Coming into the season, Montana was one of the mid-major programs that everyone loved.
With quite a bit of talent, including the underrated back court duo of Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, back for another season, the Grizzlies were expected to improve on a season where they beat out Damian Lillard’s Weber State team for both the Big Sky regular season and tournament titles.
Cherry has yet to ‘return’, so to speak. The talented lead guard broke his foot back in September and has yet to make it back to full health.
He appears to be close, according to Shaun Rainey:
#Griz HC Tinkle "Will Cherry will be in uniform Sat and will be a game time decision against Carroll" ..cherry full participant at practice
Keron DeShields and Jordan Gregory are solid players now and will be good starters eventually, but they are not good or experienced enough right now to lighten the burden on Kareem Jamar. … Cherry is a lockdown defender, but he is also a creator on offense and a guy that defenses have to pay a lot of attention to because of his ability to get to the rim or hit the midrange jumper. They miss him offensively.
While losing Cherry for the non-conference portion of the schedule likely cost Montana a shot at an at-large bid, getting him back in the fold before league play means that he should be healthy once Montana’s truly important games start.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.