve on their eight-win total from a season ago.

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

All-Conference Team:
G- Jeremy Goode, Mount St. Mary's
G- James Feldeine, Quinnipiac
G- Sean Baptiste, Fairleigh Dickinson
G- Jaytornah Wisseh, Long Island University
F- Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac 

Second Team:
G- Ricky Cadell, St. Francis (N.Y.)
G/F- Devin Sweetney, St. Francis (Pa.) 
F- Rob Robinson, Robert Morris
F- Kayode Ayeni, St. Francis (N.Y.)
F- Ken Horton, Central Connecticut State

Atlantic Sun Conference Preview


The Atlantic Sun featured one of the more exciting conference races in the country last season, with three teams finishing within one game of each other at the top of the standings. The regular-season title came down to the final day of the season, when Jacksonville went into Belmont and beat the Bruins by one, giving Jacksonville the championship and relegating Belmont to a second-place tie with East Tennessee State. Three other teams finished above .500 in league play. ETSU won the conference tournament and looked solid against Pittsburgh in the Big Dance, and the A-Sun winner this season could put a scare into a big-time program as well.

1. Jacksonville: The Dolphins finished first in the regular-season last year, and will take the next step this season behind Ben Smith.
2. Lipscomb: The Bisons have a formidable trio led by center Adnan Hodzic, one of the best mid-major centers in the country.
3. Mercer: Arguably the most underrated inside-outside combo in the country resides here, in James Florence and Daniel Emerson.
4. Campbell: All five starters return for the Camels, starting with productive forward Jonathan Rodriguez and guard Lorne Merthie.
5. East Tennessee State: Without Courtney Pigram and Kevin Tiggs, Mike Smith and Alabama transfer Justin Tubbs will have to step up.
6. Belmont: The Bruins return just one starter from a second-place team, but they have several quality role players and transfer Scott Saunders.
7. Florida Gulf Coast: Still not eligible for the A-Sun title, Reed Baker and Kyle Marks will nonetheless keep the Eagles competitive.
8. Kennesaw State: The Owls, eligible for the automatic bid for the first time, return five starters, including three double-figure scorers.
9. North Florida: Another first-time eligible club, the Ospreys have one of the league's top scorers in guard Eni Cuka.
10. Stetson: The Hatters were a disappointment last season, and return just two starters; however, A.J. Smith will be solid.
11. USC Upstate: The Spartans played surprisingly competitive last year, but 7-3 center Nick Schneiders will have to keep them that way.

Player of the Year:
 Ben Smith, G, Jacksonville

All-Conference Team:
G- James Florence, Mercer
G- Ben Smith, Jacksonville
G- Mike Smith, East Tennessee State
F- Jonathan Rodriguez, Campbell
C- Adnan Hodzic, Lipscomb

Second Team:
G- Reed Baker, Florida Gulf Coast
G- A.J. Smith, Stetson
G- Eni Cuka, North Florida 
F- Daniel Emerson, Mercer
F- Lehmon Colbert, Jacksonville

Monday, October 26, 2009

MEAC Preview


The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference did not have much suspense last season, as Morgan State came into the league campaign as the favorite and the Bears did not disappoint, winning the title by three games. They won 10 of their final 11 to end any potential mystery. MSU was also the only team in the conference with more than 16 overall wins. South Carolina State finished at 10-6 in the MEAC, and a quartet of teams went 9-7. With the Bears returning only two starters, the league will be much more wide-open this season -- maybe.

1. Morgan State: The defending champs will be led by the inside-outside duo of Reggie Holmes and Kevin Thompson, the only two returning starters.
2. Norfolk State: Leading scorer and go-to-guy Michael Deloach and two other starters will try to carry the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament.

3. North Carolina A&T: The Aggies have an excellent trio in guards Tavarus Alston and forwards Robert Johnson and Thomas Coleman.
4. South Carolina State: All-conference swingman Jason Flagler will be the leader for the second-place Bulldogs, who lose three starters.

