This has been Vermont’s conference for many years, and it figures to stay that way. The addition of NJIT adds depth, as the difference between the top and bottom halves of the conference has been one of the biggest in college basketball. Vermont has used its defense to dominate the America East, and many conference members are trying to fight back by increasing their tempo and versatility.
1. Vermont: The Catamounts are 59-5 in conference play the last four seasons but must replace leading scorer Anthony Lamb. So they brought in 6-foot-8 Tomas Murphy, who made 46.4% of his 3-pointers range for a Northeastern team that made the 2019 NCAA tournament. He will be paired with Stef Smith, who shot over 42% from 3-point range, and Ben Shungu, who two seasons ago had the best road 3-point shooting percentage in D-I. Robin Duncan, who had 4.3 points and 2.6 assists per game last season, will need to improve his career 19.1 3-point shooting percentage. Vermont also will likely need the conference’s sixth man of the year, forward Ryan Davis, to start. He finished strong with 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in the final 13 games. The Catamounts’ defensive system has given up 65.1 or fewer points per game in 10 of the last 11 seasons.
2. UMBC: The Retrievers must improve on a free-throw shooting percentage that was 332nd in college basketball but have a few pieces left from when they stunned Virginia in the 2018 NCAA tournament. The shortest player in D-I, 5-foot-2 Darnell Rogers, averaged 14 points and 4.3 assists per game while making 42.2% of his 3-point shots after coming in from Florida Gulf Coast, but injuries limited him to just seven games last season. He will be supported in the backcourt by L.J. Owens, was a 33.6% 3-point shooter last season while contributing 9.5 points per game. Brandon Horvath might be the best stretch forward in the conference as the 6-foot-10 big man shot 36.8% from 3-point range while averaging 11 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. R.J. Eytle-Rock’s return is crucial, as he filled things up with 11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 36.3% from 3-point range in 22 games.
3. NJIT: The Highlanders were in the bottom 35 among D-I teams in 2-point and 3-point shooting percentage last season but have a guard in Zach Cooks who led the team in points (19.7) along with assists and steals per game. Despite lacking a true point guard, NJIT is solid at taking care of the ball, committing the 20th-fewest turnovers per game last season. Austin Peay transfer Antwuan Butler should help Cooks, as he started every Ohio Valley Conference game last year while averaging 6.4 points, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals to just 1.5 turnovers per game. The team also has some versatility with 6-foot-8 San Antonio Brinson making 38% of his 3-point shots while chipping in 11 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.
4. New Hampshire: The Wildcats turned things around in 2019-20 by tripling their five wins behind the trio of Nick Guadarrama, Sean Sutherlin and Jayden Martinez, who are all between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7 and pack the stat sheet. All three averaged between 10.5 and 13 points per game while hauling in at least 6.6 rebounds to mask the fact that not a single player on the roster was taller than 6-foot-8. The top five scorers are back, and adding 6-foot-11 center Tayler Mattos from Bowling Green is big after he had 4.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game.
5. Albany: Low-post play figures to bedevil Albany as no one who logged more than four rebounds per game last season is back. Cameron Healy and Antonio Rizzuto combined to average 4.5 3-pointers per game, but neither is a true facilitator. Healy was 14th among qualifying D-I players in free-throw shooting percentage at 90.9 while averaging 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists. He should get some help from JoJo Anderson, who played just six games last season after transferring from Northern Arizona. The Great Danes had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
6. UMass Lowell: The River Hawks have a stellar scorer in Obadiah Noel, who shot 40% from 3-point range while registering 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. But the school has never had a record above .500 as a Division I program. Guards Connor Withers and Ron Mitchell averaged between 8.5 and 9.5 points and just over two assists per game, but leading scorer and rebounder Christian Lutete is gone. UMass Lowell’s tallest player is 6-foot-8 Arkansas State graduate transfer Salif Boudie, who had 4.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the Sun Belt in 2018-19. Tulane transfer Charlie Russell Jr. should lend depth and support down low after playing sparingly last season. And Bryce Daly, who had 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in 2018-19 before missing all of last season, will be back. The River Hawks had a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
7. Hartford: The Hawks will look to build around Hunter Marks and Moses Flowers, a pair of underclassmen who each averaged over 10 points per game. Hartford will look to stymie opponents like last year, holding foes to 27.5% from 3-point range, which was second in college basketball. D.J. Mitchell will need to step up in the backcourt after he averaged 6.4 points per game last season while making 38.7% of his 3-point shots. Austin Williams is just a 53.2% lifetime free-throw shooter and made 19.4% of his 3-point shots at Marist but averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 rebounds while he was there.
