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SCS.com
MID-MAJORS, PART II
October 27, 2005

SCS.com Hoops Preview '05 Home

Within this preview:
Horizon | MAC | Missouri Valley

HORIZON LEAGUE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The Horizon League wasn't the most exciting of leagues last season, as Wisconsin-Milwaukee won the regular season title by four games. In the conference tournament, Detroit was on the verge of upsetting the Panthers, but fell short by two in the championship game. Once in the NCAA Tournament, UW-Milwaukee used their press to perfection, defeated Alabama and Boston College en route to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Illinois after a valiant effort. The Panthers could repeat their Cinderella run of a year ago with a few breaks here and there. Wisconsin-Milwaukee returns everyone but star Ed McCants from the Sweet 16 team of a year ago. Joah Tucker, the leading candidate for conference Player of the Year, can dominate a game, as evidenced by his 32-point performance against Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. His partner up front, Adrian Tigert, is an all-conference-caliber player. He is a very good rebounder and a solid low-post option that does all the dirty work down low. In the backcourt, the underrated tandem of Boo Davis and Chris Hill return. Davis is a double-figure scorer and a decent shooter, while Hill is a solid all-around player. Returning wings Allan Hanson and Mark Pancratz and Western Kentucky transfer Kevin Massiah will attempt to replace McCants.

Detroit came within two points of the NCAA Tournament, and only lose one starter from that team. Brandon Cotton may be the best offensive player in the league. He is nearly impossible to stop when driving to the basket. Muhammed Abdur-Rahim returns as a starter on the wing, while Ben Green is also a nice option off the bench. Marquette transfer Brandon Bell should have an impact once he becomes eligible at the point. Up front, Ryvon Coville and Torvoris Baker have the potential to be one of the better inside tandems in the league. Forwards Chuck Bailey and Ethan Shaw will see plenty of minutes off the bench. Wright State returns four starters from a .500 team. Point guard DaShaun Wood is one of the better players in the conference. He is an excellent scorer and rebounder (for his size), as well as a very solid passer. His backcourt partner, Zakee Boyd, is a double-figure scorer and provides shooting for the Raiders. Two forwards also return in the starting lineup. Drew Burleson is the main option down low. He has a nice mid-range game and provides balance on the inside. Everett Spencer can do nearly everything on the court. He spends most of his time on the perimeter but he is a very good rebounder. Jordan Pleiman should move into the starting lineup. He could be poised for a big year at the center spot. Guard Jaron Taylor and several frontcourt newcomers will provide depth. Loyola-Chicago returns one of the most versatile and talented players in the league in Blake Schlib. The 6-7 point guard can do everything on the court and is a player of the year candidate. Majak Kou was the team's sixth man last season but should move into the starting lineup this year. He is the best defender on the team, and was a double-figure scorer a year ago. Chris Logan also returns as a starter on the perimeter. In the frontcourt, Tom Levin is the lone returnee with significant experience. Several newcomers, including JC transfer Kye Pattrick, are going to have to step up up front. Butler returns all five starters from a season ago. Leading the way is a trio of guards that ranked 1-2-3 in the league in 3-point shooting percentage. A.J. Graves is the best perimeter scorer on the team, averaging over 11 points per game. He led the team in steals and is also a good passer and an exceptional free throw shooter. Bruce Horan led the league in three-point shooting percentage, but is somewhat one-dimensional. Avery Sheets also averaged around double figures in points. He was the leading assist man on the team, and had over a 2:1 assist:turnover ratio. That trio forms one of the best perimeter triumvirates around, but Brandon Polk is the go-to-guy on the Bulldogs. He is a candidate for the first-team all conference. He is tough to stop down low. Brandon Crone is his partner in the frontcourt. He is a solid all-around player that can also hit the three.

