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Conference Preview: Atlantic Sun starts its post-Belmont era

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The 2012-13 season for the Atlantic Sun will be an interesting one, with one particular reason standing out. With Belmont now in the OVC, which program (or programs) rise to the challenge and make themselves the flagship program of the Atlantic Sun? The Bruins won four regular season and five tournament titles during their ten seasons in the league, and their departure leaves an opening at the top of the conference.

So which teams are best equipped to take the wheel? One team to keep an eye on is Mercer, who is coming off of a 27-win campaign and a CIT championship. Bob Hoffman’s Bears return four starters and five of their top six scorers from last season, led by guard Langston Hall (11.4 ppg, 4.2 apg) and forward Jakob Gollon (10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg). And with an eye towards the future just one of those top five scorers (guard Travis Smith) is a senior this season.

USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast are two other teams expected to factor into the A-Sun Race, with the Spartans featuring 2012 Player of the Year forward Torrey Craig. Craig, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in 2011-12, is one of five returning starters for Eddie Payne’s squad (USC Upstate returns its top seven scorers).

As for Andy Enfield’s Eagles, guards Sherwood Brown (12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Bernard Thompson (11.5, 5.2) will lead the way for a team that fell in the title game to Belmont after upsetting Mercer on their home floor in the semis. East Tennessee State and North Florida will also be heard from this season, while teams such as Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb and Stetson look to rebound from disappointing 2011-12 campaigns.

Lastly there’s the arrival of Northern Kentucky, which beginning its transition to full Division I membership in addition to joining the A-Sun. Dave Bezold’s Norse return three of their top five scorers from last season’s 23-win team, most notably wing Eshaunte Jones and guard Ethan Faulkner. Both the media and the coaches have picked them to finish last, but the Norse have won at least 21 games in five of the last six seasons.

Answering the question of who takes the top spot with Belmont gone will make for an entertaining year in the Atlantic Sun.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)

G Langston Hall (Mercer)
G Sherwood Brown (FGCU)
F Torrey Craig (USC Upstate) *
F Jakob Gollon (Mercer)
C Adam Pegg (Stetson)

Predicted Standings

1. Mercer
2. USC Upstate
3. FGCU
4. North Florida
5. East Tennessee State
6. Stetson
7. Jacksonville
8. Northern Kentucky
9. Lipscomb
10. Kennesaw State

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.