Conference Preview: Colonial Athletic Association

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There are only five schools that have been men’s basketball playing members of Division I in the NCAA since 1948 and yet failed to place a single team in the NCAA Tournament.  Northwestern is the most well known of this group, but the Wildcats are joined on the list by The Citadel, Army, St. Francis (Brooklyn) and William & Mary.  William & Mary has come close to removing its name from the list in recent years, including losses in the CAA championship game in both 2010 and last season.  Last season, the Tribe also captured a share of the league regular season title for the first time since 1983, but only got an NIT bid out of it.  This season, they will try to take things one step further and make it to the Big Dance.

William & Mary’s path to the Big Dance will not be easy as they will need to make up for the loss of Marcus Thornton to the NBA and get by quite a few teams standing in their way.  This group includes Northeastern, which won the automatic bid last season and played in the NCAA tournament as a 14 seed, falling in a hard-fought Round of 64 game to Notre Dame. James Madison, which appeared in the CIT last season and Hoftsra, which was in the CBI, should also be among the contenders in a deep league, along with both Drexel and Delaware.  UNC Wilmington, which tied William & Mary, Northeastern and James Madison for the regular season title last season and advanced to the CIT, looks like it may fall off the pace a bit this year.

Predicted Order of Finish

1.  James Madison – The Dukes welcome pretty much everyone back from last year’s co-champions, including Ron Curry in the backcourt and Yohanny Dalembert down low.  The team also brings in some talented JC transfers, led by wingman Shakir Brown who averaged a double-double in junior college last season.

2.  Northeastern – The Huskies will have a great chance to defend their regular season co-championship and tournament title due to the return of four starters including guard David Walker.  However, they will need to rely on newcomers to make up for the loss of their top scorer from last season, Scott Eatherton.  Help there could come from freshman power forward Jeremy Miller.

3.  William & Mary – Even with Marcus Thornton now playing in the NBA, the Tribe appear to have enough pieces to challenge for the league title again.  They will be led by Omar Prewitt, Terry Tarpey and Daniel Dixon, all of whom averaged double digits in scoring last season.

4.  Hofstra – Yet another team with four or more starters returning, the Pride have solid depth in the backcourt led by Juan’ya Green and Brian Bernardi, plus wingman Ameen Tanksley.  The biggest problem for Hofstra will be a lack of proven bigs down low.

5.  Delaware – The Fightin’ Blue Hens return 7 of their top 8 players from last season’s squad.  They are led by Kory Holden and Cazmon Hayes in the backcourt and by Marvin King-Davis and Maurice Jeffers down low.  Despite having lost 20 games last season, this team appears ready to make a run at the top of the league standings.

6.  Drexel – The Dragons return the vast majority of their pieces from last season, but the one key loss is a huge one as Damion Lee decided to take his 21.4 points per game to Louisville.  The good news is that Major Canady will be healthy after missing last season with an injury.  The experience and depth on the roster alone should make Bruiser Flint’s squad a factor in the league race all season long.

7.  UNC Wilmington – The Seahawks lost three starters from last season’s team and will need backcourt mates Craig Ponder and Jordon Talley to step up this year.  The team will also need 7 footer C.J. Gettys to develop into a consistent force down low if they want any chance of contending again.

8.  Towson – As with most teams in the CAA this season, the Tigers return four starters.  The one player not back is leading scorer Four McGlynn, who elected to transfer to Rhode Island.  Pat Skerry’s team will have experience this year but everyone above them will as well, and the talent level may not be here to keep pace with the rest of the league.

9.  Elon – The good news is that Luke Eddy is back and healthy for the Phoenix.  The bad news is that CAA Freshman of the Year Elijah Bryant elected to transfer.  His loss may be too much to overcome and this could be a long season.

10.  College of Charleston – Earl Grant is entering his second season of trying to clean up the mess left behind in the wake of Doug Wojcik’s dismissal.  The experience gained last year by guards Canyon Barry and Joe Chealey will help make things a little better this season for a team that lost 24 games, but probably not too much better.

Season preview: Montana SR PF Martin Breunig

According to my English-German dictionary, the phrase “impact transfer” in German is “auswirkungen transfer”; according to last year’s Montana basketball team, the proper translation is “Martin Breunig”.   He was born in Germany, went to high school in Wisconsin, committed to Maryland, began his college career at Washington, and ended up at Montana.  After sitting out 1 season, all he did last year was finish in the top-10 in the Big Sky in PPG/RPG/FG% while helping the team win a conference title in its very 1st year under Coach Travis DeCuire.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Martin about playing for the German national team and being the only senior on the current Griz roster. 


