Saturday, July 30, 2011

North Dakota's Five Member Class of 2014

In the Mid-2000's, then North Dakota State University coach Tim Miles (current Colorado St. coach) recruited a class that included Ben Woodside (who would go on to become the school's all-time leading scorer and score 60 points in a game during his collegiate career), Mike Nelson, Lucas Moorman, and Brett Winkleman. All 4 players redshirted their freshman year, meaning they would be eligible to make the NCAA Tournament their freshman year (NDSU was transitioning from D2 to D1). All the hopes of the program rested on that class, and they delivered with a NCAA Tourney berth their senior year, the first year they were eligible.

Though the circumstances aren't exactly the same, North Dakota's class of 2014 (they were freshman last year - 2 of them redshirts) feels similar in that everyone in counting on this class of five to be the one that leads them to an NCAA Tournament when they are eligible, starting next season in the Big Sky. This excitement only increased when they finished strong last season, surging to win the Great West Tournament before bowing out to Air Force in the CBI. Of the 10 youngest teams in America last year, UND was one of two (along with Memphis) to have a winning record.

All of which begs the question - who are these guys and are they really that good?

-----------------------------------------------

The best of the bunch (after one season of work) is Troy Huff, who at 6'4'' is the most athletic member of the team, and probably the best player in the fledgling Great West Conference. He led the team in scoring at 13.1 PPG, but he came on especially strong at the end of the year, scoring in double figures in the last 14 games of the season (including 20 against Air Force). In his second career game he scored 21 points against Wisconsin, so clearly he has the talent to contribute and be the star for UND.

He is a solid rebounder (which is nice for a team without a lot of size) as he snagged 13.2% of defensive rebounds and 7.5% of offensive rebounds. He needs to improve his shot selection a bit and his FT shooting (your star guard has to shoot more than 62% from the line), but he has the talent to be one of the best players in the Big Sky when he joins the conference.

-----------------------------------------------

Jamal Webb played the most minutes on the team, and it is right to be excited about his potential as a 6'1'' PG. He shot a respectable 48% from 2PT and a solid 40% from beyond the arc, giving him a solid EFG%. He also had an excellent 29.7 Assist rate, one of the 100 best in the country (and would have been top 5 in the Big Sky). Also, for his size he was an excellent rebounder - pulling down 5.4 RPG including 16.6 DR%. He combined all of this with the best steal rate on the team, giving him a poor man's Jason Kidd-like line: 9.3 PPG / 5.4 RPG / 4.0 APG / 1.6 SPG. That is making a lot of things happen as a freshman.

However, there are two things he will need to improve to take the next step. First is FT shooting... like Troy Huff, he was mediocre there, shooting 44/80 from the line (55%). He needs to get to the line more and needs to shoot a better percentage, and he could become a dangerous scorer at around 12-15 PPG. He also needs to cut down on his turnovers, where he had a 30.0 TORate, worst on the team. He coughed it up 3.4 times per game, which is tough to handle for a team when that is your primary ballhandler. He needs to work on that.

-----------------------------------------------

Aaron Anderson is the smallest member of the class at 5'9'', but he does a lot of things very well. He was great at getting to the free throw line, as he drew 5.8 fouls ever 40 minutes, giving him 145 attempts for the year, most on the team (impressive given his smaller usage rate compared to other guys). And unlike Huff and Webb, he was diligent on those attempts, making 80% of them. He is also a solid passer and defender for his size.

Like everyone else, there are some areas to work on. He turns it over more than he gets assists, which is always a problem for a PG (only one person on the team posted a better assist rate than TO rate, and we will get to him in a second). Also, Anderson needs to improve shot selection, or shot efficiency. He shot an ugly 36.8% from inside the arc last year (compared to 35% from beyond the arc)... A lot of that was offset by the fact that he is such a good FT shooter and so adept at getting to the line, but if he had shot 45% he is that much better and really would become an extremely dangerous offensive weapon as the 6th man.

-----------------------------------------------

Josh Schuler was a little under the radar when compared to guys like Huff and Webb, but he is a huge part of the future for UND. At 6'2'' he was the team's 4th leading scorer, but one of the team's most efficient players. He shot just 43% inside the arc, but 35& outside of it, as well 78% free throws. He also took care of the ball, as he was the only member of the team to post a higher assist rate (15.4%) than TO rate (13.2%), which is huge to maximize scoring opportunities.

As always, his game is not perfect. On a team that lacks ideal size, everyone needs to chip in and rebound, and Schuler was the worst rebounder on the team. He needs to get in there and get better (and granted, he is the third smallest guy on the team). He also could definitely become a more efficient scorer, as 43% shooting on 2s is not a very good mark still, would like to see that closer to 50%.

(Photo from Kody Wallen of FightingSioux.com)

-----------------------------------------------

Last is Brandon Brekke, who is the closest thing to a post presence the Sioux have in this class, though he is just 6'6''. He had a fine freshman season, though he played only 15.8 minutes per game, that was one of the most for post players in UND's guard heavy lineup. He was a very efficient scorer, shooting over 61% from the field (for 5.8 PPG). He was one of the best rebounders on the team (and the best offensive rebounders - with a very solid 11.2% OR rate). Again, he is only 6'6'' so he could struggle against big low post scorers, but those are the players he will be called on to defend. The Sioux had no regular over 6'7'' last season, and that fact probably won't change much this season.

-----------------------------------------------

All in all, UND was one of the better stories of the season, being so young and so reliant on freshman, and they really put things together after a 5-9 start to the year, finishing with 19 wins. Brian Jones will be looking to take the next step this year, winning over 20 games and the Great West Conference again in their final season before moving to the Big Sky. It is all about getting ready to be a competitor in the Big Sky, and they should have the talent to do that.

What do you think of these five and about North Dakota as a whole? How will they stack up against the rest of the Big Sky? With games at least against Montana, Sacramento St, and Idaho St. this year (they haven't released their full schedule), they will get a little taste of how things will go and how hard they are going to have to work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Story on Former Grizzly Anthony Johnson

There is a nice story on former Montana Grizzly Anthony Johnson and his wife, Shaunte.

“We want the message to be just the idea that you really can go out and make something from nothing even if it takes years to do it you really can be successful,” Anthony says with pride. “The idea that you can be in love and still go after all of your dreams is the one I really want to convey to the audience the most because a lot of people go off into marriages, a lot of women especially, and they get buried in their relationship. By that I mean the relationship discourages the woman from actually going out and making something of herself because she kind of plays the mommy role and the wife role and forgets about her career. So I really want this show to encourage women and encourage people to really go out there and make something of yourself and if you find someone along the way you two can accomplish your dreams together.”
Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jamie Stewart (Montana St Recruit) Highlights

The video is from his high school days, so a couple of years old, but gives a good look into his talent level and overall athletic ability.

While it is tough to say how all of the roles for the new MSU players will fall, it seems fair to say that Stewart will be needed to have a solid season in Bozeman for the Bobcats to compete.

An Early Look at Idaho State's Schedule


The schedule for the Bengals was released a couple of weeks ago, so let's take a look and see what lies ahead for them this season.

I think Coach O'Brien and the Idaho St athletic department has done really well putting things together, creating a nice mix of home and away games.

“Our nonconference schedule is one that will test us and help us prepare for what will be a very competitive schedule Big Sky Conference,” O'Brien said. “Our staff is excited to get the team back on campus this fall to begin preparation for the upcoming year.”
Key home games include: Loyola Marymount (who could be solid in the WCC), Utah St. (a tournament participant year in and year out), North Dakota (a future Big Sky competitor), and Wyoming (a team in the area from a solid conference).

That is not a ton of marquee games, but it looks better than the home non-conference slate for Montana St. and Eastern Washington. The bad thing is that I am not sure Idaho St. will actually be favored in any of those 4 games, but they should certainly have a puncher's chance.

On the road, they have some challenges as well.

They will travel to Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Boise St., Wyoming, Loyola Marymount, and Utah. They will also have an away Bracket Buster game. Certainly they are not afraid to challenge themselves in the non-conference, which Coach O'Brien should be commended for, especially in a season where he is possibly fighting to save his job.

Last year Idaho St. went 5-8 out of conference, but their wins were against Troy, Great Falls, Montana Tech, UMKC, and Cal-State Fullerton. It seems as if things will be significantly harder this time around, and 3-4 wins out of conference is a more reasonable goal.

What does everyone else think of their schedule? Like it, hate it? What is a reasonable number of games that the Bengals will win before Big Sky Conference play begins?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recruiting of Aamahd Walker

From ESPN:

Aamahd Walker (Culver City, Calif./Culver City)
2012, SG/WF, 6-3, 190 pounds
Each and every year there are a couple of rising seniors who emerge during the summer evaluation period and Walker is one of those examples. He has a strong-looking frame with very good length and he is a legitimate Division I jump shooter. He can knock down shots at a consistent rate and his lift and release are outstanding. His offer list consists of Texas State and Eastern Washington, however that will change considerably as UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State appeared to be very intrigued.
Way too early to tell where a guy like this might end up, but always good to keep an eye on things.

One Site's Preseason POY Predictions

This is a little bit old, but Bleacher Report had their Preseason Player of the Year in every conference. Two of note:

First, obviously is the Big Sky, where they selected Will Cherry of Montana. Their summaries are the essence of non-descript, but still interesting to see an outsiders view of the conference:

The Grizzlies are going to really rely on this versatile backcourt leader.

Cherry can do it all and will have a break-out season as a junior.
It will certainly be interesting to see who the coaches and/or media select at the Preseason Player of the Year... I am thinking it will certainly be either Cherry or Damian Lillard of Weber State. That will be a litmus test to see how well followers of the League think Lillard's recovery is going.

Also of the note is the Great West, and they have future Big Sky performer Troy Huff of North Dakota as their preseason pick for Player of the Year.

Troy Huff is already considered one of the best players in Fighting Sioux history and he's just getting started.

The long, skilled combo guard finished up his freshman year by scoring in double figures in 16 of his last 18 games.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weber State Eyes Jordan Loveridge

Solid article about a rising recruit, Jordan Loveridge, who is from West Jordan High School in Utah.

The inside-outside threat put up 29 points earlier in the day against Arizona commitment Gabe York and the Compton Magic, and had a 27-point effort in the first round against Florida Rams Black, the winners of the adidas Invitational earlier this month in Indianapolis.

"Anywhere you put me, I can do what you need me to do," Loveridge said. "I'll score from the perimeter, I'll score from the inside. It just depends on the matchup that night. I can be a four or a three, wherever you need me."

Loveridge has offers in hand from Brigham Young, Colorado State, Hawaii, Utah, Utah State and Weber State. Arizona and Nebraska are among the schools showing interest along with several other Pac-12 programs.
He would certainly be a great addition if Weber State can land his commitment.

Damian Lillard Does A Good Deed

Always want to point out when our athletes do good work in the community...

On his 21st birthday, Lillard spent some time at the Boys & Girls Club, talking about the importance of education:

"I think it is such a selfless thing to do," said Rachal Edstrom, a WSU student who coordinated the event. "I'm sure he had better things to do on his special day, but he still took the time to talk and hang out with the kids. He provides a good example of how to overcome life's challenges."
It's always a good sign when arguably the best player in the conference is making headlines not for breaking rules, or accepting money, or anything like that, but for teaching kids about the importance of education.

Ain't the Big Sky great?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fighting Sioux Controversy Still At Forefront

Interesting article Sunday about the Fighting Sioux logo/nickname controversy at North Dakota, which could potentially threaten their inclusion in the Big Sky.

Potentially more damaging, the Big Sky Conference, which UND hopes to join next year, has said the issue will complicate the school's conference membership and some schools may refuse to schedule games with North Dakota. Some believe that would lead to a broad decline in athletics.
I have written about the Sioux nickname controversy in the past. I think it is past time for UND to change the nickname and logo. As much pride as UND alumni have in the logo, the risks and damages from keeping it outweigh any potential benefits.

How Will Montana St. Replace Bobby Howard and Erik Rush?


Midway through last season, Montana St was sitting at 11-7 and 5-1 in the conference, and thinks were looking up. They had already beaten the favorites (Weber St 75-72 at home), another team projected to be in the top 3 (Northern Arizona), and were coming off a 12 point win against Eastern Washington. They had a big game against rival Montana coming up, but overall they looked like legit contenders in the Big Sky.

Then they lost 9 straight games (7 of them in conference), and staggered their way to a 13-18 finish, going 7-9 in conference play before losing in the Big Sky opening round against Northern Arizona. However, there were a couple bright spots on the Bobcats.

The first was Bobby Howard, who was a 2nd Team Big Sky performer and finished with a almost 15 PPG and 7.2 RPG, posting an excellent DR%. Erik Rush was another guy that excelled for them, as he was the team's leading scorer at 15.1 PPG, and he also had 1.4 steals per contest and almost 3 assists a game, making him perhaps their best all-around talent. For this he earned Honorable Mention All-Big Sky.

But how will Montana St. replace these guys? Probably the first guy that will get a crack is Shawn Reid, who showed good potential as a freshman and "has the look of an explosive scorer." He was a solid outside shooter, but was not very efficient inside the arc, and didn't create a lot of offense for others. But he will be counted on in his sophomore year.

At 6'7'' Tre Johnson is another sophomore-to-be who could play a lot of minutes, though his game is different that Reid's. He is a solid rebounder and plays more of an inside game (47% from 2PT). All of those same things could be said of Jordan Alou, though he will be a senior. He showed a solid ability to pull down offensive rebounds.

After these guys, there are unknowns. Coach Brad Huse has brought in a lot of JUCO players, so it will be interesting to see who emerges from that group and how quickly everyone can gel. One of the transfers is Xavier Johnson-Blount, who averaged 22 points and 5 RPG last year at 6'4''. He is a good athlete and should be in the mix for minutes at the 2 guard spot. From mslacat:

Johnson-Blount is a scorer. He is a good athlete, has a strong frame, and can create his own shot. He is deadly from 3 point range but can also post up and take the ball inside. He should be a great compliment to Huse’s other All American Jamie Stewart who Huse signed last fall. Stewart, an uber-athlete, is more of a slasher and explosive player. Johnson Blount is physically stronger, but more of a pure shooter. Both are scorers and can play both the 2 and three.
Another JUCO guard is Christian Moon. He is only 6'2'', but plays shooting guard. He averaged 14 PPG and 5 RPG, and was excellent scorer, so he figures to be involved heavily in their plans next season.

