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SCS.com
MID-MAJORS, PART I
October 20, 2005

SCS.com Hoops Preview '05 Home

Within this preview:
America East | Big West | Colonial

AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The America East Conference was led from start to finish a season ago by Vermont, with now-departed finishing only one game back, with Boston University one game behind them. In the conference tournament, Vermont defeated Boston University in the title game, and went on to pull up one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA Tournament when they beat #4 seeded Syracuse in the first round. They then lost to Michigan State in the second round. The league as a whole is down this year, with Vermont and Boston University rebuilding. There are several teams that can take advantage of that. Albany returns four of five starters from a season ago, including the league's best backcourt in Player of the Year candidate Jamar Wilson and All-Conference pick Lucious Jordan. They may be the two best players in the conference. 5-9 Jon Iati returns after a year missed due to injury. He was the America East Rookie of the Year two years ago after averaging 11 points per game. Up front, forwards Levi Levine and Brent Wilson should form one of the best frontcourt duos in the league. 7-1 Kirsten Zoellner returns at center for the Great Danes.

Boston University loses three starters, but returns two players that could be ready for a breakout season. Guard Shaun Wynn is an excellent defender, and will increase his production. Forward Kevin Gardner posted solid numbers last season, but will need to develop into a go-to-guy this year. Matt Wolff and several other players are going to have to step up quickly if the Terriers are going to make another run. Maine returns an excellent backcourt in Kevin Reed and Ernest Turner. Both should be all-conference choices by the end of the season. However, there isn't much going on in the frontcourt. Freddy Petkus is going to have to become a viable option up front in order for the Black Bears to relieve some of the pressure that is on the star backcourt. Stony Brook finished in 7th place last season, but should be the most improved team in the league this year. Bobby Santiago and Antwan Hardy return in the backcourt, which will be bolstered by the comeback of Mitchell Beauford, who missed all but six games last year due to injury. That trio each averaged double figures a season ago, led by Beauford going for nearly 17 per game. Up front, Mike Popoko provides balance for the Seawolves. He is a very good option in the post. JonPaul Kobryn also returns in the frontcourt. He sat out last season due to injury, but should be one of the best low-post options in the conference. Hartford returns a team that can make some noise if all the pieces fall into place. Aaron Cook will be an all-conference selection in the backcourt, given his scoring prowess. Charles Ford and David Ruffin also return as starters on the perimeter. Rich Baker will provide depth. Bo Taylor should have a big season up front now that he will be the go-to-guy up front. Hofstra transfer Kenny Adeleke will also be eligible to play. He was an excellent player for the Pride; if he can stay focused on basketball, he will have a big impact. Binghamton has an all-conference candidate in guard Andre Heard, who has the ability to carry the Bearcats. Troy Hailey and Schafer Jackson are two more solid players in the backcourt. Sebastian Hermenier is a decent player in the paint, and could improve his numbers with more opportunities.

Vermont loses one of the best inside-outside combos in conference history in TJ Sorrentine and Taylor Coppenrath, who both had historic careers with the Catamounts. This season, lots of rebuilding will have to be done. Even without Coppenrath, the frontcourt returns several players that should be able to keep Vermont competitive. Martin Klimes returns as a starter, while Josh Duell could develop into a star. 6-11 Chris Hold will add size, while 6-7 swingman Ryan Schneider will likely shift to the backcourt to make room for all the frontcourt players. A guard needs to step up if the Catamounts are going to remain in the upper tier, however. New Hampshire wasn't very good last season, and things shouldn't be entirely different this year. Contrasting to nearly every other team in the America East, the Wildcats are lead by a very solid forward combination. Blagoj Janev and Mike Christiansen are a pair of 6-8 bookends that combined for about 20 points and 9 boards a season ago. Chris Vetrano provides the production from the perimeter. Maryland-Baltimore County returns a decent trio from a year ago in guards Brian Hodges and Rashad Bilal, as well as forward John Zito. Hodges and Bilal seem poised for breakout seasons as a result of the fact that they were reserve players a season ago. The Retrievers are, for the most part, a young team. This season should develop the players for down the road in a year or two.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Albany
(2) Stony Brook
(3) Maine
(4) Boston University
(5) Hartford
(6) Binghamton
(7) Vermont
(8) New Hampshire
(9) Maryland-Baltimore County

