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
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

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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 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.

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.

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

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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 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. 

Conference Preview: The America East’s talent drain

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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 America East found themselves on the wrong side of the transfer market this offseason. Reigning Freshman of the Year, Vermont’s Four McGlynn, transferred to Towson. Albany lost Logan Aronhalt, their second-leading scorer last season, to Maryland while Gerardo Suero, their leading scorer a season ago, went pro. Boston U. not only lost Jake O’Brien to Temple, they lost their right to play in the America East tournament when they made the decision to jump to the Patriot League after the season. Even Binghamton, who won just two games last year, lost three of their top five scorers, had their head coach fired and is dealing with two more players getting arrested.

While it may seem like it from that description, the America East isn’t a complete dumpster fire. Stony Brook lost three of their top four scorers, but they do return Dave Coley, who should be read to shoulder more of the scoring load, and Tommy Brenton. Brenton is one of the most intriguing players in the conference, as he led the Sea Wolves in rebounding, assists and steals a season ago.

Brenton isn’t the only one to put up that statline, however. UVM’s Brian Voelkel did the same, but the Catamounts will also be dealing with losing three of their top four scorers. Luke Apfeld and Clancy Rugg will be asked to play a bigger role this year, but it may not be enough to catch Stony Brook, who brings in a talented freshmen class that will be counted on to contribute immediately.

The sleeper may end up being BU. DJ Irving might be the best player in the conference, and he’ll be joined in the back court by Maurice Watson, a freshman point guard that cracked top 100 lists heading into the season. Hartford finished strong down the stretch last year as well, while Albany will be counting on Mike Black to make up for the loss of Suero and Aronhalt.

While UVM and SBU are the favorites in the league, there is enough transition on their rosters that the regular season title could end up being up for grabs.

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

G: DJ Irving, BU
G: Mike Black, Albany
F: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook*
F: Alasdair Fraser, Maine
F: Chase Plummer, UMBC

Predicted Standings

1. Stony Brook
2. Vermont
3. Boston
4. Albany
5. Hartford
6. Maine
7. New Hampshire
8. UMBC
9. Binghamton

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

Conference Preview: Louisville is the favorite in Big East after run to Final Four

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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.

It came as no surprise last week when the Big East coaches resoundingly named Louisville the preseason favorite to win the conference, but what about the other storylines?

This year’s edition of the Big East has all of the ingredients for drama: realignment storylines, television negotiations, and a little preseason war of words.

Let’s break it all down:

Five Things to Know

1. “Realignment” is the word in the Big East. Absent at Media Day was a longtime fixture, Bob Huggins, whose West Virginia Mountaineers are now members of the Big 12. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are both entering their final season in the conference before heading to the ACC. Notre Dame is likely negotiating some sort of deal to head to the ACC early, as well. On the horizon wait Memphis, Temple, UCF, Houston, and SMU, ready to enter the league. Prepare yourself for frequent “this could be the final match-up…”-type storylines as the season progresses.

2. Louisville is the preseason favorite to win the conference, but much of its success hinges on Big East Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva. We saw different versions of the then-junior point guard last season. Who will ultimately prevail this season, the player who was the catalyst for Louisville’s run in the Big East and NCAA tournaments or the player who averaged 5.4 points and 3.6 turnovers per game for a seven-game stretch in late December and January?

3. Connecticut is in a season of change. Not only are they banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments, but longtime head coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement earlier this year. Former Husky assistant Kevin Ollie now takes over the program. Players say that, though more stern, Ollie is the same optimistic leader as they remember him in his assistant role. He might be just what they need in this season of transition.

4. Syracuse has lost a number of key pieces from last season, among them Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, and Scoop Jardine, but comes into 2012-13 as a top-15 team nationally that is ready to compete for a conference title. Expect sophomore Michael Carter-Williams to have a breakout year.

5. Stan Heath and South Florida surprised a lot of people last season when they finished 22-14 and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament. Point guard Anthony Collins returns for his sophomore season and will be key. Interesting note: Despite the slow offensive tempo that produced just 59.2 points per game last season, Heath told NBCSports.com at Big East media day that this year’s team is built to play faster, so don’t be surprised if we see Collins lead the “Running of the Bulls.”

Impact Newcomers

C Steven Adams (Pittsburgh)

The 6-10 Adams was chosen by league coaches to be the Preseason Big East Rookie of the Year and will have expectations to match in 2012-13. The New Zealand native likely has been praised by scouts for his upside.

C DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

The local prospect will have to help in compensating for the loss of Fab Melo to the NBA. Reports are that he has lost significant weight (he was last listed at 6-9, 275 pounds), which should make him more mobile.

F Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)

Rick Pitino and the Cardinals were fortunate enough to land Harrell after he decommitted from Virginia Tech this spring. Point guard Peyton Siva says he already sees improvement in the 6-8, 215 forward, who should provide more stability in the frontcourt.

F Stephen Domingo (Georgetown)

Domingo was a member of the Class of 2013 until he committed to Georgetown and sped up his high school timeline. The lanky California native should provide the three-point threat that the Hoyas need.

F JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s)

Sampson is an elite athlete who returns to the Red Storm after taking a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy in 2011-12. He has a different skill set than Moe Harkless, who left for the NBA after one season in Queens, but has a high ceiling and an undeniable “wow” factor when his athleticism is on full display.

G Kris Dunn (Providence)

With Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible to play this season, Providence head coach Ed Cooley will rely more on his other star recruit, Dunn. Injury is holding him back for now, but if he doesn’t redshirt, he will change the complexion of the Friar offense.

Breakout Players

F Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse)

Carter-Williams played sparingly during his freshman season, but he’ll have an increased role because of the loss of key pieces to the NBA.

G Anthony Collins (South Florida)

If coach Stan Heath wants to implement a faster brand of offense, Collins is his man. Quick and explosive, the sophomore is ready to lead.

G Vander Blue (Marquette)

Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder have moved on to the NBA, which leaves Blue with a chance to shine.

G Ryan Boatright (Connecticut)

Plagued by NCAA investigations last season, Boatright should be able to focus and find his groove in 2012-13 as part of a backcourt with Shabazz Napier.

G Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)

He averaged 12.3 points and led the Irish with 5.0 assists per game last season, but didn’t get the national recognition that he should be able to grab this year.

Player of the Year: G Peyton Siva (Louisville)

The biggest question will be which Peyton Siva shows up for most of the season, but if the end of the season is any indication, we could be in for a special season from him.

Coach Under Pressure: Oliver Purnell (DePaul)

After a 3-15 season in Big East play, Purnell and his reported $1.8 million annual contract will have to prove some things in 2012-13. The Blue Demons are still projected to finish in the bottom third of the conference.

All-Conference Team

(*) denotes Player of the Year

G Peyton Siva (Louisville)*

G Vincent Council (Providence)

F Otto Porter (Georgetown)

F Jack Cooley (Notre Dame)

C Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)

Predicted Finish

1. Louisville–Coming off a Final Four run and with Siva at the point, the Cardinals are the favorite.

2. Syracuse—Personnel losses shouldn’t be a problem for the Orange. They have reloaded and will be solidly in the nation’s Top 15.

3. Notre Dame—Jack Cooley and Scott Martin are key, as are guards Jerian Grant and Erik Atkins. Could be the final Big East season for the Irish.

4. Cincinnati—Yancy Gates’ departure will hurt Mick Cronin’s team, but guard Sean Kilpatrick should be able to continue capitalize on momentum from last season.

5. Georgetown—The top three scorers for the Hoyas—Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, and Henry Sims—have all left. This is Otto Porter’s chance to step up.

6. Pittsburgh—With no Ashton Gibbs, Tray Woodall takes on more responsibilities in the backcourt. Big man Steven Adams will play a role, as will transfer Trey Zeigler.

7. USF—The element of surprise is gone for Stan Heath’s team. Can they compete when other teams expect it?

8. Marquette—Crowder and Johnson-Odom aren’t easily replaced. If we’ve learned one thing, though, it’s not to underestimate Buzz Williams.

9. Connecticut—The general sentiment around the program is that this is not a loss season, despite the postseason ban. We’ll see what Kevin Ollie can do in his first season.

10. St. John’s—Steve Lavin returns after undergoing prostate cancer surgery and has another young, talented recruiting class coming to the Red Storm.

11. Rutgers—Coach Mike Rice began to lay the foundation with his recruiting class last season and now he will build on it. Eligible transfer Wally Judge should help.

12. Villanova—Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek have departed, take with them a combined 30 points per game. Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault and freshman Ryan Arcidiacono will compete for the starting PG spot.

13. DePaul—Cleveland Melvin once again is the centerpiece. Injuries plagued the Blue Demons last season.

14. Providence—Ricky Ledo being ruled ineligible hurts the Friars in the short term, but the long-term outlook is bright.

15. Seton Hall—Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope have left, and the NCAA’s decision not to grant a hardship waiver to guard Sterling Gibbs will make life more difficult in Jersey.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_