Another JUCO player that should get a chance to break the lineup is Jamie Stewart, and he might be the most versatile of the bunch, as he can play the 1, 2, or 3 (though at 6'4"" he is more of a natural 2 or 3). Last year as a JUCO AA he averaged 17 PPG and 8 RPG, and showcased himself as an excellent athlete and very good all-around scorer. He should be one of the most talented players on the roster next season.

Who do you guys think will get the most playing time out of this group? Are you hearing anything about all of the JUCO guys, and who is looking good?

It will be an interesting season in Bozeman... they will be working a lot of new faces into the lineup after the loss of Howard and Rush (who scored 45% of the team's points last year), but they will be bringing in some solid talent.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Danny Cheek of Northern Arizona Highlight Video

Danny Cheek is one of the top incoming recruits in the Big Sky, and could be a very solid player as early as this season. Great job by NAU as they managed hosting him at the school. From his ESPN profile:

Cheek is an explosive athlete with a tremendous competitive nature. He is a physically imposing scoring guard that attacks the rim in transition with some ferocity. Defensively, he has the length, lateral quickness, and attitude to guard all three perimeter positions at the next level.
With the loss of Cameron Jones, NAU fans could be seeing a lot of this guy on the court.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

If You Had Tarleton State...

In your "Where Will Zach Nelson from Sacramento State transfer to?" Pool, then you win.

For those wondering (AKA everyone who is not an alumni of Tarleton State), the school is located in Stephensville, TX.

Kameron Pearce of Idaho State Highlights

Some highlights of Kameron Pearce from high school. He played one year for a JUCO, and is coming to Idaho State. According to the Magic Valley Time News:

Pearce averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game for Northeastern, hitting 39 percent from 3-point range. But things really started to click for him after the Christmas break as he averaged about 18 points per game in Region IX play, helping NJC to a 19-15 record.
After losing a lot of talent from a team that didn't have a ton to begin with, Pearce will have a great opportunity to earn valuable playing time from the get go. They will need him to be a consistent scoring threat, which he has the potential to be with above average athleticism and a solid outside jumper.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Damian Lillard is the 90th Best Player in America

According to Basketball Prospectus.

From the article:

Lillard was redshirted after mid-December foot surgery. The deserving 2010 Big Sky Player of the Year put up a scorching 112 offensive rating on 33 percent possession-usage in a nine-game tear before his injury.

Thoughts? My guess is Lillard would have been higher ranked if he had been healthy all year last season, but he will have time to show America his talent this year with a solid team in Weber St.

Lillard was also the only player out of the Big Sky to make the Top 100, though I suspect there will be a few more Big Sky players who might merit such an honor by the end of the season. Anyone else you think should have made the top 100?

How Will Eastern Washington Replace Glen Dean?


We are slowly making our way through the departed stars of the Big Sky, and now it is time to take a look at the one who didn't go via graduation - Glen Dean of Eastern Washington.

After the firing of Kirk Earlywine and hiring of Jim Hayford, Dean originally said he was going to be sticking around for the Eagles, before changing his mind and departing for Utah, where he will have to sit out a season. On first blush, a Big Sky team (that finished 10-20) losing a 2nd team Big Sky performer as a sophomore sounds like a huge loss, but the good thing for EWU is that they are deep in the backcourt and should have the talent to make up for his departure.

Returning, they have 3 guards that got a lot of PT last season and will not be fazed by having bigger roles this year. The best among them may be Jeffrey Forbes, who had the highest ORtg on the team as a sophomore. What made him so effective was his 3-point shooting, as it was at 41% on 134 attempts (compared to 92 2PT attempts). He could stand to improve his assist rate, but he doesn't commit a ton of turnovers and his true shooting % was a cool 58%.

Also back are a couple of guys that can put up points in a hurry. One is Cliff Colimon, who averaged 10.4 PPG as a junior, including scoring 27 points in the Eagles Big Sky Tourney game against Weber St. After Dean, he had the highest ARate on the team, but also has a propensity to turn the ball over. There is nothing wrong with his 51.3 EFG%, and if he can combine it with being a little better of a distributor for EWU, he will be a very solid contributor.

Quick - name the player on EWU that scored 39 points in a game last season? Bet you didn't say Kevin Winford, who also had a 28 point game. Ait 5'11'', he doesn't pull down many rebounds, and doesn't get a lot of assists (though he has a solid TO rate), but he is a streak shooter than can put up points in a hurry. He took a team high 187 3s last year, making a respectable 35%. If he can push that up even a couple points, he will be extremely dangerous.

Then there are a couple of newcomes who should have big roles for EWU. One is Collin Chiverton, a JUCO recruit who should immediately be one of the best athletes in the Big Sky. He is a wing player, but will be counted on heavily to put points on the board. He was a top 150 recruit out of high school and looks to be a difference-maker for Jim Hayford.

Then there is redshirt Willie Hankins, a guy that EWU fans are very excited about. If he can stay motivated and play consistently, he could be a starter and have a big role in the offense. EWU spread the ball around well last year, and with diverse options in the backcourt such as Hankins, it is easy to envision a similar scenario this year.

Eastern Washington was an interesting team stylistically last season as they were one of the smallest teams in the country and yet played at a below-average tempo. It will be interesting to see if Jim Hayford brings more of a running style to Cheney, because even with the loss of Dean, they will be guard-oriented. My gut feeling is that we could see the Eagles finish in the top half of the Big Sky, and get some office space nyc.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Montana State Has the Highest GPA in the Big Sky

Props to Brad Huse and the Montana State staff and players, it is a nice accomplishment. I know sometimes it can almost seem like school is an afterthought since we just focus on basketball, but these guys should have "getting a college degree" as the top goal on their to-do list during college (it seems obvious, but it is probably not).

So have to give them a shout-out for fulfilling their roles as student-athletes.

Four MSU men's programs - basketball, tennis, indoor track, and outdoor track - stand at the top of the list in their respective sports, while the MSU women's tennis program also claims that distinction.

---------------

"Coach (Brad) Huse has done an outstanding job in this area, which we consider extremely important," Fields said. "His student-athletes have bought into his emphasis on academics, and that is reflected in these numbers."

How Will Northern Arizona Replace Cameron Jones?


Since we have already looked at the departing stars at Montana, Northern Colorado, and Idaho St., let's move on to Northern Arizona. Northern Arizona was on the cusp of things last year, winning 19 games (respectable) and finishing 9-7 in the Big Sky.

But it could be tougher to replicate that mark this year, as their top player and First Team All Big Sky performer Cameron Jones has exhausted his eligibility after a stellar career in Flagstaff. Jones will be difficult to replace not only because he was an excellent Big Sky player, but because he was such a massive part of the offense.

