Russell Turner, Will Davis II

2013-2014 Big West Conference Preview: Long Beach St., UC Irvine among the contenders

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source:
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.

With defending WCC tournament champion Pacific now in the WCC, the conference will have a new representative in the NCAA tournament. Which teams have the best shot of earning that bid? Start with UC Irvine, thanks to the return of guard Alex Young and forwards Will Davis II and Chris McNealy. UC Irvine also adds a transfer in guard Dominique Dunning and 7-5 center Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in college basketball. However head coach Russell Turner does have to account for the graduation of key contributors Adam Folker, Daman Starring and Michael Wilder, so by no means is UC Irvine the clear favorite to win the Big West.

Despite losing four of their top six scorers from a season ago Long Beach State will once again be in the mix, with point guard Mike Caffey leading the way. Head coach Dan Monson added five junior college transfers to the mix, and UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb will be eligible to take the floor in December. UC Davis, Hawai’i, Cal Poly and UCSB should also be contenders this season.

UC Davis head coach Jim Les welcomes back the Big West scoring champion, junior guard Corey Hawkins, and three other starters who helped the Aggies improve their win total by nine games. Hawai’i loses center Vander Joaquim but forwards Isaac Fotu (shared Big West Freshman of the Year honors with Alex Young) and Christian Standhardinger return, and there’s optimism regarding the addition of San Jose State transfer Keith Shamburger.

Cal Poly and UCSB can both claim to have one of the league’s best forwards, with Chris Eversley leading the way for Cal Poly while Alan Williams controls the paint for the Gauchos. Joe Callero’s Mustangs have won 14 straight games at home, and they’ve led the conference in scoring defense in each of the last three seasons. As for Bob Williams’ UCSB squad, Alan Williams returns and sophomores Michael Bryson and Taran Brown will look to take the next step after proving to be valuable pieces as freshmen.

Long Beach State could very well manage to win the Big West for a fourth consecutive season, but the list of challengers may be the strongest they’ve faced during this current run of success.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: None
Out: Pacific (WCC)

source:
AP

PRESEASON BIG WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)

Hawkins averaged 20.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest in his first season as an Aggie, including a 41-point explosion in a win at Hawai’i. With a year in Jim Les’ system under his belt, look for Hawkins to emerge as the best player in the Big West.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • G Mike Caffey (Long Beach State): With leading scorer James Ennis out of eligibility Caffey (12.0 ppg, 3.8 apg in 2012-13) may be asked to score more this season.
  • F Chris Eversley (Cal Poly): Eversley (15.4, 7.0) posted seven double-doubles last season, including a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in a win over Cal-State Northridge in late-January.
  • F Christian Standhardinger (Hawai’i): In his first season at UH the former Nebraska forward posted averages of 15.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
  • F Alan Williams (UCSB): With averages of 17.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last season, an argument can be made that Williams is the Big West’s best returnee.

PREDICTED FINISH
1. UC Irvine
2. Long Beach State
3. UC Davis
4. Hawai’i
5. Cal Poly
6. UC Santa Barbara
7. Cal State Fullerton
8. Cal State Northridge
9. UC Riverside

2013 Southland Conference preview

Stephen F. Austin Louisiana State Shreveport Men
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This season, one of the best rivalries in any mid-major conference may be Stephen F. Austin/Northwestern State.

The two teams split the season series, taking their home games against one another with the total point differential being five points. Now, the Lumberjacks and Demons head into the Southland Conference tournament as the top two seeds and own byes into the semifinals as a result.

Individually, Stephen F. Austin has been getting most of the press clippings there year with their three overall losses. The lone non-conference loss came at Texas A&M, and they own wins at Florida International and Oklahoma.

But a team like Northwestern State has just as many games the Lumberjacks to get to the NCAA Tournament, and they know it. Oral Roberts is also a solid bet to open a few eyes in the coming days as well, while a few other teams have positive vibes they may be able to ride heading into the tournament.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

THE BRACKET

Where: Katy, Texas (Leonard E. Merrell Center)

When: March 13-16

Final: March 16, 8:30 EST (ESPN2)

Favorite: Stephen F. Austin

A three-loss team in any conference has already proven they are for real. The Lumberjacks, who at 26-3 overall, 16-2 in-conference have one of the more impressive records this season, are anchored by Taylor Smith, with the security of four seniors and five juniors playing high-level ball. They proved early in the season that they can play with the power conference teams — they only lost at Texas A&M by eight — and they carried that confidence into the conference season. They’ve got all the tools to easily take the tournament championship, plus the benefit of only needing two wins to do so.

And if they lose?: The Lumberjacks are one of only three teams in the nation with three or less losses, with the two conference defeats coming by a combined eight points. One of those losses came on the road at Northwestern State, who finished second in the conference at 15-3 and 21-8 overall. The Demons also gave the Lumberjacks a run in Nacogdoches, Texas on March 2, with Stephen F. Austin escaping with a 64-63 win. These two are as close as you can get to a lock to play in the tournament finals.

