Texas-Pan American

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

Texas-Pan American hires Dan Hipsher to lead program

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To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

When Texas-Pan American athletic director Chris King announced his decision to not renew the contract of head coach Ryan Marks in mid-March he stated that his expectations for the future played a role in the decision. With UTPA moving from the Great West Conference to the WAC this summer, the Broncs will have an opportunity to compete for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With that in mind King has hired an experienced coach to take over the program, as the school announced on Friday morning that Alabama associate head coach Dan Hipsher will be the new head coach.

Hipsher, who was Anthony Grant’s right-hand man for the last four seasons, has 15 years of experience as a head coach at the collegiate level in addition to his many years as an assistant.

“Coach Hipsher’s high standards and core values are exactly what we were looking for in the search for our next head men’s basketball coach,” King said in a statement released by the school. “He is a nationally known and well-respected veteran coach who will increase our footprint in the State of Texas and has the experience we were seeking as we transition our men’s basketball program to the Western Athletic Conference next season.

“Not only were we impressed with his plan to prepare our student-athletes for excellence in life, but he also has a strong track record of mentoring assistant coaches who went on to become head coaches, including Alabama’s Anthony Grant, VCU’s Shaka Smart, Lamar’s Pat Knight and Akron’s Keith Dambrot.”

As a head coach (Wittenberg College, Stetson and Akron) Hipsher has a record of 238-182, winning three league Coach of the Year awards. UTPA finished the 2012-13 season 16-16 overall, and one of Hipsher’s first responsibilities (in regards to the roster) is finding a replacement for leading scorer Brandon Provost (15.0 ppg).

“Pan American men’s basketball has a rich history that includes some great success, and I know we can return the Broncs to national prominence on the court,” Hipsher said in the statement. “We’re also going to be active members of the community and strong in the classroom.

“The UTPA Athletics Department is clearly on the rise, and I look forward to being a part of that.”

Photo credit: University of Alabama

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.