Jones used 31.5% of the team's possessions (18th in the nation) and took 37.6% of the team's shots a season, 2nd in the NCAA (behind some guy named Jimmer). The good thing is that he was pretty efficient with those possessions. He got to the line 133 times and shot 80%, was 47% from 2s, and shot an impressive 41% from downtown (albeit on a relatively small 91 shots). He also shined as a distributor, as he had a solid 22.0 ARate and a 12.8 TO Rate, which any coach will take from their shooting guard. Add it up, and he will be sorely missed by Coach Mike Adras.

So how will they replace him? More of the ballhandling duties will fall to Gabe Rogers, who was pretty impressive in his own right as a sophomore. Rogers was second on the team with 13 PPG, but he was a different scorer than Jones. Rogers shot only 40% from 2s, and didn't get to the line too often, but he was dynamite from downtown, shooting 46.8% from beyond the arc (helping make NAU the 2nd best 3-point shooting team in the country. However, they will need him to diversify his scoring some if he is going to take the next step and become their star.

After Rogers, there are some questions about who will get the minutes to replace Jones. One holdover from last year is Durrell Norman, who had a moderately limited role in his junior year. Curiously, as 6'4'' he had an OR% of 11.7, which was 4th in the Big Sky conference. He will get some run as a senior.

Another guy who should factor for minutes is freshman Danny Cheek, who could be the best incoming recruit in the Big Sky. He is a great athlete, attacks the rim offensively, and has solid potential on the defensive end. Don't forget his name if you are a Big Sky fan, you will be hearing it a lot over the next 4 years. Very excited to see what he can do.

Another contender are transfer Jywrell Wilson, who should have a role after coming over from Seattle via a smaller conference school. He is a very solid all-around talent that comes in seasoned.

So the Lumberjacks do lose Jones, one of the most potent players in the Big Sky, but they should have the talent level to replace much of his production. How far they come might depend on the development of Danny Cheek. It will be an interesting transition year for Mike Adras, who should have a pretty young team after losing 4 key contributors from last season.

How do you all see them replacing Cameron Jones?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Former Weber St. Player Lance Allred

Interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune about former Weber St. player Lance Allred and his travails playing overseas. His message to NBA players thinking of making the leap: Make sure you know what you are getting yourselves into.

From the article:

A few years ago, Allred signed a deal to play in Italy for $160,000. "I didn’t receive a dime of it, even though it was FIBA-guaranteed. The team folded two months later. It’s such a crapshoot."

How Will Northern Colorado Replace Devon Beitzel?


Of all the player leaving the Big Sky, none will be more difficult to replace than Devon Beitzel. He was the conference POY in 2010-11, was one of the most efficient offensive players in the country, and helped lead UNC to their first NCAA Tournament berth. Not a bad senior year.

His ORtg of 123.1 was a robust 36th in the country. He had a True Shooting % of 65.5%, good for 15th in the country (thanks to shooting 57.3% on 2s, 39.4% on 3s, and 90% at FT line while getting to the line often). Simply put, he was a great player for the Northern Colorado, and he will be greatly missed.

So how will they replace him? As is often the case when you lose a great player, it will not fall on a single person.

The player who it seems will get even more of the ballhandling duties will be Elliott Lloyd. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 PPG and 3.3 APG, posting the best assist rate on the team. However, he also had a very high turnover rate, and that will need to change. He is a bit of a 3-point specialist, as he shot more 3s than 2s, which was ok since he converted 41.9% of those 3s.

Then there are a couple of guys that played modest mintues as freshman last year, but will be counted on much more heavily this season. The first is Paul Garnica, who as 6'1'' as a solid all-around game. He had a decent rebounding rate for a guard, but a high assist rate. However, like Lloyd, he had a high turnover rate, and he will need to learn to take better care of the basketball. He has the potential to be a defensive playmaker for the Bears, as his 4.3 Stl% just barely trailed Will Cherry of Montana (4.7%). However, Garnica needs to become more efficient scoring the ball. Despite being only a 27% 3PT shooter, he took 56 3s (as opposed to 74 2PT attempts). To become a potential All Big Sky player like he has the potential to be, he has to either improve his outside shot or quit taking it so much.

Another freshman that will see bigger minutes in his sophomore year is Tate Unruh. If you could extrapolate his efficiency over more minutes, you would have a star (if only basketball worked that way). In limited time he was 8/16 from 2PT range, and 13/31 (12%) from downtown. Nothing wrong with that. Without Beitzel, they will need him to score points.

UNC does have some recruits that could see immediate time. Aaron Hawk-Harris is a bigger guard that could have an immediate role. Tim Huskission is 6'5'' and could immediately be the best athlete on the team. These guys have definite upside, and some will definitely need to play a bit right away, so it will be interesting to see who emerges.

How does everyone else think UNC will go about replacing Beitzel?

Links From the College Basketball World


Hit up the Rockies/Braves game last night, and didn't have as much time as I thought to write a post... so instead, I will post some links of interest from around the NCAA, because there are occasionally things that happen in the NCAA outside of the Big Sky... (if you're into that type of thing)

- I'll have more about this in the coming week or so... but the Idaho Sports Journal makes a quick breakdown of the Idaho St. schedule that was released this week (first glance: one of the best schedules I have seen from a Big Sky team so far).

- If you want to read the latest saga in NCAA Basketball head over the CBS Basketball Blog and the story on David Salinas. They have been the first source it seems for information on the story, which has everything from AAU basketball to Ponzi Scheme. If you want to read even more on the topic, Ballin' Is A Habit has been all over it.

- Craw's Corner looks at one of the less heard of coaches in the country, George Nessman at San Jose St. It is good to see when schools are patience, reward good work, and do not demand impossible things from their employees/coaches.

- As followers of the Big Sky, we have to support other mid to low major conferences... which is why I implore you to go read Rush the Court's summer update on the Ivy League. (Hint: Harvard should be pretty darn good this year).

- Searching For Billy Edelin writes an excellent article on why the CBS Sports college basketball blog (the same one that broke the Salinas story) is poised to dominate college basketball coverage online. It is hard to argue when you look at their stable of writers which is, in a word, awesome. I will let SFBE describe:

Even without Goodman, who was often under-utilized by Fox Sports, Eye on College Basketball already had the muscle in place to outwork and outpoint its competitors. That's the scary part. With him in tow, however, there's no telling just how high this blog can soar. Norlander's versatility, Borzello's recruiting knowledge, Parrish's rock-solid perspective, and Goodman's endless string of connections create a concoction that could literally blow college basketball fans away this season.
If that is not already one of your first stops for college basketball news, it should be.

- If LSU is going to get back to being a good team, they will need freshman Johnny O'Bryant to be a star. If he has his way, he will star for just one year before he takes off for the NBA. (from The Dagger)

Let me know if there are any links out there that should have caught my eye...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Will Idaho St Replace Broderick Gilchrist and Deividas Busma?

We are talking about replacing stars this week, and the next team to look at is Idaho State. They had one of the worst teams in the Big Sky last season, finishing 9-20 on the year with a 4-12 conference record. They accomplished this by being one of the worst defensive teams in the country (Opponents had an ORtg of 111.7 against, 311th worst in the nation), and being not that much better offensively (44.6 EFG%, 318th in the country).

