Archive | May, 2012

Old Faces in New Places

25 May

With all the movement of teams from conference to conference, that means there will be some familiar faces in different places for the 2012-13 basketball season.  Here are just a handful of the players on the move that will be intriguing additions to their new homes.

Kerron Johnson-Belmont- After a decade of dominance in the Atlantic Sun Belmont moves on to the Ohio Valley where Johnson, who averaged 13.8 ppg last season, will have plenty of company in the hunt for all league honors in the OVC back court.  Led by Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan (19.0 ppg) 8 of the OVC’s top 12 scorers from last season and 4 of which are guards.  In addition, Johnson’s 5.2 assists per game would make him the conference’s top returning dime dropper, a whole 1.6 apg ahead of #2 Canaan.  Johnson should find his new digs quite comfortable and fit right in.

Phil Pressey-Missouri- Pressey will lead the Tigers into their inaugural season in the SEC, much like Kerron Johnson at Belmont, Pressey will have plenty of offensive company in the SEC back courts as only 4 of the top 15 scorers in the conference return, but they are all guards; Kenny Boynton-Florida 15.9, BJ Young-Arkansas 15.3, Trae Golden-Tennessee 13.6 and Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 13.2.  While Pressey averaged just 10.3 ppg last season, his 6.4 assists puts him nearly two assists ahead of the conference’s top returner, Golden who averaged 4.5.  Pressey should adjust just fine in the more perimeter-oriented SEC.

Deonte Burton/Malik Story-Nevada- You want to talk about an embarrassment of guard riches, look no further than the Mountain West.  For a conference that already boasts Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley (San Diego State), Michael Lyons (Air Force), Dorian Green (Colorado State), Anthony Marshall (UNLV) and Kendall Williams (New Mexico) for those keeping track that is 6 of 9 top scorers returning, including the top 3 in the back court, they are set to add the top guard duo from the WAC in Nevada’s Burton and Story.  The Wolf Pack back court mates averaged a combined 28.9 points and 6.5 assists per game last season and with the losses of Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt to graduation even more of the offensive burden could fall upon the dynamic duo.

Juvonte Reddic-Virginia Commonwealth- The 6’9 junior who averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds last season will take aim on the Atlantic 10 in ’12-’13.   He will find plenty of competition to test his mettle in his new conference.  St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson may be gone, but Reddic will still have to face the likes of; Chris Gaston from Fordham, Halil Kanacevic of St. Joseph’s and Charlotte’s Chris Braswell.   It will be interesting to see how Reddic adjusts to a conference that has a few more options to match up with him than he may have been used to in the Colonial Athletic Association.

These five guys only get one chance to make a first impression on their new adversaries. They not only look to make a lasting impression, but also a lasting impact.

 

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Colonial Feels Winds of Change

17 May

For a mid-major conference that has had two Final Four representatives since 2005, the Colonial Athletic Association is starting to feel the winds of change that have been blowing across the landscape of college athletics.

The league dodged a bullet when 2005 Final Four participant and founding member George Mason announced they would stay in the Colonial after exploring an option to move to the Atlantic 10. The league was barely able to breathe a sigh of relief when on May 15, Virginia Commonwealth announced to the Colonial Athletic Association that they were leaving the conference they have been affiliated with since 1995.  Not only were they leaving, but they were leaving for the 2012-13 season instead of 2013-14 as originally thought.

The announcement gives the CAA a drastically looking basketball outlook not only this season, but going forward.

In addition to losing VCU for the upcoming season, North Carolina-Wilmington and Towson may be ineligible for postseason play due to not meeting the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rate standards.  Georgia State is also ineligible due to their impending move to the Sun Belt in 2013.

As a result the 12-team league could be cut to as few as seven come tournament time, with GMU battling Drexel and Delaware atop the league in what will be the swan song for Old Dominion as they have been rumored to be exploring a move to Conference USA, a move that will become official today.  Ultimately ODU may be subject to the same sanctions as Georgia State, barred from postseason play because of their intentions to leave.

So for a league that has been the poster child for mid major the conferences over the last 7-8 years, the CAA will have a vastly different look going forward.  The question is, will they be able to sustain the same level of competitiveness people have come accustomed to?