5. Bethune-Cookman: C.J. Reed is one of the top scorers in the conference, and forward Alexander Starling is solid on the inside.
6. Coppin State: Gone is Player of the Year Tywain McKee, but guard Michael Harper and center Sam Coleman lead the returnees.
7. Hampton: The Pirates are consistently one of the MEAC's best teams, but guard Vinny Simpson will have to get them back to the top.
8. Florida A&M: The Rattlers struggled last season, but have an underrated backcourt in Brandon Bryant and Dale Hughes.
9.  Maryland-Eastern Shore: The league's best big man, Neal Pitt, will try to get the Hawks out of the conference cellar.
10. Howard: Leading scorer Eugene Myatt has departed, leaving guard Kyle Riley behind to become the leader for the Bison.
11. Delaware State: The Hornets had a big drop-off last season, but Frisco Sandidge and a crop of newcomers will try to bounce back.
Winston-Salem State: The Rams are ineligible for the conference title this year, but Brian Fisher is one of the MEAC's top scorers.

Player of the Year: Michael Deloach, G, Norfolk State

All-Conference Team:
G- Reggie Holmes, Morgan State
G- Michael Deloach, Norfolk State
G- C.J. Reed, Bethune-Cookman
G/F- Jason Flagler, South Carolina State 
F- Neal Pitt, Maryland-Eastern Shore 

Second Team:

G- Vinny Simpson, Hampton
G- Tavarus Alston, North Carolina A&T
F- Robert Johnson, North Carolina A&T
F- Kevin Thompson, Morgan State
F- Frisco Sandidge, Delaware State

SWAC Preview


The Southwestern Athletic Conference was the worst conference in the country last season, finishing behind even the Independents in the RPI. Furthermore, it didn’t even feature that much of a conference race, despite the fact that Alabama State finished just one game ahead of Jackson State in the standings. ASU fell to JSU in the final week, but just had to beat last-place Grambling to clinch a title. Only one team, ASU, finished more than two games over .500, with Jackson State and Prairie View A&M finishing two games and one game, respectively, above that mark. This year, the SWAC won't be that much better and the winner is likely heading to the play-in game yet again.

1. Jackson State: The Tigers bring back the best player in the conference in Grant Maxey, and should win the automatic bid.
2. Prarie View A&M: The Panthers have one of the top inside-outside combos in the SWAC in Chris Jones and Darnell Hugee.
3. Arkansas Pine-Bluff: The fourth-place Golden Lions return all five starters, led by all-conference guard Terrance Calvin.
4. Mississippi Valley State: The Delta Devils play a tough non-league schedule, but have wings Julius Cheeks and Shannon Behling.
5. Texas Southern: The Tigers finished the season very strong last year, and guard DeAndre Hall is one of the best in the league.
6. Alabama A&M: The premature loss of Trant Simpson hurts the Bulldogs, and Cornelius Hester will have to step up.
7. Alcorn State: 20.0 ppg scorer Troy Jackson left the team suddenly in the summer, leaving Jonathan Boyd to lead the backcourt.
8. Alabama State: The personnel questions of Roland Fitch and Wesley Jones and the loss of Andrew Hayles and Chief Kickingstallions will cripple the defending champs.
9. Grambling State: Coming off of a last-place finish, the Tigers will need better production from guards Ariece Perkins and Donald Qualls.
10. Southern: The Jaguars bring in double-digit newcomers, and how quickly they mesh with the returnees will be a key this season.

Player of the Year:
 Grant Maxey, F, Jackson State

All-Conference Team:
G- DeAndre Hall, Texas Southern
G- Terrance Calvin, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
G/F- Shannon Behling, Mississippi Valley State
F- Grant Maxey, Jackson State
F- Darnell Hugee, Prarie View A&M

Second Team:
G- Ariece Perkins, Grambling State
G- Cornelius Hester, Alabama A&M
G- Jonathan Boyd, Alcorn State
G- Rod Melvin, Jackson State
F- Garrison Johnson, Jackson State 

Great West Conference Preview


1. South Dakota: The Coyotes should coast to a league title, thanks to the return of Tyler Cain, Louie Krogman and others.
2. Utah Valley: The Wolverines lose big-time scorer Ryan Toolson, but return Jordan Swarbrick and a solid cast of returnees.
3. NJIT: The Highlanders won just one game last season, but they have an excellent trio led by guard Jheryl Wilson.
4. North Dakota: The Fighting Sioux are coming off a 16-win season, and return an inside-outside duo in Travis Bledsoe and Travis Mertens.
5. Texas-Pan American: The Broncs return four of five starters, including stud point guard Nick Weiermiller, and bring in six newcomers.