Sleepers: Despite their 12-17 overall record, Southeastern Louisiana handed the Lumberjacks one of their two conference losses this season. Oral Roberts is only one of three teams in the Southland to own an overall winning record. Central Arkansas has won four in a row heading into the tournament.

Studs:

Taylor Smith, Stephen F. Austin – He averages 15.6 points and nine rebounds per game, leads SFA in both categories. Also leads the league with three blocked shots per game.

Fred Hunter, Nicholls State – The conference’s leading scorer at 19.8 per game. He can fill it up.

Damen Bell-Holter, Oral Roberts – He’s fourth in the conference in scoring (15.8) and leads the league in rebounding at nine boards per game.

CBT Prediction: Stephen F. Austin. They’re one of the best teams of any one-bid conference in America and they have the confidence of a roster flooded with experience. Northwestern State has the benefit of a win over the Lumberjacks, but conference losses happen. Stephen F. Austin did everything they had to to get to this point and there’s no reason to believe they’ll stop now. 

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Conference Preview: Utah St., New Mexico St. lead way in WAC

CIT Mercer Utah St Basketball
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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.

For all the concern about the health of leagues such as the Big East and Big 12, there’s no conference that’s had more to deal with from a realignment standpoint than the WAC. And things got even tougher when Idaho made the decision to move its non-football sports to the Big Sky in 2014, adding themselves to the list of schools that will be leaving the conference in the future. With six of the ten teams scheduled to leave the conference at the end of this academic year the WAC will look a lot different in 2013.

So who wins the league in 2012-13? At the top of the list have to be two of the programs that have ranked among the most consistent in the WAC in recent years. Utah State, which had a down year by its standards last season, is ready to once again contend with junior guard Preston Medlin leading the way. New Mexico State may have lost a few key contributors led by Wendell McKines but guard Daniel Mullings is back, and the Aggies are talented enough to return to the NCAA tournament.

The newcomer that’s most capable of winning the WAC? That would be Denver, who was one of the better teams in the Sun Belt last season and will rely on forwards Chris Udofia and Royce O’Neale. UT Arlington is also making its WAC debut on the heels of a 24-win campaign and a Southland regular season title, and even with the loss of their top two scorers the Mavericks will be a formidable team.

Louisiana Tech and Idaho both return players who received postseason honors last year, with WAC Freshman of the Year Raheem Appleby back in Ruston and senior center Kyle Barone leading the Vandals. Guard Kannon Burrage and forward Jeromie Hill return to a UTSA squad that won 18 games last season, and three of the Roadrunners’ top four scorers from last season are back.

San Jose State, Seattle and Texas State all have major questions to answer, which will make it tough on them to have a significant impact on the title race. Enjoy this group of schools while you can, because the WAC is going to look a lot different come 2013.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G Raheem Appleby (Louisiana Tech)
G Daniel Mullings (New Mexico State)
G Preston Medlin (Utah State)*
F Chris Udofia (Denver)
C Kyle Barone (Idaho)

Predicted Standings
1. Utah State
2. New Mexico State
3. Denver
4. UT Arlington
5. Louisiana Tech
6. Idaho
7. UTSA
8. San Jose State
9. Seattle
10. Texas State

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

Conference preview: APR issues thin out the SWAC

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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.

This season, six teams of the possible 10 are eligible for postseason play in the conference as Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern and Grambling State all received bans for low APR scores and NCAA violations. Southern returns from its own postseason ban as one of the favorites in the conference with second-year coach Roman Banks getting back guard Derick Beltran. Prairie view A&M gets Jourdan DeMuynck and 6-11 Jules Montgomery to anchor the Panthers.

Texas Southern had a one of the most unique situations in the college basketball season with Mike Davis entering the program on an interim basis. Then earlier this month, the Tigers announced Davis was signed to a four-year contract, which they should’ve done in the first place…then they get barred from the NCAA Tournament. He gets back Omar Strong, a sharpshooter who averaged 13.3 points last season. Jackson State managed only seven wins last season but Kelsey Howard is a stud who will ease the loss of Jenirro Bush and they get Ole Miss transfer Dundrecus Nelson at the semester break. Alabama State has to replace four starters after making the NCAA Tournament two of the past four seasons, while Alcorn State gets back guard Marquiz Baker, a solid scorer who missed all but five games last season due to injury. Alabama A&M will have the services of Demarquelle Tabb, who averaged 10.6 points and 7.6 boards last year.

After the best season in school history, Mississippi Valley State will be forced to replace it’s coach (Chico Potts for Sean Woods) and their top five scorers. UAPB has the tools in forward Daniel Broughton and wing Mitchell Anderson but has the postseason ban to face. Grambling State isn’t going to be much better than last season’s four-win team, with Quincy Roberts leaving and having to do all this under a new coach in Joseph Price.

