Archive | October, 2012

Three tiers of teams in this year’s WAC (A conference mini-preview)

25 Oct

Going into the 2012-13 season, there has been as much change within the WAC as there has been in any conference in the last 5 years.

Three of last season’s conference teams have departed, to be replaced by 5 new teams, including (obviously) Seattle University. But based on the amount of roster turnover, along with their recent history, it looks like the Redhawks will struggle to find themselves among the top tier in the WAC this year.

Here’s a quick look at which conference teams look likely to challenge for the title, which could surprise, and which are still building.

Top tier – the true contenders

Denver – 22-9 last year in Sun Belt, returning 4 starters. Beat Utah State on road last year, had a bunch of nice non-conference wins and played in a fairly strong Sun Belt conference, finishing 11-5.

New Mexico State – 26-10 last season, made NCAA tournament, returning 2 starters. The Aggies lost 40ppg in 3 starters to graduation. They were dominant in New Mexico, going 14-3 at home last season.

Utah State – 21-16 last year, returning 3 starters. The returnees include Preston Medlin, possibly the best player in the conference. Coach Stew Morrill has a career 345-119 record at USU.

Mid tier – teams with talent that could surprise

UT Arlington – 24-9 last year in Southland, made NIT, returning 3 starters. They did lose their 2 leading scorers. The solid 2012 record included a 1-1 total against WAC teams last year and a loss to Washington in the NIT.

Idaho – 19-14 last year, returning 2 starters. One returning starter is star center Kyle Barone, maybe the best big man in the conference.

Louisiana Tech – 18-16 last year, returning 3 starters. Tech features quite a few solid guards but virtually no proven post players.

Lower tier – teams with more questions than answers

UT San Antonio – 18-14 last year in Southland, returning 2 starters. The Roadrunners lost 3 games in OT last year, and have a challenging early schedule, with only 1 regular season home game before WAC play begins.

Seattle – 12-15 last year as independent, returning 2 starters. In all, there are 8 returning players for the Redhawks, only one of which came to Seattle U directly from High School (Jarell Flora).

San Jose State – 9-22 last year, returning 3 starters. The returning starters averaged 22 ppg combined, but the Spartans do add transfer Chris Cunningham from Santa Clara.

Texas State – 13-17 last year in Southland, returning 3 starters. It could be a long season for the Bobcats, who will play in the Great Alaska Shootout. Transfer Corey Stern is from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.


My NCAA top 25 preseason teams

23 Oct

I don’t get a vote in the national AP poll – which, let’s be honest, is a good thing. But if I did, here’s how my top 25 teams would shake out.
#1 – Kentucky (Yeah, I don’t like them either, but winning a national championship automatically puts you at the top)

#2 – Indiana (Tons and tons of talent, and might as well be 1A)

#3 – Louisville (A title contender if Peyton Siva can put it all together… which is a very open question)

#4 – Ohio State (Missed a trip to last year’s title game by 2 points, and could repeat Final Four run even without Jared Sullinger)

#5 – North Carolina State (Four returning starters from a Sweet 16 team. CJ Leslie is the real deal)

#6 – Syracuse (The injuries and allegations that clouded their path to serious title contention last year should be gone)

#7 – Michigan (Some great players, but quite an inexperienced supporting cast)

#8 – Kansas (Losing Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson means losing heart of the Final Four team… but they’re still Kansas)

#9 – Florida (Really strong non-conference schedule will give RPI a huge boost)

#10 – UCLA (Wear twins can match up against almost any frontcourt in the country)

#11 – Memphis (So much young talent, especially guards, and lost almost nobody from last season)

#12 – Duke (Will have to prove elite status this year after hilariously losing to Lehigh in NCAA tournament)

#13 – Arizona (Don’t sleep on Solomon Hill, or any team coached by Sean Miller)

#14 – North Carolina (Lost 4 very good players to NBA, so they could stumble early on)

#15 – Creighton (Get ready to hear the name Doug McDermott about a million times this year)

#16 – Michigan State (Almost a default top-25 team as long as Tom Izzo remains coach)

#17 – Baylor (No Perry Jones III or Quincy Acy – can Pierre Jackson carry this team? Remains to be seen)

#18 – Gonzaga (If Elias Harris gets his head right, look out for the Bulldogs in March, as supporting cast is top-notch)

#19 – Missouri (Heart of last year’s dominant team is gone, but don’t be surprised if Frank Haith puts another contender together)

#20 – San Diego State (Carrier Classic vs. Syracuse to open season will be huge test for Aztecs)

#21 – Wisconsin (How does everyone seem to forget about the Badgers nearly every single year?)

#22 – Murray State (Going 31-2 earns my respect. Plus Isaiah Canaan, one of the country’s best, is just a junior)

#23 – Saint Mary’s (Randy Bennett seems to build a new contender every year – an easier task with sharpshooter Matthew Dellavedova)

#24 – Marquette (Lost a lot from last year’s 3-seed team, but still with many talented pieces like Vander Blue)

#25 – Saint Louis (Billikens are one of country’s most well-rounded teams)

Just missed – Notre Dame, UNLV, Minnesota, VCU, Florida State

Redhawks starting lineup has 2 near-locks, 3 tough position battles

19 Oct

With the opening day matchup against Montana State nearing for the Seattle Redhawks, the team has several questions to answer. Mainly, who will take the court for tipoff on that day, aside from three referees and five players in Montana colors that we’ve never heard of.

