Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011-2012 Top 50 Countdown: Nos. 40-36

Over the coming weeks, we will be counting down our Top 50 teams in the country. Teams 26-50 will be posted in groups of five, while we will count backwards from No. 25 to the No. 1 team in the country. You can find a complete schedule of our 2011-2012 Season Preview coverage here. To browse through the rest of the Top 50, click here.

40. George Mason Patriots:

Last Season: 27-7, 16-2 (Colonial)

Head Coach: Paul Hewitt

Key Losses: Luke Hancock, Cam Long, Isaiah Tate, Jim Larranaga

New Additions: Eric Copes, Corey Edwards, Vaughn Gray

Projected Lineup:

- G: Andre Cornelius, Sr.
- G: Vertrail Vaughns, So.
- F: Sherrod Wright, So.
- F: Ryan Pearson, Sr.
- C: Mike Morrison, Sr.
- Bench: Eric Copes, Fr.; Corey Edwards, Fr.; Bryon Allen, So.; Johnny Williams, Jr.; Vaughn Gray, Fr.

Outlook: George Mason is going to be a very interesting team to watch this season. On the surface, this team looks to have the pieces necessary to win the CAA title even with the change in coaching regimes. They start three seniors, they have a big and talented front line, and they have a couple of young kids that should be able to excel playing a role. Ryan Pearson -- a crafty and bearded 6'7" lefty that looks and plays like the old guy at the park -- will have to take over the role of go-to guy for this team, and should be capable of doing so. Mike Morrison and Eric Copes should provide plenty of size, rebounding and shot-blocking on the interior. Andre Cornelius, when (if?) he returns from a suspension for an arrest for credit card fraud, is their senior ball-handler. Vertrail Vaughns is a sharp-shooting off-guard that did a lot of damage in limited minutes. Sherrod Wright missed last season with an injury, but he had some big games late in his freshman year. The question mark, as I see it, will be replacing the playmaking of Luke Hancock and Cam Long. Those two were responsible for 240 of Mason's 483 assists last year. Can freshman Corey Edwards or sophomore Bryon Allen play the role of creator? Will Cornelius, Wright or Vaughns be able to expand their game? If yes, Mason should once again be competing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

39. Drexel Dragons:

Last Season: 21-10, 11-7

Head Coach: Bruiser Flint

Key Losses: Gerald Colds

New Additions: Damion Lee, Tavon Allen, Aquil Younger, Casey Carroll, Kazembe Abif

Projected Lineup:

- G: Franz Massenat, So.
- G: Chris Fouch, Jr.
- G: Derrick Thomas, Sr.
- F: Samme Givens, Sr.
- F: Daryl McCoy, Jr.
- Bench: Dartaye Ruffin, So.; Damion Lee, Fr.; Tavon Allen, Fr.; Aquil Younger, Fr.; Casey Carroll, Fr.; Kazembe Abif Fr.

Outlook: Drexel returns six of the seven players that were in their rotation from last season's 20-win team and will be a trendy pick to win the conference this season. Drexel is one of the most unique teams in the country playing the game in the simplest manner -- getting stops. They led the country in defensive rebounding percentage and were seventh nationally in defensive effective field goal percentage, which is a long-winded way of saying they forced their opponents into taking tough shots and then cleaned the glass on those misses. Expect more of the same this year. The undersized Samme Givens is a potential player of the year in the league, a guy that, at 6'5", averaged a double-double last season. With Daryl McCoy and Dartaye Ruffin joining him up front, the front court should once again be rugged, physical and dominant on the glass. Sophomore Franz Massenat will be expected to, once again, be a playmaking force on the offensive end of the floor. Their are two keys to the season. The first is on the offensive end of the floor. Derrick Thomas will be counted on to up his production on the perimeter, but more importantly Chris Fouch is going to have to stay healthy. Fouch was as dangerous as any perimeter threat at the mid-major level early in the season, but he went cold late in the year as injuries kept him out of practice and out of a rhythm. The other key will be their depth. They have a solid, five-man recruiting class. If a couple of those guys can become reliable options on the bench, Drexel will make quite a bit of noise.

38. Purdue Boilermakers:

Last Season: 26-8, 14-4

Head Coach: Matt Painter

Key Losses: JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Patrick Bade

New Additions: Jacob Lawson, Donnie Hale, Anthony Johnson,

Projected Lineup:

- G: Lewis Jackson, Sr.
- G: Ryne Smith, Jr.
- F: DJ Byrd, Jr.
- F: Robbie Hummel, Sr.
- C: Travis Carroll, So.
- Bench: Kelsey Barlow, Jr.; John Hart, Jr.; Terone Johnson, So.; Anthony Johnson, Fr.; Jacob Lawson, Fr.; Donnie Hale, Fr.; Sandi Marcius, So.

