Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Projecting Big Sky Starters

Obviously, the season is still a couple of months away. But, I am working on a conference preview, and am trying to project some starters... would love to hear thoughts and disagreements!!

Eastern Washington
F Martin Seiferth, Jr.
F Venky Jois, Soph.
F Danny Powell, Fr.
G Tyler Harvey, Soph.
G Drew Brandon, Jr.

Idaho State
F Ajak Magot, Jr.
F Marcus Bradley, Jr.
F Justin Smith, Fr.
G Chris Hansen, Jr.
G Tomas Sanchez, Sr.

C Eric Hutchison, Sr.
F Chris Kemp, Jr.
F Kareem Jamar, Sr.
G Keron DeShields, Jr.
G Jordan Gregory, Jr.

Montana State
C Paul Egwuonwu, Sr.
F Flavien Davis, Sr.
F Terrell Brown, Jr.
G Antonio Biglow, Sr.
G Marcus Colbert, Soph.

North Dakota
F Brandon Brekke, Sr.
F Jaron Nash, Sr.
F Troy Huff, Sr.
G Aaron Anderson, Sr.
G Jamal Webb, Sr.

Northern Arizona
F Max Jacobsen, Sr.
F Gaellen Bewernick, Jr.
G Quinton Upshur, Jr.
G DeWayne Russell, Soph.
G Kris Yanku, Fr.

Northern Colorado
C Connor Osborne, Sr.
F Derrick Barden, Sr.
F Tim Huskisson, Jr.
G Tate Unruh, Sr.
G Tevin Svihovec, Jr.

Portland State
C Lamont Prosser, Sr.
F Aaron Moore, Sr.
G Dre Winston, Jr.
G Gary Winston, Jr.
G Tim Douglas, Jr.

Sacramento State
C Eric Stuteville, Fr.
F Alex Tiffin, Jr.
F Zach Mills, Jr.
G Mikh McKinney, Jr.
G Dylan Garrity, Jr.

Southern Utah
C Jayson Cheesman, Sr.
F Jaren Jeffery, Sr.
G AJ Hess, Soph.
G Trey Kennedy, Fr.
G Chris Nsenki, Soph.

Weber State
C Kyle Tresnak, Sr.
F Joel Bolomboy, Soph.
F Davion Berry, Sr.
G Gelaun Wheelwright, Jr.
G Jordan Richardson, Sr.


EDIT: I will update this as I go along, with thanks to suggestions from the comments and on twitter. Really appreciate the feedback!

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North Dakota Hires Former Tennessee Assistant

North Dakota made some coaching news this week when they hired former Tennessee assistant coach Jason Shay, per Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.

Shay was part of Bruce Pearl's staff that was fired in March 2011 in the middle of an NCAA investigation rooted in a cookout Pearl held at his home in violation of NCAA bylaws. Shay spent the past two seasons at Northwest Florida State with fellow former Tennessee assistant Steve Forbes, who was hired earlier this month at Wichita State. That makes Shay the second person from Pearl's staff to return to Division I.
While Shay and the rest of the staff had a tough demise, they certainly did a lot of good things with the Volunteers. Adding him to the staff should be a good move for Brian Jones.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Top 20 Departing #6: Damon Heuir

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

It could be easily argued that no player had a bigger role in his team's offensive gameplan than Damon Heuir did for Southern Utah last season. His 29.7% of possessions used was second in the Big Sky (behind Troy Huff). Unlike Huff, he was the Thunderbirds PG, meaning he had the ball in his hands all the time, bringing it up the court. His 24.8 Assist Rate was eighth in the conference, and none of the guys in front of him shot the ball as much as Heuir did.

All of this shooting led to some gaudy numbers - 15.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG. However, the fact that he had the ball in his hands so much might have been a little bit of a function of the fact that SUU didn't have a lot of offensive playmakers. Outside of Heuir and Jackson Stevenett (who we will hear more about later in this series), they didn't really have anyone consistently capable of creating good opportunities for themselves.