Seattle figures to use a traditional lineup at times, but possibly will be switching to something like a 3-guard, 1-forward, 1-center alignment based on the number of quality guards and sketchy big men.

There’s only two real locks for the starting lineup. The other three positions could be very fluid, possibly even changing as the season goes on. Here’s my take on the Redhawks potential starting 5:

POINT GUARD: Prince Obasi seems to have the early advantage for this position, as a part-time starter last season. He’s also a senior and had nearly a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season. Transfer D’vonne Pickett, a Seattle product by way of an Arizona junior college, figures to start on the bench, but could get the majority of backup minutes. Sophomore combo guard Jarell Flora could get time backing up here as well.

SHOOTING GUARD: This is the easiest position on the roster to call, by far: Sterling Carter. If the Redhawks are going to be a force in the WAC this season, he’s going to need to become more than just a streaky shooter. Flora, Allen Tate and David Trimble will fight for minutes behind him, and freshman Luiz Bidart probably won’t play much.

SWINGMAN: With the roster the Redhawks have assembled that’s heavy on guards, a 3-guard lineup is very possible. Allen Tate could fill this role, but I’d start Chad Rasmussen. Tate’s a lockdown defender, Rasmussen’s a shooter. But the 6’7” Rasmussen will match up better against forwards from other teams on defense, and provide more of a consistent scoring threat.

FORWARD: Clarence Trent will most likely be the starter at the 4-spot. He was a good supporting player last year, although very inconsistent – can he make the step up to being one of the cornerstones of the Redhawks for the next two years? A lot rides on the 6’6” junior’s shoulders. Deshaun Sunderhaus and T.J. Diop will back him up, although Trent figures to play the majority of every contest.

CENTER: This battle is wide-open. Senior Louis Green is probably the most consistent returning player, although he is very limited. Same for Diop, who could get backup minutes here. The real question is with 6’11” true freshman Jack Crook. If the big British boy impresses, he could have a real shot to get serious playing time this season.

Nonconference schedule analysis: Seattle University

12 Oct

I liked ESPN’s recent series of analyzing the nonconference schedules of teams in the 12 “major” conferences,  so since they inexplicably (or, perhaps, explicably) left out our Redhawks out of their I decided to put together a quick look at Seattle U’s early-season schedule.

Toughest: At Virginia (Nov. 17), at Stanford (Nov. 28), Washington (Dec. 13)

Next toughest: Boise State (Dec. 2)

The rest: Montana State (Nov. 11), Pacific Lutheran (Nov. 21), at Eastern Washington (Dec. 10), Jackson State (Dec. 17), Northern Illinois (Dec. 19), Campbell (Dec. 22), CSU-Bakersfield (Mar. 6 in Kent)

Toughness Scale (1-10): 6 – The recent addition of that home game with Boise State makes this lineup look a lot better. Aside from the Washington rivalry game, there weren’t any games with high- or mid-majors at home. There ARE two really good road contests against likely NCAA tournament teams in Virginia and Stanford. And quite a few cupcakes at home to round out the schedule and provide a relatively secure win boost. Not a bad mix for a team in its first season of conference play.

Utah Valley, CSU Bakersfield officially join WAC, millions celebrate

9 Oct

Ok, so ‘millions’ might be a bit strong. The national media wasn’t exactly going gaga over two independent schools joining a third-tier conference.

But those two independent schools entering the WAC means a great deal to Seattle University.

Now that UVU and CSU-B will be WAC members starting with the 2013-14 season, the WAC appears to be assured of at least short-term survival. Having six members – along with Seattle, New Mexico State, Idaho and Denver – will allow the conference to retain its NCAA qualifying status for a two-year provisional period, and its bids into the NCAA tournament.

After two years, that will go away, and the conference will need at least seven members, but that leaves the WAC with two years to find one more school. Suddenly, the WAC’s survival is a much less daunting task.

And it means Seattle U might have an easier route into the NCAA tournament in two years. That’s good!

Here’s some quotes from the press release earlier today.

CSU Bakersfield and Utah Valley University accepting our invitation to join the WAC is great news as our conference
looks to a very promising future. These two fine institutions are making significant investments in their athletic
programs, and we look forward to the many ways they will help the WAC build on its great tradition and national reputation.” -Stephen Sundborg, Seattle University President

Both [schools] are quality institutions and bring high level competitive and academic qualities to the 2013-14 membership. We are excited to begin the process of rebuilding the WAC and will continue to work to reestablish the league as one
of the top Division I conferences in the West.” – Jeff Hurd, interim WAC commissioner

Some quick thoughts about the WAC adding two members

8 Oct

It’s been reported that sometime this week, the Western Athletic Conference will add two members, Utah Valley University and Cal State Bakersfield. Both schools are relatively new to Division I athletics, and both have not been part of a recognized NCAA Division I conference.

If the two schools get added, the WAC will be up to six members starting next year, including Seattle University. That’s enough to retain NCAA qualifying status for a two-year period, meaning the NCAA tournament bid will still be up for grabs.

After the two-year period, the WAC will have to have at least seven members to keep that bid, so the conference can’t be done expanding.

This all becomes moot if Idaho decides to skip town and join the Big Sky instead. That would leave the conference with five members, and if the WAC then went the most likely route – adding another independent school like Texas Pan American – the conference would pretty much be doomed. Every member left would be looking for a way out as fast as possible.

We’ll wait and see what they say at the press conference announcing the additions of the two schools, expected to happen sometime this week. For now, at least it’s a good thing that Seattle U’s WAC isn’t dead quite yet.

%d bloggers like this: