These previews will be in descending order, using the team’s 2007-08 net efficiency, which I think is the best metric of overall team quality.
2007-2008 Record: 22-10
Net Efficiency: +13.5
The Bucs have some significant losses: perennial star forward Kevin Weybright, starting guard Justin Ray, and reserve guard Roberto Casiano. Weybright is a big loss, but this is still a very good team that should be able to recover.
Four starters return, including senior center Nick Kohs and senior guard Reggie Peyton, two of the top returning players in the GSC. There will be new players in other significant roles, but the core remains mostly intact. They’ll bring in several freshman, including guard Scott Dennis, who is another solid Cincinnati recruit. The Bucs are also a large team, with six players at 6’6″ or taller.
Perhaps they’ll fade down the stretch as they have in recent years, but I wouldn’t count on Christian Brothers being anything other than a top-three team in the GSC West. They return the conference’s best post player in Kohs and its most athletic scoring guard in Peyton, and they’ll be toward the top of the conference once again.
2007-2008 Record: 20-10
Net Efficiency: +11.6
An athletic team with the division’s best defense a year ago, the Tigers will be strong again in 2008. Despite an early exit from the GSC tournament, OBU shocked regional host Florida Southern in the first round of the NCAA tournament before losing to North Alabama in the second round. They are the coaches’ pick to win the division in 08-09.
The Tigers have some important losses: Memo Rodriguez and Justin Delamar; however, they return seven of last year’s juniors to make this year’s team one of the most veteran squads in the conference (and perhaps the whole country). As a result, the newcomers are basically buried on the depth chart, and there won’t be many surprises with this year’s team. They’re still going to be very solid, as evidenced by a respectable exhibition showing at Rupp Arena against Kentucky. I’d expect another top-three finish in the division.
2007-2008 Record: 19-10
Net Efficiency: +6.6
Tech returns quite a few players, but not their two best scorers, Terrance Whiters and Darren Tarver. Forward Troy Marcus and guard Renard Allen are the best returning players, but they’ll have several other veteran Wonder Boys on the floor around them. Senior guard Chad Henderson also played in every game a year ago, although he was a bit of an offensive black hole, rarely picking up assists and posting a below-average true shooting percentage.
The Wonder Boys fortified their team for 08-09 with a bevy of incoming transfers, including several D-I guys. Guard Creighton Parker rode the bench for Arkansas State for a couple of years and actually transferred to Tech two years ago, but he still hasn’t played. I guess he’s had a hard time getting eligible? You wouldn’t think so in this conference, but I guess stranger things have happened.
The newcomers play all different positions. Terrell Northington is an option at point guard who will probably compete with Allen for playing time. Marko Asxic is a 6’4″ freshman combo guard, and Brandon Ballard is an interesting addition at shooting guard. He last played at Arkansas State in 2006, playing almost exclusively as a three-point gunner off the bench. His percentage wasn’t great (34.5%), but he won’t have as much trouble getting off shots against smaller GSC guards.
Dusan Radivojevic is a 6’7″ forward, but his offensive profile is similar to Ballard’s. A transfer from Bowling Green, Radivojevic takes most of his shots from beyond the arc, which will make him a very difficult matchup if he can get free.
Wagner Bueno and Thiago Cordeiro are two post players who are both community college transfers. Their size (6’8″ and 6’10”, respectively) will make them good players in this conference if they have any athleticism at all, and every team can use one or two guys like that. Garrett Glover and Irvin Humphrey are the other 6’6″ or taller returnees.
Tech is always a team to watch because of the unknown factor with so many junior transfers. This is a good group of incoming talent, but the Wonder Boys lost the two best players from last year’s fifth-place team. They will be good enough to reach the conference tournament, but the new guys’ play will determine how far they can go.
2007-2008 Record: 17-12
Net Efficiency: +5.9
This year’s roster is not yet available online, but the Weevils have played an exhibition game already against Shorter College, so that’s a small indication of how the team might play. Carlos West, a new junior guard from South Georgia Tech, hit six threes against Shorter and was his team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 15.7 ppg and hitting 48% from three-point range. West’s teammate James Early is also from South GA Tech, where he averaged 10 points and 8 boards.
Don Riley is a 6’4″ junior transfer from East Central, originally from Pine Bluff HS. His brother Mykal originally went to OBU (without playing) before transferring to Alabama, where he was notable for hitting the game-tying shot against Mississippi State last year in the SEC Tournament. That probably doesn’t matter here, as Don is not Mykal. Don plays more like a big man for someone who is 6’4″, and he averaged 8 rebounds per game at Panola JC before going to East Central.
Ray Wright and Derek Easter, the team’s two best players a year ago, will both return, so this could be a very good group at UAM. They have the size to play well in the GSC and may be able to top last year’s fourth-place finish. They’ll open the season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Southern Illinois (against UMass), so they will be battle-tested for the conference season.
2007-2008 Record: 14-12
Net Efficiency: +4.9
The Statesmen weren’t bad last year, but it was a down year for them compared to their recent success, and they had the unfortunate luck of losing a three-way tiebreaker to finish out of the GSC Tournament field. They return some players, but none are world-beaters: guards Chad Akins and Ernesto Green were their possession leaders a year ago, and they’ll be a solid tandem with continued improvement.
Every year, there’s always a GSC newcomer with a colorful past, and DSU has two of them this year. The first is guard Stanley Copeland. A former top football/basketball dual prospect out of Las Vegas, Copeland was arrested in 2005 for his involvement in an armed robbery and was subsequently suspended and dismissed from the Dixie State basketball team, where he was coming off the bench. I haven’t found any record of him playing since the 04-05 season, so we’ll see how things go for him at DSU.