6. Chicago State: The loss of David Holston will hurt the Cougars badly, but forward Carl Montgomery is a very good forward.
7. Houston Baptist: A 5-25 team that loses 11 seniors? That sounds like a recipe for a last-place Division-I.

Player of the Year:
 Tyler Cain, F, South Dakota

All-Conference Team:
G- Jheryl Wilson, NJIT
G- Louie Krogman, South Dakota
G- Nick Weiermiller, Texas-Pan American
F- Tyler Cain, South Dakota
F- Carl Montgomery, Chicago State

Second Team:

G- Isaiah Wilkerson, NJIT 
G- Roman Genry, South Dakota
G- Travis Bledsoe, North Dakota
G- Jordan Swarbrick, Utah Valley
F- Gary Garris, NJIT

Independents Preview


1. Longwood: The 17-win Lancers return four starters, including guard Dana Smith and versatile performer Kevin Swecker.
2. SIU-Edwardsville: All-Independent candidate Mark Yelovich and guard Barry Wellington lead a solid returning corps.
3. Cal State Bakersfield: The Roadrunners have perhaps the league's best frontcourt combo in Trent Blakley and Santwon Latunde.
4. Seattle: The Redhawks won 21 games a season ago, but need to replace the forward duo of Austen Powers and Michael Wright.
5. North Carolina Central: The departure of Jamar Briscoe to Charlotte is a huge loss, and Vincent Davis will have to step up.
6. Savannah State: The Tigers went 13-3 at home last season, and Rashad Hassan leads a very solid returning group.

Player of the Year: Dana Smith, G, Longwood

All-Conference Team:
G- Dana Smith, Longwood
G- Vincent Davis, North Carolina Central
F- Mark Yelovich, SIU-Edwardsville
F- Trent Blakley, Cal State Bakersfield
F- Santwon Latunde, Cal State Bakersfield

Second Team:
G- Kevin Swecker, Longwood
G- Chris Gweth, Seattle
G- Barry Wellington, SIU-Edwardsville
G- Aamir McCleary, SIU-Edwardsville
F- Rashad Hassan, Savannah State

Friday, October 23, 2009

Conference Rankings


1. Big 12
2. Big Ten
3. ACC
4. Big East
5. SEC
6. Pac-10
7. Atlantic-10
8. Mountain West
9. Conference-USA
10. Missouri Valley
11. WAC
12. Colonial
13. West Coast
14. Horizon
15. MAAC
16. Sun Belt
17. Big West
18. MAC
19. Southern
20. Summit
21. Big Sky
22. Ivy
23. Big South
24. Ohio Valley
25. Southland
26. Patriot
27. America East
28. Northeast
29. Atlantic Sun
30. MEAC
31. SWAC
32. Great West
33. Independents

March Madness All Season will publish its conference previews in reverse order. The 33rd-ranked conference, the Independents, will kick things off Monday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Major Conference Sleepers


Everyone thinks of sleepers as the mid-major teams that have great seasons and have huge amounts of hype going into the NCAA Tournament. That may be true, but sleepers come in all shapes and sizes. Another category for sleepers is the major conference sleepers. Going into the season, they are teams that didn't make the Field of 65 the season before or have lowered expectations after losing several key players, and aren't considered locks to make it to the Tournament this season. Furthermore, I didn’t include teams like Boston College, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall, Wisconsin, Oregon etc.., who are predicted to be second-division teams in their respective conferences but have enough talent to easily make a run at the Dance. These are true sleepers that no one really expects to make a run towards March Madness.