Outlook: Purdue is one of the most difficult teams in the country to peg this season. There are just so many unknowns surrounding this team. For starters, they are losing two of the best players in the Big Ten the past few seasons in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Their star heading into this season, Robbie Hummel, has complete just a single practice with the team since tearing his acl in February of 2010 -- he missed last season after tearing his acl again on the second day of practice last season. Just how good is he going to be coming off of back-to-back devastating knee injuries? And who is going to step up and replace the 38.5 ppg, 13.7 rpg, and invaluable leadership on the court provided by Johnson and Moore? I like Lewis Jackson at the point, but who is going to join him on the perimeter? Ryne Smith and DJ Byrd both started over 20 games as sophomores. Kelsey Barlow, a junior now, and Terone Johnson, a sophomore, started a handful as well. Junior John Hart and freshman Anthony Johnson will no doubt be looking for an opportunity to prove their worth. Will a young front line of sophomores Travis Carroll and Sandi Marcius and freshmen Jacob Lawson and Donnie Hale be able to battle with the bigger teams in the Big Ten? There is no doubt that Purdue will be well-coached and physical defensively this season, a credit to the coaching of Matt Painter. And there certainly are some talented pieces on this roster, the question is simply how are they going to fit together?

37. Cal Golden Bears:

Last Season: 18-15, 10-8 (Pac-10)

Head Coach: Mike Montgomery

Key Losses: Gary Franklin, Markhuri Sanders-Frison

New Additions: Justin Cobbs, Alex Rossi, David Kravish, Christian Behrens

Projected Lineup:

- G: Brandon Smith, Jr. or Justin Cobbs, So.
- G: Jorge Gutierrez, Jr.
- F: Allen Crabbe, So.
- F: Richard Solomon, So.
- C: Harper Kamp, Sr.
- Bench: Cobbs or Smith; Bak Bak, Jr; Jeff Powers, So.; Alex Rossi, Fr.

Outlook: Cal is a sleeper in the Pac-12, a team that may end up competing for the league title depending on how things shake-out this season. This is a group that won 10 league games a year ago and returns their big three. Jorge Gutierrez, a 6'4" off-guard, is the heart and soul of this team, a potential first-team all-league player and one of the best all-around guards in the country you've never seen. He defends, he can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor and create and he's not afraid to mix it up with an opponent to defend his team. Allen Crabbe, who averaged 13.4 ppg as a freshman, was the rookie of the year in the conference last season and also has a chance to be an all-league player. Senior Harper Kamp is an experienced low-post presence and consistently underrated from a national perspective. The question for the Bears will be how they fill the holes in their line-up. Brandon Smith, who played well filling in for Gary Franklin when he transferred to Baylor in the middle of the season, and Justin Cobbs, a transfer from Minnesota, will battle it our for the right to start at the point and should combine to solidify the position. Richard Solomon showed flashes as a freshman, but he'll struggle to fill the void left by Markhuri Sanders-Frison as he is literally half the size of the burly Sanders-Frison despite being three inches taller. Bak Bak will get some help from a couple of freshmen to provide front court depth, while Jeff Powers and Alex Rossi, a redshirt freshman that missed last season with an injury, will give the Bears some perimeter depth. The big three on Cal are good enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament, but how well the rest of the Cal roster developed during the off-season will determine whether this has a shot of competing for a league title.

36. St. Mary's Gaels:

Last Season: 25-9, 11-3 (WCC)

Head Coach: Randy Bennett

Key Losses: Mickey McConnell

New Additions: Paul McCoy, Elvidas Petrulis, Brad Waldow, Zach Sanchez

Projected Lineup:

- G: Matthew Dellavedova, Jr.
- G: Stephen Holt, So.
- F: Clint Steindl, Sr.
- F: Rob Jones, Sr.
- C: Kenton Walker, Sr.
- Bench: Jorden Page, So.; Tim Williams, Jr.; Paul McCoy, Jr.; Mitchell Young, Jr.; Kyle Rowley, Jr.

Outlook: There is no question that losing a player of Mickey McConnell's caliber will hurt. He was so efficient and so smart and such a threat from the perimeter. But the Gaels have enough perimeter talent returning this season that they may be able to nullify that loss. Matthew Dellavedova will take the reins of this team as a junior and he should be primed for a big season as the feature guard in Randy Bennett's offense. He will likely be joined in the back court by sophomore Stephen Holt, a highly-regarded recruit when he entered the program that had a couple of impressive performances late in the season. Jorden Page missed most of last season with a knee injury. He had a couple of big games in the WCC Tournament two seasons ago and should provide a spark off the bench. Same with Paul McCoy, a transfer that averaged 13.4 ppg as a freshman in 2008-2009. In the front court, Clint Steindl and Rob Jones will start at the forward spots. Steindl is a lanky, 6'7" sharpshooter at the small forward spot while Jones, despite standing just 6'6", is the team's second-leading scorer and best rebounder. He's more of a combo-forward than a pure power forward, but Jones plays with a mean streak. Kenton Walker got 26 starts last season, but only played 15 mpg. Mitchell Young actually played more minutes that Walker and averaged double figures off the bench. Tim Williams and Northwestern transfer Kyle Rowley will also be in the front court rotation. If Dellavedova embraces the role of the leader and youngsters like Page and Holt develop into big-time players, ranking St. Mary's 36th may look silly come March.

No comments: