Houston Baptist Huskies

(AP)

Maryland headlines field for 2015 Cancun Challenge

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Another in-season tournament for the 2015-16 season has finalized its field, as the eight teams that will participate in the Cancun Challenge were announced Wednesday. Leading the way is Maryland, a team seen by many as the early favorites to win the Big Ten.

Head coach Mark Turgeon welcomes back key contributors such as guard Melo Trimble and forward Jake Layman, and he’ll also add both size and skill in the front court with the arrival of Diamond Stone and Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr. being eligible after sitting out last season. Maryland, which is also the only team in the field to make the NCAA tournament last season, is joined in the Riviera Division by Illinois State, Rhode Island and TCU.

Maryland will face Illinois State in one of the Riviera Division semifinals November 24, with TCU and Rhode Island meeting in the other semifinal. The championship and third-place games will be played the following day.

Of those three expectations are highest for Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island squad, which won 23 games and played in the Postseason NIT last season. Rising juniors E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin return, as does rising sophomore Jared Terrell, and the Rams have some solid additions joining the rotation as well.

Illinois State just missed out on the NCAA tournament, losing to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game, and TCU looks to account for the loss of point guard Kyan Anderson. Each of the four teams in the Riviera Division will play two home games against squads in the Mayan Division: Cleveland State, Houston Baptist, Rider and South Dakota State.

South Dakota State, which reached the Summit League title game last season, faces Houston Baptist in one Mayan Division semi with Cleveland State and Rider meeting in the other November 24 in Cancun.

Below is the complete schedule of games, with those being played in Cancun (November 24 & 25) in italics.

Nov. 19 – Houston Baptist at TCU; South Dakota State at Illinois State
Nov. 20 – Rider at Maryland
Nov. 21 – Cleveland State at Rhode Island
Nov. 24 – Mayan Division: South Dakota State vs. Houston Baptist; Rider vs. Cleveland State
Nov. 24 – Riviera Division: TCU vs. Rhode Island; Illinois State vs. Maryland
Nov. 25 – Mayan Division: Third-place and Championship games
Nov. 25 – Riviera Division: Third-place and Championship games
Nov. 28 – Cleveland State at Maryland
Nov. 29 – Rider at Rhode Island

William Gates Jr., son of ‘Hoop Dreams’ star, to transfer to Houston Baptist

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William Gates Jr., the son and the namesake of ‘Hoop Dreams’ star William Gates, has transferred to Houston Baptist.

“Started spring semester classes this morning,” a source told NBCSports.com.

Gates began his college career at Furman, averaging 8.0 points as a freshman for the Palladins, but he saw his playing time get cut as a sophomore thanks to the emergence of a strong freshman class brought in by Furman head coach Niko Medved. He transferred out of the program after the first semester.

Gates is originally from Chicago, the city where the documentary starring his father was filmed. But the family — Gates Sr. has four children — decided to move out of the city to Texas due to the ever-escalating violence in Chicago. Part of the reason he left Furman was due to homesickness, a source said.

That was the best thing that could have happened to the younger Gates’ basketball career, as it took him away from a place where everyone was going to compare him to his father.

“You still had people who knew about the movie,” Gates told me when he committed to Furman two years ago, “but they didn’t really make the connection until they saw me play and they found out what my name was. There wasn’t any type of heckling or how it was in Chicago, it wasn’t like that.”

“Texas is not really a basketball state like that, it’s a football state. Chicago is a basketball city, so basketball is what everybody knows.”

Gates will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. He’ll be eligible to play after the first semester of the 2015-2016 season.

Houston Baptist dons throwback uniforms in Saturday’s win over New Orleans (PHOTO)

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With this being the 50th season of college basketball at Houston Baptist, the school has planned various events throughout the season in order to celebrate their past. Saturday players from the 1960s and 1970s were honored, with the all-decade teams announced at the Huskies’ game against New Orleans.

You can’t celebrate the past without having throwback uniforms for the occasion, and Houston Baptist wore a uniform that was simply outstanding. A home white jersey top (with a dribbling husky) paired with blue, orange and white striped shorts? Sartorial excellence.

According to the basketball program the uniforms worn during the 1973-74 season were the inspiration for Saturday’s look.

The Huskies won 74-73 thanks to two Cody Stetler free throws with 14 seconds remaining, with Stetler preserving the lead with a blocked shot on the other end. There was also a costume contest for the fans, who were encouraged to wear their best 60s/70s clothes for the occasion.

2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?

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Jacob Parker (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.

That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.

The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.

Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.

The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.

This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).

Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.

It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.

Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.

REALIGNMENT

  • In: None
  • Out: Oral Roberts

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin

The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:

  • Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
  • John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SFA_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Northwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. McNeese State
6. Incarnate Word
7. Southeastern Louisiana
8. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Abilene Christian
11. Houston Baptist
12. Central Arkansas
13. Lamar

2013-14 Southland Preview: Realignment brings plenty of unfamiliar faces

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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.

If the Southland Conference had an unofficial motto this season, it might be “Who Dat?”

Seismic shifts at the top of the NCAA power structure draw the most ink, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a league that has been more visibly impacted by realignment than the Southland. Texas State, UT-Arlington (both now Sun Belt) and UT-San Antonio (C-USA) bolted last season to jump on the BCS football gravy train, and Oral Roberts traded in the Summit League’s frequent flyer miles to join the Southland. The league’s tight four-state footprint solidified this year with the addition of New Orleans, Houston Baptist and transitional DI members Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.

Incarnate Word? Who Dat?

(MORE: Oral Roberts looks to return to their Giant-Killer roots)

The Southland isn’t entirely devoid of name recognition, however. Scott Sutton’s Oral Roberts team was an upset special waiting to happen in the late 2000s, and the Golden Eagles have enough talent, although inexperienced, to feast on the diluted Southland slate this season. Pat Knight, son of the legendary Bobby Knight and former Texas Tech coach, has struggled to build a consistent contender at Lamar, but at least he’s a familiar face. Northwestern State, last season’s auto-bid winner, is losing a lot of senior leadership, so they’re likely to suffer the mid-major curse and fall off the pace a bit. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks won 27 games last season and missed the Big Dance in a narrow two-point loss in the league’s title game, so they’ll be in the mix as well.

source:  REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, New Orleans
Out: None

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shawn Glover, Oral Roberts

A rather slight 6-foot-7 wing, Glover got plenty of minutes in two seasons at Utah but just couldn’t finish well enough. After sitting out a season, he came on strong for ORU, sharing the team lead in blocks and steals while averaging 14.4 points per game. Glover is a strong all-around player who should thrive in his senior season.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The redshirt sophomore should build on his strong debut season at the point.
  • Dederick Lee, Oral Roberts: The highly-regarded freshman from Clarksville, Arkansas had an offer from the Razorbacks, but will star for Sutton instead.
  • LaQuintin Miles, Central Arkansas: Miles can really pour it on if he finds a way to improve on last season’s 44 percent mark from the floor.
  • DeQuan Hicks, Northwestern State: Hicks had 12 points and 8 boards against Florida in the NCAA tournament last year. He’s ready to make a difference as a senior.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Oral Roberts
2. Northwestern State
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. Stephen F. Austin
5. Sam Houston State
6. Central Arkansas
7. Nicholls State
8. McNeese State
9. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
10. Houston Baptist
11. New Orleans
12. Lamar
13. Abilene Christian
14. Incarnate Word