Illinois-Chicago loses their top two players from a year ago, but return a solid group of players that should be ready to step up. Elliott Poole is the top returnee; he could be ready for a huge season. Jovan Stefanov is very versatile and will be one of the better scorers on the team if he gets used to being a go-to-guy. Justin Bowen came off the bench at times and started other times a season ago, and could do the same this year. He is an excellent athlete and a very good rebounder. Newcomers Othyus Jeffers and Danijel Zoric are expected to make impacts in the frontcourt. On the perimeter, Rocky Collum returns as a starter, and is the best shooter on the team. However, he might not keep his starting job. JC transfer D.J. Smedley is expected to push him at the point. Karl White will move into the starting lineup. Wisconsin-Green Bay lost essentially their entire team, but a host of newcomers are ready to take the departed's places. However, the one major returnee, forward Josh Lawrence, is a good one. He is an inside-outside threat that needs to have a huge year. Point guard Ryan Evanochko also returns. He is a decent scorer. The only other returnee that is going to see minutes is center Tevah Morris. Freshman forwards Ryan Tillema and Mike Schachtner are expected to play major minutes right away, as is guard Simon Farine. Cleveland State returns one of the best guards in the conference in Raheem Moss. He is a very good shooter and scorer. Fellow perimeter players Victor Morris and Steve Gansey have the ability to double their scoring averages from a year ago and get into double figures. Up front, Patrick Latham and Frashon McGee return. Latham is an excellent defender, while McGee could have a big year. Purdue transfer Ije Nwankwo should make an immediate impact once eligible. Youngstown State has one of the best players in the league in guard Quin Humphrey, who could be even better this season. His backcourt partner will be Derrick Harris, a solid point guard. Freshman Chad Fender is an excellent shooter. Up front, John Barber leads the way. He needs to become a better all-around player if he is going to become a go-to-guy down low. Colin LaForme and Alex Sanchez are going to have to step their respective games up if the Penguins are going to do anything this season.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(2) Detroit
(3) Wright State
(4) Butler
(5) Loyola-Chicago
(6) Illinois-Chicago
(7) Wisconsin-Green Bay
(8) Cleveland State
(9) Youngstown State

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Brandon Cotton, Junior, Detroit
G - DaShaun Wood, Junior, Wright State
G- Blake Schlib, Junior, Loyola-Chicago
F - Joah Tucker, Senior, UW-Milwaukee
F- Brandon Polk, Senior, Butler
Player of the Year: Joah Tucker, Wisconsin-Milwauee

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Perry Watson, Detroit
Most Likely to Overachieve: Detroit
Most Likely to Underachieve: Butler
Most Underrated Player: Jovan Stefanov, F, Illinois-Chicago
Most Overrated Player: Zakee Boyd, G, Wright State

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Wisconsin-Milwaukee
NIT: Detroit, Butler

MAC CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The MAC Conference may have been the best mid-major conference, top to bottom, in the country. They had nine teams with at least 10 wins within the league, as well as nine teams above .500 overall. From start to finish, the league was wide-open, as evidenced by last-place Marshall's victory over first-place Miami (Ohio) on the last day of the season. With a chance to tie for the league title, several teams lost on the final day of the year, leaving a logjam at 11-7. In the conference tournament, Ohio outlasted the rest of the teams and gained the league's automatic bid. They then went to the NCAA Tournament and came thisclose to knocking off Florida in the first round. Buffalo should have joined the Bobcats in the Field of 65, but they were the last team left out of the field. Ohio could repeat as MAC Champion again. Ohio is one of the best mid-major teams in the country, and is a candidate for a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament. Leon Williams is a dominant force down low, and is unstoppable within the MAC. He is also an excellent rebounder. Mychal Green is another first-team all-conference pick. He is a good shooter and defender and is one of the best scorers in the conference. The backcourt of Jeremy Fears and Sonny Troutman could have two all-conference players, as well. Fears is one of the better point guards in the league, and provides scoring and passing. Troutman is a scorer on the wing. He is an excellent third option. The lone starting spot left open will go to Boston College transfer Johnnie Jackson. He will team with Williams in the frontcourt, but spends most of time on the perimeter.