8. Binghamton: For the 10th straight year, the Bearcats went 5-11 or worse in AEC play and will look to improve on a bottom-10 defense in points per possession. Leading scorer Sam Sessoms transferred to Penn State, but guard Hunter Crist, who made 38.8% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman at UW Green Bay, comes aboard. George Tinsley and Brenton Mills, their second- and third-best scorers, were freshmen last year.
9. Stony Brook: The Seawolves have to start from scratch under second-year coach Geno Ford after four of the top five scorers transferred. Manhattan transfer Tykei Greene averaged 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season and has experience in a starting role, but he and nobody else on the roster shot better than 32% from 3-point range last season. Mount St. Mary’s transfer Omar Habwe will look to get back to putting up numbers similar to those he had as a sophomore — 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds — before those stats decreased last season as his minutes per game sank from 28.5 to 18.5. Mouhamadou Gueye is the top returning scorer and, at 6-foot-9, contributed seven points, 6.4 rebounds and two blocks per game.
10. Maine: The Black Bears, who have gone 6-10 or worse in AEC play for nine straight seasons, lose their top two players in scoring and assists and three of their top four rebounders. Two stretch players, 6-foot-8 Vilgot Larrson and 6-foot-9 Stephane Ingo, combined to shoot 27.1% from 3-point range while combining for 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Guards Mykhailo Yagodin, Precious Okoh and Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish return after being underachieving underclassmen last season, combining to shoot 22.6% from 3-point range. Maine was in the bottom 15 in the country in points and turnovers per possession.
Top 10 Players
1. Zach Cooks, Senior, G, NJIT
2. Obadiah Noel, Senior, G, UMass Lowell
3. Stef Smith, Senior, G, Vermont
4. Cameron Healy, Senior, G, Albany
5. Sean Sutherlin, Senior, G, New Hampshire
6. George Tinsley, Sophomore, F, Binghamton
7. Nick Guadarrama, Junior, F, New Hampshire
8. San Antonio Brinson, Senior, F, NJIT
9. Brandon Horvath, Senior, F, UMBC
10. Tomas Murphy, Senior, F, Vermont
The American looks a bit different this season with the exit of UConn back to the Big East, but the conference still has solid depth and seems to be rising in the national hierarchy. Most schools have defensive mind-sets as a result of coaching hires in recent years. Even teams projected toward the middle of the conference might vie for NCAA tournament at-large bids.
1. Houston: This team has what it takes to make a run to the second week of the NCAA tournament like it did in 2019. Houston has to replace Nate Hinton, its only player who pulled in at least 5.5 rebounds per game last season, but the Cougars have been in the top seven in rebound rate each of the last three years. Reggie Chaney, a 6-foot-8 Arkansas transfer, has better size than any big men coach Kelvin Sampson has had in those three seasons. Houston returns a backcourt of Caleb Mills, DeJon Jarreau and Quentin Grimes, all of whom can complement each other. Jarreau and Grimes have something to prove, as many thought they’d now be in the NBA.
2. Memphis: Though James Wiseman, the crown jewel of Memphis’ loaded 2019 class, played just three college games and is gone, this team is still loaded with talent from a class that retains three top-100 prospects and brings in a lot more. Freshman Moussa Cisse, who averaged 18.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 9.4 blocks per game in high school last season, will help replace Precious Achiuwa and Landers Nolley. The latter transferred from Virginia Tech after giving the Hokies 17.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in his first 24 games as a freshman while converting 35.1% of his 3-pointers. If Evansville transfer DeAndre Williams can gain his eligibility after leading the Aces to an upset of No. 1 Kentucky last season and shooting 45.5% from 3-point range as a 6-foot-9 stretch point player, the Tigers might be one of the biggest surprises in America.
3. SMU: Depth has never been a strong suit of Tim Jankovich-coached teams, but the Mustangs bring back over 80% of their scoring from a season ago, when each of their top five returning scorers averaged at least 1.7 3-point attempts per game. TCU transfer Kendric Davis was one of the most efficient point guards in the country with 6.7 assists to 2.5 turnovers per game, and SMU welcomes former Oklahoma State big man Yor Anei along with former California starting guard Darius McNeill, who averaged 11.2 points per game and shot 35.1% from 3-point range.
4. UCF: The Knights were dealt a big blow when leading scorer Collin Smith opted out of the season but bring in Darius Perry from Louisville to run the point and former top-40 recruit C.J. Walker from Oregon. Darin Green Jr. emerged as a sharpshooter, pumping in 10.1 points per game while converting 41.7% of his 3-point shots as a freshman, and Texas A&M transfer Brandon Mahan emerged at the end of the season, making 39.1% of his 3-point attempts and logging 11.7 points and 1.3 steals per game in the team’s final six contests.
