Horizon Preview: Valparaiso remains dangerous

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Horizon League.

IN: Northern Kentucky (Atlantic Sun)

The Horizon League enters the 2015-16 season with some talented teams, including a returning NCAA tournament team that has all five starters back. Adding another level of intrigue to the Horizon’s postseason proceedings, the conference tournament moves to Detroit this season after being played as a true home game for the Horizon’s top team.

Regardless of where the league’s conference tournament is played, Valparaiso enters as the heavy favorite to repeat after winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles last season. The Crusaders return all five starters and three key reserves to a team that took Maryland to the brink in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Junior forward Alec Peters is the league’s Preseason Player of the Year and he’s surrounded by three seniors, including rim protector Vashil Fernandez. Most importantly, head coach Bryce Drew is back and he’s got a chance to lead a dangerous mid-major team that could easily win a game or two in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Trailing behind Valpo is two talented teams, Oakland and Milwaukee. Greg Kampe’s Grizzlies return player of the year candidate Kahlil Felder, a non-stop threat who played nearly every minute of Oakland’s 2014-15 season. Felder is flanked by two returning starters and some high-major transfers in former Iowa State products Percy Gibson (center) and Sherron Dorsey-Walker (guard). Texas transfer Martez Walker is also eligible to make for a talented group that could push for the league crown.

After sitting out the postseason last season due to NCAA violations, Milwaukee has reloaded and Rob Jeter has his most talented team in years. All-league forward Matt Tiby is the Horizon’s leading returning rebounder while the Panthers redshirted three forwards — including versatile junior Austin Arians — and recruited two talented guards. Six of the top seven return from last season to go along with those five new players and Milwaukee ended the 2014-15 season by winning seven of nine.

Wright State has to stay healthy to be a top-tier Horizon League team but they return their four top scorers. Forward J.T. Yoho was one of the league’s best players when healthy last season and senior guard Joe Thomasson is very experienced. Detroit has to replace the scoring of Juwan Howard Jr., but sophomore forward Paris Bass is one of the league’s most talented players and could be poised for a big year. The Titans return four of its top five scorers from last year’s team, that includes three local recruits.

Things will be quite different in Green Bay as Brian Wardle has been replaced by Linc Darner and Keifer Sykes and Greg Mays are gone. But wing Jordan Fouse is one of the league’s best defenders and guard Carrington Love showed some scoring punch as well. The Phoenix will have question marks after their two returning starters.

UIC is now under the direction of former Indiana assistant Steve McClain and he brought in some immediate talent in guards Dominique Matthews and Dikembe Dixson. Two starters return for the Flames in double-figure scoring guard Paris Burns and forward Jake Wiegand. Cleveland State got hit by transfers as Trey Lewis (Louisville) and Anton Grady (Wichita State) are on new rosters and only starter Andre Yates returns. The Vikings have two redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen they’ll count on early.

Not much is proven for Youngstown State outside of 6-foot-10 senior forward Bobby Hain. Five new recruits will be asked to do a lot of a Penguins team that lost four starters from last season. Northern Kentucky is the new program in the league with a new coach in former Alabama assistant John Brannen. The Norse bring back three starters from a team that was 13-17 last season.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Valparaiso has a team that could have won a NCAA tournament game last season and now everybody is back. With Vashil Fernandez still in the lineup, they’re going to be very tough for any team to beat.”
  • Sleeper: “Milwaukee finished extremely strong to end last season. They bring back a core nucleus of experienced guys and have the postseason to play for. When you put all of those things in the equation, it makes them a dangerous team.”
  • Star to watch: “Kahlil Felder probably means more to his team than Alec Peters, but Peters is the type of player who hits a huge shot to put a game out of reach. When he’s on, Valpo plays at another level.”


The skilled 6-foot-9 junior barely edges out Oakland guard Kahlil Felder for preseason honors, in a debate that should be fun for the next two seasons. With his tremendous efficiency shooting the ball from all over the floor, Peters gets the nod here after averaging 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game as a sophomore. Peters put up those numbers while shooting 48 percent from the field, 46 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent from the free-throw line. With Valpo having so much balance in its deep and talented lineup, teams have to decide whether they want to overload on Peters or risk him having a big game. Since Peters can score from all over the floor, he’s a matchup nightmare for nearly any program.


  • Kahlil Felder, Oakland: The 5-foot-9 junior is a complete warrior who averaged 38.5 minutes a game in 33 games last season. Put up 18.1 points, 7.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds per contest.
  • Matt Tiby, Milwaukee: The league’s returning leading rebounder, the 6-foot-8 Tiby can score and rebound among the best in the league. Averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for a team that couldn’t play for the postseason.
  • JT Yoho, Wright State: If he can stay healthy, the 6-foot-6 Yoho is a Player of the Year candidate. Yoho averaged 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season and is talented enough to score from all over the floor.
  • Paris Bass, Detroit: After a productive freshman season, expectations become even greater for Bass since this is his team now. The 6-foot-8 sophomore averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds per game and is one of the league’s most talented young stars.



1. Valparaiso
2. Oakland
3. Milwaukee
4. Wright State
5. Detroit
6. Green Bay
7. UIC
8. Cleveland State
9. Youngstown State
10. Northern Kentucky

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.