The Hoops HD Report: SEC Conference Preview

For Chad Sherwood’s WAC Preview and the ongoing #LopesWaiver – CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE for all of the Hoops HD Preseason Articles, Interviews, and Conference Previews

Kentucky is very good.  The panel pretty much all feels they’re an Elite Eight caliber team or better.  The rest of the league??  Not so much.  Without Kentucky, this league is collectively worse than the Atlantic Ten.  It struggled for 3 bids last year, and although it got five teams in 2015, they struggled for quality seeding.  The guys at Hoops HD feel it will be more of the same this year, but they also feel that over time things will improve.  Texas A&M lost a lot, but has a lot of young talent coming in, Florida seems to be getting better and better and will likely make The Dance this year, Georgia should also contend for a bid, Alabama should be better, and Auburn will hopefully…finally…get things turned around.  All that, and much more….

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show…

Conference Preview: WAC

WAC

One More Year.  One final season in NCAA “transitional team” hell and the Grand Canyon Antelopes will be eligible for the national championship tournament.  Last season, the ‘Lopes were our adopted “Team of the People” here at HoopsHD, as we spent the year campaigning for the NCAA to grant them a waiver and let them play in the NCAA Tournament.  Unfortunately, our pleas and petitions fell on deaf ears.  And even worse, once again this year, the NCAA is not letting them play.  The #LopesWaiver movement is still alive, even if Grand Canyon is not chosen as our adopted team again this year, and we will continue to do all we can to fight for their cause.  But alas, should the campaign fail again, we will have to wait One More Year.

As for the rest of the WAC last season, the Roadrunners of Bakersfield finally proved that this was not simply New Mexico State’s league by knocking off the Aggies in the conference tournament title game and reaching the Division I NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.  New Mexico State did play in the NIT, while both Grand Canyon and Seattle had invites to the CIT.  The ‘Lopes are our pick to win the regular season title this year, but due to their ineligibility, the automatic bid will likely come down to a battle (again) between New Mexico State and Bakersfield, though UMKC and Utah Valley could both make some noise.  One team that probably will not be in automatic bid contention is Chicago State.  The Cougars won the HoopsHD “Centenary Award” last season as the worst team in D1, and could repeat this year, as unfortunately the university is experiencing significant financial problems that go well beyond just their athletic programs.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Grand Canyon* – Even with Grandy Glaze gone, the ‘Lopes should once again be very strong behind point guard DeWayne Russell, WAC Player of the Year candidate Joshua Braun, and USC transfer Darion Clark.  One More Year.

2. New Mexico State – Pascal Siakam may be in the NBA and head coach Marvin Menzies may now be coaching at UNLV, but virtually everyone else is back from a team that only lost twice to WAC opponents last season (the second being in the conference tournament title game).  New head coach Paul Weir will be able to feature Ian Baker outside and 7-3, 335 pound Tanveer Bhullar inside, so the rest of the league better watch out.

3. Bakersfield – The Roadrunners did lose two starters from last year’s Tournament team, including big man Aly Ahmed.  A lack of size may hurt them early in the year, but 6-11 Mississippi State transfer Fallou Ndoye will become eligible with the second semester, at which time this team could take off.

4. UMKC – The ‘Roos may have the WAC’s best backcourt with the tandem pair of Martez Harrison and LaVell Boyd.  If the two of them can get some help down low, UMKC might just be able to challenge for one of the top spots in the league.

5. Utah Valley – Three starters are gone from a team that only won 12 games last year, but the Wolverines could actually be better with Zach Nelson back healthy and several key transfers led by former Xavier Musketeer Brandon Randolph.

6. Seattle – The Redhawks will need several newcomers to step up in their first season if the team wants to improve from its current WAC mediocrity to the conference title contender that they believe they can be.  If the team does not, head coach Cameron Dollar’s job could be in jeopardy.

7. UTRGV – Antonio Green was the WAC Freshman of the Year last season, and he is joined this year by UTEP transfer Lew Stallworth.  Those two players could help form the core of the team as new head coach Lew Hill begins to build them towards respectability.

8. Chicago State – The good news is that the Cougars return four starters and add in Florida Gulf Coast transfer Brian Greene, Jr.  The bad news is that they only won one Division I game last year, captured the Centenary Award, and the school’s enrollment is down so low that it is almost a wonder they have the budget to sustain Division I athletics. This could be another very long season in Chicago.