5. USF: Having stretch forward Alexis Yetna back after he missed the 2019-20 season coupled with 7-foot Texas Tech transfer Russel Tchewa and Mississippi State transfer Prince Oduro makes this team tough down low. The Bulls have been one of the worst teams at the line the last two seasons, as just one player who averaged more than 2.1 points per game shot over 70% from the line. Justin Brown shot 86.3% from the line and pairs well with David Collins, who led the team with 13.7 points per game last season.
6. Cincinnati: Under new coach John Brannen, the Bearcats were far from dominating and went 8-4 in games decided by six points or fewer in gaining a share of the AAC regular-season title. Rapolas Ivanauskas, a 6-foot-10 stretch forward, shot 43.4% from 3-point range in 2018-19 but just 26.3% last season and will need to try to cushion the loss of Tre Scott, who averaged a double-double last season. The addition of former Michigan reserve guard David DeJulius should help. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4-1 in Big Ten play but was not a primary ball handler, which is a big problem since point guard and leading scorer Jarron Cumberland is gone.
7. Tulsa: It was a golden season for the Golden Hurricane, but Tulsa must try to improve an offense with just one player who made over 32.5% of his 3-pointers returning. Arkansas transfer Keyshawn Embery-Simpson and Georgia Tech’s Curtis Haywood II come from solid defensive programs, but before sitting out the 2019-20 season, neither made over 28% of his 3-point shots. Tulsa does have a do-it-all player in Brandon Rachal, who averaged 12.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game and was a sneakily good defender. Darien Jackson and Elijah Joiner combined for 13.2 points, 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game as part of a team that relies on doing the little things well.
8. Wichita State: The program is in turmoil after allegations of coach Gregg Marshall’s mistreatment of athletes prompted seven players to leave and resulted in Marshall’s resignation on Nov. 17. Assistant coach Isaac Brown takes over as interim head coach. UConn transfer Alterique Gilbert will become the main facilitator and will look to get the ball to Tyson Etienne and Dexter Dennis, who combined for 18.6 points per game and made more than 38% of their 3-point attempts. Trey Wade and Morris Udeze will look to hold things down in the post after they combined for eight rebounds per game but will need juco transfers Craig Porter and Clarence Jackson to make an immediate impact.
9. East Carolina: Last year’s top eight scorers are back, but this is a team that will go as far as big man Jayden Gardner takes them. As a freshman he had a 36-point, 20-rebound performance and averaged 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. Point guard Tristen Newton was efficient with 3.7 assists to 1.9 turnovers per game, but the fact that his 11 points and 4.5 rebounds per game were second best to Gardner is concerning. He and J.J. Miles were the only players who made over 27.5% of their 3-point attempts, and the Pirates will need to improve their outside shooting to be a bigger threat in the AAC.
10. Tulane: Coach Ron Hunter overachieved relative to most expectations with a 12-18 record and 4-14 mark in the AAC, which speaks to how big a mess Mike Dunleavy left him. The last time Tulane was above .500 in conference play was 2006-07 in Conference USA, and Hunter is tasked with replacing four of the top five scorers from a season ago. Southern Miss transfer Gabe Watson is fresh off averaging 13 points and 3.4 assists per game. He shot under 30% from 3-point range but should be a good complement to the top returning scorer, Jordan Walker, who shot 37.5% from 3-point range and scored eight points per game. Former Alabama guard Jaylen Forbes fell short of expectations last season in the SEC with 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game but will get a second chance along with seldom-used 6-foot-10 Vanderbilt big man Oton Jankovic.
11. Temple: The Owls lost four of their top five scorers and three players who had at least 2.6 assists per game. Second-year coach Aaron McKie will look to 6-foot-7 De’Vondre Perry, who made 41.2% of his 3-point shots, to take the next step on offense. McKie will also need undersized big men Jake Forrester and J.P. Moorman to expand on their combined 13.3 points and 8.9 rebounds. Sage Tolbert comes over from Southeast Missouri State to help down low after averaging 9.6 points and seven rebounds, but the lack of a true point guard will be glaring.
Top 10 Players
1. Jayden Gardner, Junior, F, East Carolina
2. Caleb Mills, Sophomore, G, Houston
3. Kendric Davis, Junior, G, SMU
4. Moussa Cisse, Freshman, C, Memphis
5. Landers Nolley, Sophomore, G, Memphis
6. Quentin Grimes, Junior, G, Houston
7. Tyson Jolly, Senior, G, SMU
8. Keith Williams, Senior, F, Cincinnati
9. Alexis Yetna, Junior, F, USF
10. DeJon Jarreau, Senior, G, Houston
The conference has undergone as much realignment as any in the country. NJIT joined with Mercer’s departure five years ago, but now NJIT heads to the America East to reduce travel. The Atlantic Sun has been dominated by two types of teams. Liberty has slowed it to a crawl, being in the bottom three in possessions per game en route to back-to-back conference tournament titles. Others, like Lipscomb and North Florida, take and hit tons of 3-point shots in semi-quick offenses.