The biggest flaw in his game was that when he took twos, he shot 40% on them. And he took a lot, over six per game. That level of inefficiency crushed his ORtg, which was a solid but average 95.2. He shot 33% on three-pointers, which won't rank anywhere near the top of the conference but is not a bad rate. As mentioned, his assist rate was good, but he coupled it with a fairly high TO rate of 20.9, which is more than you would like to see your PG turning it over.

Another benefit to his offensive game was that he was solid at drawing fouls, and took about five free throws per game. Since he was a 77% FT shooter, this was big for the TBirds. Also, for a 6'2'' guard, Heuir rebounded well, posting a 10.4 DR%.

If you look at Heuir's efficiency numbers, there are some other guys that you could argue should be ahead of him on these rankings. However, because of the breadth of things he had to do for Southern Utah last year, and the fact that he was able to contribute in so many ways, he will be a difficult guy for Nick Robinson to replace.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top 20 Departing #7: Frank Otis

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Frank Otis struggled though injury problems during his tenure at Weber State. After his junior season, where he played just 12 games and had knee issues all year, it was fair to wonder if he would be able to contribute much in his last season in Ogden. Fortunately for the Wildcats, he played all 37 games as a senior, and was one of the brightest spots in an excellent season for Randy Rahe's team.

Otis had his minutes limited a bit (he played 58.8% of the team's minutes), which was likely a function of trying to keep him fresh, and a luxury that Weber State had thanks to their excellent depth. However, in those minutes, he played excellent, efficient basketball.

Otis shot 63% from the floor during the season. If you throw out one game (February 28 against Sacramento State), that number creeps up to around 66%. Simply put, he was a guy that didn't need the ball, but when he had it, he didn't force shots, and he was extremely efficient. The 8.9 PPG that he averaged doesn't speak to how good he was on offense, because he knew how to pick his spots.

He was also a solid rebounder, and his 10.5 OR% was eighth in the Big Sky, while his 19.8 DR% was seventh in the conference. Despite playing a lot of minutes with a guy like Joel Bolomboy (who was possibly the best rebounder in the conference), he still pulled down a good amount of rebounds.

Another benefit to Otis was his maturity and leadership. For a team that was looking for leaders after Damian Lillard's departure, Otis is one guy that stepped up. He was a classy guy, which sometimes gets overlooked. In terms of pure numbers, Otis' per game stats can be replaced. But the efficiency with which he did it was what made him such a good player for Weber State last season.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Estan Tyler Transfers to UND

I missed this a while back, but UND added a transfer in UMKC guard Estan Tyler. Tyler will be eligible to play for the 2014-15 season, and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Tyler is a 6'1'' PG with DI experience, which will be sorely needed after next season, when Aaron Anderson, Troy Huff, and Jamal Webb will all graduate. He led UMKC in scoring with 11.0 PPG last year, including scoring 12 points in a win over UND. He also averaged three assists per game in each of his two seasons.

Tyler shot 43% from downtown last season, and had a 22.3 ARate. Though his turnovers were higher than you would like to see from a PG, and he was not very efficient inside the arc, there is certainly enough production there to think that he will be an excellent player for North Dakota during his final two seasons. He is a name to watch for North Dakota in the future, as he will factor in a big way in their backcourt rotation in 2014.

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Top 20 Departing #8: Lateef McMullan

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Quietly, Lateef McMullan for Portland State was one of the most improved players in the Big Sky last season, turning in a solid senior season for the Vikings. He improved his numbers all across the board from his junior to his senior seasons, and leaves as one of the top point guards in the conference.

As a junior, he shot 40% on twos, 31% on threes, and had a higher TO rate (21.3) than Assist Rate (16.3). As a senior, those numbers improved to 44.7% from twos, 35.3% from threes, and his Assist Rate (21.6) was higher than the TO Rate (15.4). PSU needed him to step up after losing some key guys to graduation, and McMullan responded by improving in just about every key area of his game.

