Friday, October 19, 2012

Conference Calling's 31 in 31 Series: 2012-13 WAC Preview

The Conference Calling 31 in 31 preview series will examine each of the NCAA Division I auto-bid conferences (so no Great West or independents), one per day, leading up to college basketball's opening day on November 9. 


Most of the Western Athletic Conference is passing through on its way to greener pastures. Of the 10 teams set to compete this year, only four (New Mexico State, Denver, Idaho and Seattle) are committed to play together next year, unless Idaho gets a proposal it can't refuse from the Big Sky. (UPDATE: They did. Idaho's gone.)

Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are headed for Conference USA.

Texas-Arlington and Texas State, like UTSA, are going the full Texas playboy route, giving the WAC a one-season stand before hopping a cab to the Sun Belt.

San Jose State and Utah State are ready to move to the WAC's bastard offspring, the Mountain West.

Oh, and you just missed Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State. I swear they were just here a minute ago.

So, excuse the WAC if it's feeling a little bit used and abused. I'd be surprised if any of these unfeeling cads even left a fiddy on the nightstand.

As it is, though, all these lame-duck relationships have to co-exist for one more year, and it's still a 10-team league, so who wins?

More on that after the jump.

1. Denver
--Lest anyone forget how close Denver was to something pretty impressive last season, consider this. The Pioneers beat Saint Mary's and Southern Miss at home in addition to a nationally televised pimp-slapping of Middle Tennessee. Add to that a 13-point win at Utah State's usually impregnable Smith Spectrum, a four-point loss at Colorado State, a two-point loss at Iona and a trio of last-second one-point conference losses. If those defeats go the other way, Denver's 27-3 with a Sun Belt regular-season title and wins over four eventual NCAA tournament teams.

Can we say at-large? Out of the Sun Belt? Do you have any idea how bad-ass a team has to be to get an at-large bid from the mothereffing Sun Belt? (Ahem. Pardon my language, and let's move on.)

Granted, two key seniors are gone from this season's Denver team. Brian Stafford and Rob Lewis accounted for a combined 22 PPG, but scorers two through five are back, and they're coming off seasons of staggering (yes, here comes TBI's favorite word...wait for it...) efficiency.

Senior Chase Hallam, junior Chris Udofia and sophomores Brett Olson and Royce O'Neale were the engine of a team that drained 48.7 percent of its shots, the ninth-best percentage in America (but second in the Sun Belt behind fourth-ranked MTSU...just sayin'). Olson, Udofia and O'Neale all sported eFG's above 56%, with Olson's 65.0 ranking in America's top 20.

Udofia made a serious run at the SBC Player of the Year award, ranking fifth in the league in scoring, 12th in assists, third in blocks and fourth in FG%. He did win the Belt's Defensive POY award, and don't be surprised if he does the same in the WAC.

Hallam went down with a back injury right before the conference tournament, and his numbers had already done the same. About the only category that showed improvement from his sophomore season was steals per game, and that was fractional. Still, Hallam returns as the consummate role player, a guy who can easily get you 10-and-5 with a couple of strips when you need it.

Olson, as noted above, was a deadly shooter, knocking 46.2% of his threes to lead the Belt. O'Neale's DR% led the SBC, and he relished getting opponents in foul trouble. His .865 FT% ranked among the top 40 in America.

Beyond those four, a couple of questions remain. Denver was the nation's second-worst rebounding team, primarily because no one dominated the offensive glass. I know, not that they missed that many shots, but still, someone's got to crash the boards. Also, there's no true point guard, but that's less of a concern with DU's Princeton offense.

Size is a big concern; sizable, even. One of the trio of redshirt freshmen Marcus Byrd and Jake Logan and true freshman Dom Samac (6'9", 200) will have to produce in the post.

If coach Joe Scott wants to go three-guard and add another shooter, true freshman Nate Engesser should see plenty of time. The 6'3" gunner ranks in the state of Colorado's all-time top 10 in points, field goals, threes and FT%. Not a ton of depth, but no one in the WAC can match the top of this roster. Injuries will doom the Pioneers, but a healthy DU team should go dancing in March.

