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Mid-Continent Preview

November 13, 2006 Conference Notes No Comments



Mid-Continent Conference 2006-07 Preview

by Kevin Hansen

As national exposure for mid-major conferences increases, Mid-Continent Conference coaches look forward to showing off their teams’ talent.

Oral Roberts, IUPUI and Missouri-Kansas City should battle atop the conference standings. With the explosive tandem of Caleb Green and Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts will arguably have the two best players in the conference on their team. However, the Golden Eagles lost every other starter and will have some empty slots to fill. IUPUI, on the other hand, is returning four of five players from last year’s squad, including standout George Hill. Like many teams in this conference, UMKC, is returning most of their players from a successful team. The Kangaroos are returning 11 players and a first team all-conference player in Quinton Day. When these three teams match up on the court, it will be a battle that is fun to watch.

The rest of the conference has young, athletic players who will be fun to watch. This conference will be competitive, and many good players are worthy of national recognition.

Preseason Awards

1st Team All-Mid-Continent
Quinton Day, Missouri-Kansas City
Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts
Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
George Hill, IUPUI
Vova Severovas, Oakland

Honorable Mention
David Jackson, Western Illinois
Steve Barnes, Southern Utah
Tyrone Hamilton, Centenary

Conference MVP: Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
Freshman of the Year: Samuel Haanpaa, Valparaiso

1. Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles (2005-06: 21-12, 13-3, First)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Junior center Shawn King
Senior forward Caleb Green
Junior forward Moses Ehambe
Junior guard Ken Tutt
Junior guard Adam Liberty

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 18 at Kansas
Dec. 22 at Arkansas
Dec. 28-30 at BYU in the Holiday Classic

The Golden Eagles have good and bad news entering the 2006-07 season. The bad news is that they have lost three of their starters from last year’s team. The good news is that the two returning starters are All-American candidates Caleb Green and Ken Tutt. Green and Tutt are the highest scoring duo in school history. The tandem enters the season with a combined 3,273 points and has a chance to become the seventh set of teammates in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points apiece.

Green is coming into this season with many individual records in reach. He needs 684 points to become the Mid-Continent Conference’s all-time leading scorer. He also needs 37 rebounds to become the conference’s career leader. In addition, he is going for his third consecutive conference player of the year award.

Having lost five players from last season’s team, Oral Roberts and coach Scott Sutton will be looking for newcomers to fill in the blanks. Marchello Vealy and juniors Shawn King and Yemi Ogunoye will look to fill the defensive void left by last year’s conference defensive player of the year Larry Owens.

The non-conference schedule includes road games at Kansas and Arkansas. These games should be a good tune-up for the beginning of the conference schedule.

2. IUPUI Jaguars (2005-06: 19-10, 13-3, First)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Senior center Angelo Smith
Sophomore forward Fred Kounkorgo
Senior forward Matt Burks
Junior guard George Hill
Senior guard David Barlow

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 10-12 at BCA Classic
Dec. 6 at Illinois
Feb. 2/22 vs. Oral Roberts

The Jaguars will be coming into the season still beaming with confidence after last year’s Mid-Continent Conference regular-season championship. The Jaguars are returning four starters from last year’s team, including first-team all-conference guard George Hill. In Hill’s sophomore season, he averaged 18.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Joining Hill in the backcourt is senior point guard David Barlow, who averaged solid statistics in his first year as a starter: 10.2 points and 3.3 assists per game.

IUPUI will sorely miss forwards Brandon Cole and Maushae Byles, who were fearless underneath the basket and on the wing. Forwards Angelo Smith and Fred Kounkorgo will be looking to fill those spots. Smith and Kounkorgo are athletic and capable of playing above the rim, which is something this team has lacked in the past.

The beginning of the season will be a good test for an experienced Jaguars’ team. They will play Illinois and Indiana on the road and could face Ohio State in the BCA Classic.

With coach Ron Hunter at the helm, the Jaguars should be right in the thick of things at the end of the year, with a strong possibility of securing a NCAA Tournament birth.

3. Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos (2005-06: 14-14, 11-5, Third)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Senior center Kyle Spears
Senior forward Dee Ayuba
Senior forward Blake Crawford
Senior guard Quinton Day
Junior guard Tim Blackwell

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 22-25 at Great Alaska Shootout
Dec. 2 at Arkansas
Dec. 13 at Maryland

The Kangaroos will rely on senior leadership to propel them to the top of the conference standings in the 2006-07 season. The starting lineup will consist of four seniors and one junior.

The star player in the lineup is Quinton Day, who is a preseason first-team all-conference selection. Last season, Day averaged 20.3 points and 3.6 assists per game. It will be interesting to see if Day can continue to put up these numbers throughout this upcoming season.

Along with Day, the Kangaroos return three starters and a total of 11 players in 2006-07. The returning starters include seniors Dee Ayuba and Blake Crawford and junior Tim Blackwell. Ayuba and Blackwell were the Kangaroos’ second and third leading scorers respectively and are on the preseason all-conference second team, but the former could redshirt after tearing an ACL late in the summer.

With all the experience and talent that is returning to the court for the Kangaroos, look for Missouri-Kansas City to make some noise in the upcoming season.

4. Valparaiso Crusaders (2005-06: 17-12, 8-8, Fourth)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Junior center Calum Macleod
Senior forward Moussa Mbaye
Junior forward Shawn Huff
Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa
Junior guard Jarryd Loyd

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 21 at North Carolina State
Nov. 29 vs. Marquette
Dec. 2 at Ohio State

Going into his 18th season as the Crusaders’ coach, Homer Drew will only have one senior on his team, which should make for a challenging year. Moussa Mbaye, the lone senior, will need to provide leadership on a young team. Mbaya averaged 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season and led the team in blocks. He had off-season surgery on his knees but should be ready to go at the start of the season.

