Dan Monson

Conference Preview: Long Beach St. still Big West favorite

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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 Big West stands to be one that’s a bit more wide open than the last three years. The reason why: heavy personnel losses at both Long Beach State and UCSB have opened the door for other programs to make a move, but that will be far easier said than done. Dan Monson’s 49ers may have lost four starters from a team that won the Big West’s regular and postseason titles, but with James Ennis and Mike Caffey joined by some talented transfers Long Beach State is the team pegged by many to once again win the Big West.

The team with the best shot to dethrone Long Beach State? Cal State Fullerton could be that team due to the return of All-Big West performers D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn, giving interim head coach Andy Newman a nice tandem to work with.

Hawaii makes its return to the Big West and can be a contender immediately despite having nine newcomers, provided center Vander Joaquim is fully recovered from a torn MCL that sidelined him four to six weeks in late September.

UC Irvine and Pacific are both teams that struggled last season but are optimistic in 2012-13 due to the return of the majority of their key contributors. Russell Turner’s Anteaters upset Fullerton in the Big West quarterfinals last season, and senior Michael Wilder is one of five returning starters for Irvine.

For Pacific (top nine scorers all return) this season will be a watershed one for two reasons: their final year in the Big West (off to the WCC) and the final season for head coach Bob Thomason.

UCSB does have to account for the departures of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, which could make for some growing pains early in the season. But with a very good head coach in Bob Williams the Gauchos, who have nine freshmen, could look like a far different team when March rolls around.

Cal State Northridge is looking to rebound from a tough 2011-12 season while Cal Poly is hoping to build on an 18-win campaign. As for UC Davis and UC Riverside, this could be a tough 2012-13 for them. Long Beach State is the favorite once again, but it would be a surprise if the 49ers or anyone else managed to go through the schedule with just one league loss.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G D.J. Seeley (Cal State Fullerton)
G Kwame Vaughn (Cal State Fullerton)
G/F James Ennis (Long Beach State)
F/G Michael Wilder (UC Irvine)
C Vander Joaquim (Hawaii)

Predicted Standings
1. Long Beach State
2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Hawaii
4. UC Irvine
5. Pacific
7. Cal State Northridge
8. Cal Poly
9. UC Davis
10. UC Riverside

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

#CBTtop100: Counting down the Top 100 Players in college basketball

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We’ll be counting down the top 100 players in college basketball all week long. Be sure to check back here throughout the week as the countdown continues over @CBTonNBC.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.