You grew up in Germany: how did you 1st get into basketball? I grew up playing soccer, but I got sick of being outside during the cold winters so I switched to an indoor sport. My brother taught me the game a little bit: it was just a hobby at 1st but later became an addiction.

You played for the German U-18 national team at the 2010 FIBA European Championships in Lithuania: which of your opponents impressed you the most (Dario Saric/Bogdan Bogdanovic/Alex Len/other)? I was really impressed by Saric: my coach decided not to play me in the 1st half so I just watched him kill us while I was sitting on the bench. He was unstoppable!

You originally signed with Maryland, but received a release after Coach Gary Williams retired: how surprised were you to learn of Coach Williams’ decision, and what made you choose Washington? I was not surprised: I kind of saw it coming and knew that it would happen eventually. I did not have many options because a lot of schools did not know that I got my release from the Terps, so I eventually chose Washington over Florida.

Why did you decide to transfer in 2013, and what made you choose Montana? I did not get much playing time and my minutes decreased from my freshman to my sophomore year, so I wanted to go somewhere else where I could play more. I had a friend who knew then-assistant coach Kerry Rupp and I just decided to see where it would go.

You play for Coach Travis DeCuire: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? I have learned a lot about confidence: he teaches me to do things that previously caused me to hesitate, like shooting. He really pushes me: I asked him to do so because I want to be the best player that I can be.

In the 2015 NIT you scored 12 PTS in a loss to Texas A&M: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? The Aggies were pretty good but we were not used to playing big-time teams, so the experience helped a lot. It is good to learn from you mistakes.

You are the only senior on the roster: how much pressure is there on you to be a leader this year? There is just the pressure that I put on myself. I just need to let the game come to me and keep pushing myself and my teammates to play our best. I am trying to be a good leader for the team and I hope it works out.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Boise State/Gonzaga/Washington/Kansas: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Kansas: they have won the Big 12 for the past decade so they will be a huge challenge. Gonzaga will also be interesting because we are both in the Northwest.

Your team returns 4 of its top-5 scorers from last year: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success this year? We have some good new guys coming in and some great threats from the 3-PT line, which should give me the space I need to score.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I would like to make the NCAA tourney this year. It will not be easy because we play some good teams so we just need to get better every day and take it game by game.

Conference Preview: Big West

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For years the UC Irvine Anteaters’ basketball team has been the hard luck story of the Big West conference.  Despite being a member of the league since 1978 (back when it was known as the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference), UCI had never made the NCAA tournament.  Back-to-back conference regular season championships in 2001 and 2002 resulted in a pair of NIT bids when the team got upset in the conference tournament.  Three years ago, the Anteaters fell to Pacific in the Big West championship game.  Two years ago, they won the regular season title but got upset in the semifinals.  And for these reasons, when the Anteaters earned the 3 seed in last year’s tournament, we pretty much wrote them off.  When they knocked off second-seeded UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals and got a matchup with 5th-seeded Hawai’i in the Big West title game, we just knew it would be heartbreak again.  And yet, for the first time in school history, UCI broke through, defeating Hawai’i 67-58 and getting a ticket to the Big Dance.  The team received a 13 seed from the committee and played Louisville tough in the Round of 64, losing by only 2 points.  The Anteaters return their big man this year, 7-6 300 pound Mamadou Ndiaye, and have a great shot at earning a return trip.

While UC Irvine was dancing, UC Davis earned a bid to the NIT as the regular season champions in the Big West.  UC Santa Barbara also received a postseason invite, playing in the CBI.  Davis looks like it will be taking a step back this year with three key starters gone including Big West Player of the Year Corey Hawkins.  UCSB should be in the hunt for the title though, and could be joined by several other schools including Cal Poly, Hawai’i and a team that has never been discussed among the Big West’s upper division, the UC Riverside Highlanders.  In fact, UCR is the second choice in the conference this year, which would be noteworthy given that they have never finished higher than fourth and have only had one winning season in 14 years at the Division I level.

Predicted Order of Finish

1.  UC Irvine – Mamadou Ndiaye’s 7-6 300 pound monster size is back (and he is only a junior).  The addition of freshman Jonathan Galloway will help down low and a pair of veteran guards, Luke Nelson and Alex Young, help round out a roster with a great chance to return to the Dance.

2.  UC Riverside – It may be surprising to pick the Highlanders this high, but they are led by a pair of seniors that both averaged over 15 points per game last season in forward Taylor Johns and guard Jaylen Bland.  They also added size in the offseason, bringing in 7 footer Menno Dijkstra from the Netherlands.

