The start of the season is only about six months away, so it seemed like a perfect time for a way too early rankings for next season! A lot can and will change, but thought it would be fun to take a look at where teams might be ranked if the season were starting today. In some cases, these look a lot like the end of year standings, as a lot of key players will be seniors this year, especially for the top seeds. Please weigh in with thoughts!
The information on who is coming in mostly comes from my recruiting tracker, so let me know if I am missing anyone.
Who they lose: Scott Bamforth, Frank Otis, Duce Zaid, Wayne Bradford
Who is coming in: Kyndahl Hill (RS), Jeremy Senglin, Richaud Gittens, Josh Fuller
Comments: Bamforth and Otis are big losses, but they have the talent to replace them. Once again, they will be the deepest and most athletic team in the conference, and I have them as an early one thanks to the graduation of Will Cherry and Mathias Ward. In the backcourt, if Gelaun Wheelwright is ready, he will be a natural choice to step into the spot at two guard. If not, they have plenty of other options (Royce Williams, Gittens, Senglin - who is a big-time talent) that can play minutes there. Upfront, Kyndahl Hill is one to watch. He redshirted this year, but is a big-time athlete that is a bit raw. Does that sound familiar? He is a lot like Joel Bolomboy in that way. Speaking of Bolomboy, after a stellar debut, he could be an all-league player. We aren’t even getting into Davion Berry, Kyle Tresnak, and Jordan Richardson, all of whom are among the best (if not the best) at their positions in the conference. They should again be ten deep.
Who they lose: Will Cherry, Mathias Ward
Who is coming in: Mario Dunn, Brandon Gfeller, Riley Bradshaw (second semester)
Comments: I was tempted to pick them to win it, just because it seems like I am always picking against them and being proven wrong. Kareem Jamar will be back, and he could be a two-time League MVP. Jordan Gregory showed signs that he could be the next great Grizzlies guard, and be a potential 13-15 PPG scorer with his ability to shoot outside and drive. His development will be key. It remains to be seen what will happen with Keron DeShields, but he will be a big part of the team as long as he is there. They have a lot of role players upfront (Spencer Coleman, Andy Martin, Eric Hutchison, Mike Weisner), but they need at least a couple of them to take the next step and become solid, consistent starters. I would expect they will also look at bringing another big man in, but we will have to wait and see about that. On paper, you could make the case that they could fall to fourth, but with Wayne Tinkle and Jamar still there, that doesn’t seem likely. Look for them to challenge for the crown again.
Who they lose: Jordan Allard, Mitch Willmer, Doug Archer, Dan Stockdale
Who is coming in: Quinton Hooker, Jaron Nash, Alonzo Traylor, Ryan Salmonsen
Comments: They lose some rotational big men, but they should have enough talent in that they won't feel it too much. They thought they would have Nash this year, but he should be a high impact player that could start. He has a ton of athleticism and talent after coming over from Texas Tech. Traylor (who played the first semester before becoming ineligible) and Salmsonsen will also provide depth up front. The biggest key, of course, is the return of Troy Huff. He has a legitimate argument as the best player in the conference, and should have a big senior year. With Aaron Anderson and Jamal Webb back as well, UND might have the best backcourt in the Big Sky.
4. Northern Colorado
Who they lose: Paul Garnica, Emmanuel Addo, Bryce Douvier
Who is coming in: Jordan Wilson, Corey Spence, Dominique Lee
Comments: They lose two impact transfers, but I'm not sure it will hamper them too much. Addo was inconsistent for them, and JUCO big Dominique Lee should be able to step in and help there. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Tim Huskisson as more of a small ball four, or perhaps Cody McDavis. Maybe they can just play Derrick Barden 40 minutes a game! In the backcourt, I like what they are thinking... Tevin Svihovec struggled a lot at the lead guard, so they have brought in guys that can take the pressure off. Wilson has gotten a ton of high praise, though I wonder how physically ready he will be to play immediately. Corey Spence is a very good passer and defender, which is what they need. Plus, the Bears still have Tate Unruh and Barden, two of the best returners in the conference.
5. Eastern Washington
Who they lose: Collin Chiverton, Kevin Winford, Jeff Forbes, Jordan Hickert
Who is coming in: Sir Washington, Felix Van Hofe, Drew Brandon, Ognjen Miljkovic
Comments: I'm taking a leap here, but I think EWU will be much improved this year, and they will continue to get better and better as they get more players to fill the system. Either Miljkovic or Van Hofe could have an impact similar to Venky Jois, as they both have the pedigree. They will join Jois, Martin Seiferth, and Thomas Reuter in the frontcourt, to form the most versatile front line in the conference. Drew Brandon looks really good in the backcourt, and he could join Tyler Harvey back there. The Eagles should have good depth and a lot of options. Plus, with a ton of youth, they will get better and better.