All-Conference Team
G: Omar Strong, Texas Southern*

G: Marquiz Baker, Alcorn State

G: Kelsey Howard, Jackson State

F: Demarquelle Tabb, Alabama A&M

F: Daniel Broughton, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

*-Player of the Year

Predicted Finish
1.) Southern

2.) Prairie View A&M

3.) Texas Southern

4.) Alcorn State

5.) Jackson State

6.) Arkansas-Pine Bluff

7.) Alabama A&M

8.) Alabama State

9.) Mississippi Valley State

10.) Grambling State

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Conference Previews: The Sun Belt is Tony Mitchell’s playground

Tony Mitchell, George Fant
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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 Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

North Texas.

Tony Mitchell

Those are the names you really need to know in the Sun Belt this season, because North Texas has enough talent that they could push their way into the top 25 this season and are led by Mitchell, who is all-but a lock to be the league’s Player of the Year and should play his way onto all-american teams and into the lottery. It’s not all that often that a player of Mitchell’s talent ends up on a team like North Texas, but it’s also not all that often that a top 20 recruit like Mitchell isn’t able to find a way to get eligible at a school like Missouri. Mitchell was in the Class of 2010, but he didn’t start his collegiate career until last December. And in that one semester of college ball, Mitchell managed to average 14.7 points, 10.0 boards and 3.0 blocks. He could end up making those numbers look paltry this year.

The scary thing is that he’s far from all that UNT has on their roster. Chris Jones is a talented sophomore point guard who will be joined on the perimeter by Alzee Williams and Jordan Williams. Justin Patton, a transfer from Grambling, is eligible this season, and Oklahoma State transfer Roger Franklin is back for another season as well. With Denver out of the picture (they bounced, off to the new WAC), the Mean Green are a lock to win the west and the overwhelming favorite to win the Sun Belt.

But don’t expect Middle Tennessee State to roll over and play dead. Laron Dendy is gone, but the Blue Raiders return a very good perimeter attack led by Raymond Cintron, Marcos Knight and Bruce Massey. MTSU was arguably the best mid-major in the country for much of last season before back-to-back losses in the regular season finale and the first round of the conference tournament derailed their hopes of making the dance. Hunger and redemption are powerful motivators.

Looking deeper, Arkansas State returns four of the five starters from a team that was picked to win the west prior to last season, Western Kentucky is coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament and Florida International has added Richard Pitino as their head coach. But the sleeper in the conference could end up being South Alabama, but only if they find enough perimeter threats to take the pressure off of Augustine Rubit inside.

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

G: Chris Jones, North Texas
G: Marcos Knight, Middle Tennessee State
G: Greg Gantt, Florida Atlantic
F: Augustine Rubit, South Alabama
F: Tony Mitchell, North Texas*

Predicted Standings

West:

1. North Texas
2. Arkansas State
3. Arkansas-Little Rock
4. Louisiana-Monroe
5. Louisiana-Lafayette

East:

1. Middle Tennessee State
2. Western Kentucky
3. South Alabama
4. Florida Atlantic
5. Troy
6. Florida International

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Conference Previews: Oral Roberts takes the Southland by storm

Scott Sutton
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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 Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The Southland is going to look a lot different this year than it did last season.

Gone is regular season champ UT-Arlington, who, along with Texas State and UT-San Antonio, jumped to the WAC. Arlington won the conference by three games with a 15-1 record last year. Lamar may as well be gone, as they lose four starters, by rotation players and, essentially, everyone that made them the team to win the conference tournament title.

But the league will have a favorite, as last year’s Summit League champ Oral Roberts joins the conference. ORU loses a number of key players, including Summit Player of the Year Dominique Morrison, but they still have a lot of talent on the roster. Steven Rountree was one of the league’s most active and productive big men last season, and he’ll be joined in the front court by Damen Bell-Holter, who averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 boards in 2010-2011. Warren Niles, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season, and Utah transfer Shawn Glover will also play major roles, but the key will be whether or not the point guard role gets filled this year.

Stephen F. Austin will probably be ORU’s biggest challenger, as the Lumberjacks not only have a winning nickname, but they always seem to be in the mix for the league’s regular season title. Second-leading scorer Antonio Bostic returns while Taylor Smith is a JuCo transfer that averaged 9.2 points and 6.3 boards in less than 20 minutes last year.

There are three other teams to keep an eye on in the league. Northwestern State brings back Shamir Davis and adds a couple of talented newcomers. Central Arkansas has LaQuentin Miles back, who is the league’s leading returning scorer. But Southeastern Louisiana may be the best bet for making a run to the league title. Brandon Fortenberry, who averaged 17.6 points in just seven games last year, is back, as is Roosevelt Johnson up front. Throw in Providence transfer Dre Evans, and the Lions have sleeper written all over them.

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

G: Brandon Fontenberry, SE Louisiana
G: Shamir Davis, Northwestern State
F: LaQuentin Miles, Central Arkansas
F: Damen Bell-Holter, Oral Roberts
F: Steven Rountree, Oral Roberts*

Predicted Standings

1. Oral Roberts
2. Southeastern Louisiana
3. Stephen F. Austin
4. Northwestern State
5. Central Arkansas
6. Sam Houston State
7. McNeese State
8. Lamar
9. Nicholls State
10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.