2. Utah State
--The Aggies struggled in clutch moments last year. Although they lost 16 games en route to a CIT runner-up finish, 15 of those were by 10 points or less and five were one-possession games. Losing one's point guard and top rebounder sounds like a recipe for further late-game heartache, but coach Stew Morrill doesn't make a habit of stringing together 16-loss seasons.

Guard Preston Medlin is the most gifted offensive player in the WAC, the only guy to rank in the league's top 10 in FG%, FT% and 3P%. He also doesn't kill his team with foolish handling, dishing 1.7 assists for each turnover. The question will be if Morrill and his staff can get a few pounds on Medlin's slight 6'4", 175-pound frame to help him battle on defense.

A newcomer will have to join Medlin in the backcourt. Freshman Marcel Davis is a distributor who knows how to attack the basket (.635 FTR as a high school senior), but needs some work on his outside shot. Juco transfer TeNale Roland is more of a scorer who, unlike Davis, does have a consistent long jumper.

Backcourt depth should be a major strength for the Aggies. Aside from the loser in the Davis/Roland battle, jucos Spencer Butterfield and Marvin Jean and freshmen Riley Bradshaw and Quincy Bair can all contend for time early. Butterfield was a 16-and-8 man in junior college, despite his 6'3" frame. Jean is an athletic defensive stopper, Bradshaw is a shooter with point guard skills, and Bair is a slasher who teamed with Davis in high school. All four can swing both ways.


I meant backcourt to frontcourt, you degenerates. Seriously, this is awkward.


Moving on. Up front, the Aggies are led by 6'6" senior Kyisean Reed. Reed led the WAC in FG%, but didn't leave the paint terribly often, either. His 41 blocks came in handy for the USU defense, but will there be anyone else who can swat a few?

Sophomore Jordan Stone, Oklahoma State transfer Jarred Shaw and LaSalle transfer Matt Lopez all stand 6'10" or taller. Stone may get first crack at a starting spot due to his superior experience.

Another sophomore, 6'7", 220-pound Ben Clifford, may get a shot at a wing position as well. He can be erratic at times, as evidenced in his CIT game against Loyola Marymount. Clifford notched seven points and nine rebounds in only 24 minutes, but also managed to commit seven turnovers. The whole team averaged 12.1 per game last year.

3. New Mexico State
--The other Aggies led the WAC in scoring, thanks to three seniors who left their names all over the school's record books. With Wendell McKines, Hernst Laroche and Hamidu Rahman gone, it's time to take stock of what's left. Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings had three double-figure rebounding games, one of which was part of a studly 28-12-10 trip-dub against Hawaii. (Added five steals in that game, BTW.) Mullings is more of a slasher than a shooter, which got him to the line but often left him unable to convert (.619 FT%). An improved jumper could see him become an All-WAC performer.

The frontcourt will likely consist of seniors Tyrone Watson and Bandja Sy and junior Tshilidzi Nephawe. A pure scorer, Sy will relish the opportunity to put up more shots. He had seven games of 10 or more shots, but started only twice and averaged 21 MPG. Look for him to average 15 PPG on sheer volume alone. Now, about some more rebounding and a little defense...

Watson is a skilled 6'5" point forward who had a highly impressive pair of back-to-back games in February. Against Louisiana Tech and Idaho, he carded totals of 16 points, 10 boards and 15 assists. The assists weren't an aberration, either. He finished with 3.1 per game, second on the team. He could honestly play anywhere other than center, but no doubt he'd try that, too, if coach Marvin Menzies asked him to.

Nephawe helped NMSU go down fighting in its NCAA tournament loss to Indiana with nine points, four rebounds and three blocks. He needs to improve his defensive instincts to cut down on fouls (7.6 hacks per 40 last season with eight DQ's). When he draws fouls, though, he'll convert from the line at a 74% clip.