McMullan led the Big Sky with a 2.4 : 1 A:TO ratio, one of the most important stats for a PG. He was seventh in the conference in assists, but did an excellent job of taking care of the basketball. He was also 10th in minutes played, which was big for a Vikings team that didn't have a lot of experienced depth on the perimeter.

Overall, Portland State's season was about a worst-case scenario, as they finished 8-20, including 5-15 in the Big Sky. But that wasn't the fault of McMullan, who kept the offense among the best in the Big Sky. They will struggle to replace all of the things that he did to make the offense go.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Top Departing #9: Joe Eberhard

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Joe Eberhard played two years for the Sacramento State Hornets, and had a little bit of a strange short career. Here are some numbers comparing his junior and senior seasons:

Junior - 53.5% twos, 45.8% threes, 11.1 PPG
Senior - 38.4% twos, 37.8% threes, 6.9 PPG

For some reason, his offense left him. He went from being a perfect offensive role player to a guy that was not very good inside the arc, and saw a sharp decrease in his three-point shooting. If we go based on his junior season numbers, ranking him #9 is probably a little low. If we go based on last season, #9 is probably too high.

He was a solid rebounder on the wing, with a 13.7 DR% as a senior. He pulled in over five rebounds per game in both of his seasons. As a senior, he became very good at protecting the basketball, dropping his TO Rate to 12.9. That is one of the reasons his ORtg only dropped to 108.6 (which is solid) from 114.7 the year before, even with the sharp decrease in shooting percentages.

Eberhard was also very durable, and could play all day long. As a junior, he averaged over 35 minutes per game, playing 89.3% of the team's possible minutes. As a senior, that dropped to 80.2%, which is still a big number, and was probably lower due to the Hornets having a little more depth.

Eberhard is a tough guy to rank because of the dropoff from his junior year to his senior year, but the Hornets will miss his versatility. He could do a little bit of everything, and they will miss that on both ends.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Craig Ehlo Steps Down as EWU Assistant

Craig Ehlo was the most well known out of all members of a Big Sky coaching staff, thanks to his long NBA playing career. After two years on the bench as an assistant at Eastern Washington, he has decided to step down.

“I am very grateful for having the opportunity to work with a great friend in building the foundation of EWU basketball,” said Hayford. “Craig is a wonderful person and it will be great to see him back on the TV doing broadcast work. We owe a big thanks to Craig for all his contributions.”
Ehlo assisted with recruiting and on-floor coaching, and was also the primary coach handling player development, per the EWU website. From all accounts, he was a good asset for the Eagles to have on their staff. We wish him well in the future!

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Funding Approved For Portland State Arena

Portland State has been trying to secure funds to work on the Stott Athletic Center (among other things), and they got some good news on that front this week. The "Vikings Pavilion Project" will receive $64 million in state bonds to work on various projects:

The Oregon Legislature's approval of $40 million for the School of Business Administration and $24 million for the Stott Educational Center and Viking Pavilion will transform two high-traffic areas of PSU's downtown campus with more classrooms, auditoriums, study rooms, computer labs and a 5,500-seat arena. The two projects will add much-needed space to help meet the state's goal for 40 percent of its residents to earn a bachelor's degree.
One of the things that often separates the low-majors from the bigger basketball schools in the NCAA is facilities. The Big Sky is no exception to this rule, as many of the school's basketball facilities are not the best. A project like this obviously will have many benefits for the University, but one of them should be the basketball program.

The renovated building will transform the cramped and leaking Stott Center into a light-filled, mixed-use building with new academic and athletic spaces, as well as a mid-sized venue capable of hosting a variety of public events. Construction is expected to start in fall 2014.
Many congratulations to Portland State!

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Few Recruits

There have been a few more recruits over the past month or so that I have so far failed to talk about on this blog! Let's take a look at them.