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Mountain West a Mainstay among the Conference Elite

15 May

During the 2011-12 season the Mountain West overtook the PAC-12 as a member of the power-6 conferences in college basketball. In 2012-13 the conference looks like it will solidify its place among the country’s best conferences.  There was talk the conference could net as many as four bids to the NCAA Tournament (UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State and Colorado State). Ultimately they got those four bids.  Heading into March the conference had high expectations, those expectations fizzled as only New Mexico was able to grab a victory (over #12 Long Beach State) before falling to Louisville in the 3rd round.

The ever shifting landscape of college athletics hits the Mountain West this season as TCU will leave for the Big 12 and the welcoming mat is put out for Fresno State and Nevada.  Change continues in 2013-14 when the WAC’s Utah State and San Jose State join this already stacked conference.

The result should make a strong league even stronger.  The bottom three teams in the league last season (Air Force, Boise State and Wyoming) along with newcomer Fresno State, who struggled in the WAC, all have things they can build upon for the upcoming season.  Here is a look at what to expect in the MWC in 2012-13.

Air Force has a new coach in Dave Pilipovich, even though the Falcons struggled to a 3-11 conference record last season they proved to be a tough out at home, defeating San Diego State and taking UNLV to overtime.    Five of their league losses were by 10 points or less, and in 4 of those 5 games the Falcons had a second half lead.  Pilipovich doesn’t exactly have bare cupboards in Colorado Springs as 4 of the top 5 scorers return including the top 3; Michael Lyons (15.6), Mike Fitzgerald (10.4) and Taylor Broekhuis (9.0).

While their home in 2013 may be up in the air, they have another in the Mountain.  Much like Air Force, Boise State struggled to a 3-11 Mountain West record in ’11-’12.  And much like Air Force the Broncos proved to be a tough out, losing to San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament by a three points, as well as blowing 2nd have leads to TCU, UNLV and San Diego State in the regular season.  Luckily for Boise their leading scorer and rebounder Anthony Drmic is just a sophomore with a year of experience under his belt.  Joining Drmic will be recruits Joey Nebeker a 6’7 small forward and Edmunds Dukulis a 6’8 power forward from Latvia, who should give Drmic some support.

The Wyoming Cowboys finished 20-11 last season and doubled their conference win total to six last season and return two of their top three scorers in seniors Leonard Washington and Luke Martinez.    The only loss the Cowboys suffered by more than 10 points was a 74-63 loss to UNLV in the regular -season finale.  Wyoming gets an influx of seven recruits in 2012 headed by Charles Hankerson a shooting guard from Coral Gables and Austin Haldorson a 6’8 power forward from Colorado.

Fresno State joins the Mountain West 20 years in the Western Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs finished next to last in the WAC last season at 3-11.   The conference newcomers return four of their top five scorers from a team that despite the 13-20 record, 14 of the 20 losses were by less than 10 points, 9 of those were by 5 points or less.   Help is on the way for Kevin Olekaibe and his teammates in the form of Fresno native 6’10 250lb. Robert Upshaw giving the Bulldogs a legit interior presence, something they sorely lacked last season with no one other than Kevin Foster being over 6’8 seeing significant time.

After missing out on the NCAA Tournament in 2011, the 20-12 Rams of Colorado State made the jump to the big dance in 2012, losing to Murray State in the 2nd round.  Also making the jump was Coach Tim Miles who left for Nebraska, CSU then hired Larry Eustachy away from Southern Mississippi where he turned the Golden Eagles into a contender in Conference USA. The Rams return their top 4 scorers including Wes Eikmeier (15.5), Dorian Green (13.1) and the hard-nosed Pierce Hornung (8.8).  Add to a solid, competitive core two eligible transfers; guard Daniel Bejarno (Arizona) and 6’10 center Colton Iverson (Minnesota) and freshman forward Jermaine Morgan from Chicago.  The Rams will be out to prove that the last two years are the beginning of a trend and not a blip on the radar.

The Nevada Wolf Pack comes to the Mountain West off a 28-7 season and a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals.  Despite losing two-thirds of their frontcourt, forwards Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz to graduation, in fact those are the only two players lost to graduation meaning they still return perhaps the WAC’s best backcourt last season in Deonte Burton and Malik Story and six other players who saw action in at least 30 games in 2012.  Nevada will also add athletic guard Marqueze Coleman to the mix giving Nevada the chance to make an impact in its first season in the Mountain.

