UCA had arguably the most successful team of all of the GSC West programs last year. The Bears went 21-6 after starting the season 10-0, and they tied for first in the division with an 11-5 conference record. Head coach Rand Chappell inherited a solid young team that had struggled previously, turning them into contenders in his first year. In my mind, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t continue the recruiting success he had at Henderson State, especially given UCA’s bigger budget and impending move to Division I (which occurs next year).
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As you can see from their team stats, UCA was very good in several categories, although maybe without any spectacular edges. They were a significantly better shooting and rebounding team than their opposition, mainly because of their defensive ability (stopping other teams from being good shooting and rebounding teams). UCA’s 100.9 defensive efficiency rating in conference play was the very best among GSC West teams. They struggled with turnovers the whole season, and they struggled early on at the free-throw line, but they turned the latter around and became one of the best teams in the conference at making other teams earn their points.
Individual Stats from 2004-05 (explanation):
Of all of these players, Campbell, Jones, Martin, and Johnson will return, and only Jones saw significant minutes last year. Thankfully for them, UCA has no trouble recruiting, although that makes things difficult to analyze on my end. Jones is the only one of the four I can analyze conclusively, and he was a slightly below-average player in the GSC. He shot adequately from the field, he didn’t turn the ball over a lot, and he didn’t avoid rebounds (which is about all that can be said about some guards). Jones wasn’t a very good passer, though, as his 9.2 assist ratio shows (14.0 is the league average). He could be an adequate guard for them given usual improvement, but my guess is that he still won’t get a huge chunk of the team’s possessions.
That leaves me to speculate about the quality of the Bears’ incoming players. Mitch Reuter (6’5″ forward) and Will Cranford (6’1″ guard) were two of the top players in Arkansas high school ball last year, and I expect them to be solid role players, if not starters, assuming they don’t redshirt. King Cannon looks like another solid freshman, a 6’4″ guard out of South Carolina.
As usual, UCA has their fair share of transfers, with Chad Wise being perhaps the most notable. Coming out of Lonoke, AR, Wise went to UConn. He averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists per game at Lonoke and was among the state’s top players. I expect him to provide much of the scoring punch for UCA as a starting guard this year. His stats were very limited at UConn, but that’s such a top program that I can’t imagine him not being a major contributor for the Bears.
UCA also has a fair number of other D-I transfers, including Brandon Lipsey of UMKC and Alexei Korolev of UALR. Korolev actually played against Harding in last year’s game. He had 7 minutes on the floor, but he did practically nothing according to the stat sheet. I expect Lipsey and Korolev to be solid players, though (especially Korolev, because of his 7-foot frame).
The bottom line is that I don’t know exactly where to put UCA, given all the turnover on their roster. The incoming players are impressive enough to put together a good team, though. I can see them taking some time to get used to one another before really coming together in the conference season. Only time will tell.