- Jake Lopez commits to Montana - He is an Australian shooting guard that stands at 6'5''. He seems to have a lot of international experience, and Wayne Tinkle thinks he may be able to help this year. "Jack is a 6-5, athletic wing who can really shoot the ball, and I think that once he gets his feet wet he might be able to help us as a freshman," Tinkle said. "He has a ton of international experience, so he will add great maturity to our team even though he is a true freshman.

- Anthony Johnson commits to Northern Colorado - According to Decatur Central High School Athletics twitter account, Johnson has committed to play for Northern Colorado.

It looks like this is a verbal commitment right now. He put up some big point totals in his senior year, and appears to have a real ability to get to the free throw line. Here is a scouting report on him:

Anthony Johnson: 6’3” Small Forward, Decatur Central H.S. (2013) This was my first look at Johnson in a while, and I could not have been more impressed. He is simply an all-around scorer. He handles the ball very well and can create his own shot off the dribble. Anthony was very effective going to the rim, but also is a good mid-range shooter. He does a good job of getting to the foul line too, where he was 9/9 on the night. At the next level he can play either the 2 or 3 spots. I think Anthony is one of the best “sleepers” in Indiana. A good Division II or low-major prospect.

- Christian McDonald commits to Weber State - According to his twitter profile, McDonald will be playing for Weber State.

McDonald is a 6'4'' guard from Lake Oswego High School in Oregon. It looks like he averaged nine points per game for a very good team there. I am not able to find too much more information on him right now.

- JC Kennedy commits to Weber State - Kennedy will be a walk-on at Weber State. He averaged 11 points per game last season.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top Departing #10: John Dickson

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

John Dickson is a guy that was a solid four year performer for Sacramento State, even though he never made it to star level in the Big Sky. He was a good starter for them, and the rare four-year player that has a big impact each year.

Offensively, it's debatable how well he improved each year. As a freshman, he shot 46% on twos and 40% on threes. As a sophomore, he lost his three point shot (5/39 from downtown), but became very good at getting to the FT line. As a junior, he was still a bad three-point shooter, but didn't get to the line quite as much. As a senior, he reverted back to being more of a jump shooter, which hurt his efficiency. He improved to 30% from downtown, but that is not a great percentage. He shot 45% on twos, which is not great for a power forward. His FT rate dropped to the lowest rate of his career, which was a big blow for his game (since he is a solid FT shooter).

He had the skills to do a lot of things offensively, but didn't always put everything together. That is what kept him as a solid Big Sky player rather than a really good one.

He did grow as a rebounder as his career went along. He posted career best averages of 7.3 OR% and 16.9 DR%, which are good numbers. That was a big area of improvement for him.

While Dickson never necessarily become all that his skills suggested he might be able to, he was still a solid player for the Hornets for four years, which is all that you can hope for when you bring a guy into the program. If any of the recruits Brian Katz brings in have as good of a career as Dickson, he will be a happy man.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top 20 Departing #11: Christian Moon

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Christian Moon's numbers don't pop out at you, and he wasn't a guy that could be the focal point of the offense for Montana State. But, he was a great role player that turned a solid junior year into an excellent senior campaign.

Last year, Moon averaged 13.9 points while grabbing three rebounds per game. While his best skill was his outside shooting (he shot 41% from three), he really turned himself into an all-around offensive player. He shot 58% on twos, compared to 52% as a junior. He also showed an increase ability to get to the free throw line - as a junior he shot 1.8 per game, but last year that number over doubled to 3.8 per game. When he got there, he shot 80%.

Added all up, and he was one of the more efficient offensive players in the conference. His ORtg of 124.6 was good for 24th in the country and 2nd in the conference (though he didn't use quite the same amount of possessions as many of the offensive centerpieces did).