6. Montana State
Who they lose: Jeff Budinich, Xavier Blount, Christian Moon,
Who is coming in: Stephen Holm, Vance Wentz, Terrell Brown
Comments: The loss of Blount and Moon hurts on the wings, but the return of Calen Coleman and the addition of Terrell Brown should make up for most of that production. Plus, they can play two PGs at once, as they have three capable ones on the roster (Antonio Biglow, Mike Dison, Marcus Colbert). The biggest reason I have them fifth is their seniors in the frontcourt. Paul Egwuonwu and Flavien Davis were both JUCO transfers that got better and better as the season goes along. As seniors, they will be a formidable frontcourt duo.
7. Sacramento State
Who they lose: Konner Veteto, John Dickson, Joe Eberhard, Jackson Carbajal, Julian Demalleville
Who is coming in: Eric Stuteville, Nicky Hornsby, Case Rada, Zach Mills, Alex Tiffin
Comments: They lose almost all of their frontcourt experience, but they will have one of the best backcourts in the Big Sky. Dylan Garrity returns, and he could be an all-conference player if things come together. Mikh McKinney showed a lot of good things in his first year. They are also high on guys like Dreon Bartlett and Cody Demps, not to mention incoming Case Rada. The frontcourt production will be the key to whether they break through and make the conference tournament.
8. Northern Arizona
Who they lose: Gabe Rogers, Stallon Saldivar, Blake Hamilton, Ephraim Ekanem, Michael Dunn
Who is coming in: Kris Yanku, Zachary Reynolds, Chris Miller, Terry Winn, Terry Meeker, Ako Kaluna, Quinton Upshur
Comments: They will be fun to watch, as there will be a lot of youth out there. In particular, I am excited about Yanku (guard) and Kaluna (center), but I have been told that Quinton Upshur could be the most talented guy in the class. There will be a lot of growing pains, but those should be fun for Lumberjacks fans. Returning is guard DeWayne Russell, who was one of the best freshmen in the conference. He should improve even more and be a potential all-conference guy. Max Jacobsen was a revelation as a junior, and he should anchor the frontcourt.
9. Idaho State
Who they lose: Melvin Morgan, Sherrod Baldwin, Jakub Kusmieruk, Neveij Walters, Dejan Kostur
Who is coming in: Jeffrey Solarin, Scotty Tyler, Justin Smith, Andreij Slavik, Sage Burmeister, Ajak Magot
Comments: To me, ISU looks like Eastern Washington did last year. They are doing a nice job of establishing their identity, but they don't have the players or the experience yet to take the next step and be a good team. Tomas Sanchez will be one of the best all-around guards in the Big Sky, and should form a nice duo with sharpshooter Chris Hansen. The frontcourt remains thin, but should be better with the reinforcements of the recruiting class. This is a program that is trending up, but I think they are a year away from contention for the tournament.
10. Portland State
Who they lose: Renado Parker, Lateef McMullan, Michael Harthun, Michael Harvey, Marvin Whitmore
Who is coming in: Zach Gengler, Kyle Benton
Comments: It's tough to see how they improve much, because they lose three senior starters, and they had no freshmen on the roster last year. Aaron Moore and Lamont Prosser will form the basis of the backcourt, and they hope that Gary Winston and Dre Winston can be a good backcourt duo, but they look like a team that lacks depth and explosiveness offensively. Plus, they have been one of the worst defensive teams in the conference over the past few years.
11. Southern Utah
Who they lose: Jackson Stevenett, Damon Heuir, Wade Collie, Zach Ghormley, Jordan Johnson, Julian Scott, Tyson Koehler
Who is coming in: John Marshall, Race Parson, McKay Anderson, Juwan Major, Casey Oliverson
Comments: Nick Robinson did a great job in his first season, but he will have to do an even better job to get the Thunderbirds back in the Big Sky tournament. They lose their top scorers from last year, and there is nobody back who scored more than 6.8 PPG. I struggle to see who will be the lead dog for them. They need AJ Hess and Chris Nsenki to develop a lot this offseason. Their recruiting class has solid guys, but it will take awhile.
EDIT: Minor updates have been made to clean the article up of any errors.
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