While the 2015-16 season has yet to get underway, some in-season tournaments have already begun the process of finalizing teams for the 2016-17 campaign. Wednesday evening the Paradise Jam revealed its eight-team field for the 2016 edition of the event, which is scheduled to be played November 18-21, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands.
NC State, which has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons under head coach Mark Gottfried, is part of the event as are Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels. Completing the field are Creighton, Loyola-Chicago, Oral Roberts, Montana, Saint Joseph’s and Washington State.
Of the eight teams just two have made prior appearances at the Paradise Jam. Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s team finished fifth in 2009, with Ole Miss finishing third two years later. Washington State may have the most interesting connection to this tournament, however.
The father of forward Josh Hawkinson, who was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season and will be a senior in 2016-17, created the Paradise Jam back in 2000. That should make for a fun return to the Virgin Islands for Josh next November. Nels Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers, a company some may be familiar with as they’ve set up foreign tours for many college basketball programs over the years.
While NC State and Ole Miss are the lone teams in this field to reach the NCAA tournament last season, Montana is one of the favorites in the Big Sky entering the 2015-16 season and ORU is expected to be a factor in the Summit League. Scott Sutton’s Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason coaches poll.
Weber State hits 40-foot buzzer-beater to end first half, last-second three to beat Oral Roberts, 62-61 (VIDEOS)
The Wildcats trailed by six with 41 seconds left, but went on a 6-1 run to top Oral Roberts at home, 62-61. Jeremy Senglin hit a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.4 seconds left. The Golden Eagles committed a violation while inbounding the ball on the ensuing possession.
“I thought we were down three to tell the truth,” Senglin said in the post-game press conference. “So, I just came off the screen and they kind of cheated, so I crossed back. I shot better going off the right, so I crossed back to the right, and just shot the three.
“Thought we tied the game, honestly. But I didn’t know that put us up until I looked up.”
The Golden Eagles missed 2-of-6 free throws in the final 59 seconds.
Senglin finished with nine points. His shot topped teammate Richaud Gittens, who hit a 40-foot buzzer-beater to end the first half, which tied the score at 24-all heading into the break.
Turnover is the name of the game for the Summit League as we head into the 2014-2015 season. There will be five new head coaches in the nine-team league and that doesn’t include Scott Sutton, the head coach at Oral Roberts, who will return to the conference after a two-year stint in the Southland. Just one first-team all-conference player is back this season, and among those who have left were the league’s best player (Taylor Braun) and biggest personality (former North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips).
That said, the Summit League should end up being one of the tightest conference races in the country this year, as the separation between the top teams in the conference is quite small.
Our pick to win the regular season title is Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles had enjoyed a terrific run near the top of the Summit League for a decade-and-a-half before the school got swept up in the realignment chaos and wound up in the Southland. After a two year hiatus, Sutton is back with one of his better teams. Senior Obi Emegano is healthy after tearing his ACL last season and junior guard Korey Billbury had a terrific sophomore campaign in Emegano’s absence. Losing Shawn Glover will hurt, but the key for ORU will be whether Brandon Conley takes a step forward this season.
ORU’s biggest challenger will be Joe Scott’s Denver Pioneers. While he loses Chris Udofia to graduation, Scott does return Brett Olson, a first-team all-conference guard last year and our Preseason Player of the Year. He’s a sharp-shooter who hit more than 50 percent from three in league play, but he’s also going to have to learn to be “the guy”. In total, the Pioneers bring back four starters from last year. Denver joined the Summit prior to the 2013-2014 season.
New IPFW head coach Jon Coffman will enter this season without three of the Mastodons’ top six players from a year ago, but he does get back sophomore point guard Mo Evans, who is expected to be one of the league’s breakout stars, as well as big man Steve Forbes. Forbes is a dominating presence in the paint, but he only averaged 21.3 minutes as a junior due to fitness and foul trouble.
South Dakota State loses a number of key pieces, but former Florida big man Cody Larson will be one of the league’s most athletic players. The Jackrabbits will also get a boost when former Wisconsin point guard George Marshall gets eligible in December. North Dakota State will be without Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and former head coach Saul Phillips, but the Bison have built a strong enough program to withstand the turnover. Expect big seasons from Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown.
In: Oral Roberts Out: None
PRESEASON SUMMIT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brett Olson, Denver
Olson is the only player from last season’s all-Summit first-team to be returning to school this season after averaging 14.5 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 boards. He shot 51.5% from beyond the arc in league play, but with Chris Udofia graduating, Joe Scott is going to need Olson to take on a more commanding role this season if the Pioneers are going to play their way out of a tough, balanced conference.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SUMMIT LEAGUE TEAM:
Cody Larson, South Dakota State, Sr.: Larson, who began his career at Florida, might be the bst athlete in the conference.
Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts, Jr.: Emegano was on pace to have a huge season in 2013-2014 but tore his ACL in the fourth game of the year.
Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State, Sr.: A four-year starter at the point, Alexander will be the catalyst for the Bison, will have plenty of scoring to replace.
Steve Forbes, IPFW, Sr.: The big fella needs to get in shape and stay out of foul trouble, but he’s a monster when he does.