Chicago State

2013-2014 WAC Preview: Changes aplenty, but the favorite remains the same

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source:
AP

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.

With so much change (seven schools out, six schools in), how will the upcoming basketball season shake out in the WAC? Well, look no further than defending WAC tournament champion New Mexico State for that answer. Head coach Marvin Menzies welcomes back a guard in Daniel Mullings who’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the WAC and a preseason favorite to take home league Player of the Year honors, and brothers Sim (reigning WAC Rookie of the Year and WAC tournament MVP) and Tanveer Bhullar represent the tallest tandem in college basketball. Sim’s 7-5 while his younger brother is two inches shorter at 7-3.

Picking the Aggies to win the conference is an easy exercise. Figuring out how the remainder of the conference will shake out is an entirely different matter. Utah Valley may be the newcomer best equipped to contend immediately, with seniors Ben Aird (15.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Holton Hunsaker (13.2, 3.1 apg) leading the way for head coach Dick Hunsaker. Seattle, one of the three holdovers, is a team to watch with three of their six newcomers being transfers including guards Emerson Murray (Cal) and Isaiah Umipig (Cal-State Fullerton).

source:
AP

In most leagues losing the reigning league Player of the Year would prohibit a team from contending the following season, but thanks to realignment that won’t be the case for Idaho. Center Kyle Barone is gone but starters Connor Hill (12.1 ppg, 44.4% 3PT) and Stephen Madison (14.1, 4.7 rpg) both return for head coach Don Verlin. Chicago State, which won the Great West tournament and made an appearance in the CollegeInsider.com tournament, returns four starters including forwards Matt Ross (10.1, 6.3) and Quinton Pippen (10.4, 4.2; nephew of Scottie Pippen).

As for the remainder of the conference, Bakersfield will incorporate five players who redshirted last season to go along with guards Brandon Barnes (12.1, 5.3) and Javonte Maynor (10.5 ppg). Grand Canyon, Kansas City and UTPA all welcome new head coaches, with the Antelopes playing their first season as a Division I member as well. The WAC looks a lot different in 2013 than it did a year ago, but look for a familiar face to sit atop the standings come March.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, UMKC, UTPA and Utah Valley
Out: Denver (Summit), Louisiana Tech (C-USA), San Jose State (Mountain West), Texas State (Sun Belt), UT-Arlington (Sun Belt), UTSA (Conference USA), Utah State (Mountain West)

PRESEASON WAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: G Daniel Mullings (New Mexico State)

Mullings isn’t the type of player who will light up the scoreboard, but he’s the most versatile player in the WAC. As a sophomore he averaged 13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the Aggies, who won their second consecutive WAC tournament crown. And with the Aggies being the clear favorite to win the league this season, Mullings is well-positioned to take home the league’s highest individual honor.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • G/F Quinton Pippen (Chicago State): The nephew of Scottie Pippen, Quinton averaged 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season. He’ll be productive for a CSU squad that should challenge for a top-half finish in the WAC standings.
  • F Stephen Madison (Idaho): Reigning WAC POY Kyle Barone is out of eligibility, meaning that Madison’s (14.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg) scoring load will increase this season.
  • C Ben Aird (Utah Valley): Aird (15.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg) led the Wolverines to the Great West regular season title last season, and he’s a big reason why Utah Valley can contend for the WAC crown.
  • C Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State): Bhullar hit his stride during the latter stages of the 2012-13 season, winning WAC tournament MVP honors and averaging 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for the year.

PREDICTED FINISH
1. New Mexico State
2. Idaho
3. Utah Valley
4. Seattle
5. Chicago State
6. Bakersfield
7. Kansas City
8. Grand Canyon
9. Texas-Pan American

Chicago State will leave Great West, join WAC

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It might not be as groundbreaking as Louisville’s recent move from the Big East to the ACC, but Wednesday afternoon, the Western Athletic Conference announced that it would be adding Chicago State to its conference, effective July 1, 2013.

“We are pleased to welcome Chicago State University to the WAC family,” WAC Interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd said in a statement. “As the Western Athletic Conference continues to evolve, we look forward to their contributions including the addition of another large media market to our league.  We are also thrilled to be able to provide Chicago State with many more championship opportunities for their student-athletes.”

Chicago State is currently a member of the Great West, a conference that also including Utah Valley, Houston Baptist, Texas-Pan American, and NJIT. The Cougars are 2-7 so far in 2012-13 after finishing 4-26 last season.

The WAC has been in a state of major transitions over the past few seasons, having lost San Jose State and Utah State to the Mountain West, along with Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio to Conference USA. Texas State and UT-Arlington also defected, having moved to the Sun Belt. Idaho also took its basketball program to the Big Sky, while Denver to the Summit League.

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

Great West preview: All of the talent, with none of the perks

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How does a conference that doesn’t get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament have so much talent? The Great West has that question to answer this season. North Dakota joined the Big Sky Conference this season trimming the Great West to six teams.

Cal State-Bakersfield has an All-Independents team selection in Stephon Carter and two other solid guards in Zach Lamb and Issiah Grayson. Chicago State had the Great West Newcomer of the Year last season in Jeremy Robinson (13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg in 2011-12). Six junior college transfers also made their way to the Cougars’ roster this season, and they’ll need a lot to improve on last season’s 4-26 record.

NJIT brings back guard Chris Flores (13.1 ppg) and Jim Engles’ Highlanders are coming off back-to-back 15-win seasons. Texas-Pan American has one of the best guards in the six-team conference in Brandon Provost and his 13.4 points and 3.5 apg. The most impressive team in the conference will be Utah Valley State under coach Dick Hunsaker. The Wolverines had a 20-win season in 2011-12 and returns forward Ben Aird and coaches’ son Holton Hunsaker as major contributors. Houston Baptist is trying to bounce back from a 10-20 season, but three double-figure scorers return.

All-Conference Team

G: Stephon Carter, California State-Bakersfield

G: Chris Flores, NJIT

G: Brandon Provost, Texas-Pan American

F: Ben Aird, Utah Valley State

F: Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State

Player of the Year

Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State

Predicted Finish

1.) Utah Valley State

2.) California State-Bakersfield

3.) NJIT

4.) Texas-Pan American

5.) Houston Baptist

6.) Chicago State

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Chicago State finally finds its man

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And you thought Oregon took its time. After nearly three months of looking, Chicago State finally found a coach.

Tracy Dildy, a longtime Chicago coach and recruiter, got the nod on Monday. He’s played at King High and Illinois-Chicago. He’s been an assistant at DePaul and UIC (along with out-of-town gigs at UAB, Ball State and Ole Miss), which must’ve finally put him over the top for the school.

About time.

It’ll be his first head coaching job. He had been an associate head coach at UIC under Jimmy Collins.

“Tracy is certainly prepared to be a head coach,” Collins said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach who helped us a great deal the past three years. I had the opportunity to observe Tracy and see that he was not only a good recruiter, but a good all-around coach. We wish him the best in his new and well-deserved endeavor as a head coach.”

Might want to wish Chicago State luck as well. When you take this much time on a coaching search, one hopes it lasts.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.