Akron has one of the top two frontcourts in the league, as well as a solid point guard in Dru Joyce. The 5-7 Joyce is a good assist man and provides quickness. They basically line up four forwards next to Joyce. Romeo Travis, high school teammate of Joyce and LeBron James, is an all-conference pick. He is a very good scorer and rebounder inside for the Zips. Darryl Peterson is another scorer in the frontcourt, averaging 13 points per game. Jeremiah Wood missed most of last season with an injury, but should start this year. He is a double-double threat every night out. Matt Futch also returns as a starter in the frontcourt. If they decide to go more conventional, guards Bubba Walther and Cedrick Middleton could start. Northern Illinois is one of the favorites to win the West Division. Mike McKinney, a first team all-conference candidate, is an excellent scorer and an above-average rebounder. He leads a very good perimeter trio. Anthony Maestranzi is one of the more solid point guards in the league, while Cory Sims is the best playmaker on the team, as evidenced by his 10-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound averages. Iowa transfer Ben Rand should make an impact. In the frontcourt, Todd Peterson returns to provide a nice inside-outside duo with McKinney. James Hughes could develop into a star big man in the MAC with more playing time. Toledo loses Keith Triplett, but return a deep and talented team capable of making a run. Justin Ingram and Sammy Villegas form a very good backcourt, with Ingram one of the best point guards in the conference. Kashif Payne comes off the bench and produces solid numbers, while Keonta Howell is an excellent swingman. Forward Florentino Valencia is expected to have a big year, and returning starter Anton Currie is also back. Allen Pinson will most likely start at center for the Rockets. Kent State returns three starters and three other players who saw extensive playing time. Guard DeAndre Haynes might be the best pure point guard in the conference, averaging 5.5 assists per game to go with 10 points and 3.4 rebounds. Jay Youngblood is a solid scorer on the wing, while forward Kevin Warzynski rounds out the starters. He will be the go-to-guy in the frontcourt. Guard Armon Gates is expected to start after providing excellent depth last season. 6-9 Nate Gerwig will also likely start and could become a dependable inside option. Marcus Crenshaw will give the backcourt a breather.

Buffalo loses their heart and soul in Turner Battle from a team that should have made the NCAA Tournament, but they will be back in the hunt. Forward Yassin Idbihi is a good offensive player, capable of scoring from the mid-range as well as in the low post. The backcourt of Calvin Cage and Roderick Middleton should be the one of the better ones in the league, even though neither of them started a season ago. Parnell Smith and Mario Jordan could start at the forward spots for the Bulls, although freshman Vadim Fedotov is expected to compete for a starting job. Ball State could make a run at the title this season if everyone is healthy. Peyton Stovall heads the group. He had ACL surgery in March, but should be ready for the start of the season. He will be a first-team all-conference selection if he plays. Darren Yates joins him in the backcourt. Skip Mills could be one of the best forwards in the conference if develops into a go-to-guy. Charles Bass didn't play at all last seaosn due to injury, but should be able to make a significant contribution in the frontcourt. Anthony Kent and Tom Howland will fight for the center spot in the starting lineup. Western Michigan returns a solid inside-outside combo in guard Brian Snider and post player Joe Reitz. Both should have big seasons. Forward Stane's Bufford and guard Silver Laku will contribute from the wing to give the Broncos some offensive balance. Andrew Hershberger will also expand his role after riding the bench last season. Miami returns three starters, but loses two of the best players in the MAC from a season ago. William Hatcher is a solid scorer that runs the team well. Josh Hausfield needs to produce right away once he gets into the starting lineup after coming off the bench last year. Nathan Peavy and Monty St. Clair return as starters up front. Peavy needs to live up to his potential, while St. Clair needs to stop spending all of his time on the perimeter. Bowling Green lost a slew of players from last year's team and will need to rebuild. Steven Wright could develop into a top-of-the-line player for Dan Dakich, but he hasn't proven that yet. John Floyd is an excellent distributor in the backcourt next to Wright. Also in the backcourt is newcomer Martin Samarco, who could compete for a starting job. Mawel Soler needs to take on more of an offensive role this season in the frontcourt. Eastern Michigan has one of the best forwards in the league in John Bowler, who has a nice offensive game to complement his rebounding skills. JC transfer Chris Knaub could start next to him in what would be a pretty sizeable MAC frontcourt. Danny McElhinny is the lone returning contributor to the backcourt. Freshman Carlos Medlock could start at the point. Central Michigan has a bright spot in perimeter duo Giordan Watson and Sefton Barrett. Barrett is a good rebounder and will become the main option on offense. Watson is a decent point guard who can pass fairly well, but also turns the ball over too often. Eddie Spencer is expected to take over in the starting lineup and become an immediate go-to-guy if he can handle it. 7-1 Drew Walker also figures to factor in the starting lineup.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

