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VCU Rams 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 9, 2011 in Conference Notes

VCU Rams (28-12,12-6)





Projected starting five:

Jr. G Darius Theus
So. G Rob Brandenburg
Sr. G-F Bradford Burgess
So. F Juvonte Reddic
So. C D.J. Haley

Important departures:

Four starters that keyed last season’s epic Final Four run have departed: G Joey Rodriguez (10.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), G Brandon Rozzell (11.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg), G Ed Nixon (7.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg), F Jamie Skeen (15.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg)


39.1 percent of scoring and 49.1 percent of rebounding


Fr. G Treveon Graham
Fr. F Jarred Guest
Fr. F Heath Houston
Fr. G-F Reco McCarter
Fr. G Teddy Okereafor
Fr. G Briante Weber

Schedule highlights:

The nonconference slate is a little like the one the Rams had last year: good, but not full of opportunities for wins that will make the NCAA Tournament selection committee take notice. They play in the Charleston Classic, opening with Seton Hall and then facing either Georgia Tech or Saint Joseph’s. They later head to Alabama, play George Washington at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic, and host Richmond and UAB. In CAA play, they have a stretch of three straight at home followed by three straight on the road, and play their two games against George Mason within the final two weeks of the regular season.

Projected finish and outlook:

The Rams still have plenty of talent, but this team lost a lot of experience and, more importantly, intangible value with their departed players. That means Burgess has to be the leader he’s capable of being, as the only senior, and many other players have to adapt to new roles. Brandenburg, Reddic and Haley all showed potential last year in more limited roles, and now they’ll have to show that they can do the same thing with more minutes and bigger roles. It would also help if Theus can settle the point guard spot, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if Okereafor (a late signee who was originally in the high school class of 2012) eventually starts there, and Weber figures to get a lot of minutes as well.

The Rams should be able to make up for the production they lost, but the real question is if they can reach the same place as far as intangibles are concerned. If that happens, the Rams should at least wait until Saturday of the conference tournament before playing their first game and another postseason trip should be in the offing. Shaka Smart is 10-1 as a head coach in postseason play in his young career.

Next: William & Mary Tribe

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William & Mary Tribe 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 9, 2011 in Conference Notes

William & Mary Tribe (10-22, 4-14)


Projected starting five:

So. G Brandon Britt
So. G Julian Boatner
Sr. G Kendrix Brown
Sr. F Quinn McDowell
So. F-C Tim Rusthoven

Important departures:

F Marcus Kitts (9.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) is the only starter gone from last season’s team.


85.6 percent of scoring and 83.6 percent of rebounding


Fr. F Tom Schalk
Fr. G Marcus Thornton

Schedule highlights:

The nonconference slate isn’t loaded with landmines by a long shot, although they open at rebuilding St. John’s and later host Richmond and travel to Missouri. They will play Liberty both at home and in Lynchburg, with the latter being the last of three games there as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. In CAA play, they will close out January with a brutal stretch of five games in ten days: at VCU, UNC Wilmington, Drexel, at James Madison and at Old Dominion.

Projected finish and outlook:

Last season, the Tribe was not far away from being a significantly better team in wins and losses after losing a number of close games. Now the young guards have had a chance to grow up, and the team seemed to go as they went once the calendar turned to 2011. The Tribe will need them, especially early as injuries have ravaged the frontcourt in the preseason. McDowell, Rusthoven and Kyle Gaillard all missed significant preseason practice time, and the frontcourt was where the questions would be on a fully healthy team aside from McDowell, one of the top players in the conference.

This means the Tribe will need senior JohnMark Ludwick and sophomore Fred Heldring to make big leaps, and likely means they will play smaller for a while as well. Head coach Tony Shaver said this team is likely to go with a true three-guard lineup more often this season, especially since Thornton will be too good to limit his minutes, Brown has gamely battled injuries to be a valuable player and Matt Rum has good experience but can shoot better than he did last season. If the Tribe can get healthy and stay that way, they could be a sleeper team; but injuries have a way of derailing seasons for even the best teams, and the Tribe don’t enter this season with a great deal of room for error in the first place.

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Illinois Fighting Illini 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Illinois Fighting Illini (20-14, 9-9)

Made the third round of the NCAA Tournament (lost to Kansas 73-59).

Coach Bruce Weber (193-86 at Illinois) returns for his ninth year leading the Fighting Illini.




Projected starting five:

Jr. G D.J. Richardson (Only returning starter)
Jr. G Brandon Paul
Sr. G Sam Maniscalco
So. C Meyers Leonard
Jr. F Tyler Griffey

Important departures:

Demetri McCamey: 14.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.1 apg, 45.1 percent from 3-point range
Mike Davis: 12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg
Mike Tisdale: 10.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 blocks per game
Bill Cole: 4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg


Fr. PG Tracy Abrams (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. C Nnanna Egwu (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. SF Mycheal Henry (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. PF Mike Shaw (Rivals.com four-star player)


Oh boy, where to start. Illinois lost four of five starters from last year’s surprisingly successful season. Those players accounted for more than 69 percent of the team’s rebounding and scoring. With D.J. Richardson being the last man standing, the Fighting Illini will have to do just that — fight tooth and nail to have any chance at duplicating the success of last season. The primary addition to the team is the lack of coaching turnover. Weber is firmly entrenched at the school after leading them to multiple tournament appearances, and his staff of veteran coaches gives hope that the fresh players added to the roster will have success sooner or later – albeit most likely later.