* Grand Canyon is ineligible for the WAC and NCAA tournaments due to being in their fourth and final year of transitioning to the Division I level.  Their ineligibility is completely unfair and the NCAA should change the rules to allow them to play.  #LopesWaiver

The Hoops HD Report: Big 12 Conference Preview

For Chad Sherwood’s Sun Belt (aka the Fun Belt) preview – CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE for all of the Hoops HD Preseason Articles, Interviews, and Conference Previews

Last year, this conference sent 7 teams to the NCAA Tournament, and all of them earned a seed of #8 or better.  It was a remarkable regular season, and although Kansas and Oklahoma had good runs in the NCAA Tournament, overall it was a disappointing March.  Kansas looks to be strong again, but other than them no one appears to be as good as they were a year ago.  The panel discusses all ten teams, David forgets how many starters from Texas are returning, they touch on the coaching changes throughout the league, and they highlight who they think we will and will not see come March.

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show….

Conference Preview: Sun Belt

SUN BELT

Among the “Under the Radar” conferences, the Sun Belt certainly garnered a lot of attention last season.  Early in the year, it was mostly Texas-Arlington, as the Mavericks picked up surprising wins at Ohio State and Memphis and took Texas to overtime.  A stretch of five losses in six games in late January Sun Belt play, however, knocked the team out of at-large bid discussions and, after a semifinal round lost in the conference tournament, relegated them to the CIT.  As Arlington faltered, Arkansas-Little Rock asserted themselves, and built on non-conference wins at San Diego State and Tulsa to then go 17-3 in conference play and win the conference tournament.  The Trojans weren’t done yet as they upended 5 seed Purdue in the Round of 64 before falling to Iowa State to end their season.  Both Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe joined Arlington in the CIT to give the conference a total of four postseason bids.

This season, Texas-Arlington will look to complete the job and keep their momentum up through conference play.  The Mavericks and Georgia Southern appear to be the top two teams in the league heading into the year as Little Rock has a new head coach with Chris Beard now at Texas Tech and some backcourt questions that need answering.  A possible dark horse team exists in South Alabama as the Jaguars return a deep, veteran lineup.  We will also be keeping an eye on the Sun Belt’s newest member, as head coach Cliff Ellis’ Coastal Carolina Chanticleers move over from the Big South where they won 21 games last year and advanced to the semifinals of the CIT.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Texas-Arlington – It is tough to find a weakness in this team with all five starters back, one of the Sun Belt’s best defensive units, strong three-point shooting, and star power from the likes of forward Kevin Hervey and point guard Erick Neal.

2. Georgia Southern – The Eagles return their top eight players from last season led by Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Tookie Brown, who is capable of 20 or more points every time he takes the court.  If the team can improve its defense, they should be in contention for the conference title.

3. South Alabama – With Ken Williams and Shaq Calhoun in the backcourt, and Georgi Boyanov and Nick Stover in the frontcourt all returning, USA looks poised to make a run at the league’s upper division.

4. Georgia State – Jeremy Hollowell will need to step up his game even more than last year down low, but if he does and gets some perimeter help from the likes of Alabama transfer Devin Mitchell, Isaiah Williams and Jeff Thomas, this team could surprise.

5. Arkansas-Little Rock – Wes Flanigan takes over as head coach for a very strong defensive team.  Marcus Johnson, Jr. will need to pick up even more of the scoring load this year, but questions at the point guard position need to be answered.

6. Arkansas State – A pair of double-digit averaging starters do return this year in Devin Carter and Donte Thomas for new head coach Grant McCasland.  How well the two of them mesh with new freshmen and transfers will determines the Red Wolves’ success.

7. Coastal Carolina – The Sun Belt’s newest member brings in a strong backcourt led by Jaylen Shaw and Elijah Wilson, who should both help keep them competitive.  The Chanticleers do have a lot of question marks down low which could make this first season in the league a lot tougher.

8. Troy – The Trojans have firepower led by Wesley Person and Jordon Varnado, but need to find some help inside.  The good news is that improving on last year’s 9-22 record should not be difficult.

9. Texas State – Three of the Bobcats’ top four players are gone, so they will need to rely on newcomers like Tyler Blount and Maxwell Starwood to step up and help top returnee Kavin Gilder-Tilbury if they want to succeed.

10. Louisiana-Lafayette – Three starters do return from a CIT team, but it will be tough for the Ragin’ Cajuns to replace Shawn Long’s 18.9 points per game.  Expect them to take a step back this year.