East Division
(1) Ohio
(2) Akron
(3) Kent State
(4) Buffalo
(5) Miami
(6) Bowling Green
West Division
(1) Northern Illinois
(2) Toledo
(3) Ball State
(4) Western Michigan
(5) Eastern Michigan
(6) Central Michigan

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Mike McKinney, Junior, Northern Illinois
G - Peyton Stovall - Junior, Ball State
F - Mychal Green, Senior, Ohio
F - Romeo Travis - Junior, Akron
F - Leon Williams - Sophomore, Ohio
Player of the Year: Leon Williams, Ohio

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Charlie Coles, Miami
Most Likely to Overachieve: Kent State
Most Likely to Underachieve: Northern Illinois
Most Underrated Player: Mike McKinney, G, Northern Illinois
Most Overrated Player: Sammy Villegas, G, Toledo

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Ohio
NIT: Northern Illinois, Toledo, Akron, Kent State

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PREVIEW

LEAGUE OVERVIEW

SCS.com The Missouri Valley Conference was one of the deepest mid-major conference in terms of NCAA Tournament caliber-teams. They had four teams in contention for a bid to the Big Dance heading into Championship Week. Southern Illinois and Northern Iowa received at-large bids, while Creighton won the automatic bid with a victory over Southwest Missouri State (now known as Missouri State), while Wichita State faltered down the stretch and was left out. In the NCAA Tournament, Southern Illinois beat St. Mary's and took Oklahoma State to the wire before losing in the second round. Northern Iowa gave Wisconsin a game before falling, while Creighton played one of the best first-round games against West Virginia, but also lost. Three bids could again come from the Missouri Valley. Northern Iowa may be the best mid-major team in the country (Gonzaga doesn't count). They return all five starters from an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. Ben Jacobson is one of the top shooting guards in the nation, and is certainly one of the best shooters overall. In addition, he is one of the better competitors around. He is one of two leading candidates for the conference players of the year. On the other wing, Erik Crawford is an excellent scorer but an even better defender. Inside, Grant Stout and Eric Coleman form the best post duo in the MVC. Stout could be all-conference this season with another big year, while Coleman should be recovered from a summer league injury he suffered. Brooks McKowen rounds out the lineup. John Little and Atila Santos provide depth in the backcourt and frontcourt, respectively. Creighton returns four starters from a team that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Nate Funk leads the way. One of the top shooters in the country, Funk can carry the Blue Jays. He can go to the basket or bomb from outside. He is also the leading rebounder for Creighton, as well as a solid passer and defender. Johnny Mathies likes to play on the wing better than at the point, and he produced extremely well a season ago. Freshman Josh Dotzler might step in at the point. Up front, a quarter of post players should handle the load. Dane Watts and Anthony Tolliver will start, but Jeffrey Day and perimeter threat Jimmy Motz will see ample time.