3.  Cal Poly – The Mustangs return their top five scorers from last season led by forward Brian Bennett and guard David Nwaba.  The experience that this senior-laden team has will give them a great shot at the league crown.

4. UC Santa Barbara – The Gauchos return three starters that averaged in double figures as guards Michael Bryson and Gabe Vincent plus forward John Green lead the way.  The problem is that the team will need to find a way to make up for the loss of Alan Williams who averaged a double-double last year.

5.  Hawai’i – Head coach Gib Arnold was terminated on the eve of the season last year and Benjy Taylor took over leading the Rainbow Warriors to 22 victories and a Big West championship game appearance.  It still remains a mystery why Taylor was not retained — but he wasn’t and Eran Ganot takes over this year.  The good news is that five of the top seven players from last year’s team are back and more experienced, giving the team a shot at challenging in a league race that should be fun to watch all season.

6.  Long Beach State – Dan Monson’s squad lost all five starters from last year’s 16-17 squad, but still should be somewhat competitive with the additions of Maryland transfer Nick Faust and USC transfer Roschon Prince.

7.  Cal State Fullerton – Four starters are gone from last season’s 9 win squad.  The good news is that Lanerryl Johnson averaged over 12 points per game last year and will step into a starting role this year.  The Titans also add in Air Force transfer Tre Coggins who averaged over 16 points per game two years ago in Colorado Springs.  Those two players alone should be enough to prevent things from getting any worse.

8.  UC Davis – Corey Hawkins led the Aggies to the regular season title and an NIT berth last season.  He is gone and the team must now rebuild without him, meaning that this year will see them take a major step backwards.  Josh Fox was the team’s top sixth man last season and should become a leader as a starter this year.

9.  Cal State Northridge – It is Reggie Theus’ third year in Northridge and therefore should be the year that his remake of the program begins to show through.  Instead, the Matadors lost their top three starters and will be hard pressed to just match last season’s 9 victories.

Season preview: Pepperdine JR PG Jeremy Major

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There is nothing “mid” about this Major.  Entering his junior year Jeremy Major is on pace to become Pepperdine’s all-time leader in career assists, and if he gets hot he might also end up #1 in career steals.  He was named to the WCC All-Freshman team in 2014, and last year he helped the Waves to a winning record and an appearance in the postseason for the 1st time in more than a decade.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Jeremy about starting as a freshman and all the veterans he will have coming back this season. 


You grew up in Pasadena: what made you choose Pepperdine? It was in California: most of my family is out here so they can come to my games and can support me. I wanted to be close to my mother and now she is only about a 45-minute drive away. When I took my official visit I felt they were a great group of guys: it is like a brotherhood and we all get along with each other.

You play for Coach Marty Wilson: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He is very intense and pushes me to do my best. A lot of coaches are content but he expects a lot out of us. He is all about heart and is known as an aggressive guy so he has taught me to never settle for less than my all.

In 2014 you became the 1st Pepperdine freshman to start every game in almost 30 years and finished the year by being named to the WCC All-Freshman team: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I came here during the summer and we had a lot of older guys on the team, so I wanted to prove myself at workouts and practice in order to gain their trust as an 18-year old PG. Once my coaches and teammates told me that they had trust in me it made everything much easier, and that year was a big step for us.

Last November you scored a career-high 21 PTS (9-13 FG) in a win over Fresno State: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? I had not felt that way since high school, which made it fun. It is hard to have that kind of night in D-1 basketball.  I was having a lot of fun and there were several of us who finished in double figures, and I look forward to having more games like that this year.

As a sophomore you were #3 in the WCC with 1.6 SPG: what is your secret for being a good defender? I am not the biggest guy but I am 1 of the quickest guys so I just try to anticipate. We watch a lot of film and learn a lot of our opponents’ tendencies. Sometimes you get beat so it depends how you adapt to the situation.

In the 2015 CBI you scored a team-high 9 PTS in a loss to Seattle: what did you learn from that game that you think will help you this year? It was a tough game for all of us. We were down in numbers due to some injuries, so while we were happy to make the postseason we let it slip away from us. We will just use it as motivation this year: we have a lot of veteran leaders who know what to expect.  We cannot have games where we slack off and do not give 100%. We do not have time to wait around and let things happen so we will take more initiative and have a lot more passion because we are running out of time.