1. Lipscomb: Ahsan Asadullah, a 6-foot-8 center, led the Bison in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season as the team closed by winning eight of its last 10 games. Lipscomb, in its second season under coach Lennie Acuff, got guard Greg Jones to emerge late last season with averages of 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while making 37.5% from 3-point range. He averaged 6.6 points on 33.9% percent 3-point shooting in the first 15 games. KJ Johnson was an Atlantic Sun all-freshman selection. He contributed 11.2 points per game and performed better in road games at 12 points per game and a 37% 3-point shooting mark. Jake Wolfe played 11.8 minutes per game two years ago as a freshman, but he made just 23.8% of his 3-point shots while averaging 5.1 points and 1.7 assists last season. The Bison added forward depth with Parker Hazen, averaging 4.4 points and 4.8 rebounds. Guard Miles Miller will attempt to increase his offensive prowess after notching just 3.2 points per game while shooting 30.9%.
2. Stetson: Former UCF coach Donnie Jones made an immediate impact. The Hatters had won five or fewer conference games in six straight seasons, but they won 10 outright as underdogs last year, including a win as more than a 20-point underdog against South Carolina. Five of the top eight players were freshmen who return for a team with a methodical style that was 347th in the country in possessions per game. Stetson had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
3. Liberty: While many talk about how Dayton and San Diego State were big losers due to the lack of a 2020 NCAA tournament, Liberty has to be on that list as well. The Flames’ top three scorers last year and four of their top five were seniors who are now out of eligibility. Liberty was 11th in the country in points per possession scored and seventh in points per possession allowed. This is now Darius McGhee and Elijah Cuffee’s team after they combined for 16.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, four assists and 1.8 steals per game with shooting over 80.5% from the line. McGhee made 38.6% of his 3-point shots. Kyle Rode and Shiloh Robinson are 6-foot-7 sophomores who saw some minutes off the bench as freshmen. Rode made 36.5% of his 3-pointers while chipping in 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds, and Robinson had 2.6 points in 10.9 minutes per game. Despite playing a deliberate style that yielded the fewest possessions per game, Liberty was sixth in the country in scoring margin. The Flames will look to D-II Henderson transfer Chris Parker, who made 42.7% of his 3-point shots, to duplicate that and help a defensively sound team maintain its identity.
4. North Alabama: In its second season at the D-I level, an 8-8 conference record should be considered a success, considering North Alabama did not have a senior who logged 10 or more minutes per game. Leading scorer Christian Agnew transferred to UTEP, but Aleska Matic showed he can make shots in hostile environments as he sank 52.4% of his 3-pointers in road and neutral-court games. Mervin James earned conference all-freshman honors with 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and a steal while making 34.5% of his 3-pointers, but he was also 24th in the country among qualifying D-I players in turnovers per minute played. Emanuel Littles grabbed 11.5 rebounds to go with 8.5 points per game in conference play.
5. North Florida: After leading all of college basketball in 3-pointers made and percent of shots taken from behind the arc, the Ospreys have to replace four of the five players who averaged more than four points per game. Carter Hendricksen led the team in points and rebounds last year and is one of three North Florida players who made over 36.5% of their 3-pointers. But the Ospreys need UMBC transfer Jose Placer to provide stability, facilitate the offense and help a defense that was 306th in the country in points allowed per possession. Transfer Alonde LeGrand started 20 games for Detroit last season but, at 6-foot-7, does not fit this offense and is more of a defensive stopper.
6. Florida Gulf Coast: This is no longer Dunk City. The Eagles discovered a primary scorer toward the end of last season in Caleb Catto, who over the final 15 games registered 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists while converting 37.5% of his 3-point attempts. FGCU will be without Brian Thomas down low, whose 2.8 blocks per foul committed led college basketball. With Catto the only returner who averaged more than six points per game for a team that was 342nd in points per possession, it figures to be an ugly season for the once-proud Eagles.
7. Jacksonville: The Dolphins have been in rebuild mode seemingly every year under coach Tony Jasick and must replace their top five scorers. Jacksonville gets back Tyreese Davis, who was a freshman all-conference pick in 2018-19 and redshirted last season after averaging 10.1 points, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals. The Dolphins will need Kevion Nolan, a 45.7% 3-point shooter in 2018-19 at Samford, to help soften the blow of the offseason losses.