Point guard is a question mark. Nomadic sophomore K.C. Ross-Miller signed with LSU out of high school, but was never cleared to play, so he bounced from FIU to New Orleans, where he played all of 13 games, before ending up in Las Cruces. Ross-Miller was a 10-3-3 man in his short time with the Privateers, capable of scoring from just about anywhere. He's expected to battle local product Terrel de Rouen for the job, but Menzies could also hand the ball to Watson or Mullings.

Big man depth will come from a couple of veterans and one very enormous newcomer. Juniors Renaldo Dixon and B.J. West have both shown they can produce in short bursts, but the story here is 7'5", 360-pound Canadian import Sim Bhullar. Bhullar has already struggled with a foot injury, which raises a red flag for a man his size. Still, if he and Nephawe can split time with Dixon and West seeing spot duty, the Aggies will almost always have a major size advantage in the post.

Outside of Sy, perimeter shooting is a question. Juco transfer Kevin Aronis drilled 99 long shots last season, so look for him to see some spot duty off the bench.

4. Idaho
--Much like New Mexico State, a strong frontcourt anchors the Idaho lineup. Center Kyle Barone and forward Stephen Madison can both battle for All-WAC honors. They'll have to to make up for a backcourt packed with inexperience.

Barone was a 13-and-8 man last season despite his shooting percentages going down and his rebound percentages holding steady. If Barone can get his shooting back to his sophomore levels, he could clock about 17 PPG. He's been working on his jump shot, and reports have it that he's extending his range near the three-point line. A 6'10" center popping threes is guaranteed to give a coach ulcers. Whether it's the defense's coach or the shooter's coach depends on how successful the shots are, dunnit?

Now, here's the problem: According to the Idaho Statesman, Barone has been suspended from the team indefinitely for the ever-specific "violation of team rules." The indefinite duration will have to be fairly short for both Barone and the Vandals to contend for WAC honors.

Madison is a guy who already has three-point range, and used it to stick 47 bombs last season, making 38% of his attempts. His .564 TS% shows that he can score from anywhere, and he may be granted the green light to do so, especially if Barone misses games.

Three-time juco transfer Marcus Bell should man the four spot, or the five if Barone's suspension persists. The 6'8", 230-pound Bell was a double-double man at two of his three junior colleges, and he redshirted at the other one. Freshman Ty Egbert (6'8", 210) is a good athlete, but will need to be bigger to produce inside. Veterans Joe Kammerer (6'9", 240) and Wendell Faines (6'8", 245) will add depth.

Now, about that backcourt. There are tons of bodies, but not a lot of potent experience.

The primary returning weapon is sophomore Connor Hill, who's kind of a one-trick pony. Hill drilled 38% from deep, but took only 21 two-point shots and 10 free throws all season. He may be best suited for the Vinnie Johnson role: come off the bench, score 12 points in five minutes and leave. Juco transfer Antwan Scott has a more complete game (15.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.7 SPG) and can shoot almost as well. He's only 6'1", but both of last year's starters were 5'11", so meh.

At the point, it's either senior Mike McChristian, juco transfer Denzel Douglas or other juco transfer Robert Harris. Coach Don Verlin says he needs his point guard "not to screw up," according to the Blue Ribbon Yearbook.

Senior Mansa Habeeb and sophomore Matt Borton can also fill minutes in the backcourt.

5. Louisiana Tech
--LaTech was picked last in most preseason pickings last year. All they did in response was tie for fifth and make the conference tourney finals. Coach Michael White will need to have something pretty sweet up his sleeve for an encore, and besides, he's not sneaking up on anyone this time.

Four of the top six scorers are back, including sophomore Raheem Appleby. After playing nine minutes in Tech's first six games, Appleby never played fewer than 23 in any game thereafter. He dropped 15 or more points in 19 of the 28 games where he saw serious minutes. He'll need some defensive polishing, but Appleby should remain one of the WAC's top scoring threats for three more years.