You are on pace to become the school’s all-time leader in career AST: what is the key to being a good PG? I watch a lot of film. As a freshman I had to react because everything was happening so fast on the court but I have been able to slow things down a lot. I try to see the floor and know when to spoon-feed certain teammates and get the shooters the ball as best I can. My cardio is a lot better this year so I think I can last longer and wear my opponents down: hopefully I can get a lot more assists in transition.

Your non-conference schedule includes a game in November against UCLA: will it be extra-special for you because you will have a lot of family/friends in attendance? UCLA is a local team so I have told my family/friends about it, but they can come catch me at Pepperdine anyway. It is more of a big deal for my teammates because we want to beat a Pac-12 team so we will give it our all. A lot of my friends live out of state so I am sure they will be watching on the Pac-12 Network.

You return each of your top-7 scorers from last year: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success this year? Luckily a lot of us have been playing since we were freshmen, so our coaches expect a lot out of us, as we do of ourselves. It is a long season: everyone is amped up in the beginning, but after your body starts to ache it takes a good team to stick with it and take advantage of their experience. The past 2 years we have dropped a couple of games late in the season, so we will make sure that does not happen this year.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our biggest goal is to win our conference: we were right there last year and we obviously want to get to the Big Dance. We were happy to make the CBI but we have worked hard all summer to get to the NCAA tourney, so now it is time to just go out there and perform.

Conference Preview: Big South

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The race for the Big South regular season title last year was one of the more exciting conference battles in the entire nation.  At one point in February, almost the entire conference was separated by three or fewer games in the standings. The battle came down to the final week and in the end Charleston Southern and High Point tied for the championship, with the Buccaneers earning the top spot in the conference tournament.  Unfortunately, while in other leagues this exciting battle would have also had the stakes of determining who had home court advantage in the conference tournament, that was not the case in the Big South.  The tournament is held just outside of Myrtle Beach each year, on the home court of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.  Somewhat unsurprisingly, it was Coastal Carolina that rode their home court advantage to the automatic bid and a 16 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament.  Charleston Southern had to settle for an NIT bid, while High Point played in the CIT.  Gardner-Webb and Radford also received postseason invites, both playing in the CBI.

This season, Coastal Carolina figures to be among the top teams in the conference again, and will have a chance to ride their home court to the automatic bid even if they don’t take the regular season title.  Luckily for those of us that disapprove of this format, things will have to change after this season as it will be the last for Coastal in the Big South.  The Chanticleers will move to the Sun Belt next year as they begin the process of upgrading their football program to the FBS level.  Although the regular season crown has less weight than some other leagues, the pick to take it this season is High Point, which returns a deep roster including John Brown, the best player in the conference.  Coastal Carolina and Gardner-Webb should also be factors, and keep an eye out for Longwood.  Last year’s co-champs, Charleston Southern, look like they will be taking a major step back with virtually the entire roster gone.

Predicted Order of Finish

1.  High Point – The Panthers are led by the conference’s best player, John Brown, who is joined by three other seniors and two juniors at the top of the rotation.  On paper at least, this appears to be the team to beat.

2.  Coastal Carolina – The Chanticleers return four starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team and once again get to host the conference tournament.  They are led by Elijah Wilson outside and Badou Diagne inside.

3.  Gardner-Webb – The Bulldogs have a solid frontcourt led by Tyrell Nelson.  They also return four senior guards, so there is no reason why they will not be right in the mix of things.  Jerome Hill’s decision to turn pro after last season may end up hurting.

4.  Longwood – Even though the Lancers only won 11 games last year and lost top scorer Quincy Taylor, they have a chance to surprise this season.  The main reason for that is Lotanna Nwogbo, back from an injury that cost him half of last season.  Nwogbo is a double-double threat every time he takes the court.

5.  Winthrop – Guard Keon Johnson figures to lead the way for the Eagles, but it will be difficult for them to make up for the loss of two double digit scorers in Keon Moore and Andre Smith.

6.  Campbell – D.J. Mason leads three returning starters.  The Camels biggest weakness last season was a lack of size.  They may have found the answer this year with the addition of Jon Ander Cuadra from Spain.

7.  Radford – YaYa Anderson and Rashun Davis will need to step things up a lot to make up for the losses of Javonte Green and R.J. Price.

8.  UNC Asheville – The good news is that the Bulldogs return four starters from last season.  The bad news is that it was supposed to have been all five until their top player, Andrew Rowsey, elected to transfer to Marquette.  Without Rowsey, just matching last season’s 15 wins would be an accomplishment.