The New Mexico Lobos have won 50 games over the last two seasons and are the defending Mountain West Tournament champions, but their star Drew Gordon is off to the NBA, so coach Steve Alford should expect a step backwards? Not exactly.   The Lobos return six players who played in at least 33 games at least 13 minutes per game.  Alford also restocked the depleted frontcourt as junior Cameron Bairstow was the only player over 6’8 to see game action last season (6’11 Alex Kirk redshirted after back surgery).  Alford added a pair of 6’8 forwards in Devon Williams and Nick Barnyard and 7’0 Obij Aget.   New Mexico may take a step back but with such a deep, experienced squad and a coach like Alford you can bet those steps will be limited.

The San Diego State Aztecs are on the national map, after  a 34-win season and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2011, people thought Steve Fisher’s crew may have been a 1-hit wonder after Kawahi Leonard left for the NBA.  All the Aztecs did for an encore was 26 wins, a Mountain West finals appearance and a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament.    For the 2012-13 season the Aztecs return all but two players and add three potentially impact freshmen in guard Matt Shrigley and forwards Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard who should help make San Diego State’s Mountain West swan song (they leave for the Big West in 2013) a success.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels finished 26-9 last season but may have lost the most production of anyone in the conference having lost Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba, Kendall Wallace and Chace Stanback to graduation.  But it is what coach Dave Rice has returning and arriving in the fall that has national pundits taking notice.  Mike Moser who seemingly filled the stat sheet every night will be joined by Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, Carlos Lopez and Reggie Smith to form what would be a nice foundation for any team.  Joining them will be transfers Bryce Jones who averaged 7.6 points per game as a freshman at USC and Khem Birch who will be eligible in December after transferring from Pittsburgh where he averaged 4 points and 5 rebounds before leaving.  The 6’9 native of Montreal could have been instrumental in luring another Canadian to Vegas, Anthony Bennett, as the 7th rated recruit in the country the power forward from Ontario attended Findlay Prep in Nevada and committed to the Rebels on May 12th.  Along with Bennett fellow power forward Demetris Morant decided to stay close to home, having attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, and sign with UNLV.  In the backcourt the Rebels bring in scoring guard Katin Reinhardt who likes to get out in transition and attack the rim.  Along with Reinhardt Coach Rice has also brought in another dynamic scoring guard in Baltimore’s Daquan Cook.   Heading into the fall UNLV seems to have one of the deepest teams not only in the Mountain West but in the country.

We often hear the cliché, “there are no easy nights in conference X”, well for the Mountain West in 2012-13 that may not only be a cliché, but the truth.

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Nation’s Top Freshmen Hit the Ground Running in 2012-13

2 May

When the 2012-13 college basketball season tips in early November the nation’s top freshman will waste no time getting acclimated to big time college basketball.  Eleven of the of the nation’s top 15 freshmen as ranked by Rivals.com are participating in early-season tournaments before Thanksgiving.

Kentucky’s new crop of highly-touted recruits, center Nerlens Noel (2nd), forward Alex Poythress (8th)and guard Archie Goodwin (14th) take the floor on Nov. 9th against Maryland in the Barclays Center Classic.

November 15th will showcase four of the top 12 recruits in two separate tournaments.  Baylor is the marquee team in the Charleston Classic where 7’0 big man Isaiah Austin (4th) is the newest member of Scott Drew’s long and athletic frontcourt in Waco.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off will be the stage for the new backcourt of Providence, Ricardo Ledo (6th)and Kris Dunn (ranked 16th), Oklahoma State’s guard Marcus Smart (10th) and Mark Gottfried’s prize recruit at N.C. State, scoring combo guard Rodney Purvis (12th).

The Legends Classic (Nov.19) will give 2 of the top 3 recruits in the country; Las Vegas guard Shabazz Muhammad (1st) and former St. Anthony (NJ) forward Kevin Anderson (3rd) who both landed at UCLA hoping to help Ben Howland get the Bruins back to the top of the PAC-12 a stage to show they are the duo to do just that.