Four other guards have the ability to play solid minutes, and only one is a senior. That senior, Brandon Gibson, is a 6'5" ball of misfortune who's lost chunks of seasons to a foot injury and a torn ACL. In a fully healthy season last year, he led the Bulldogs in rebounding, although he struggled with his shot. Another 6'5" player, junior Cordarius Johnson, should battle Gibson for two-guard minutes. Johnson was third on the team with 9.6 PPG last season, but his .345 three-point shooting could use a little tightening up itself, since he took more than half his shots from deep.

Junior Kenyon McNeail and sophomore Kenny Smith (no, not that one) are prepared to battle for point-guard minutes. Smith is a true distributor (4.2 APG) who can also crash the glass (3.6 RPG). In a win over Northwestern State last December, Smith fell one assist short of the rare rebound/assist double-double. McNeail is more of a scorer, but that's not to say that he's a consistent producer. One thing that both men did well was strip opposing handlers. They ranked eighth and 14th, respectively, in steals per game.

The frontcourt has some questions about how it can handle the interior battles. Senior J.L. Lewis and sophomores Michale Kyser and Isaiah Massey all stand 6'8" or taller, but White really needs to see more out of the 210-pound Kyser. Kyser blocked 60 shots last season, breaking Paul Millsap's Tech freshman record and finishing second in the conference despite only playing 13.5 MPG. His rebounding was decent, but he struggled to score inside due to a lack of bulk.

Lewis's playing time dwindled late in the year, but he had flashes early (20 and 11 against SE Louisiana). Massey has struggled with knee injuries the past two years, but he can eat rebounds when he's healthy.

Wing scoring, when not coming from the guards listed above, could come from juco transfer Jaron Johnson (14 PPG) or freshman Alex Hamilton (18 PPG, 4 SPG).

Tech has an insane amount of perimeter talent, but it'll take someone like Kyser or Lewis exploding into an All-WAC player for the frontcourt to keep up. Rebounding will be key if Tech wants to start more fast breaks.

6. Texas-Arlington
--The Texas-Arlington Mavericks used to play on a stage more fitting for these Mavericks.

Seriously, their previous venue, Texas Hall, was primarily a theater. Now, entering their second year in a real honest-to-God arena, the Mavs are also entering a new conference, a bigger stage if you will, even if they are only staying for a year before moving again.

Their top two scorers are gone, but look for frontcourt duo Jordan Reves and Kevin Butler to pick up the slack. Reves made great scoring progress last season and was one of the Southland Conference's top rebounders. At 6'10" and 240, he shouldn't have a ton of trouble doing the same in the WAC. A double-double average isn't out of the question.

Butler worked on his shot, looking to become a greater offensive threat. He'll likely need to score more than 11 PPG to keep Arlington the same high-scoring team they were last season. One thing Butler doesn't need to change is his tremendous hustle on the boards and the defensive end (5.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG).

Frontcourt depth could be plentiful for the Mavs. Junior Brandon Edwards is a force on the glass and can score inside with many WAC starters, even though he was a Southland reserve last season. An odd drop in his FT% (.857 to .542) may have been a big factor keeping him chained to the bench last year. He could see starts at the four this year.

Freshman Deon Rodgers (6'6", 265) was a 14-10 man with four blocks a night in high school. While the blocks may not be realistic in college, he has the brute strength to command the lane. He's still working on conditioning, though, so minutes may be few to start off. Juco transfer Greg Gainey and senior Karol Gruszecki will fill any remaining minutes.

Point guard Shaquille White-Miller (5'9", 165) is a company man, all about making the right pass and playing pesky defense. He's not a dominant shooter, nor does he look to be. He may need to fire more often, though, to keep defenses from sagging onto Reves and Butler.

Texas Tech transfer Jamel Outler may get first look at the shooting guard spot. He didn't play much in Lubbock, but he did show that he could stroke a jumper in his five minutes per game. Coach Scott Cross will try to get him to improve his shot selection and his defensive skills, but for now, shooting is what will keep Outler in the game.

Juco transfer Vincent Dillard and freshman Drew Charles will provide rest for White-Miller and Outler. Dillard may press White-Miller for time, as he adds scoring punch to point guard instincts.

