Ian Hummer, Rob Belcore

Conference Previews: Harvard still the favorite in the Ivy, but barely

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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.

This was supposed to be Harvard’s year. With seniors Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry back to help bridge the gap between the old guard and a very talented group of youngsters, the Crimson were on track to be one of the nation’s most dangerous mid-majors. But then Casey and Curry got themselves entangled in a cheating scandal that involved 125 or so students and were suspended for the year.

Harvard will still contend for the Ivy League title. Laurent Rivard has been a doubled-digit scorer since he set foot on campus, Christian Webster averaged 13.0 points as a sophomore two years ago and the likes of Steve Moundou-Missi, Wesley Saunders, Jonah Travis and Kenyatta Smith are promising, but with freshman point guard Siyani Chambers handling all of the ballhandling duties, there will likely be a learning curve. Replacing four senior starters is never an easy thing.

That opens the door for Princeton, who will be right there with Harvard all season long. The Tigers will be led by Ian Hummer, a forward that is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. He averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in league play last season, but for Princeton to overtake the Crimson atop the conference standings, someone is going to need to emerge in the back court as Douglas Davis graduated.

Two teams to keep an eye on are Columbia and Brown. The Lions bring back all five starters, including the league’s best inside-outside duo in guard Brian Barbour and big fella Mark Cisco. Brown only won eight games a year ago, but they get four starters back and Tucker Halpern, who averaged 12.6 points two years ago, is healthy again this year. For Penn to be competitive, they’ll need Miles Cartwright to fill the void left by the graduation of Zack Rosen. Cornell brings back reigning freshman of the year Shonn Miller to join Errick Peck.

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

G: Miles Cartwright, Penn
G: Sean McGonagil, Brown
G: Brian Barbour, Columbia
G: Laurent Rivard, Harvard
F: Ian Hummer, Princeton*

Predicted Standings

1. Harvard
2. Princeton
3. Columbia
4. Cornell
5. Penn
6. Brown
7. Yale
8. Dartmouth

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

Conference preview: Shining a light on the Horizon

Kevin Van Wijk,LaMarcus Lowe
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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.
Butler’s gone! Butler’s gone! Whatever shall the Horizon League DO?

Carry on, one suspects. It’s worth noting that, since the turn of the millennium, the league has sent Milwaukee to the Big Dance three times, Illinois-Chicago twice, and Cleveland State, Wright State and Detroit once apiece.

In fact, Detroit is the league’s reigning tourney champion. Ray McCallum, Jr. is repeating as the preseason player of the year, as chosen by league coaches, media and sports information directors. And Detroit has only been tabbed as the second-best team in the league. More love has been showered on the Valparaiso Crusaders, who have prospered under the coaching of Bryce Drew, a man whose One Shining Moment as a Valpo player has become symbolic of mid-major glory.

The Crusaders return 6-7 Ryan Broekhoff, the Horizon’s leader rebounds per game from last season. At his side will be highly efficient big man Kevin Van Wijk and pass-first, defend-first guard Erik Buggs.

McCallum is an NBA-sized talent, but he isn’t alone in Motor City. Big man Nick Minnerath only played five games last year, sitting out the rest of the season after injuring his knee against Bowling Green. He’ll be back and ready to tear it up, as will senior guard Jason Calliste.

No other team garnered even one first-place vote from the panel, but Green Bay and Youngstown State have enough talent to figure in the league race, and Cleveland State is always good under head coach Gary Waters.

The days of two bids for the Horizon are likely over. Since those at-large bids always went to Butler anyway, things really haven’t changed all that much for the rest of the league.

All-League Team (*Player of the Year)

Kendrick Perry, 6’0” G, Youngstown State

*Ray McCallum, 6’2” G, Detroit

Ryan Broekhoff, 6’7” G, Valparaiso

Kevin Van Wijk, 6’8” F, Valparaiso

Alec Brown, 7’1” C, Green Bay

Predicted Standings

1. Valparaiso

2. Detroit

3. Youngstown State

4. Green Bay

5. Cleveland State

6. Milwaukee

7. Illinois-Chicago

8. Loyola

9. Wright State

Conference Preview: Long Beach St. still Big West favorite

Dan Monson
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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.

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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
6. UCSB
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. 

Conference Preview: Camels top Big South

Gaylord
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For much of the first decade of the 21st century, the Big South could have been stamped “Property of Winthrop.” Since Gregg Marshall departed for Wichita State, no other team has been able to establish a similar dynasty. Stable, well-coached teams like Asheville (Eddie Biedenbach) and Coastal Carolina (Cliff Ellis) seem poised, but neither is this year’s favorite.

