Conference Snippets Part 4

2 Nov

Conference USA

Headline: Half of the league is new; let the feeling out process begin.

Storyline: There are eight new teams in the conference that loses its marquee team in Memphis.  So who is going to step up and be the team the others try and catch?  Louisiana Tech had a couple successful seasons in the WAC and now look as though they may be that team.  The Bulldogs won 27 games last year and return nearly everyone to play the up-tempo style.  The next team in line may be the team that ended LA Tech’s season in the NIT, Southern Mississippi.  The Golden Eagles return six players of their own from a team that also won 27 games.

Keep an eye on: The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders have won 55 games over the last two years and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1989 last season.  The team loses six seniors and welcomes eight newcomers including three juco transfers and Jaqawn Raymond a transfer from N.C. State.

Horizon

Headline: The Horizon’s hopes should rest in Ohio.

Storyline: Butler and Loyola are gone and perennial contenders Detroit and Valparaiso are in various stages of rebuilding.  The three teams based in Ohio; Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Wright State are in position to ascend to the top of the league.  Youngstown State has the league’s best point guard in Kendrick Perry who averaged over 17 points and four assists last year.  If the high-scoring Penguins can improve defensively a league title will be within reach.  At Cleveland State Charlie Lee and Penn State transfer Trey Lewis may be the best scoring back court in the league and a healthy Anton Grady will give the Vikings the inside presence they missed when he went down.  Wright State may be the favorite to win the league and the reason is the Raiders return all eight players who started at least 11 games last year for a team that won 23 games.  They may not be the most proficient offensive club averaging only 62 points last year, but they are now an even more experienced group with a veteran coach in Billy Donlon to lead them.

Keep an eye on: Wisconsin-Green Bay and newcomer Oakland may not be considered contenders but they may have the league’s best players in 7-1 center Alec Brown and sharp-shooting Travis Bader respectively.  Brown put up 14 points and six rebounds a game for the Phoenix while Bader was one of the country’s most prolific scorers averaging 22.1 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies.

Ivy League

Headline: Is there any way Harvard loses the Ivy League?

Storyline: The two-time defending champs won at least 20 games for the fourth straight year and scored the biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament not involving Florida Gulf Coast when they defeated #3 New Mexico.  They have the league’s best player in swingman Wesley Saunders, the league’s top point man in sophomore Siyani Chambers and return six other players who played in at least 20 games only one of which is a senior, Laurent Rivard.  In addition the Crimson welcome back Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey who were dismissed last season after getting caught up in an academic scandal.  The last time those two played they combined for nearly 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and six assists a game.  Coach Tommy Amaker has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal as they go for a 3-peat.

Keep an eye on: Princeton should be Harvard’s main competition led by senior T.J. Bray but they will need to find a way to replace Ian Hummer, the league’s Player of the Year last season.

Metro Atlantic Athletic

Headline: The MAAC is a league of change in 2013-14.

Storyline: The league loses Loyola (Md.) who heads to the Patriot League but gains Quinnipiac and Monmouth from the Northeast Conference.  Manhattan started 0-5 in league play but finished on a 9-4 run and made it all the way to the conference title game.  The team returns four starters and gets its best player back in senior George Beamon who only played in four games due to injury and add Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey this year.  Canisius had a 15-win improvement last year and return POY candidate Billy Baron, the league’s best rebounder Chris Manhertz  (8.7) and height in the middle with the Heath brothers, 6-10 Jordan and 6-9 Josiah, they also add graduate transfer  guard Chris Perez who averaged 15 points while at Stetson.

Keep an eye: Quinnipiac enters the league returning six of its top eight players including senior forward Ike Azotam (13.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and Zaid Hearst (10.8) making the Bobcats immediately competitive in their new digs.

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