11. Louisiana-Monroe – With only one starter back from last year, this looks to be a rebuilding season for head coach Keith Richard’s squad.

12. Appalachian State – Sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz appears poised to become a star, but replacing Frank Eaves’ 18.7 points per game from a 22 loss team will be very tough.

The Hoops HD Report: Big East Conference Preview

For Chad Sherwood’s Summit League Preview – CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE for all of the Hoops HD Preseason Articles, Interviews, and Conference Previews

Chad and the panel take a look at this year’s Big East Conference and debate whether or not Xavier or defending national champion Villanova will come out on top in the league.  They also discuss Creighton and how good they’re going to be as the question is raised as to whether or not they’ll be able to finish strong as they go through the second half of conference play.  They also debate and discuss how good (or not good, in some cases) Georgetown, Seton Hall, and Marquette will be, the rebuilding project that appears to be in place at Providence, and the continued building project in place at DePaul and Saint John’s.  All that and much more.

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show…

Conference Preview: Summit League

SUMMIT LEAGUE

The Summit League certainly made some noise during the non-conference portion of the season last year.  South Dakota and South Dakota State both won at Minnesota.  South Dakota State also won at TCU.  Oral Roberts won at Tulsa.  IUPUI took Marquette to overtime before falling.  And Western Illinois, the team that finished in last place and did not even qualify for the conference tournament, won at then 17th-ranked Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, the postseason was not as kind as South Dakota State lost to Maryland in a 5-12 first round game, and Fort Wayne (NIT) and Omaha (CBI) also fell in their first games.  No other Summit League teams participated in postseason events, though North Dakota State did finish with 20 wins on the year.

This season, the Summit League  will most likely be a two-way battle between Fort Wayne and North Dakota State. IPFW has senior guard Mo Evans back healthy and is adding in several key transfers including Bryson Scott from Purdue, a former Top 100 recruit.  NDSU has 7 of their top 8 players back from a 20 win squad that almost went to the Big Dance for the third straight season last year.  IUPUI, South Dakota State and Omaha could all be factors this year as well.  Perhaps the biggest wild card in the league is Denver, a team that under-performed under head coach Joe Scott for years.  Rodney Billups takes over as head coach this season and just how quickly his system is able to replace Scott’s Princeton offense will determine just how competitive his team is.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Fort Wayne – The Mastodons are loaded with Mo Evans healthy again, John Konchar, Purdue transfer Bryson Scott and more.  They went 12-4 in conference play last season and could be even better than that this one.

2. North Dakota State – Seven of last year’s top eight players return, giving the Bison a stacked lineup led by juniors Paul Miller and A.J. Jacobson.

3. IUPUI – The Jaguars have a chance to contend despite the strength of the conference as returnees Darell Combs and Matt O’Leary will be joined by Kent State transfer Kellon Thomas.  Thomas was the starting point guard for the Golden Flashes last season and averaged 12.3 points per game in that role.

4. South Dakota State – Three starters and long-time head coach Scott Nagy may be gone, but Mike Daum averaged over 15 points per game coming off the bench last season and could be the conference Player of the Year as a starter this one.  How well the newcomers brought in by new head coach T.J. Otzelberger gel with the returning players will be the key to the team’s success.

5. Omaha – Despite losing their top two scorers, the Mavericks’ fast tempo will still create a ton of points, especially when led by Tra-Deon Hollins, Tre’Shawn Thurman and a healthy Marcus Tyus.  Hollins will be key on both ends of the court as he led the nation in steals last year.

6. Western Illinois – The Leathernecks would love to recapture the magic that led to their win at Wisconsin last November.  With senior guard Garret Covington leading the team, they should at least be able to avoid a return to the league cellar.

7. Denver – Four starters do return, but the big question is the learning curve as the Pioneers move from Joe Scott’s Princeton offense to new head coach Rodney Billups’ faster pace.

8. Oral Roberts – Obi Emegano averaged 23.1 points per game for a team that went 14-17 overall and finished in seventh place in the conference.  Emegano is gone now, and even matching last year’s win total may be a stretch.

9. South Dakota – The good news for the Coyotes is that they are opening a new 6,000 seat, $66 million facility this season.  The bad news is that they have no returning starters from last year’s 18 loss team.  Head coach Craig Smith will have to find a way to get a bunch of newcomers to play together and produce if the team wants to finish in the top 8 and qualify for the conference tournament.