7. Texas State
--Texas State and UTSA will both be in their third conference in as many years next season. Unlike UTSA, the Bobcats weren't all that hot in the Southland. The profile bump of moving to the Sun Belt isn't as pronounced as the one San Antonio's getting in Conference USA, but TSA (no, not that one) will at least look more desirable, kind of like a married guy with lots of chicks hitting on him...not that I know anything about that, but anyway.

Forward Matt Staff will leave an impression in his brief WAC stay. Staff was a 13-and-8 man in the Southland, and coach Doug Davalos has expressed pride in the offseason work Staff put into making himself stronger for his senior year. A 15-10 season could be well within Staff's reach.

There are only two things that will keep Staff from averaging a double-double: juco transfers Joel Wright and Corey Stern. The two are both tough inside players who could Hoover a lot of rebounds out of Staff's grasp. Wright was also a 15-PPG man at Blinn (Tex.) JC, aka That Place Cam Newton Went After Tossing Laptops Out Windows. If he gets starter's minutes next to Staff, this could be one of the WAC's more potent frontlines.

Small forward Reid Koenen welcomes Wright and Stern with open arms, because now he doesn't have to fight with fours anymore. Koenen's a better shooter than rebounder and low-post defender. Extra size will come from 6'9" sophomore Nick Hinton and 240-pound senior Gordon Ball, who can dominate the glass in limited minutes (seven boards in 10 minutes against Corpus Christi last January).

In the backcourt, point guard Vonn Jones does everything a coach wants from a point guard except shoot (.374 FG% last season). He may, however, lose a few minutes to a guy who can shoot, juco transfer Phil Hawkins. Hawkins dropped almost 11 PPG for Paris JC last season and shot 84% at the foul line. He's got 30 pounds on Jones, so he's better equipped to handle physical defenders and get to the basket.

Two newcomers will challenge sophomore Wesley Davis for the off-guard spot. Recruited as a shooter, Davis wasn't so hot at that particular skill last season (26% from deep), but he did manage 1.6 SPG in 20 minutes. Juco Deonte' Jones and Arlington transfer Darius Richardson may wind up in a platoon arrangement if they both outplay Davis. Jones is a capable perimeter defender and Richardson is a strong shooter and scorer. Richardson (6'4", 205) could also challenge Koenen at the three.

8. Texas-San Antonio
--As mentioned above, next season makes three leagues in three years for UTSA coach Brooks Thompson and his staff. Scouting has to be hell. The relentless move up will surely enhance long-term recruiting, but there could be some pain in the short term.

Three of UTSA's top four scorers are back, including guard Kannon Burrage, who scored 13.5 PPG despite playing only 24.5 MPG and only starting four games. (And on a sidenote, how awesome a shooter name would this be if the surname was pronounced "barrage"?) Look for him to start and score a lot more, potentially challenging for All-WAC honors.

Senior Michael Hale III does just about everything you need from a point guard: he can hit threes when needed, he plays sturdy defense and, of course, takes good care of the ball. He dropped 26 points on Oklahoma State in his third Division I game, and while he won't need to do that every night, 10 or more will be an expectation.

Juco transfer Hyjii Thomas and redshirt freshman A.J. Price are strong athletes capable of playing either backcourt position. Price's defense should be especially valuable.

Forward Jeromie Hill has proven he can score (13 PPG through his first two seasons). He's pulled 6.5 RPG through two years, as well, but he can likely do better if he decides to embrace the fighting in the low post. Averaging 15-and-8 will certainly get Hill some postseason honors.

Big Larry Wilkins (6'4", 250) is back for a sixth season, and he relishes that fighting that Hill shies away from. More size and meanness will come from a pair of new bigs, 6'10" Triton "Tank" Mayberry and 6'8", 240-pound Edrico McGregor. McGregor may see more minutes early as the 295-pound Mayberry gets his cardio right, and both should be effective rebounders and post defenders.