That honor falls on the sturdy humps shoulders of the Campbell Fighting Camels, a team that has only made the NCAA tournament one time, in 1992, where they were easily dispatched by the Duke Blue Devils. This year, the ships of the desert are paced by three returning starters, including leading scorer Darren White (16.8 ppg) and top distributor Trey Freeman (3.8 apg) forming the team’s all-important backcourt. With freshman All-Namer Leek Leek coming off the bench, the Camels have that certain je ne sais quoi that could spell auto-bid.

The Charleston Southern Buccaneers are expected to make a strong run at the Camels, with sophomore ballhandlers Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper leading the attack. The Big South added former DI independent Longwood as a 12th member this season, allowing for two six-team divisions, and the Bucs are favored to lead the South while Campbell claims the North.

Also in the mix are the aforementioned Asheville Bulldogs and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, both in the South. The ultimate league wild card resides in the North division, where the helter-skelter, hoist-it-up VMI Keydets will once again attempt to wreak havoc with limited resources and unlimited energy. High Point, with five seniors, was the only other team to garner any first-place votes from league coaches and media reps.

All-League Team (*Player of the Year)

Darren White, 6’4” G, Campbell

Trey Freeman, 6’2” G, Campbell

Saah Nimley, 5’8” G, Charleston Southern

Anthony Raffa, 6’1” G, Coastal Carolina

*Stan Okoye, 6’6” F, Virginia Military Institute

Predicted Standings

1. Campbell

2. Charleston Southern

3. Coastal Carolina

4. VMI

5. Asheville

6. High Point

7. Liberty

8. Winthrop

9. Gardner-Webb

10. Radford

11. Presbyterian

12. Longwood

(Gaylord the Camel photo courtesy of Dana Laing/Campbell Athletics)

Conference Preview: Montana aims for Big Sky repeat

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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.

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Last season was a very good one at the top of the Big Sky, as both Montana and Weber State were both teams that college basketball fans had to take notice of. In addition to both of those teams winning 25 games the Big Sky also had its first NBA Draft lottery pick ever as Weber State’s Damian Lillard was selected 6th overall by Portland (Michael Ray Richardson was the 4th pick in 1978, before the lottery was instituted in 1985).

But it was Montana who won both the regular season and postseason titles, and with guards Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar back the Grizzlies are the favorites in the eyes of many. But they’ve incurred a couple of losses before a game’s been played, as Cherry is out for three months due to a knee injury and junior college transfer Marko Kovacevic (will enroll at Utah next season) was not cleared academically.

So while the Grizzlies remain the favorites the door has opened a bit wider for the competition in the Big Sky, with Weber State once again the chief challenger. Scott Bamforth and Gelaun Wheelwright are back along with front court standouts Kyle Tresnak and Byron Fulton. Northern Colorado returns four starters led by guard Tate Unruh from a team that was a bit young to be expected to contend last season, but the Bears are ready to go in 2012-13.

Portland State may have lost leading scorers Charles Odum and Chehales Tapscott, but the return of Renado Parker and Lateef McMillan makes them a threat as well. Eastern Washington welcomes back Collin Chiverton and Saint Joseph’s transfer Justin Crosgile will help them on the perimeter, while Freshman of the Year Dylan Garrity leads four returning starters at Sacramento State. Idaho State and Montana State had tumultuous offseasons, and there’s optimism for the future in Flagstaff as former Memphis assistant Jack Murphy takes over at Northern Arizona.

The Big Sky also welcomes two new members, as North Dakota (Great West) and Southern Utah (Summit League) now call the conference home. While it would be tough to expect Southern Utah to contend under first-year head coach Nick Robinson, the same can’t be said for the Fighting Sioux. Four starters led by guard Troy Huff return to Grand Forks, and this is a program that has made consecutive trips to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Montana is the favorite to repeat in the Big Sky, but they won’t lack for challengers either.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G Will Cherry (Montana)*
G Scott Bamforth (Weber State)
G/F Kareem Jamar (Montana)
F Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington)
C Kyle Tresnak (Weber State)

Predicted Standings
1. Montana
2. Weber State
3. Northern Colorado
4. Sacramento State
5. North Dakota
6. Eastern Washington
7. Portland State
8. Montana State
9. Idaho State
10. Northern Arizona
11. Southern Utah

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

Conference Preview: Atlantic Sun starts its post-Belmont era

asun
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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.