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Jamar Wilson - Junior, Albany
G - Kevin Reed - Senior, Maine
G - Andre Heard - Senior, Binghamton
G - Lucious Jordan - Senior, Albany
G - Aaron Cook - Senior, Hartford
Player of the Year: Jamar Wilson, Albany

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Dennis Wolff, Boston University
Most Likely to Overachieve: Boston University
Most Likely to Underachieve: Hartford
Most Underrated Player: Shaun Wynn, PG, Boston University
Most Overrated Player: Blajog Janev, F, New Hampshire

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Albany
NIT: Stony Brook

BIG WEST CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The Big West Conference had a season where there was a fairly large gap between the top teams and the bottom teams. Pacific ran away with the league, going undefeated in conference play. Now-departed Utah State finished 5 games back, with Cal State-Fullerton and Cal State-Northridge one game behind the Aggies. After that, there was a full four games between Northridge and the next team in the standings. In the conference tournament, Utah State handed Pacific their first loss in the Big West. Both teams went to the NCAA Tournament, with Utah State losing to Arizona in the first round, and Pacific defeating Pitt in the first round before falling to top-seeded Washington in the second round. Expect more balance and more parody in the league this season. Cal State Fullerton had a successful season a year ago, winning two NIT games and finishing 21-11. They should make the NCAA Tournament this year. Bobby Brown is the best guard in the league, and possibly the best player overall. He can do it all, whether it is in the form of points, rebounds, assists, or steals. Jamaal Brown is also going to be a first team all-Big West pick. The 6-7 forward is an excellent low-post player. Jermaine Harper is a versatile third option on the wing. East Carolina transfer Frank Robinson should have an immediate impact on the perimeter. Several players could play important roles up front, including returnees Justin Burns and Derek Quinet, and newcomer Gary Nunez. Pacific has the preseason Player of the Year in center Christian Maraker. He has an excellent inside-outside game. The problem for the Tigers is that he is the lone returning starter. Guards Johnny Gray and Mike Webb saw extensive minutes a year ago, so the backcourt will be in good shape. Maraker needs help up front, though. Mike White needs to pick his game up if he wants to start, while Anthony Esparza leads a talented group of newcomers.

Cal State Northridge loses their top three scorers from last season, but return two starters and an abundance of role players that are ready to make bigger splashes in the Big West. Calvin Chitwood is expected to become an all-conference-caliber player, while 6-10 Thomas Shewmake also has the potential to be one of the best low post players in the league. Joining them in the frontcourt is Jonathan Heard, who was one of the best freshman in the conference last season. Three transfers will be counted on to make immediate impacts. JC transfer Jonathan Smith and UC Irvine transfer Mike Efevberha will form a decent backcourt combo, while San Jose State transfer Keith Everage should have a big year in the frontcourt. UC Santa Barbara return a very deep and talented team that lost two starters from a season ago. Josh Davis is a blossoming guard, and could develop into a top-notch offensive player. He is already an excellent defender. 6-6 Alex Harris also returns on the perimeter and should see his numbers increase. Joe See is a good scorer at guard as well, while Cecil Brown returns from injury to continue his solid play on the perimeter. Up front, Glenn Turner returns at center, although Cameron Goettsche is healthy now and could become an all-conference player. He is a legit post presence. Derek Rasp and Michael Chambers will also see minutes for the Gauchos. Sophomore forward Chris Devine hasn't played since he got to school two years ago. He is a superb athlete.

Long Beach State returns a very good inside-outside combination in guard Jibril Hodges and forward Shawn Hawkins. Both could be all-league performers by the end of the season. Onye Ibekwe is back at center after a solid sophomore season. Guards Kevin Houston and Louis Darby are ready for bigger roles after contributing off the bench last season. Several freshman are coming that could contend for starting jobs, but will make an impact no matter what. UC Irvine returns four starters from a 16-13 team. Ross Schraeder and Aaron Fitzgerald comprise one of the top backcourts in the conference, with both averaging nearly 13 points per game. Jeff Gloger also returns to start on the perimeter; he went for 10 points and 5 boards per contest. However, he may not be able to play because of injuries he sustained during the offseason. Tenacious defender Shamar Armstrong could replace him if he can't go. In the frontcourt, Nic Campbell and Darren Fells make up a decent starting duo, while 6-10 Adam Metelski provides a big body down low. UC Riverside has an above-average backcourt coming back in Rickey Porter, an all-around talent, and Larry Cunnigham, one of the best scorers in the conference. Versatile Steve Williams produces in several categories. Center Klaus Schille needs to improve his numbers if the Highlanders are going to improve from a year ago. Cal Poly returns two starters from a 5-22 club. Guard Dawin Whiten is the best player on the Mustangs. Fernando Sampson is back to help Whiten on the perimeter. Up front, Andew Haskins returns as a starter, while Joe Henry will provide depth off the bench. Freshmen Coby Leavitt and Chaz Thomas could have major impacts down low and at the point, respectively. Derek Stockalper was the team's best rebounder before his season ended prematurely due to injury. He should start at small forward.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Cal State Fullerton
(2) Pacific
(3) UC Santa Barbara
(4) Cal State Northridge
(5) Long Beach State
(6) UC Irvine
(7) UC Riverside
(8) Cal Poly

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Bobby Brown - Junior, Cal State Fullerton
G - Jibril Hodges - Senior, Long Beach State
G - Aaron Fitzgerald - Senior, UC Irvine
F - Jamaal Brown - Senior, Cal State Northridge
C - Christian Maraker - Senior, Pacific
Player of the Year: Christian Maraker, Pacific

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Bob Thomason, Pacific
Most Likely to Overachieve: Pacific
Most Likely to Underachieve: Long Beach State
Most Underrated Player: Aaron Fitzgerald, G, UC Irvine
Most Overrated Player: Jibril Hodges, G, Long Beach State

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Cal State Fullerton
NIT: Pacific, UC Santa Barbara

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOC. PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com This was one of the most underrated conference in the country the entire season. Old Dominion was dominant most of the season, although they slipped during the final week. In addition to them, five other teams finished with double figure wins within the conference. Old Dominion defeated Virginia Commonwealth in a very close tournament championship game, and gave Michigan State a run in the first round before losing. The Colonial conference shouldn't be very underrated this season--people should already know about it. It is going to be loaded top to bottom, with several teams chasing the defending champions for the title. Old Dominion is the defending regular season and tournament champion, and should repeat both of those feats this season. Alex Loughton is one of the best mid-major big men around, and he can put the Monarchs on his back if necessary. Arnaud Dahi joins him in the frontcourt. He is a viable inside option and is very versatile. Valdas Vasylius has proven that he can produce if given minutes; he and 7-3 Sam Harris provide depth. In the backcourt, Isaiah Hunter returns. He could be an all-conference pick this season. Point guard Drew Williamson is a very fundamentally sound, heady point guard. He doesn't make many mistakes and is an excellent passer and defender. Brian Henderson and Brandon Johnson were solid off the bench last season; one of them could start this year. Hofstra finished on a hot streak last season, and hope to carry that into this year. Loren Stokes may be the best all-around player in the conference. He is very smooth and is a top-notch scorer, in addition to being an excellent rebounder and solid passer. Antoine Agudio joins Stokes on the wing. He is a very good shooter and could be even better offensively than he was last season. At the point, Carlos Rivera has struggled somewhat. Luckily for the Pride, several options are available. Veteran Gibran Washington can play, but the more exciting option would be newcomer Greg "Playstation" Johnson. Up front, Adrian Uter is a good rebounder and defender, while Aurimas Kieza needs to play tougher inside. George Mason may have the best trio of any team in the conference in guards Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn, and big man Jai Lewis. They combined to average 43 points per game last season. Butler and Skinn may be the best backcourt in the league, while Lewis provides an excellent inside option. Gabe Norwood is versatile at forward, while John Vaughan and Folarin Campbell are solid scorers on the wing. Virginia Commonwealth has one of the best players in the league in forward Nick George. He can score in a variety of ways, and is very difficult to stop. B.A. Walker is the main option on the perimeter, and mans the point well. Jesse Pellot-Rosa is solid on the wing, while Calvin Roland returns at center for the Rams. The final starting spot could go to Seton Hall transfer Eric Davis or returnees Alexander Harper and Renardo Dixon.

UNC-Wilmington returns one of the best guards in the league in defensive player of the year John Goldsberry, who is also an excellent distributor and shooter and a decent scorer. T.J. Carter will be his backcourt mate after coming off the bench last year and providing excellent scoring. JC transfer Temi Soyebo is expected to make an immediate impact at the point. Wake Forest transfer Todd Hendley could develop into one of the best interior players in the conference. A solid forward trio returns in Mitch Laue, Beckham Wyrick, and Taylor Lay. Northeastern has one of the best point guards in the country in Jose Juan Barea. He is an outstanding scorer at over 22 points a game, and still finds time to dish out over 7 assists per contest. Bobby Kelly, Adrian Martinez, and Aaron Davis return on the perimeter to help out Barea. Inside, Shawn James is one of the most underrated players in the mid-major world. He averaged in double figures last season, and also went for about 8 boards and 5 blocks per contest. He forms an excellent inside-outside combo with Barea. Bennet Davis is a solid forward. Drexel returns a relatively underrated inside-outside duo in Bashir Mason and 6-10 Chaz Crawford. Mason is a decent assist man, while Crawford is a pretty good scorer, rebounder, and a very good shot blocker. Dominick Mejia also returns in the backcourt for the Dragons. If Timothy Tillman can provide another solid big man down low, this team will be more balanced. Delaware returns one of the best forwards that you have never heard of in Harding Nana. He averaged a double double last season, but the Blue Hens only won 11 games. Guard Anthony Washington was a capable scorer from the perimeter, and showed he can carry the backcourt. Rulon Washington also returns in the backcourt. Rapheal Madera needs to take some of the pressure off Nana inside, while JC transfer Calvin Cannon is expected to play a major role at the point.

James Madison returns a dynamite trio that could make some noise within the Colonial. Ray Barbosa is one of the better perimeter scorers in the league, while Daniel Freeman averaged 19 points per game last season before ending his season after 3 games due to injury. Inside, Cavell Johnson gives the Dukes a very good inside option. Jomo Belfor is a quality point guard, and David Cooper and Gabriel Chami return in the frontcourt. William & Mary returns three starters. Corey Cofield is a vastly underrated interior option, while fellow forwards Laimis Kisielius and Hawley Smith also return to give the Tribe a solid frontcourt. Nathan Mann will handle the point, while Vanderbilt transfer Adam Payton will contribute right away in the backcourt. Towson returns four starters, including potential all-conference forward Lawrence Hamm. Cantrell Fletcher is a decent point guard, while Trevan Jackson also returns as a contributor to the backcourt. Winstonn Tubbs and Holden Plack started last season up front, while Jonathan Pease provided quality depth. However, three transfers could start next to Fletcher and Hamm. Loyola (Ill.) transfer Terrance Whiters is expected to make an impact in the backcourt, while JC transfers Marc Pratt and Dennard Abraham should see extensive time up front. Georgia State return one of the better backcourts in the conference in Malcolm Manier and Boyd Copeland. Copeland was a solid assist man and an excellent rebounder for his size, and Manier was a good defender and scorer. D'Andre McGrew will also see time on the perimeter. JC transfer Lance Perique should make an impact on the wing, while Rashad Chase and Ranard Robinson are newcomers that will get loads of playing time in the frontcourt, next to returning players Deven Dickerson and Justin Billingslea.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Old Dominion
(2) Hofstra
(3) George Mason
(4) Virginia Commonwealth
(5) Northeastern
(6) UNC Wilmington
(7) Drexel
(8) Delaware
(9) James Madison
(10) William & Mary
(11) Towson
(12) Georgia State

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Loren Stokes - Junior, Hofstra
G - Jose Juan Barea - Senior, Northeastern
F - Harding Nana - Senior, Delaware
F - Nick George - Senior, Virginia Commonwealth
C - Alex Loughton - Senior, Old Dominion
Player of the Year: Alex Loughton, Old Dominion

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Jim Larranaga, George Mason
Most Likely to Overachieve: UNC Wilmington
Most Likely to Underachieve: Delaware
Most Underrated Player: Shawn James, C, Northeastern
Most Overrated Player: Carlos Rivera, G, Hofstra

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Old Dominion
NIT: Hofstra, George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth

Photos Courtesy: gonu.com, usatoday.com, caasports.com

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