Conference Snippets Part 6

4 Nov

Northeast

Headline: 10-Team Northeast Conference not short on contenders.

Storyline: Mount St. Mary’s returns all five starters from a team that gelled late and made it all the way to the NEC title game with coach Jamion Christan’s “mayhem” style of jacking a ton of shots and pressing all over the floor.  All Robert Morris did was defeat Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. The Colonials don’t score a lot, just 65.7 points last season but they beat you with depth, eight guys averaged at least 8.5 points per game.  Tim O’Shea’s Bryant Bulldogs had a 17-win improvement after winning just two games a couple seasons ago and Bryant returns Diyami Starks, Corey Maynard and Joe O’Shea who combined for over 35 points a game.  Then there is the 3-time NEC Tournament champs Long Island who lose four starters including league POY Jamal Olasawere and tournament MVP C. J. Garner but they do return perhaps the nation’s best point guard in Jason Brickman.  Coach Jack Perri had hoped to also have swingman Julian Boyd back from an ACL tear but this summer Boyd re-tore the ligament and best case scenario for the Blackbirds is a January return.

Keep an eye: Wagner finished second the past two seasons and returns seven of its top ten players led by point guard Kenneth Ortiz (11.8 ppg, 5.4 apg) who also led the league in steals and helped the Seahawks lead the league in field goal percentage defense.  They are led by coach Bashir Mason who at 29 is the country’s youngest head coach and won the Joe B. Hall award given to the nation’s top first-year head coach.

Ohio Valley

Headline: Move over Murray State, it is Eastern Kentucky’s time.

Storyline: The two things you need to know about the Ohio Valley in 2013-14 is that Eastern Kentucky returns nearly everyone from a 25 win team and of the 11 guys on the All-OVC 1st and 2nd teams only two return.  Four Starters return for the Colonels including Glenn Cosey (15.2 ppg) and Corey Walden (13.0).  The calling card for EKU will be its pressure defense that forced over 17 turnovers a game and was a +5.69 in turnover margin.  Southeast Missouri State had its first winning season since 2006-07 and returns four starters of their own including one of the two returning All-OVC players, forward Tyler Stone (15.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg).  The Redhawks like to launch from deep making a team record 256 last year and holding opponents to a league-best 42% from the field.

Keep an eye on: Tennessee-Martin won just nine games last year but could be poised for a leap with four starters back including forward Myles Taylor who at 6-7 250lb is a force inside for the Skyhawks who averaged 16 points and seven boards last year.  If Tennessee-Martin can change their luck on the road, just 2-13 last year they could be in store a marked improvement in 2013-14.

Pac-12

Headline: New coaches in LA and some depth and improvement in the Pac-12.

Storyline: Both Los Angeles schools boast new high profile coaches, Steve Alford is now in Hollywood trying to right the ship at UCLA and “Dunk City” is now at USC as Andy Enfield parlayed success and an NCAA Tournament run with Florida Gulf Coast into a new gig at USC.  At the top of the conference Arizona returns a talented roster with guard Nick Johnson and sophomore forwards Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.  Coach Sean Miller welcomes talented guard T. J. McConnell who transfers in from Duquesne and highly touted McDonald’s All-American MVP Aaron Gordon.  Oregon lost Arsalan Kazemi, E. J. Singler and Tony Woods but bring in a couple of senior transfers to help bridge the gap. Mike Moser comes over from UNLV as a graduate student and juco power-forward Richard Armadi finds his way to Eugene.  In the back court Dana Altman has a dynamic sophomore duo in Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis.  At UCLA Alford inherits a team that won 25 games but must replace Shabazz Muhammad.  The Bruins will rely on the senior leadership of the Wear brothers David and Travis as well as sophomores Jordan Adams and point-forward Kyle Anderson.

Keep an eye on: Colorado has two trips to the NCAA and a Pac-12 tournament title in the last three years but yet still seem like a conference afterthought to some.  With two of the conference’s best guards in juniors Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, coach Tad Boyle has a good foundation to make another run at the top of the Pac-12.  Sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson should get frontcourt help from a trio of freshmen; 6-5 George King on the wing, 6-7 Chris Jenkins and 6-8 Wesley Gordon to help make up for the rebounding lost when Andre Roberson left for the NBA.

Patriot League

Headline: Patriot League adds Boston University and Loyola (Md.), its first new members since 2001.

Storyline: Bucknell must replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in Mike Muscala.  The Bison do return all-league guard Cameron Ayers and that may be enough to win the league, but Lafayette will have something to say about that.  The Leopards are pinning their hopes on a returning 6-7 Seth Hinrichs and a talented group of freshmen.

Keep an eye on: Boston University returns 11 players from its 17-13 team led by senior D.J. Irving who averaged 14.2 points per game last season while earning All-America East honors.

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