2013-2014 SWAC Preview: Texas Southern is ready to run

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source: AP
AP

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Texas Southern was the best team in the SWAC last season, garnering a 16-2 league record and a regular season crown. Coached by former Indiana and UAB leader Mike Davis, and playing behind burly 6-foot-9 senior Kyrie Sutton, the team would have likely grabbed the SWAC’s auto-bid had they been eligible for the postseason, but NCAA issues had them sidelined, and Southern University made the Dance instead, scaring Gonzaga with a 64-58 near-miss.

This year, Davis and his guys are out from under the ban, and they’ve added troubled big man Aaric Murray as a graduate transfer. If off-court issues don’t interfere, the Tigers have the speed and size to run the table.

The Southern Jaguars can be expected to put up a fight to retain their crown. Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff were the only league teams to beat Davis’ squad last year, and they’ll be the ones likely to make a run at it again this season. We’ll have our eye on Grambling as well, watching to see if they can improve on last year’s 0-28 debacle.

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

Hey, you know this guy. He wore out his welcome at La Salle, then got into Bob Huggins’ (admittedly crowded) doghouse at West Virginia. His dismissal from the Mountaineers led him to jump at the life preserver offered by Mike Davis, and the big man will play his final season with the Tigers. Murray is a talented player, he’ll be bigger and better than anyone else in the SWAC, and he’ll make a huge difference in Houston if he can stay out of trouble.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Ray Penn, Texas Southern: A 5-foot-9 dynamo who will thrive throwing the ball to Murray on the block.
  • Malcolm Miller, Southern: A rangy 6-foot-6 shooter, Miller is a matchup nightmare in the SWAC.
  • Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M: The league’s leading rebounder returns to lead his team as a senior.
  • Vicktor Arnick, Texas Southern: Mike Davis’ best recruit has the speed and length to make a difference in his first season.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Texas Southern
2. Southern
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Alcorn State
7. Prairie View A&M
8. Alabama State
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.