9.  Liberty – Ritchie McKay has returned to the sidelines for the Flames and does have a double-digit scorer back in senior Theo Johnson.  He probably won’t be enough to provide any serious early success to McKay.

10.  Charleston Southern – Despite sharing the regular season crown last season, the Buccaneers could be in for a long year as they lost virtually everyone from the roster.  Head coach Barclay Radebaugh will need to cobble together a team made up mostly of JC transfers, so a major step backwards is expected.

11.  Presbyterian – DeSean Murray should score a ton of points for the Blue Hose this season, but there simply are not enough other pieces here for any serious success.

Season preview: Hampton SR SG Reggie Johnson

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When you think of guys named Reggie Johnson who played basketball at Miami, your 1st instinct is probably the 6’10” center who played for the Hurricanes from 2010-2013.  However, option B is the 6’2″ guard who started his career at Miami (OH) before transferring to Hampton in 2013.  Last March he got to experience the thrill of victory by winning 4 games in 6 days to clinch the MEAC tourney title…followed by the agony of defeat after drawing an undefeated Kentucky team in the NCAA tourney.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Reggie about why he transferred and the large number of seniors on this year’s roster.


You were team captain during each of your 4 years of high school: what is the key to being a good leader? You have to lead by example. Leaders do a lot of talking but you also have to show guys what to do without saying anything. You need to carry yourself with good character.

You started 22 games as a freshman at Miami Ohio: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? The veterans on the team made it comfortable for me as a freshman. I was there all summer so by the preseason I had a good feel for the team.

In December of 2013 you decided to transfer: why did you make that choice, and what made you choose Hampton? I just felt that Miami was no longer the perfect spot for me. It was sad because I wanted to stay, but I just had a gut feeling that I had to go elsewhere to have more fun with the game, which I never could have imagined. The longer that I was unhappy, the more it hurt me on the inside. I reached out to schools and schools reached out to me. 1 of the Hampton coaches went to the same high school I did. At first I thought that Hampton was too far away, but it was nice to go somewhere that had people I knew.

You play for Coach Ed Joyner: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He is a player’s coach: he will correct us when necessary but also allows us to correct ourselves. He genuinely respects our opinion: it is not a 1-way street of “my way or the highway”. It is not just the captains who he respects: he listens to the input that everyone has to offer, which has made me feel very comfortable playing for him. He is very laid back so when he tells us to do something it is because he wants us to get better.

In the 2015 MEAC tourney you were named to the all-tourney team after winning 4 games in 6 days to clinch the title: how exhausted were you by the end of that week, and what did it mean to you to win the title? I was definitely tired by the end of the week, but I was able to gain some energy every day that we kept winning. At that point in the season everyone is tired so you just get to see who wants it the most. Adrenaline takes over as soon as the ball is tipped and you only feel tired after the game.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you had 4 STL in a loss to then-undefeated Kentucky: where does that Wildcat team rank among the best that you have ever seen? Kentucky was great: they had a lot of talent and a lot of hype, but it was great to see them play together. They were not worried about who was taking shots: it shows how Coach Calipari can do what he does. They were good people and not cocky at all, so it was a great experience.

You had 7 different players start at least 17 games last year: do you consider that a good thing (because it allowed a bunch of guys to get some experience), or a bad thing (because of the uncertainty of never knowing who would start from 1 game to the next), or other? It was very up and down last year with a lot of uncertainty. We were all over the place at first but we finally gained an identity late in the year with a steadier lineup, which helped us get to the postseason. It will carry over into next season: we know that we can just go out there now and do what we have to do without worrying about who is starting.

You are part of a huge senior class this year: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success? It will be very crucial. We have 4 freshmen who are ready to play so it will be a nice mix of old guys who have been around the program and young guys who are capable. We want to defend what is ours, but we understand what we did right and wrong last year and we know the format for how we can succeed. We have to relay the message to the freshmen and make sure they are on-board.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against SMU/Colorado: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? I would say SMU: I heard they might be a top-25 team. It will be fun for me personally because 1 of my close friends from home is Sterling Brown, who plays for the Mustangs. We do not have as many high-major teams on our schedule as last year, but Colorado will also be tough.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? I expect that our team will have a great non-conference record so I think we can enter the conference tourney with 23-25 wins. I feel it is time to take responsibility and own the conference. Great teams win games that they are not supposed to even when they are struggling, and we need to be able to put teams away. I hope we can get back to the NCAA tourney and make a run: if we can get a higher seed, then we will not have to face a team like Kentucky. It is my last year here and I know that I can score, so I want to show my impact on defense and maybe win the conference DPOY award.