9. Seattle
--You all remember Elgin Baylor, right? Okay, for those who remember him only as the shitty GM of the LA Clippers, he was also a Hall of Fame player for the Lakers. Before that, though, he went to Seattle University and took his team all the way to the NCAA championship game in 1958.

Now, that's not happening again this year, but the move to the WAC lends an official air to the Redhawks' return to Division I. Half the scoring is gone from last year's team, but returning junior Sterling Carter is all about replacing those points. He may even try to do it all himself.

Carter loves to shoot the rock, evidenced by his 420 three-point tries over his last two years. He hammered Longwood for 28 points in 16 minutes last March, draining 8-of-16 from deep. Games like that may not become the norm, but he will get his in coach Cameron Dollar's offense.

Point guard should become the province of juco import D'Vonne Pickett. Pickett was rated as high as the No. 2 junior college point guard in America by one service after a freshman season in which he averaged 18.8 points, 7.6 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game.

Depth is essential in Dollar's rotation, so guards Allen Tate, Prince Obasi and Jarell Flora will certainly get chances to contribute. Obasi in particular is Dollar's favorite Swiss army knife, capable of playing strong defense and securing the ball at either position. Freshman David Trimble caught Dollar's attention on a summer tour of China, so he may earn some time as well.

Up front, the story starts with 6'6", 225-pound junior Clarence Trent. The former Washington Husky is a solid rebounder and scorer who needs to stay near the mid-range area on offense. He took 62 threes last season and made only 13 of them. His strength and athleticism will better serve him in getting to the basket than in trying to make it rain.

Seniors Chad Rasmussen and Louis Green are the most experienced players in Dollar's frontcourt. Rasmussen is a solid shooter and passer, while the 6'9", 240-pound Green brings inside muscle. Three other 6'8"-plus players will help off the bench, including 6'11" Englishman Jack Crook. Crook can shoot and pass well for his size, but is deceptively strong inside as well. Elgin Baylor would approve.

10. San Jose State
--Last season, San Jose State couldn't score, but allowed others to with impunity. The Spartans led the league in free-throw shooting, but struggled in nearly every other category. One word summed up their 2011-12 WAC campaign: Blecch.

This season, what's different? Point guard Keith Shamburger bailed for Hawaii and second-leading scorer Wil Oliver graduated. The returning weapon is guard James Kinney, who is one of the WAC's deadliest shooters. Kinney took nearly one-third of the Spartans' shots last year, and that was with a veteran point guard and a talented scoring forward on the roster. If the over/under for this season is 50%, anyone want to bet the over?

With all the shots, though, Kinney only made about 40% overall. He had more turnovers than assists, but again, with all the shots, it's a surprise he had any assists to begin with. Kinney will remain the top gun in San Jose, but will anyone else be able to fire live ammo?

Sophomore D.J. Brown dropped 33 on Cal State Bakersfield last season, but almost immediately afterward, he suffered a wrist injury (repetitive motion strain, perhaps?) and his shooting cratered. Over SJSU's final 10 games, Brown made only 19 of 72 shots, a dismal .264 percentage. Only seven of his last 40 three-pointers dropped. If he's healthy, he could approach 40% from deep. Both he and Kinney are solid passers when they're not chucking, and Brown is much more secure with the ball, so he may be the new point guard.

Senior Lavanne Pennington, sophomore Nick Grieves and juco Xavier Jones will battle for more backcourt minutes.

In the frontcourt, Santa Clara transfer Chris Cunningham is the top name. The 6'8", 230-pound junior averaged 4.4-2.8 in about 15 minutes during the 2010-11 season. He's a strong rebounder who could become a proficient inside scorer in the WAC.

Freshman David Andoh (6'7", 200) is an interesting prospect, and coach George Nessman's challenge with him will be to integrate him into a team offense. Andoh has a reputation as a ball-stopper, and the Spartans already have one of those.

Size shouldn't be a problem if centers Mike VanKirk (7'1", 240) and Alex Brown (6'11", 210) can perform early. Brown is the superior athlete, but once again, VanKirk is 7'1" and 240. Remember, you can't teach big.