To add insult to ineffectiveness, they will be losing arguably their two players in Broderick Gilchrist and Deividas Busma, both Big Sky Honorable Mention selections a season ago. So how will they replace them and fill their event space?

Gilchrist was their leader last year, playing a team high 35. minutes per game, though he had a bit of a disappointing senior year after a stellar junior campaign. He was not a very efficient player, shooting 45.6% on 2s and 32.9% from 3s. He dominated the ball but had more turnovers than assists. But he will be important to replace simply because he played so much.

The onus on replacing him, it seems, will fall on two different guys. One is Kenny McGowen. McGowen had the second highest shot rate on the team, so he will be able to take over that role for Gilchrest! He also needs to improve efficiency in all facets offensively... he had very similar ARate and TORate to Gilchrest, and his shooting percentages were slightly lower. He shot more 3s than 2s, so it will be interesting to see if he can get into the paint more next year.

The other guy is newcomer Melvin Morgan, a JUCO Transfer from Mississippi. Morgan averaed 15.9 PPG while dishing out 3.4 APG, and looks to have a great chance to start from Day 1. Says coach Joe O'Brien:

“Melvin gives us our best true point guard we've recruited since we've been here,” O'Brien said. “He is a guy we have been watching since high school and someone who looks to pass first and score second. His stock really went up this year.”
Look for Morgan to take over primary ball-handling responsibilities, and the fate of the Bengals may rest in his hands.

----------------------------------

Busma was a 7-footer, so it will be a little more difficult to find someone to replicate that. He led the team in rebounding per game, and was one of the better shot blockers in the conference (with 56 on the season).

Abner Moreira will be counted on to pick up a lot of the rebounding slack, and he seems to be up to the ask. At 6'9'', he had the best rebounding rate on the team last season. He was also solid at getting to the FT line, and was an 80% shooter once he got there. He will be heavily relied on down low in his senior season.

After that, there is uncertainty. Brandon Glanz redshirted last year and should be in the mix, but at 6'6'' is a bit of a tweener. Jakub Kusmeriak sat out last year after transferring from Central Florida, and at 7'4'' figures to get some good run. In his last year at UCF, he averaged 1.8 PPG and 1.3 RPG in 6 MPG. He will likely be in line for some solid minutes. Incoming players Dejan Kotsur and Garrett Swanson could have a role, but I am not sure how that will play out.

The good news for Idaho State is that things can't get much worse than last season. The bad news is that I'm not sure they're going to get a whole lot better.

Would love to hear any Idaho State fans chime in on how they see these guys getting replaced.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Will Montana Replace Brian Qvale?


I suspect few people outside of the Big Sky know just how good Brian Qvale was last season (and throughout his career for Montana). He was the Big Sky Defensive POY last year, but he also finished 6th in the conference in scoring (at 14.9 PPG). At 8.8 RPG, he led the Big Sky in rebounding. With 3.0 blocks per game, he had 19 more blocks than anyone else in the conference. He shot 62.6% from the field, which was second in the Big Sky among player that shot more than 25 times on the season.

From KAJ18:

Tinkle has a large void to fill, as starter Brian Qvale has graduated. The 6-11 center led the team in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg), and was a first team All-Big Sky Conference pick and the league's "Defensive Player of the Year." He also set conference records for career blocks (247) and single-season (95 last year) rejections.

He was extremely efficient offensively, great on the boards, and the best defensive big man in the conference (and one of the best in the country). Safe to say Coach Wayne Tinkle wishes he had another season of eligibility.

All of this begs the question... how is Montana going to replace Brian Qvale?

The first person to look at is Derek Selvig, the 7-footer who has been a constant presence in the lineup. Even though he is a 7-footer, his game is very different from Qvale's. While Qvale was a traditional post player, Selvig is more skilled, and likes to move around the court more. He shot 100 3-pointers last year (making 39), but was not all that efficient inside the arc, shooting just 41.5% from 2s. He is one of the best passing big men in the country, and had an ARate of 19.8, second on the team behind Will Cherry. While his length will still cause defensive problems, it would be huge if he can improve rebounding the ball to make up for some of Qvale's loss.

Another guy that will be counted on is Mathias Ward, although he too is not a traditional big man. He is 6'7'', and a skilled offensive player, but is not great rebounding or on the defensive side of the ball. He has a nice midrange game, and shot over 50% last year (and an impressive 81% from the FT line). However, he struggled guarding physical posts, and posted mediocre rebound rates (7.1 OR%, 10.8 DR%). He can be effective in certain roles, but might have to be hidden a bit defensively. He brings a lot of versatility to the lineup though.

Then there are a couple of guys that played limited minutes as freshman, but will be called on to contribue in Billy Reader and Eric Hutchison. Both are 6'9'' and more traditional centers. Billy Reader seems to have the most upside, and he could be the best post scorer on the Montana roster. Hutchison is more raw, but could be a solid post defender and rebounder.

Without Qvale, things will certainly be different for Montana, as they will not have that dominant defensive big man and efficient low post scorer. It will be up to a combination of guys to replace him... If the bigs can get it done for Montana, another top 3 finish in the Big Sky seems very likely.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

State of The Big Sky Conference

Excellent article in the Standard-Examiner about the Commissioner of the Big Sky talking at Weber State.

"Last year, when times were tumultuous in collegiate athletics, I would get a lot of you that were emailing me or talk to me about, what's Weber doing?" he said. "Some of my colleagues in other areas were a little nervous that when the music stopped, they were wondering if they'd have a seat to sit in. We knew we'd have a seat to sit in. Our goal from the beginning is to be the best we can be in our current state. It was really telling for me when Montana, probably the most marketable program and brand in our conference, decided it was in their best interest to stay in the Big Sky at that time."

Tip of the cap to Weber Hoops.

Does the Big Sky Have An Attendance Problem?

There was an excellent article this week from Craw's Corner about the attendance in the Big Sky, titled "The SKY Is Falling." To sum it up (though you should go read the whole article):

It is the watch and follow part these days that is troublesome. Yes you could say the in the Big Sky the Sky is falling. Last year the average home attendance for all Big Sky men's games was 2,288. That figure stands out even more, when you consider out the 355 D-1 teams, Big Sky member Weber State ranked 93rd in attendance with average attendance of just under 6,000. Not bad.
Here are the attendance figures (as compared to the capacity of the arenas the teams play in), as given on the NCAA Men's Basketball Attendance Report (PDF):


All of this begs the question - Is this a problem for the Big Sky or merely a fact of life in a mid-major conference?

On one hand, the Big Sky was 20th out of 31 conferences in average attendance last season, which suggests that this may simply be a fact of life for a mid-major conference. Also, it seems like perhaps the biggest issue the Big Sky has with attendance has more to do with scheduling. Once again, from Craw's Corner:

And speaking of scheduling, one thing that really damages the Big Sky attendance is the ability to attract quality teams to play in pre-season games. Of the three teams that have their schedules out for 2011-12, here is a sample of the schools that Big Sky teams will play in pre-season at home.