While he didn't provide a ton of rebounding or passing, he took care of the ball (11.1 TO Rate) and made great use of his shots, with a 63.8% TS%.  He will be tough for the Bobcats to replace because defenses always had to account for him. Christian Moon finished with a nice two year career for Montana State.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Top 20 Departing #12: Spencer Coleman

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

When Wayne Tinkle looked at the depth chart for next season, Spencer Coleman had to be have been a big part of it. During his junior year, his first in Montana, he got better and better as the season went along, and looked primed to be one of the key cogs in the Grizzlies' title defense.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out that way, as Coleman was dismissed from Montana this offseason.

Coleman was a versatile 6'6'' forward, someone who could play multiple positions for them on both ends of the court. He was tough enough and a good enough rebounder that he could play minutes at the four, and may even have started there this year. He was also a good enough shooter that he could probably give them minutes at the two in a pinch.

Offensively, Coleman did a little bit of everything. He shot 39% from downtown this year, 56% from two-point range, and 77% from the stripe. He was able to score in a multitude of ways, and didn't need the ball to be effective, which made him a great complementary player. His True Shooting % was a solid 60.5%.

He grabbed 15.3% of defensive rebounds, and 6.2% of offensive rebounds. Not great rates, but good enough to be a contributor on the glass. He was an average but willing passer. His ability to defend multiple spots was big for Montana last year, as they had a shortage of frontcourt depth.

After fighting a bit for minutes early last season, Coleman seemed to gain the trust of Tinkle as things went along. Hopefully his story will be a cautionary one for other Big Sky players - make good decisions off the court, or it won't matter what you do on the court.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top 20 Departing #13: Stallon Saldivar

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Often, guys that post big assists numbers are helped by the fact that they are such a threat to score, and defenses have to be on them tight at all times. With no disrespect to Stallon Saldivar, he was never a great scorer, but he still wound up racking up big assist numbers throughout his career. By the time he was all said and done, Saldivar had 505 career assists, enough to rank him sixth on the Big Sky's all-time list.

His career high in points per game was 6.7 points, and he never shot better than 40.6% from the field or 32% from three, but he worked hard to make everything else about his game as good as it could be. Obviously, his passing was his best skill, and he had as good of court vision as anyone in the conference. His senior year, he also became a very good rebounder, to the tune of 5.6 boards per game, a pretty impressive number for a 6'0'' guard. Remarkably, his DR% was 18.7, which was eighth best in the conference.

Clearly, he was willing to do whatever it took to help the team win. He also improved defensively throughout his career, and his steal percentage got better each season.

Last year, even though he wasn't a major threat from the outside, he did improve a lot on his shots inside. His two-point percentage jumped from 36.6% as a junior to 48.5% as a senior, which is huge.

Saldivar was the only guy in the Big Sky to record a triple-double this year (to my recollection) which speaks to his versatility and willingness to do whatever he could to help the team. The Lumberjacks will miss his leadership and versatility.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Top 20 Departing #14: Renado Parker

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

After his junior year, Renado Parker for Portland State showed a game that suggested he could be an all-conference first team performer if things broke right for him as a senior. In his first year for the Vikings, he averaged 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds (in 24.4 minutes), and showed himself to be an extremely efficient and effective post scorer, shooting 57% from the field. He was also a capable offensive rebounder, with an 11.0% offensive rebound rate.

Last year, it wasn't an easy transition moving from the shadow of Chehales Tapscott in the post to being at the center of opposing defenses gameplans. He shot 45% from the floor (though he did improve as a foul shooter), and also saw a decrease in his offensive rebounding rate. It helps to have a player as good as Tapscott (and Nate Lozeau) next to you on the frontline.

Still, Parker did show some other improvement his senior year. His TO Rate dropped big-time, to the point that he became dependable with the ball. His assist rate also raised slightly. He nabbed a few more offensive rebounds, and used quick hands to double his steal percentage. While his shooting percentage dropped, his teammates still benefited from the attention he got.

Parker's senior year was a bit disappointing, but he showed himself to be a skilled post scorer and rebounder. I suspect everyone on PSU might find a little less room to operate offensively next season.

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