Miami (Fl.):
 The Hurricanes were on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament last season, but they couldn't get it done late in games and fell short of the Big Dance. Now, they lose go-to-guy Jack McClinton and are not expected to do much in the ACC. However, don't count out the Hurricanes. Dwayne Collins is a solid big man down low, and sophomore DeQuan Jones is expected to take the next step. The key will be the talented backcourt of Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant and freshman Durand Scott, both New York products.

St. John's: The Red Storm have not been anywhere near the NCAA Tournament in the past few years, but that could change this season. They have a lot of talent coming back and also bring in some quality players. It starts with the wing duo of D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne, two athletic performers. Sean Evans is the go-to-guy inside, and Malik Boothe can handle the point. The biggest factor could be the return of Anthony Mason Jr. from a season-ending injury last season -- but he is going to be out another 4-6 weeks.

South Florida: The Big East will be down as a whole this season, and there are some second-division teams with the chops to make a jump in the standings. USF is one of them. The Bulls return the inside-outside duo of Dominique Jones, one of the most underrated scorers in the country, and big man Augustus Gilchrist. Head coach Stan Heath is excited about the additions of JC transfer Jarrid Famous and Ohio State transfer Anthony Crate, who will become eligible in December. This team will win some games. 

Indiana: The Hoosiers were one of the worst major-conference teams in the country last season, but they have an opportunity to take strides this year. They have some of the best perimeter talent in the Big Ten, with double-figure scorers Devan Dumes and Verdell Jones and shooter Matt Roth returning and the additions of Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers and freshmen Jordan Hulls and Maurice Creek. However, the frontcourt needs help from Tom Pritchard and freshman Christian Watford.

Iowa State: The Big 12 is stacked at the top, but there is some room for the Cyclones to move up a couple of notches in the conference. Obviously the biggest reason is the return of All-American Craig Brackins, one of the best players in the country. However, the perimeter trio of juniors Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger and freshman Chris Colvin is going to provide excellent balance in the backcourt. Forward Marquis Gilstrap is going to be a key next to Brackins up front.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders struggled immensely last season and lose their leading scorer in Alan Voskuil -- so why are they are? Well, Tech returns three double-figure scorers and bring in some players ready to make an impact immediately. John Roberson is a very productive point guard and forward Mike Singletary is prepared for a huge season. Nick Okorie also returns. Forwards Brad Reese and Theron Jenkins and guard Davis Tairu, all JC transfers, need to make an impact immediately.

USC: Yes, I know that the Trojans lost most of their team and basically their entire recruiting class, but they still have talent and could pull a few surprise wins in a down Pac-10. Dwight Lewis one of the top scorers in the conference and North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson should make an immediate impact on the inside. Leonard Washington is a physical forward who will be solid when he becomes eligible. Kevin O'Neill is a defensive-minded coach who will try to squeeze some wins out of this group.

Arizona State:
 The Sun Devils are coming off an outstanding season in which they won 25 games before losing in the second of the NCAA Tournament. However, they lose lottery pick James Harden and all-conference forward Jeff Pendergraph. This team won't go down without a fight, though. Herb Sendek is an excellent strategic coach, and he returns quality players in guards Derek Glasser and Ty Abbott (who is out for a month), as well as forward Rihards Kuksiks. 

Arkansas: The Razorbacks got off to a great start last season, beating Texas and Oklahoma, before falling apart in SEC play and finishing 2-14 in conference play. Still, they return one of the best inside-outside combos in the country in guard Courtney Fortson and forward Michael Washington. Rotnei Clarke might be the best three-point shooter in the country and Stefan Welsh is another double-figure scorer. Freshman Marshawn Powell could fight for a starting job next to Washington.

Auburn: The SEC West isn't as wide-open as it has been in the past, with Mississippi State and Mississippi the clear favorites. The Tigers might be able to make some noise within the division, though. Seniors DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller return as double-figure scorers in the backcourt, and Frankie Sullivan is ready to make a leap. Lucas Hargrove is back up front. The key could be the newcomers, namely JC transfer Kenny Gabriel and freshman Rob Chubb, both big men.