Harding finished sixth last season, so ordinarily this would be the Bisons’ turn in the previews, but since they’re the home team as far as I’m concerned, they got to go first. Next up are the Christian Brothers Buccaneers.
The Bucs finished 9-7 in GSC play last year, good enough for the last spot in the conference tournament. They were surprisingly good against GSC teams after a disappointing 04-05 season and an unimpressive non-conference resume for their early-season games. Their improbable late-season home win over Arkansas-Monticello took the drama out of the final weekend of conference play by clinching the playoff spot over Harding.
CBU had three solid players last year, and that was about it. Forward Kevin Weybright was among the three best players in the conference, amassing an impressive PER of 28.08. His lights-out shooting and dominant-for-his-size rebounding skill made him a force in the GSC West. Senior G/F Sam Bradley showed a similar, though less-pronounced, set of skills to finish with a PER of 20.48. Freshman center Nick Kohs became a rebounding machine and really turned on the jets in conference play after a rough start.
Without a solid point man, the Bucs’ main weakness was handling the basketball. Turnovers were their major downfall: they let go of the ball 23% more often than they took it away. Otherwise, Christian Brothers was a deadly accurate shooting team and became a great rebounding team over the course of the season.
Bradley was the only senior among the major contributors, and while he will be missed, he is potentially replaceable. Reserve center Paul Walker, whose only skill was rebounding, is gone, along with turnover machine Brian Murphy.
Who’s Coming Back?
Weybright and Kohs will be back, which says a lot about the prospects for this team. Both are on the preseason All-GSC team. Here are last year’s PERs for this year’s returnees:
- F Kevin Weybright – 28.08
- C Nick Kohs – 17.19
- F Adam Brock – 13.12
- G Brandon Shane – 11.40
- G Roberto Casiano – 10.40
- G Colin Flynn – 8.91
- G Justin Ray – 7.22
That’s a very solid group, especially if the guards can step up their level of play. If someone establishes themselves at the point, this will be a very dangerous team, regardless of incoming talent.
Introducing the new guys
CBU already has a good team, but the newcomers look solid as well. Freshman center Bill Brandenburg averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds playing high school ball in the St. Louis area, so he will add depth to an already strong frontcourt. Several other incoming freshmen will also bring depth to this team, which is one of the few GSC teams that consistently builds their program with freshmen, rather than transfers.
Having said all of that, sophomore transfer Reggie Payton looks to be the best player in the incoming class, as a D-I transfer from Birmingham Southern. Payton returns home to Memphis having averaged just 5 points per game in limited playing time, but he averaged 23 points and 4 assists during his senior year of high school. He looks to be exactly what the Bucs needed, an immediate impact player at the point guard position, and he could push the Bucs over the top.
This will be a good GSC team for at least the next two seasons, perhaps even becoming a national power if everyone stays for 07-08 (only Adam Brock is a senior this year). For one of the smaller GSC schools, this is quite an accomplishment. Coach Mike Nienaber has a great core of players and has hit a good time for his team to peak.
There is clearly a break in the talent level between the top four teams in the GSC West and the bottom four, and Christian Brothers is definitely in the top four. Where they will finish is still unclear, but when I make my final preseason predictions, rest assured that CBU will be highly touted.