Schedule highlights:

Illinois has a very unimpressive nonconference schedule. A brief brush with Maryland early is the only game that could be considered a highlight. A run-in with Ohio State in late February will give this team a real challenge heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

Prediction: Sixth

Next: Indiana Hoosiers
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Indiana Hoosiers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Indiana Hoosiers (12-20, 3-15)

After a disappointing year, Coach Tom Crean (28-66) needs to put a winning season together for the Hoosier faithful.




Projected starting five:

Jr. G Jordan Hulls
Sr. G Verdell Jones III
Jr. F Christian Watford
Sr. F Tom Pritchard
Fr. C Cody Zeller

Important departures:

None of note.


Fr. SF Remy Abell (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SF Austin Etherington (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. C Cody Zeller (Rivals.com five-star player)


Indiana is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. The Hoosiers return four starters from last year, but that may not mean much based on last year’s record. A huge addition is freshman and top recruit Cody Zeller. If Crean hopes to stay the riotous Indiana crowd, he will need to get this team up to snuff quickly and establish Zeller as one of the dominant inside players in the NCAA.

Schedule highlights:

Indiana takes on preseason No. 2 Kentucky in early December on ESPN. A win could substantially inflate the Hoosiers’ sails. Following a 10-win season in 2009 and a 12-win season in 2010, it is hard to imagine that Indiana will be able to do much better with the majority of their difficult conference games coming near the end of their schedule. Without a tournament invitation this year, IU would likely be looking for a new head coach.

Prediction: Eighth

Next: Iowa Hawkeyes
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Iowa Hawkeyes 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Iowa Hawkeyes (11-20, 4-14)

Fran McCaffery’s (11-20) team could play spoiler to some of the Big Ten’s top teams once again this year.




Projected starting five:

So. F Melsahn Basabe
So. F Zach McCabe
So. G/F Devyn Marble
Sr. G Matt Gatens
Sr. G Bryce Cartwright

Important departures:

Jarryd Cole: 8.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg


Fr. G Josh Oglesby (Rivals.com three-star recruit)
Fr. C Gabe Olaseni (Rivals.com three-star recruit)
Fr. SF Aaron White (Rivals.com three-star recruit)


Fran McCaffery’s second year coaching the Hawkeyes finds Iowa adding a legitimate practice facility for the basketball team this year. Unfortunately, they lose a player; G/F Anthony Hubbard (whom McCaffery and Iowa AD Gary Barta had just vouched for publicly), a convicted felon heavily recruited by McCaffery. Iowa returns a lot of starters, but based on last year results the team has a long way to go.

Schedule highlights:

Iowa has 11 (potentially 12) games scheduled to be televised on ESPN. That’s very high for a team that’s season highlight last year was defeating a Purdue team that was also not living up to expectations. This team will boost other Big Ten teams’ wins column more than their own.

Prediction: 10th

Next: Michigan Wolverines
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Michigan Wolverines 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Michigan Wolverines (21-14, 9-9)

Lost in second round of the NCAA Tournament (Duke won 73-71).

Going into his fifth season in Ann Arbor, John Beilein looks to improve the Wolverines’ fourth-place finish in the Big Ten.




Projected starting five:

So. G Tim Hardaway Jr. (Scored 10+ points in 25 games in 2010-11)
Sr. G Stu Douglass (Will be the starting point guard in 2011-12 season)
Sr. G Zack Novak
So. F Evan Smotrycz
So. C Jordan Morgan (Finished 2010-11 season with a 62.7 field goal percentage)

Important departures:

Darrius Morris: 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.7 apg


Fr. PF Max Bielfeldt (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SG Carlton Brundidge (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. PG Trey Burke (Rivals.com three-star player)


The loss of Darius Morris will have the biggest impact on Michigan this season. Morris was the pipeline that the Michigan offense’s points flowed through. It will take the full ensemble of starters working together to make up for the lack of offensive presence that Morris brought. Hardaway will take on the role, but it must be a team effort if Michigan wants to get any further in the NCAA Tournament.

Schedule highlights:

A pre-Thanksgiving Day mingling with Memphis should let Michigan fans know whether this is a season to be excited about or a bubble-bound team that is destined to break their hearts.

Prediction: Fifth

Next: Michigan State Spartans
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Michigan State Spartans 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Michigan State Spartans (19-14, 9-9)

Lost in first round of NCAA tournament (UCLA won 78-76).

Coach Tom Izzo (383-161, 2000 national champion) starts his 16th season as the Spartans’ basketball coach.




Projected starting five:

So. G Keith Appling
Sr. G Austin Thornton
Fr. F/G Branden Dawson
Sr. F Draymond Green
So. C Adreian Payne

Important departures:

Kalin Lucas: 17.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.4 apg
Korie Lucious: 6.5 ppg, 4.1 apg
Delvon Roe: 6.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Durrell Summers: 11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg


Fr. SG Dwaun Anderson (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. G/F Branden Dawson (Rivals.com five-star player)
Fr. SF Brandan Kearney (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. PG Travis Rice (Rivals.com three-star player
Brandon Wood (transfer from Valparaiso)


Michigan State lost a plethora of players during and after last season. The loss of Lucious (team-leading 17.2 ppg) and Chris Allen for the 2010 season due to suspensions brought down by the team crippled the Spartans and had a direct affect on the team’s record. A late-season scramble and victory over Purdue squeaked Michigan State into the NCAA Tournament, only for the Spartans to lose in a first-round heart breaker to UCLA. After the season, G Kalin Lucas, lynchpin of the offense and folk hero on campus, and starting forward Allen graduated. Then just before the start of the 2011-12 season, F Delvon Roe retired from the team because of extensive knee pain. Most teams would scrap this season as a rebuilding year, but Coach Tom Izzo will do no such thing. He will build around Appling with impressive freshman who have good size and rely on his veteran guards to get MSU back to the tournament in better position than the No. 10 seed that the team received last year.

Schedule highlights:

Izzo usually builds a challenging early schedule, and this season will be no different. The Spartans start their year off with back-to-back battles against North Carolina and Duke. Michigan State has the potential to skyrocket in the rankings if they can catch either of these teams off guard, though their conference schedule provides little relief, with two matches against Ohio State and Michigan each.

Prediction: Fourth

Next: Minnesota Golden Gophers
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Minnesota Golden Gophers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-14, 6-12)

Coach Tubby Smith (90-61) enters his fourth season at Minnesota.




Project starting five:

Sr. F Trevor Mbakwe
Fr. F Andre Ingram
Jr. G Julian Welch
So. G Austin Hollins
Sr. F Ralph Sampson III

Important departures:

Blake Hoffarber: 13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 38.9 percent from 3-point range
Al Nolen: 8.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.7 apg
Colton Iverson: 5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg


Fr. SG Joe Coleman (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SG Andre Hollins (Rivals.com three-star player)


Minnesota looks solid with their two returning starters in Mbakwe and Sampson, both of whom entertained notions of leaving for the NBA. The Gophers surprised people last year with a late run in the Big Ten tournament, but unfortunately that fluke will not play out again. A lot of Minnesota’s players are good, but few are great and teams will exploit their weakened bench.

Schedule highlights:

A very weak nonconference schedule will help inflate the Gophers’ final record, but after being cannibalized in their conference, Minnesota will sink to somewhere at or below .500 overall.

Prediction: 12th

Next: Nebraska Huskers
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Nebraska Huskers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Nebraska Huskers (19-12, 7-9 in Big 12)

Coached by Doc Sadler (89-70 at Nebraska)





Project starting five:

Jr. C Jorge Brian Diaz
Sr. G Toney McCray
Sr. G Brandon Richardson
Sr. G Caleb Walker
Jr. F Brandon Ubel

Important departures:

Lance Jeter: 11.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.8 blocks per game
Christian Standhardinger: 9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg


Fr. PG Corey Hilliard (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SF Josiah Moore (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SF David Rivers (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. SG Dylan Talley (Rivals.com three-star player)


Nebraska loses a major part of their offense in PG Lance Jeter. Jeter was the points, steals and assists per game leader. Although the Huskers have some talented players – Caleb Walker will impress this season — they just don’t have the raw skill necessary to compete with the likes of Ohio State or Michigan.

Schedule highlights:

November 30th finds Wake Forest and Nebraska meeting in an ACC/Big Ten clash. The difficulty of Nebraska’s conference schedule will be too much for them to take any optimism into the Big Ten tourney.

Prediction: 11th

Next: Northwestern Wildcats
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Northwestern Wildcats 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 7, 2011 in Conference Notes

Northwestern Wildcats (18-13, 7-11)

Lost in quarterfinals of the NIT (lost to Washington State 69-66 OT).

Bill Carmody (160-177) heads into his 12th season as the Wildcats’ head coach. He is coming off of two consecutive winning seasons, the first time in Northwestern basketball history.




Projected starting five:

Sr. F John Shurna
Jr. G/F Drew Crawford (2009-10 Big Ten Freshman of the Year)
Sr. C Luka Mirkovic
So. G JerShon Cobb
Jr. G Alex Marcotullio

Important departures:

Michael Thompson: 16.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 39.3 percent from 3-point range


Assistant coach Fred Hill (former Rutgers head coach)


Northwestern returns four out of five starters, constituting 73.8 percent of last year’s scoring and 84.4 percent of last year’s rebounding. Fred Hill (head coach from Rutgers) also joins Carmody’s staff. Nikola Cerina transferred from TCU where he started 20 games last season. He will have to sit out the 2011-12 year.

Schedule highlights:

The Wildcats fly relatively under the radar this year. A winnable game against LSU could put the team in good position to have momentum heading into their conference match ups. Northwestern takes on Purdue in Evanston for what will be a very important, nationally televised conference game.

Prediction: Seventh

Next: Ohio State Buckeyes
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