The second is Nebraska transfer Joe McCray, who was dismissed from the Huskers because of an unspecified violation of team rules in February 2006. He was a solid D-I prospect when he arrived at Nebraska in 2004 out of Ft. Lauderdale, and his size (6’5″) and athleticism will make him a tough matchup in Division II. He averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds as a freshman at Nebraska, although he declined somewhat prior to his dismissal as a sophomore. His problem actually appeared to be his scoring primacy, in that he ate up possessions and didn’t shoot well enough to really be a valuable player. I’d imagine he’ll be pretty solid at DSU, although he’ll probably still take more shots than he should.
The other two newcomers getting top billing for Delta State are foreign-born forward Dimitry Pershin and guard Arian Maliqi, the two leading players from last years Gulf Coast CC (FL) team. Both seem to be minor scoring threats but not huge-impact guys.
DSU will have some talent, as usual, so it’s just a matter of whether they put it all out there on the floor. Even if Copeland and McCray have turned around, they don’t have an exceptionally strong inside presence on the roster, which limits their ceiling somewhat from the national powers of DSU’s recent past. Nonetheless, this is a winning team on paper, and the coaches have picked them to finish third in the West.
2007-2008 Record: 10-17
Net Efficiency: -2.4
Perennial GSC West doormat SAU ceded that title to Henderson State last year, but they still trudged through the division at 2-12 with no star players to speak of. This year will be entirely different, if only in that they will have only four players from last year’s team: guards David Noble and Channin Harden, forward Justin Stuart, and center David Verwers, all sophomores. Harden was the only major contributor on last year’s team, but Verwers is 6’11”, so I guess that’s something.
The top newcomer is senior forward Charles Moore, a transfer from Tennessee Tech. The 6’7″ junior was a pretty good rebounder in limited action for the Golden Eagles and will almost certainly step in as a major contributor. There are a handful of freshmen on the team, including Rose Bud’s Zach Prothro, who is probably the most exciting of the bunch.
I wouldn’t expect the Muleriders to make a lot more noise than usual, but it’s good to see them build the team primarily with freshmen. Expect them to finish out of the tourney field.
2007-2008 Record: 3-24
Net Efficiency: -18.5
Falling from perennial power to hapless doormat, the decline of the Henderson State basketball program has been epic. They will lose senior Antoine Vinson from last year’s team, and he was their only player to post a better than average PER or an offensive rating over 100. It’s really not worth mentioning who is returning for the Reddies, as they were so collectively bad, but last year’s team was pretty young, and improvement is within the realm of possibility.
HSU will bring in a 7-foot freshman center named P.J. Roberson, who averaged 16 points and 5 blocks as a senior at his Oklahoma high school. Junior guard Kyle Oldham is the team’s other top newcomer. There are a host of other freshmen and a transfer from Arkansas Baptist (Vincent Patterson), but otherwise not a lot of impact players.
Expect the Reddies to finish toward the bottom of the division once again as they continue to rebuild.
I’m going to be completely uninteresting with my predictions this year, because I can’t find a single instance with which I disagree with the coaches’ selections overall.
The coaches have tabbed OBU as the GSC West favorite heading into the year, probably because of their strong finish a year ago. That’s not unwarranted, but I think Christian Brothers is also a very good team. Those to me are clearly the top two in the division, and the coaches have CBU at #2.
Delta State is #3 behind the strength of their incoming talent, and UAM benefits from the same optimism at #4.
Projected to take a dive this year is Harding at #5, and that’s to be expected following Matt Hall’s departure. This could be too low if the solid young recruits play well early on.
Arkansas Tech could be a solid team again this year, and it will be a hard battle for the last playoff spot. Right now, both the coaches and I have them on the outside looking in.
Southern Arkansas and Henderson State round out the division at #7 and #8, as neither has the talent necessary to win games on a consistent enough basis to reach the conference tournament.
I’ll be rolling out stats over the coming weeks as each team’s season gets underway. I’m still tinkering with how I want things to work, but I’ll go ahead and tell you that I’m planning to track the GSC East this year along with the West. It’s been frustrating to go into the GSC tourney each year not knowing what to expect out of the teams in the other division, so hopefully this year will provide a better overall picture of the conference.
The additional stat-tracking will probably come at the expense of some of my single-game analyses of the BIsons. I may still post a summary of every game, but I’ve thought about scaling back to a post per week (probably a Monday post during the conference season). Toward the end of the year, my writing gets a bit repetitive, since games often play out with the same names performing the same way, so that might help change things up a bit.
Finally, as I wrote this today, the Bisons lost to UALR 74-62 in this season’s only exhibition game. They went with an eight-man rotation: Morgan, Barnett, Porter, and both Browns as starters, and Garner, Blake, and Rayford off the bench. Their shooting was pretty bad, but with smaller players in important scoring roles, that will likely be the case this year.
Harding’s rebounding effort was solid, and they actually out-rebounded the Trojans in the first half. None of the Bisons’ true freshmen played (all redshirting?), nor did senior Brian Howard, so the tallest player on the floor for HU was 6’5″ Kirk Porter. That makes the rebounding effort even more impressive, but it raises questions about how the Bisons will compete against other GSC teams, which aren’t really any smaller on average than UALR is.
UPDATE: The official site says that Howard and freshman Bradley Spencer were injured and will eventually play. So I guess that means Roddenberry, Walters, and Hall are redshirting? We’ll see.