South Dakota, Cal State Davis, Pacific Lutheran, Colorado Christian, Cal State Bakersfield, Mayville State, Northern New Mexico, Willamette and Linfield (twice). As you can see all big time basketball powerhouses.
To call the quality of opponents that Big Sky teams are getting at home uninspiring would be an insult to the word "uninspiring." Nobody except extreme diehards are going to come out watch a game between a team in the Big Sky and Colorado Christian (a team that is based in Lakewood, CO, where I work, and I wasn't even aware they had an athletic program). These types of games are not going to attract a casual fan.

I wonder if it would be possible for the Big Sky to explore matchups with other conferences, something similar to what the ACC and Big Ten do? I would think conferences like the Summit Conference or the Big West would be open to such an idea, since it would help them too. Getting a home game every other year (and going on the road the other year) against teams like Valparaiso, or Long Beach St., or another member of a similar conference would be a better draw then a D3 school, and would help the conference's RPI also.

To take the other side of the coin, attendance might be a bigger problem than the conference ranking would suggest. For one, attendance was down by an average of 113 per game last season. Even though you might presume the economy would have something to do with that (and it might), about half of the conference saw their attendance averages go UP last season. The Big Sky was 19th among conferences a year ago.

Another factor is Weber State, which was 93rd in the NCAA in average attendance last year, easily best in the conference. Their success might be skewing the average of the conference though, as they are the exception rather than the rule. If you take their attendance numbers out, the rest of the Big Sky averages 1,870 fans for their home games, a total that would put them 25th among conferences.

In the end, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. To a certain extent the low attendance is a fact of life for a conference like the Big Sky, but it seems like more marketing and creativity could be done to lure in fans. The Big Sky puts out a quality basketball product, with lots of competition and intrigue. If they can harvest that, I don't see why the Big Sky couldn't be a top 15 conference in terms of average attendance.

What does everyone else think? Are the attendance numbers a product of being a mid-major conference, or could more be done to help boost attendance numbers?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Montana Releases Tentative Schedule

I will have more of my thoughts on Montana's schedule in the next couple weeks, but for not go check out a very thorough and very excellent article from KAJ18 (out of Kalispell, MT) about the tentative release of the Grizzlies schedule.

Tons of great information in the article, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Early Look at Montana State's Schedule


Since we have already looked at Eastern Washington and Weber State's schedule, let's take a look at Montana St.

The Bobcats are coming off of a year where they finished 13-18 (7-9) in conference, and graduated three of their main contributors, including Bobby Howard (a 2nd team All Big Sky) and Erik Rush (a Big Sky Honorable Mention). They'll also be breaking in a large number of junior college transfers, so it is safe to say that it will be an interesting season in Bozeman.

The schedule will include a few challenges as well. According to coach Brad Huse:

“We've bit off another challenging non-conference schedule that should prepare us for league play,” Huse said. “Our league continues to be extremely tough and the best way to prepare for league play is by playing a difficult non-conference schedule.”
The Bobcats will start the season November 11 with a trip to play Arizona St. While the Sun Devils were down a bit last season, Herb Sendek is slowly building a solid program down in Tempe, so Arizona St. will certainly be the heavy favorites in the season opening tilt.

About a week later they will travel to take on Utah. Again, they are a bottom level Pac-12 team (for their first year in the conference), but their talent level will be higher than the Bobcats. Their other marquee game comes against New Mexico, which is a very tough place to play under Steve Alford. New Mexico will be in the chase for the MWC title, so that will be a good measuring stick for the Bobcats.

Other non-conference games include home dates with Northern New Mexico, Seattle, CS Bakersfield, Willamette, and UC Riverside. Not exactly games to get the home base excited about, but such is life as a bottom tier Big Sky team. Other road dates include trips to play Idaho, San Jose St, and Pepperdine.

It will be an interesting period for MSU as Coach Huse will need to settle on a rotation with a lot of new faces. If they can finish .500 and win one of the three high-profile games (Utah, New Mexico, Arizona St), I think they would have to consider it a very successful non-conference slate.

Thoughts?

[Note: If you are looking for another, perhaps even more thorough look at the Bobcats schedule, you should definitely check out Blue & Gold, who has some very good thoughts on it)]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collin Chiverton (Eastern Washington Recruit) Highlights

Last year at the City College of San Francisco, Collin Chiverton averaged 19 PPG/5 RPG/ 2.5 APG, leading his team to the California Community Colleges Athletic Association title. He was also a top 150 recruit coming out of high school. According to his new coach:

“He’s a winner and has played on highly-successful teams, and has been a key player on all of those squads,” Hayford said. “He is an extremely athletic player and has a great dribble-drive game. He has extreme range in his outside shooting ability, and is a very, very strong offensive player.”
He's got lots of athletic ability, a ton of range on his jump shot, and seems to have a nice midrange game as well. He has signed to play for Eastern Washington, and should be one of the top newcomers in the Big Sky



They don't make too many athletes like Chiverton in the Big Sky Conference.

If you are looking for an immigration lawyer nyc.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Early Look at Eastern Washington's Schedule


After checking out Weber State's schedule, it's time to look at Eastern Washington's (since they are one of the few that has released their schedule)!

Weber State's had a nice balance of home games and away games, but Eastern Washington is not quite so fortunate. Such are the breaks for mid-major teams sometimes.

Their home slate in the non-conference features South Dakota, UC Davis, Linfield, and Pacific Lutheran. Suffice to say it would be extremely disappointing if they lost any of those games. On the road, however, they were not afraid to challenge themselves.

They will start the year by traveling to Gonzaga on November 11, a team that is the favorite in the West Coast Conference. It will be a tough matchup for EWU inside, but should be an entertaining game against an in-state rival. A week later they will travel to face Oregon, who will be brimming with confidence in year 2 of Dana Altman's tenure, after winning the CIT in his first season.

Their next major conference opponent is Dec 3 against Washington St, another emotional game featuring an in-state rival. While the Cougars lost Klay Thompson, they return guys like DeAngelo Casto, Reggie Moore, and the underrated Brock Motum. On December 14th they will travel to UCLA. The Bruins lost a couple guys early to the NBA Draft, but they will be a fringe top 25 team with Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson still in the mix. Finally, they will travel to take on St. Mary's, fresh off a 25 win season and likely to be playing with a chip on their shoulders.

That is 5 tough road games for Eastern Washington in the non-conference... if they could win 2 of them, they would have to feel very good about themselves. Jim Hayford is not afraid to test his team early on in the season.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Early Look at Weber State's Schedule


A few teams have released their schedule for the 2011-2012 schedule, with Weber State being one of those teams. As they are the early favorite in the Big Sky, let's take a look at some of the notable games.

From head coach Randy Rahe:

"Once again we have a very difficult and challenging schedule this year," said WSU head coach Randy Rahe who will enter his sixth season with the Wildcats this fall. "We are always looking to play as tough a schedule as we can and this year is no exception. We have a great opportunity to play several teams from Utah which is always a difficult test. Our preseason schedule always prepares us for the Big Sky schedule and the Big Sky, just like in other years, will be very difficult this season."
Their first test of the season will come against Utah St at home, which should be an extremely intriguing matchup. The Aggies obviously had a huge year last season, winning 30 games before bowing out in the NCAA Tournament, but they lose all-everything Taj Wesley. The Aggies have traditionally had a weak schedule, but they have beefed it up this year, and Weber St. will be a big part of that.

The early to mid part of December brings two very good road games which will be a great test for the the Wildcats. First is a game at California on December 7, who should be a fringe Tourney team out of the Pac-12 (led by Jorge Gutierrez, who I think we will all get to know better this year). Then, on December 16 they head to Provo to take on BYU. BYU obviously loses Jimmer, but they will have plenty of firepower to make it an interesting game.

Other non-conference games of note include the St. Mary's Classic in Moraga, CA at the end of November. They also have home slates against future Big Sky member Southern Utah on December 10, and against Utah (coached by former Montana head man Larry Krystowiak) on December 22. Finally, they will get a chance near the end of the year with a home Bracket Busters game on February 18.

Weber State believes itself to be the best team in Utah, and they will have a chance to prove it this season. With a home game against Utah St and Utah, and a road game against BYU, they will have perhaps the most intriguing non-conference schedule in the Big Sky.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transfers Out of The Big Sky (Part 2)

After covering half of the Big Sky transfers, it's time to take a look at the rest:

- Chris Harriel (Portland St) - After Glen Dean, Harriel is the biggest lost for any team in the conference. He played the second most minutes on the team, and had the second highest usage rate for the Hornets. He averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.4 SPG. His shooting percentages weren't great, but he did a little bit of everything. He had a great steal rate, and was a solid rebounder for someone his size. For a team that will have a lot of newcomers next season, Harriel's continuity would have been huge. He would have had a chance to be an All Big Sky performer next season.

-----------------------------------

- Zach Nelson (Sacramento St) - In 16 games last year, Nelson averaged over 22 minutes per game. However, looking at the numbers, this might more a function of a mediocre team as opposed to Nelson being an above average contributor. He did average 6.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG, but he shot only 33% from the field, and was merely an average rebounder. Heading into his senior year, he was unlikely to improve a lot, so it might be better for them to get a fresh face in there anyway.

-----------------------------------

- Antoine Proctor (Sacramento St) - Proctor left in midseason in his first year with the Hornets, after playing at a JUCO. Like Nelson, he got solid PT, but that was a function of a mediocre team. He had a solid all-around line of 6.5 PPG/4.0 RPG/3.5 APG, but he shot 38% from 2s and 29% from 3s. His great assist rate was offset by a high turnover rate (3.1 per game in 23.3 minutes), and further the 3.5 assists per game could be an issue of small sample size against bad competition at the start of the year. He transferred to Montana-Billings, but it might be a case of addition by subtraction.

-----------------------------------

- BJ Porter and Blake Davis (Weber St) - There is a good write-up here on these two leaving, but they were just guys that were not likely to get a lot of playing time. Both could have seen a little bit of action next year, but their minutes will be easily swallowed up by others, and it doesn't seem likely that Weber St will miss their contributions next season. Porter will be transferring to NAIA Azusa Pacific, while Davis will head to DII Grand Canyon.

-----------------------------------

- Matt Hodgson, Eric Rippetoe, and Jordan Weirick (Southern Utah) - While not officially part of the Big Sky yet, Southern Utah will be joining eventually, so though it would be important to mention their transfers. Weirick and Hodgson both had pretty solid sophomore campaigns, though each saw less than 15 minutes of action. Hodgson was a solid big man with ok rebounding rates, but at 6'11'' could block a few shots and was efficient around the basket. Weirick shot 18/37 from downtown last year, though he didn't contribute a whole lot else. Rippetoe was a redshirt freshman who will transfer to a community college in Wyoming.

While losing Hodgson and Weirick is not the type of thing that will set a program back a lot, they were very nice rotation players who may have had a chance to start at some point in their Southern Utah careers.

If I missed any transfers, please let me know!

Which losses are going to have the biggest impact?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Three Ways for North Dakota To Improve In 2011-2012

Check out an excellent post from Mr. Fetch over at Sioux Blog.

North Dakota was the 5th youngest team in college basketball last season (fast fun fact: of the 10 youngest teams in America last season, only North Dakota and Memphis had winning records), but finished 19-15, including winning the Great West Tournament (which was something very positive to build on for a program that hasn't had a ton of positives over the past decade).

With a sophomore class-to-be featuring Troy Huff, Jamal Webb, Aaron Anderson, Josh Schuler, and Brandon Brekke, the Fighting Sioux (or whatever they will be called by that time) could be a factor in the Big Sky.

Transfers Out Of The Big Sky (Part 1)

After checking out some of the transfers into the Big Sky, let's check some of the players transferring out (Note: this won't cover players who are leaving the teams because of personal issues or academics):

After the firing of head coach Kirk Earlywine (and his career record of 42-78), it shouldn't have been a surprise that some players might transfer out. Even at Arkansas, which had likely the most applauded hire of the offseason (with Mike Anderson), their best player, Rotnei Clarke, transferred out. So it's no surprise that they had a high number of transfers.

- Glen Dean (EWU) - After initially saying that he would stay and play for new coach Jim Hayford, he apparently changed his mind, and will transfer to Utah. There he will sit out a year, and have 2 years of eligibility remaining.

First, the bad news. He was the best player on the Eagles last year, finished 2nd team all Big Sky, and would have been one of the top candidates for POY in the Big Sky. He had a nice assist rate, cut down on his turnovers, and shot 42% from downtown (though just 36% from 2s). He would have been the biggest building block for Coach Hayford.

Now, the good news. EWU is very deep in the backcourt, and should be able to recover pretty well. Cliff Colimon will be a senior, and he score in a variety of ways (27 points in the Big Sky Tourney game last year). He was second on the team in assist rate, though they will need him to be a better distributor. Kevin Winford is probably the least known player to have scored 39 points in a single game last season. Jeffrey Forbes played almost 80% of the team's minutes last season and shot 90% from the FT line and 41% from 3PT.

In addition, Willie Hankins redshirted last season, and Eastern Washington folks are very excited about his potential. Wing man Collin Chiverton was a top 150 recruit out of high school, and should be in the running for Newcomer of the Year in the Big Sky after a successful JUCO career. Losing Dean will hurt them, but they should be able to make do just fine with all that backcourt talent coming back.

-----------------------------------

- Rashano McRae and Carter Warnock (EWU) - Word came out that these two were going to be "exploring options in Division II and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics basketball teams." McRae played in 23 games as a junior (his first year), but had very minimal impact. The 6'7'' McRae scored only 21 points with 29 rebounds in 175 minutes of action. He played double digit minutes in his first four games, and then only 3 times for the rest of the season, so it should not be a huge loss, especially with the signing of JUCO F Jordan Hickert. I don't believe McRae has decided where he will go, or at least I have not seen anything.

Warnock was 6'9'' and redshirted his freshman year before deciding to leave with the coaching change. He is tall but thin, and likely would not have made a major impact for the team next season, despite a thin frontcourt. He transferred to Point Loma, which, if you hadn't heard of that university before right this moment, you are not alone.

