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. 

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.