Saturday, November 1, 2008

Teams to Watch

We at BIAH have already talked about some of the mid-majors expected to garner national attention this year - St. Mary's, Davidson, and Kent State to name a few. But there are a lot other schools out there beyond the scope of the national media that are talented and could ruin quite a few brackets come tournament time. Here's a quick look at six of those schools.

Vermont: The Catamounts had a bit of a down year in '07-'08, going just 16-15 and 9-7 in America East play, but they return their top two players, 2nd team all-AE Mike Trimboli and AE player of the year Marqus Blakely. Trimboli, a senior, is a crafty play maker at the point that can score (17.6 ppg) and create shots for teammates (4.5 apg). He has really improved his decision making, as he has cut his turnovers and upped his FG% every year in Burlington, but he still has a habit of forcing shots and trying to make tough passes. Marqus Blakely (if you read this blog, you may remember him) is one of the most fun players in the country to watch. He is only 6'5", but he posted averages of 11.0 rpg and 2.7 bpg to go along with his 19.0 ppg. He is able to get by playing inside because of his incredible athleticism and length. The inside-outside combo of Trimboli and Blakely is one of the most underrated in the country. UVM adds Michigan State transfers Maurice Joseph, a 6'4" wing that should give the Cats three all-conference caliber players. The Cats also have a solid core of role players, including forwards Evan Fjeld and Colin McIntosh, that should make them the immediate favorite in the AE.

RPI Boosters:

  • 11/15 - George Mason
  • 11/21 - @Maryland
  • 12/6 - @Pitt
  • 12/27-12/30 - Rainbow classic in Hawaii

Siena: Last season, the Saints went 23-11 and earned the MAAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tourney where they exploded onto the national scene with an 83-62 drubbing of Vanderbilt (yeah, they beat Stanford, but they were without Brook Lopez and it was early in the season, so no one cared). This year's Saints team will be very similar, as they lose just two guys from their rotation and return their top four scorers. The best player on the Saints is Kenny Hasbrouck, the MAAC's preseason player of the year. Hasbrouck was the second leading scorer for Siena, averaging 16.1 ppg, but was also one of their best perimeter defenders. Hasbrouck, a senior, is so effective because he can score in a variety of ways, best exemplified by the 30 points he put on Vandy - he was 9-14 from the floor, 2-5 from deep, and 10-10 from the line. Edwin Ubiles was the Saints leading scorer last season at 17.1 ppg. He is a tremendous athlete with a quick first step, and at 6'6" he is long enough to get his shot off against basically anyone in the MAAC. PG Ronald Moore (8.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) and PF Alex Franklin (14.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are both excellent players, and the Saints have a deep bench and a great supporting cast. This team has already proved they can beat the big boys (Stanford, Vandy), so expect more of the same this season.

RPI Boosters:
  • 11/27-11/30 - Old Spice Classic: 1st game against Tennessee
  • 12/17 - @Pitt
  • 1/6 - @Kansas
  • 2/21 - BracketBusters

American: American gave Tennessee all it could handle in the first round of last year's NCAA's, and bring back basically the same team. The strength of the Eagles will once again be their back court, with senior Garrison Carr leading the way. Carr is one of the best shooters in the country (hitting 135-299 3's, good for a ridiculous 45%), and once he gets it going he is tough to slow down. Senior PG Derrick Mercer also returns. Mercer, who is just 5'9", is very good at getting into the lane and finding shooters around him, but he can also score (he averaged 12.4 ppg last year, second on the team). Bryce Simon and Brian Gilmore, two senior forwards, are both solid contributors as well. This is the year for the Eagles if they want to win a couple games in the tournament, as their four best players are all seniors.

RPI Boosters:
  • 11/14 - @Oklahoma
  • 12/6 - @Georgetown
  • 12/17 - @George Washington
  • 12/22 - @Maryland

Wright State: The Raiders play in the Horizon League, better known as "that conference Butler is in", but WSU is just a year removed from the conference regular season and tournament crowns. While they had a bit of a down year last season (is 21-10 really a down year?), the Raiders look like they are ready to return to form. Wright State hung their hat on their defensive prowess last season, holding opponent's to just 60.4 ppg. They return their entire starting back court with juniors Vaughn Duggins (1st team all HL, 13.8 ppg) and Todd Brown (12.7 ppg) and fifth year point guard Will Graham (5.9 ppg, 3.5 apg). Inside, Ronnie Thomas, Cooper Lande, and Gavin Horne should battle it out for the two starting spots, and newcomers Scott Grote (a transfer from Duquense) and Cory Cooperwood (a two-time JuCo all-american) should provide the Raiders with quality depth.

RPI Boosters:
  • 12/14 - @Wake Forest
  • 12/20-12/22 - San Juan shootout - Oral Roberts, South Florida, Murray State
  • 2/21 - BracketBusters

Murray State: While the Racers have not yet returned to level they were at when they dominated the Ohio Valley conference in the '90's (9 titles in 10 years), they will put a very talented squad on the court this year. While they lose leading scorer Bruce Carter, Murray State still returns four starters. Danero Thomas is a 6'4" forward who is the Racers best perimeter defender, but he can also put the ball in the basket (12.4 ppg). 6'2" SG Tyler Holloway is the best shooter on the team, hitting at a 46% clip last season. Kevin Thomas, a senior point guard, is a quality play maker that doesn't turn the ball over (136 assists vs. 69 turnovers). Tony Easley, a 6'9" forward, is the Racers best inside presence, posting 9.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg averages. Also added to the mix are Florida's 4A-5A-6A player of the year Ivan Iska, a 6'7", 230 lb beast, and Isaac Miles, a sophomore who transferred from Creighton after a freshman season that landed him on the all-rookie team.

RPI Boosters:
  • 12/13 - @Missouri
  • 12/20-12/22 - @San Juan shootout - South Florida, Oral Roberts, and Wright State
  • 2/21 - BracketBusters

Cornell: Cornell is coming off of one of their best seasons in history, going 22-6 and 14-0 in the Ivy. The Big Red return four starters from that team, including their top three scorers. Louis Dale, the reigning Ivy League player of the year, is one of the all around points guards you will see this year. He averaged 13.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 4.4 rpg while racking up 34 steals. Ryan Wittman, a 1st team all-Ivy pick in '07-'08, is a 6'6" forward with a deadly jump shot that. Adam Gore, another potential all-league player, tore his ACL in September, and is expected back sometime in January. Alex Tyler is a good forward, and 7'0" Jeff Foote should slide into the starting line-up and provide the Big Red with some good size inside.

RPI Boosters:
  • 11/17 - St. John's in preseason NIT
  • 11/30 - @Indiana
  • 12/3 - @Syracuse
  • 12/6 - @Minnesota
  • 12/20 - LaSalle
  • 12/22 - @St. Joe's

1 comment:

Peter Robert Casey said...

Hope Cornell fulfills its potential. I enjoy watching them.