-----------------------------------

- Vaughn Autry (Montana) - Autry was seen as a solid recruit coming out of high school (he originally committed to Utah St before winding up at Montana), but things just didn't really work out in his year for the Griz. He averaged less than 10 minutes per game and scored 1.5 PPG, but has decided to transfer closer to his home in Los Angeles. From Mslacat in March of 2010:

I think with Autry’s athleticism and strong defensive skills will make it tough for him not to be in the mix for playing time next year. I think his skills will fit the needs the Griz will have next year. If he could develop a consistent three point shot it would be a lock.
I'm sure Wayne Tinkle would have liked to have kept Autry around, but they should have the depth to overcome his departure.

-----------------------------------

- Casey Trujeque (Montana St) - This is another case of a player from California transferring to be closer to home. At 5'9'', Trujeque struggled to find his own shot as a freshman (shooting under 30%), but looked to have a nice future as a playmaker. He had an Assist Rate of 26.8, which is very solid, and was third on the team in assists despite playing about 9 minutes per game. He likely would have seen an increased role next year, and could have been starting by his junior year, so his loss will be felt in the Bobcats program.

-----------------------------------

- David Arnold (Northern Colorado) - After two seasons, Arnold decided to transfer to MSU-Billings for his final two years. The CO native was not a big factor for the Bears, playing in only 9 games last year (after 21 as a freshman), and scoring 20 total points in his 2 seasons. While it is possible he could have earned more playing time, I can't imagine the Bears coaches are too broken up about his departure.

PART 2 to follow...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dre Winston Jr. Transfers to Portland St.

Portland St. recently picked up a transfer to add to an already large recruiting haul. Dre Winston Jr, formerly of Washington St.

"Dre is an extremely quick, athletic guard. In fact, with he and (freshman signee) Gary Winston (no relation), we have two of the top athletic guards from that class ('10) in Washington. They are two guys we are really excited about for the future."
Winston is 6'1'', and will have three years of eligibility remaining, making it a nice get for Portland St and head coach Tyler Geving. Winston played only a bit role as a freshman, so it should not be a huge loss for them. In 26 games he scored 15 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, and doled out 8 assists. For a major conference team, that should be a sustainable loss. Indeed, Cougars fans don't seem too worried:

To be clear, I don't see this as a huge loss. Winston's ceiling seemed to be a role-player using only a marginal amount of minutes, though he didn't get much time to shine in his freshman campaign. When he was on the floor, though, he was next-to-invisible and struggled. It could've changed, of course, but when a player is in over their heads from the start, they face an uphill battle.
But it is a nice get for the Vikings. If reports that he struggled to grasp the system are true, a year off for his transfer season will be a nice help. It seems he will certainly be in the mix for a starting role in 2012-2013. He is also a northwest guy, which is big for recruiting inroads.

It seems like it works out well for both parties. Winston was not likely to play big minutes for the Cougs and appeared to be a fringe Pac-12 player. With Portland State he could develop into a nice rotation guy.

In the end, Winston decided that Ken Bone's old team was a better fit for him than Ken Bone's new team.

Eastern Washington Adds Two Transfers

(Photo credit to EWU Athletics)

By my count, only three players have transferred into the Big Sky this offseason, with 2 of those 3 heading to Eastern Washington under first year coach Jim Hayford.

One of the players is big man Martin Seiferth, who is transferring from the University of Oregon. He is 6'10'' and originally from Berlin, Germany. He will have 3 years of eligibility remaining after his redshirt year, which makes it an especially nice get for the new coach.

"We believe he can develop into a top big man in the Big Sky Conference," said Hayford. "He brings great athleticism and quickness to go with his height, and has put on 20 pounds of muscle since coming to the U.S. last fall. We have three senior post players in the program, so this will allow us to have one of their replacements step in with familiarity to the program. We are very pleased that he chose us out of all the options he was presented."
Seifarth had minimal impact as a freshman, appearing in only 12 games and playing roughly 4 minutes per game. In his final club season in Germany he scored 13 points per game and added 7 rebounds.

He is only 220 pounds, so the transfer year could be huge for him to build strength. If he is able to put in a full year in the weight room, he will be a nice asset for the Eagles, especially with his size.

-----------------------------------

The other transfer is guard Justin Crongsile, who will be coming to the Eagles from St. Joseph's. He played two years for St. Joe's, even starting 19 games as a freshman. He was ranked 24th best PG in the nation after his senior year, so he comes with potential and talent.

“Justin will bring great experience and talent to our program at the point guard position,” said Hayford. “We are really pleased that he chose to be an Eagle, and our fans can expect great things from Justin in the 2012-13 season.”
Crogsile had a promising freshman season, but really struggled in his sophomore campaign.

He shot 31% from the field (38% from 2s, 28% from 3s), and had very mediocre assist and turnover rates. For all of his talent, his true shooting percentage was very mediocre, and he struggled to find minutes on a bad team.

Still, it is a nice pickup for Hayford because Crogsile's pedigree shows he has the talent. A year off and a change of scenery could be exactly what he needs to become a more efficient, consistent player. Of the two transfers, Crogsile had a higher risk, but certainly a higher reward.

-----------------------------------

It will certainly be interesting to see what type of role Seifarth and Crogsile have in 2012-2013. One thing is sure - even with the transfer of Glen Dean, Eastern Washington fans have to be excited about what they have seen from Jim Hayford so far in his brief tenure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Josh Lepley Dismissed From Northern Arizona

This news is a little old, but still noteworthy.

Northern Arizona's reserve forward Josh Lepley was dismissed from the team. From AZ Daily Sun:

"He's been dismissed for actions and behaviors that are not conducive to what our program is about," Adras said. "I wish him good luck, but he's not going to be a part of this (program) anymore."
Last season he averaged 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in about 7 minutes, but it seems like he could have played a bigger role in the upcoming season.

At 6'10'', he was the tallest player to get any real minutes last season. His 19.2 DR% was second highest on the team, and easily the highest of any returnee. In addition, with 5 graduating seniors, he would have had a chance to earn solid minutes as a senior. I'm sure they will adjust just fine, but he would have been a solid rotation player.

Now, let's just hope he can get his head and straight and use this to become a better person.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Time for University of North Dakota to Drop The Fighting Sioux Nickname

The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux are set to join the Big Sky officially on July 1, 2012, but that may be in jeopardy.

For as long as I can remember (I am a UND graduate), there has been an intense nickname debate raging at North Dakota. The current nickname is the Fighting Sioux, and that has drawn angst from the NCAA. They have placed sanctions on the athletic programs, forced them to change their names, and it has had some affect on scheduling.

For a while, it looked like the issue was settled. Then the North Dakota legislature stepped in, telling the University to continue to use the nickname. It was seen as a short-term stopgap as they tried to continue to battle the NCAA on the issue.

All of this has come to a head though, as the Big Sky has told UND that continued use of the nickname could be an issue for the school joining the conference:

UND President Robert Kelley was told last week that continued use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo as mandated by a new state law has become a "concern" for them and could jeopardize UND's joining the conference next year.
As an alum, I love the nickname, and the history and tradition that goes along with it. But it is time for it to change. At best, keeping the nickname would keep the situation contentious and would probably still cause some scheduling issues. At worst, it could keep UND out of the Big Sky, which would be disastrous for the athletic program.

President Robert Kelley is doing what he can to change the nickname, let's hope the legislature follows suit. Otherwise, we could have one less team joining the Big Sky in July 2012.