Southern Illinois loses three starters from the regular season champs of a season ago, including two-time player of the year Darren Brooks. Jamaal Tatum will need to take over the leadership role for the Salukis. He is a candidate for all-conference honors. Sixth Man award winner Tony Young and role player Mike Dale will join him on the perimeter. Both should see their numbers go up with more playing time. Matt Shaw returns as a starter at one forward spot, while Randal Falker should get the nod at the other inside spot. Missouri State returns three starters from an NIT team. The perimeter trio of Deke Thompson, Tyler Chaney, and Blake Ahearn is one of the more balanced and talented backcourts in the league. Ahearn led the NCAA in free throw percentage the last two seasons. In the frontcourt, returning starter Nathan Bilyeu and athletic Deven Mitchell will play major roles. Sky Frazer and Drew Richards will fight for the starting center spot. Kellen Easley provides excellent depth on the perimeter. Bradley returns five starters and nearly all their production from a season ago. Marcellus Sommerville is one of the best players in the conference, and a two-time first team selection. He can dominate a game. His partner on the inside is another all-conference candidate, 7-footer Patrick O'Bryant. O'Bryant might develop into a star in this league. Sixth man Lawrence Wright, a double-figure scorer, also returns in the frontcourt, while freshman Zach Andrews might compete for a starting forward spot. The perimeter trio of Tony Bennett, Daniel Ruffin, Jeremy Crouch provides excellent balance to the potentially dominant frontcourt. Bennett is a very good scorer; Ruffin averaged almost five assists per game; and Crouch is a solid all-around player. Wichita State was in the thick of an NCAA bid last season before falling off the map down the stretch. They lose four starters from that team. The lone returning starter is center Paul Miller, who could be an all-conference player now that he is the go-to-guy. Forward Kyle Wilson is a very solid forward and will form a nice frontcourt duo with Miller. On the perimeter, P.J. Couisnard is expected to become a star after coming off the bench last season, while Sean Ogirri will also move into the starting lineup. Marquette transfer Karon Bradley will make an impact at the point immediately.

Drake returns several players that made solid contributions a season ago. Klayton Korver and Aliou Keita form a very good frontcourt duo. Keita has loads of potential, while Korver is an inside-outside threat. The backcourt returns Chaun Brooks, Chris Bryant, and Nick Grant are three good guards that provide decent production. However, it is the recruiting class, the best in the MVC, that will make or break the Bulldogs. Al Stewart will step in at the point, while Ajay Calvin will make an impact up front. Indiana State loses both frontcourt starters, but returns a very good perimeter troika, including David Moss. Moss is one of the best players in the conference, and is very tough to stop offensively. Returning starters Tysen Schnitker and Gabriel Moore are very good shooter who will join him in the backcourt, while Eric Gray was a double-figure scorer off the bench. In the frontcourt, players are going to have to step up. Returnees Darron Evans, Brandon Ray, Mich Yelovich and newcomer Trent Wurtz need to provide a solid inside presence for the Sycamores. Evansville loses their two leading scorers from a ninth place team, and will have to find a way to move up in the standings. Kyle Anslinger is a tough competitor and a decent all-around player in the backcourt, while newcomer Maurice Blakey is expected to start at the point. Up front, Matt Webster and Bradley Strickland comprise a good inside duo, while Justin Petty will start at the remaining forward spot. Illinois State returns one starter from what was a solid Sycamore club from a year ago. Greg Dilligard produced average numbers and was the fifth option on offense. He needs to step up. Neil Plank is a solid swingman, while Nedu Onyeuku is a decent guard. Roberto Fortes and other newcomers will need to make a huge impact in order to make some noise in the league.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

(1) Northern Iowa
(2) Creighton
(3) Southern Illinois
(4) Missouri State
(5) Bradley
(6) Wichita State
(7) Drake
(8) Indiana State
(9) Evansville
(10) Illinois State

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

G - Nate Funk - Senior, Creighton
G - Ben Jacobson - Senior, Northern Iowa
G - Jamaal Tatum - Junior, Southern Illinois
F - David Moss - Senior, Indiana State
F - Marcellus Sommerville - Senior, Bradley
Player of the Year: Nate Funk, Creighton

HERE AND THERE

Best Coach: Dana Altman, Creighton
Most Likely to Overachieve: Southern Illinois
Most Likely to Underachieve: Bradley
Most Underrated Player: Aliou Keita, F, Drake
Most Overrated Player: Klayton Korver, F, Drake

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

NCAA: Northern Iowa, Creighton
NIT: Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Bradley

Photos Courtesy: uwmpanthers.com, cnnsi.com, fansonly.com

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