Sophomore Stephon Smith (6'8", 260) should be either behind or next to Cunningham in the lineup. Smith went for 21 points and 14 boards in a pair of meetings with Nevada, but was shut out in the third. Consistent production from him will help the Spartans compete on the glass the way they couldn't last year.

In this section: each team's most compelling non-conference game, weighted for visibility and chance of a win.
Denver: Nov. 21 vs. Colorado State
--DU gets the in-state rival at Magness Arena, looking to set the record straight from last season. Both return most of their top guys, so it'll carry a superfight atmosphere.
Idaho: Nov. 28 at Washington State
--Kyle Barone vs. Brock Motum is a pretty decent battle of the cattle, and the Cougars are vulnerable to a lot of non-con upsets this season.
Louisiana Tech: Dec. 8 vs. Southern Miss
--Not a lot else on this slate, honestly. Southern Miss returns Tech's home game with a team that looks a lot different from last year's.
New Mexico State: Nov. 17 vs. Bucknell (2K Sports Classic Regional, Niagara, NY)
--The Aggies' bigs get a close-up look at a skilled low-post operator in Bucknell's Mike Muscala.
San Jose State: Dec. 11 vs. Santa Clara
--Chris Cunningham takes on his old school. What, you expected the body-bag game at the Phog?
Seattle: Dec. 13 vs. Washington
--The Redhawks are the home team for this one, even if KeyArena will have a lot of purple in it.
Texas-Arlington: Nov. 16 vs. Oklahoma
--Probable blowout, but it's not often a Big XII contender makes it to Arlington.
Texas-San Antonio: Dec. 4 at Mississippi State
--Seriously, every minor-conference foe on MSU's schedule has to have them circled. Seriously, that team looks shabby.
Texas State: Nov. 9 vs. Fordham
--At home against an A-10 team, even if it is a bottom-feeder, and the matchup to watch pits Matt Staff against Fordham's resident double-double machine Chris Gaston. I'd watch...if it wasn't opening day and there weren't a metric ton of other games on.
Utah State: Nov. 15 vs. Saint Mary's
--Perennial NCAA tournament teams led by gifted offensive guards. Yes, please.

Medlin is very happy at TBI's choice.
G James Kinney, San Jose State (6'2", 180, Sr.)
--He and Medlin could wage a total war for the WAC scoring lead.
G Preston Medlin, Utah State (6'4", 175, Jr.)
--Almost no one's more efficient offensively. If he integrates with a new point guard the way he did with Brockeith Pane, the Aggies might make the real tournament again. Player of the Year.
G Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State (6'2", 170, Soph.)
--Will have to stuff stat sheets and make his jumpers to keep the Other Aggies afloat.
F Matt Staff, Texas State (6'10", 220, Sr.)
--Will he lose anything in translation from the Southland to the WAC? Says here, probably not.
F Chris Udofia, Denver (6'6", 194, Jr.)
--Major athlete who will make life hell for opponent's best scorer every night.

G Raheem Appleby, Louisiana Tech (6'2", 160, Soph.)
--Michael White should never have him on the bench unless the referee says so.
C Kyle Barone, Idaho (6'10", 220, Sr.)
--Not expecting the suspension to be too lengthy, but consider this a hedge. Without the suspension, he'd be first-team.
F Jeromie Hill, Texas-San Antonio (6'8", 230, Jr.)
--A more hard-nosed Hill could press for first-team selection, as long as the deep shots still fall around 40% of the time.
F Royce O'Neale, Denver (6'5", 202, Soph.)
--Not built for high rebounding totals, but he gets them anyway. Will need to score a little more to help make up for veteran losses.
C Jordan Reves, Texas-Arlington (6'10", 240, Sr.)
--If he averages 15 and 10, Arlington may very well push for the top four.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Preston Medlin, Utah State
COACH OF THE YEAR: Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State
--All eyes are on him with three iconic seniors gone. Keeping the Aggies near the top would be a feat.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Joel Wright, Texas State
--Staff can average a dub-dub, but the team might be even better served if he and Wright are each at around 14-8.

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