The Preseason NIT which begins on Nov. 21 will have Pittsburgh center Steven Adams (5th) and Glenn Robinson III (11th) who will join the frontcourt of John Beilein at Michigan.

On Nov. 23 and 24  UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (7th) will showcase his talents in the Global Sports Classic with games against Oregon and possibly Cincinnati.

The 22nd ranked recruit Devonta Pollard and Alabama open their season in the 2K Sports Classic by hosting Nate Wolters and South Dakota State and match up with Oregon State in New York on Nov. 15.

In addition to the top 15, 12 of the next 15 top recruits will be participating in some of these early season tournaments, giving everyone a chance to get a look at college basketball’s next group of rising stars.

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Where is Your Team Playing Next Season?

1 May

In the month since Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans, the college basketball off season has been full of changes, players changing programs, coaches switching teams and teams moving conferences.  For most college basketball fans it can be hard to keep track of the merry-go-round of changes that take place during the down time, especially since schools and conferences began trying to maximize their football dollars by playing realignment musical chairs a couple of years ago.

Before looking at players and coaches in new places, let’s look at the schools that have new homes for the 2012-13 season:

Belmont Bruins: After dominating the Atlantic Sun men’s basketball scene for over a decade, Belmont is heading to the Ohio Valley to battle the likes of Murray State, Austin Peay and Morehead State.

Butler Bulldogs: The Bulldogs leave the Horizon, where they were the top dog, for the Atlantic 10 a year earlier than expected.  Butler joins fellow newcomer Virginia Commonwealth in making a conference with Temple, Xavier, St. Louis and Massachusetts (among others) an even stronger hoop conference in 2012-13.

Denver Pioneers: The Pioneers are leaving the Sun Belt to do battle with what will be left of the Western Athletic Conference.

 

Fresno State Bulldogs: Fresno State is the 2nd longest affiliated member of the WAC (behind Hawaii), but they will be leaving for the greener pastures of the Mountain West in ’12-’13.

Hawaii Rainbows: The long-standing WAC member is joining Fresno State in jumping ship, as they head to the Big West to face the likes of Long Beach State and UC-Santa Barbara.

Longwood Lancers: Longwood’s national nightmare of finding conference affiliation is over.  After 5 years of competing as an independent since becoming a Division I institution in 2007, the Lancers will join the Big South conference for next season.

Missouri Tigers: Frank Haith’s Tigers leave the Big 12 to battle Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida in the SEC.

 

Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks: The Mavericks officially join the Summit League as part of their transition to Division I athletics.

Nevada Wolf Pack: Nevada becomes the third team to leave the WAC as they will join Fresno State in the Mountain West.

North Dakota Fighting Sioux: The poster child for the NCAA’s battle against potentially offensive nicknames, will leave the Great West for the Big Sky Conference in ’12-’13.

 Northern Kentucky Norse: The Division II power begins its transition to Division I in the Atlantic Sun.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles: Scott Sutton’s crew will take their talents to the Southland Conference for the 2012 season.

 

Seattle Redhawks: In its first season as a fully eligible DI program the Redhawks move from an Independent to the WAC.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds: After 15 years as a member of the Summit League/Mid-Continent Conference, Southern Utah will be competing in the Big Sky in ’12-’13.

Texas A&M Aggies: The Aggies will join their former Big 12 brethren Missouri in the SEC next season.

 

Texas Christian Horned Frogs: The Horned Frogs have a new coach, Trent Johnson, and a new conference for next season as they head to the Big 12.

Texas State Bobcats: Texas State is one of a trio of teams that will be leaving the Southland Conference for the WAC next season.

Texas-Arlington Mavericks: Last season’s top team in the Southland and charter member of the conference is headed for the WAC.

 

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners: The Roadrunners join Texas-Arlington and Texas State in fleeing the Southland for the WAC.

 

Virginia Commonwealth Rams: In a surprising move the Rams will leave the Colonial Athletic Association and join the Atlantic 10 for the 2012-13 season instead of the following season.

West Virginia Mountaineers: Bob Huggins and company leave the Big East and head to the Big 12 next season.

The first step in preparing for the 2012-13 season is knowing where your favorite team is playing.

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