With the team’s top three scorers – Dan Oppland, Ron Howard and Mohamed Kone – gone, the Crusaders will depend on the young players to produce on offense. One young player who has a lot of promise is freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa. He is not only a great three-point shooter with great size at 6-8 but also an excellent passer and a great team player. He should make an immediate impact.

With all of the inexperience and young players, Drew will be hard-pressed to get back to the NCAA Tournament, a place that has become familiar to Valparaiso in the past. The Crusaders have gone to the Big Dance eight of the last 12 seasons.

5. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2005-06: 11-18, 6-10, Sixth)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Senior center Shawn Hopes
Sophomore forward Derick Nelson
Senior forward Vova Severovas
Senior guard Rick Billings
Sophomore guard Keith MacKenzie

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 17-19 at CAA Basketball Classic
Nov. 25 at Michigan State
Nov. 29 at Cincinnati
Dec. 2 vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Dec. 16 at UCLA

Returning four starters from last season’s team, the Grizzlies will be looking to improve from a seventh place finish in the Mid-Continent Conference. Returning all but two players from the 2005-06 team, Oakland is the most experienced team in the conference.

The loss of Calvin Wooten will be significant because he led the team with an average of 19.2 points per game. Wooten was also a sharp-shooter behind the arc. However, even with the loss of Wooten, the Grizzlies return 75 percent of their scoring, 93 percent of their rebounding and more than 80 percent of their assists and steals.

Senior forward Vova Severovas will be the player to watch this year. He led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring a year ago. His .594 field goal percentage led the conference.

The Grizzlies have arguably the hardest non-conference schedule in the conference. They face Michigan State, Cincinnati and UCLA, all on the road. Those tests will give fans an early idea how competitive their team will be.

6. Western Illinois Leathernecks (2005-06: 7-21, 3-13, Seventh)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Junior center Louis Johnson
Sophomore forward Lorenzo Taylor
Junior forward NaVonta Kentle
Senior guard Troy Okeson
Junior guard David Jackson

Schedule Highlights:
Dec. 6 at Indiana
Jan. 4 vs. Oral Roberts

The Leathernecks’ season of a year ago could have been much better. The team lost 10 games by 10 points or less. Coach Derek Thomas is hoping his experienced team has learned from its mistakes and will be able to correct them this season.

The Leathernecks return four of their top-five scorers from 2005-06. Junior guard David Jackson will lead the core of the six returning players. Jackson led his team in nine different statistical categories; most notable were his 14.5 points per game. Joining Jackson in the backcourt will be Troy Okeson, who still managed to make 33 three-pointers in just 15 games despite missing the last 13 games of the season because of injuries. Look for Jackson and Okeson to lead the team.

If the Leathenecks can improve in close-game situations, don’t be surprised if they compile a pretty successful season. They have the experience and the scorers necessary to win a decent amount of games.

7. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (2005-06: 10-20, 8-8, Seventh)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Junior center Brad Kanis
Junior forward Tate Sorenson
Senior forward Junior Abrahao
Senior guard Justin Allen
Senior guard Steve Barnes

Schedule Highlights:
Nov. 10 at Utah
Nov. 24 at Brigham Young
Dec. 4 at Washington

There will be a lot of uncertainty at the start of the 2006-07 season for the Thunderbirds because they are returning only five players and will have 10 new faces. However, one thing is certain – the team’s athletic ability has greatly increased.

Point guard Steve Barnes is the only returning starter. He averaged 8.4 points and 5.0 assists per game. He will be joined in the starting lineup by Justin Allen, who averaged 9.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Allen was the team’s sixth man last year, but he should start this year.

The Thunderbirds have a fairly easy non-conference schedule. Their toughest match up is on the road against Washington. If the Thunderbirds can get some early wins, it could help them gain some momentum going into the conference season.

8. Centenary Gents (2005-06: 4-23, 2-14, Eighth)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Senior center Larry Logan
Senior forward Alexander Starr
Sophomore forward Lance Hill
Sophomore guard Bryan Baumann
Sophomore guard Tyrone Hamilton

Schedule Highlights:
Dec. 18 at Georgia Tech
Dec. 28 at Texas
Jan. 2 at Baylor

After a disappointing first year as the Gents’ coach, Rob Flaska will try to improve his team and continue to build the organization. Although the Gents had a 4-23 record, they lost 11 games by 10 points or less, including five contests by fewer than five points.

Alexander Starr and Larry Logan are returning starters who will provide leadership for the younger players. Starr averaged 9.5 points per game and also led the team in field goal percentage, steals and assists. Logan averaged 7.3 points per game and had a team-high average of 4.9 rebounds.

Tyrone Hamilton will return to the team after sitting out the 2005-06 season. He will be welcomed back graciously considering he was named to the Mid-Continent Conference All-Freshman Team. In his freshman year, he averaged 12.5 points per game and led the team in assists and three-pointers.

With the experience gained from previous years and the addition of Hamilton, this team should be more competitive in the Mid-Continent Conference this year.

Outlook

Initially looking at the make-up of these teams, it is obvious that the Mid-Continent Conference will be competitive, with three teams vying for the championship. There is more athletic ability this year in the Mid-Con Conference than in previous years. It will be a fun conference to follow because of the parity of the eight teams and also the exciting athletes scattered throughout the conference.

     

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