8. Bellarmine: The Knights’ 40.1% 3-point shooting mark last year would have been second to only BYU had they been playing in Division I instead of D-II. Bellarmine returns many shooters from a season ago, including Pedro Bradshaw, who has D-I experience after beginning his career at Eastern Kentucky. He is also the only returning player who registered at least 2.5 rebounds per game last season.
9. Kennesaw State: At 1-28, the Owls had the worst record among all 353 D-I teams last season. But they bring in the conference’s best recruiting class, according to 247Sports. Getting back guard Terrell Burden after he was limited to 14 games last season should help the offense. He registered 9.6 points and 2.1 assists per game but shot 15.8% from 3-point range and had 3.4 turnovers per game. Kennesaw State also gets back Armani Harris, who had 7.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in eight games last season but needs to work on his 54.3% free-throw shooting. The Owls will have more versatility with 6-foot-10 Nate Springs coming in from Ohio after shooting 40% from 3-point range while averaging three points per game. It will take multiple years for those guys to turn the fortunes of a team that was the worst in college basketball in 2-point and 3-point shooting percentage and 336th in points allowed per possession.
Top 10 Players
1. Ahsan Asadullah, Junior, C, Lipscomb
2. Carter Hendricksen, Junior, F, North Florida
3. Rob Perry, Sophomore, G, Stetson
4. Darius McGhee, Junior, G, Liberty
5. Jamari Blackmon, Junior, G, North Alabama
6. KJ Johnson, Sophomore, G, Lipscomb
7. Emanuel Littles, Junior, F, North Alabama
8. Kevion Nolan, Junior, G, Jacksonville
9. Mahamadou Diawara, Sophomore, F, Stetson
10. Caleb Catto, Junior, G, Florida Gulf Coast
The conference has featured solid home-court advantages given the geographical spread and elevation changes. Montana has gone .500 or better in conference for 16 straight seasons to become a perennial pest. But besides the teams in the state of Idaho, the talent seems distributed relatively equally.
1. Eastern Washington: Six of the top seven scorers return from a team that won the Big Sky and has Kim Aiken Jr., who might be the most multifaceted player in the conference. The 6-foot-7 Aiken attempted 7.4 3-pointers per game, making 33.2%, to go with 13.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and a block. Jack Perry is an underrated sharpshooter who converted 44.8% of his 3-point shots and 88.5% of his free throws, and Jacob Davison commanded defensive attention with averages of 18.4 points and 2.8 assists. With Ellis Magnuson establishing himself as a pass-first point guard with 5.8 points and 4.1 assists per game, this team has all the tools for Big Sky success.
2. Montana: Though its leading scorer is gone, Montana brought in a point guard who made history last season. Cameron Parker set a D-I record with 24 assists in a game for Sacred Heart and enters the program after having averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game in a season that was limited to 18 games due to injury. The Grizzlies have what they lacked last season in a true post presence with 6-foot-10 Michael Steadman eligible after averaging 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds for San Jose State in 2018-19. Montana also brings in Cameron Satterwhite from within the conference after he gave Northern Arizona nine points and shot 38% from 3-point range and 77.8% from the line. However, Derrick Carter-Hollinger is the top returning scorer at just 6.7 points per game. He made 47.4% of his 3-point attempts but took just 19.
3. Southern Utah: In each of coach Todd Simon’s four years, Southern Utah’s win percentage has increased. Simon brings in former LSU big man Courtese Cooper to try to take the next step forward. The Thunderbirds bring back Maizen Fausett and Harrison Butler, who combined for 15.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. The addition of Aanen Moody, a career 40.3% 3-point shooter in two seasons at North Dakota, should help Southern Utah ascend in the Big Sky.
4. Weber State: Much of last year’s production is gone, but Weber State brings in six transfers with D-I experience and at least four are eligible immediately. The Wildcats will likely hang their hat on controlling the paint, with Florida transfer and former top-100 prospect Dontay Bassett teaming with the returning Michal Kozak, who gave his team 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. New Mexico transfer Tavian Percy converted 42.9% of his 3-point attempts in limited minutes, and Grand Canyon transfer Isiah Brown is fresh off giving the team 9.3 points while making 34.4% of his 3-pointers after starting his career as a reserve at Northwestern.
5. Montana State: For years Montana State has relied on a dominant guard to run the offense, and the torch now goes to UMKC transfer Xavier Bishop. Bishop registered 15.4 points while making 35.3% of his 3-point attempts in 2018-19. The Bobcats return pretty much their entire frontcourt, with Jubrile Belo and Devin Kirby pulling in a combined 12.1 rebounds per game. They also have Amin Adamu back after he registered 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. Second-year coach Danny Sprinkle has changed the approach from an up-tempo offense and leaky defense, and now the Bobcats should be competitive in the conference.
6. Northern Colorado: The loss of coach Jeff Linder coupled with one of the best stat fillers in the country in Jonah Radebaugh puts this team in a tough spot. Radebaugh was the only player in college basketball to average at least 16 points, six rebounds, six assists and 1.5 steals, and he did so while knocking down 44.3% of his 3-point shots. Bodie Hume will be looked to as a main scorer after averaging 13.9 points and five rebounds, and he will be aided by Colorado transfer Daylen Kountz. The Bears have no one who registered more than five rebounds per game. Relying on UT-Rio Grande Valley transfer Greg Bowie, who made 36.4% of his 3-pointers while averaging 8.1 points without ideal size for a shooting guard, could drag down the Bears’ offense.
7. Sacramento State: The Hornets forced things inside, ranking in the top five nationally in fewest 3-point attempts allowed, and did so thanks in large part to a variety of players with length on the perimeter. They lose their top two scorers and leading rebounder, but they have good facilitation with Bryce Fowler and Brandon Davis both averaging at least three assists. Though Christian Terrell did not play much at UC Santa Barbara, he started 17 games as a freshman and is a capable glue guy for a team that is not looking to push the tempo and will have under-the-radar guard Rick Barros III after redshirting last season. The Hornets also get some help with Zach Chappell coming in from San Jose State, where he averaged 6.1 points and two assists. But Sacramento State might suffer down low with too much being expected of Ethan Esposito and juco transfer Jalen Townsell, who averaged only 4.9 rebounds at Arizona Western.
8. Portland State: Coach Barret Peery has experience with overhauling his roster, but losing his top seven scorers will be a challenge. Even so, the Vikings bring in just one prospect classified as a true freshman and will look to Pacific transfer Amari McCray and Evansville’s John Hall for rebounding help. Hall has the ability to hit 3-point shots, making 35.7% in 2018-19, but made just 26.3% while averaging six points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. McCray averaged 6.4 points and 4.2 rebounds as a 6-foot-9, 300-pound load down low. If Kyle Greeley, the top returning scorer at 5.2 points per game and 35.1% 3-point marksmanship, and Temple transfer James Scott, who scored 7.2 points on 25.9% 3-point shooting, fail to become main options, Portland State might dip in the conference standings.
9. Northern Arizona: Coach Shane Burcar led the Lumberjacks to a surprising 16-14 record after four straight seasons of 10 or fewer wins. But this will be a challenge for him, as three of the top four scorers from a season ago are gone. That means Cameron Shelton needs to have a monster season. As a sophomore, he averaged 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals while knocking down 36.1% of his 3-point shots. Problem is, the team is without pretty much all of last year’s frontcourt, meaning three-star prospect Wynton Brown will need to come in and produce right away. Northern Arizona also brings in UNLV transfer Jay Green, but he seldom played and was a 20% 3-point shooter for the Mountain West program.
10. Idaho State: The Bengals seem to be building some momentum under second-year coach Ryan Looney, but they need to find some rebounding as they return just one player who pulled down three per game last season. That player is 6-foot-5 Malik Porter, who chipped in 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game but is not very versatile. This leaves Tarik Cool on an island around the perimeter, where he made 36.3% of his 3-point shots and gave the team 12.6 points and 2.9 assists but also turned the ball over 3.2 times per game. Idaho State was toward the bottom of the country in forcing turnovers and and shooting free throws, not a good combination for trying to rise up the conference ladder.
11. Idaho: The first year under coach Zac Claus was rocky, and Idaho must replace leading scorer Trevon Allen (21.6 ppg). No one else averaged more than 8.2. The Vandals also do not return a player who had more than 1.3 assists per game. Unless forwards like Scott Blakney and Babacar Thiombane can give Idaho a massive rebounding advantage, which is highly unlikely given their lack of brute strength, the Vandals figure to face another long year.
Top 10 Players
1. Bodie Hume, Junior, G, Northern Colorado
2. Jacob Davison, Senior, G, Eastern Washington
3. Cameron Parker, Junior, G, Montana
4. Kim Aiken, Junior, F, Eastern Washington
5. Michael Steadman, Senior, F, Montana
6. Dontay Bassett, Senior, F, Weber State
7. Cameron Shelton, Junior, G, Northern Arizona
8. John Knight III, Senior, G, Southern Utah
9. Bryce Fowler, Senior, G, Sacramento State
10. Jubrile Belo, Junior, F, Montana State
Winthrop and Radford have been the class of a conference in which experience is at a premium because so many players have big seasons and then transfer. As a result, Big South teams have had to get creative in finding talent at lower levels. Outside shooting proficiency typically is how the conference is won as teams in the Big South across the board have had a very difficult time finding traditional big men.
1. Winthrop: The difference between Winthrop and the rest of the conference is one of the biggest in the country. The Eagles lost two of their top three scorers, but D.J. Burns, whom 247Sports rated as the third-best recruit in South Carolina for the 2018 class behind Zion Williamson and Aaron Nesmith, figures to be a dominating force. The Eagles averaged over 14 offensive rebounds, and Chase Claxton, Micheal Anumba and Burns had at least 1.5 offensive rebounds per game. Winthrop plays at such a rapid pace that it gets to the free-throw line a lot and gives a lot of free-throw attempts, but the Eagles have the depth to overcome foul trouble with nine players who got at least 14.8 minutes per game. The program has had success finding players from outside D-I to become contributors and will look to former D-II Flagler standout Nate Buss to do so this season. He averaged 13 points per game while making 39.3% of his 3-point shots i 2018-19. The team had to deal with a 14-day shutdown due to COVID-19 in November.
2. UNC Asheville: After a bottom-five national ranking in scoring in coach Mike Morrell’s first season of 2018-19, five players registered at least 10 points per game last season — and all return. The Bulldogs were held back by their inability to rebound, but North Carolina Central graduate transfer Evan Clayborne should strengthen that performance as he had 4.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 65.9%. Freshman stretch player Silas Mason might be the best true freshman in the Big South and is ranked by most major publications as a top-15 prospect from North Carolina for the 2020 class.He has active hands, can guard multiple positions at 6-foot-7 and is expanding his range. UNC Asheville used a six-man rotation last year, and if New Orleans transfer Raquan Brown is eligible and duplicates his 39.4% 3-point percentage of last season, this team has the firepower to give most teams fits.
3. USC Upstate: Lacking a player with more than five rebounds per game stung, but USC Upstate was the only team in the country on which every player who averaged at least a point was either a freshman or a sophomore. All seven players who averaged at least four points are back and will be bolstered by Clemson transfer Khavon Moore, who got a lot of fanfare as a top-100 recruit out of high school. He was unable to find consistent minutes with Clemson or Texas Tech, so a player with a lot of raw talent heads to the Big South. Everette Hammond and Tommy Bruner combined for 28.5 points per game, and Dalvin White was a good facilitator for a team that had four guys dish out at least 2.3 assists per game. With Bryson Mozone making 38.8% of his 3-point shots, the Spartans have a lot of good individual pieces who know their roles.
4. Gardner-Webb: Three of the team’s top four scorers, all of whom averaged at least 13 points and 3.9 rebounds, are gone, so this is Jaheam Cornwall’s team. Cornwall made 44.4% of his 3-point shots while registering 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 turnovers per game, but he’ll need 6-foot-9 Kareem Reid to continue to progress down low after averaging 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a freshman. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have upside with Sammy Itodo, who has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and might have played at a higher level if not for an injury his senior year of high school that caused him to redshirt last season. Gardner-Webb will also look to juco transfer Jacob Falko for shooting after he averaged 13.1 points and 3.3 assists while making 36% of his 3-point shots and 82.4% of his free throws. This team had a lot of turnover but has great size, so a back-court player like Lance Terry stepping up will be key for Gardner-Webb to compete with the conference’s big dogs.
5. Longwood: Three of the Lancers’ top four scorers and their leading rebounder are gone, but they bring in former UC Riverside starter Zac Watson. He got 22 starts as a freshman before seeing his minutes slashed last season. Longwood will run through Juan Munoz, who averaged 10.8 points, three rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals. Juco transfer C.J. Williams shot 49.6% from 3-point range while Munoz and Deshaun Wade buried between 33.8 and 35.8% of their 3-pointers, but post play is a mystery with nobody who averaged at least four rebounds last season in the program.
6. Radford: The Highlanders won at least 21 games each of the last three seasons, but with last year’s top six scorers gone, this figures to be a tough rebuilding job. Coach Mike Jones plays a style that does not require superb offense, playing at one of the slowest paces in the country, so it should help freshman point guard Xavier Lipscomb be a bit more successful than he would be in a high-octane offense. Former Charlotte recruit Dravon Mangum and former D-II Central Oklahoma standout Jordan Hemphill are versatile, but it will take some time for this team to begin firing on all cylinders.
7. Charleston Southern: Phlandrous Fleming Jr. might be the conference’s best all-around player, averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals while making 77.9% of his free throws. He will have perimeter help with 6-foot-6 Ty Jones making 44.1% of his 3-pointers, while Travis Anderson shot 38.5% from 3-point range. Depth will be an issue, but with Deontaye Buskey providing 10.5 points per game and most starters being above-average passers, the Buccaneers can find a variety of ways to score.
8. Hampton: The Pirates figure to walk the plank in the Big South with Jermaine Marrow and Ben Stanley gone after combining to average 46.8 points and 10.5 rebounds. The Pirates will look to wings Edward Oliver-Hampton and Davion Warren to be the featured scoring options. Warren made 37% of his 3-pointers while registering 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, and while Oliver-Hampton had 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds. Hampton does not have a single true freshman and will likely look to Russell Dean to run the offense after he averaged just 2.3 points and two assists.
9. Campbell: Two seasons ago, the program had the nation’s top scorer in Chris Clemons and the Fighting Camels are having a tough time transitioning to life without him. The return of guard Cedric Henderson Jr. provides an outside shooting presence, as he was 23rd in 3-point shooting at 45.2% against D-I foes while averaging a team-high 12.4 points per game. Jordan Whitfield will have to facilitate the offense after he made 41.5% of his 3-point shots and 87% of his free throws while chipping in 8.8 points and a team-high 2.4 assists per game. With Henderson the lone returner who averaged more than 2.5 rebounds, the development of 6-foot-10 Milos Stajcic is important. He had 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game with two or fewer rebounds in eight of the final nine games, but does have some versatility as a 33.3% 3-point shooter. Though the nine-game sample is small, 6-foot-6 Duane Moss should provide an offensive boost as he is a lifetime 53.3% 3-point shooter. The emergence of Joshua Lusane should help on the boards. The 6-foot-7 combo player started six of the final seven games and made 88.9% of his free throws and averaged 6.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocks to close his freshman season.
10. High Point: Coach Tubby Smith has taken five schools to the NCAA tournament but has a lot of work to do if High Point is to become the sixth. John Michael-Wright needs help after leading the Panthers in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Denny Slay stepped up late in the season with 7.7 points and 2.1 assists over the final 12 games while making 40% of his 3-point attempts and 81.8% of his free throws. It will be up to 6-foot-9 Lydell Elmore, who transfers from D-II Livingston College after averaging 11.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in 2018-19, to aid a team that lacks size.
11. Presbyterian: The loss of coach Dustin Kerns was noticeable, as the Blue Hose’s win total was cut in half. Second-year coach Quinton Ferrell will look to Charlotte transfer Brandon Younger to help the offense. Younger averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 2018-19 before being bolted to the bench last season. He figures to pair well with guards Michael Isler and Zeb Graham, who combined for 13.9 points per game as freshmen. With Younger the only player on the roster who is not a freshman or sophomore, this figures to be a tough season for the Blue Hose.
Top 10 Players
1. Phlandrous Fleming Jr., Senior. G, Charleston Southern
2. D.J. Burns, Junior, F, Winthrop
3. Chandler Vaudrin, Senior, F, Winthrop
4. Jaheam Cornwall, Senior, G, Gardner-Webb
5. Devon Baker, Junior. G, UNC Asheville
6. Cedric Henderson Jr., Junior, G, Campbell
7. LJ Thorpe, Junior, G, UNC Asheville
8. Everette Hammond, Junior, G, USC Upstate
9. Tajion Jones, Junior, G, UNC Asheville
10. Juan Munoz, Senior, G, Longwood
Other than Hawaii, all the teams in this conference are based in California, and the home courts have been some of the more boisterous in mid-major basketball. UC Irvine has established itself as a consistent contender with a conference winning percentage of at least .688 each of the last seven seasons. The Big West has a new feel with UC San Diego and Cal State Bakersfield entering. After winning at least 10 league games in six of the last seven seasons with no conference tournament title to show for it, UC Santa Barbara is looking to go dancing for the first time in 10 years.
1. UC Santa Barbara: After finishing second in the Big West in each of coach Joe Pasternack’s three years, this might be the year the Gauchos break through. Amadou Sow is one of the most well-rounded mid-major players in the country as he registered 14 points, seven rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as a sophomore. JaQuori McLaughlin ran the offense while dishing out 4.1 assists to 1.9 turnovers per game and making 40.7% of his 3-point shots while netting 13.4 points. UC Santa Barbara also now has a secondary point guard option with Calvin Wishart transferring from Georgia Southern after converting on 38.3% of his 3-pointers and chipping in 9.4 points, 2.7 assists and a steal per game. The Gauchos bring in 6-foot-10 former Oregon forward Miles Norris, who saw 10.5 minutes per game as a freshman on the Ducks’ 2019 Sweet 16 team and was a top-100 recruit in the 2018 class. This should be one of the nation’s most dangerous mid-majors.
2. UC Davis: Coach Jim Les’ team was third best in 3-point shooting percentage last season and brings back point guard Ezra Manjon. As a freshman he made 38.6% of his 3-point attempts while contributing 12.1 points and 4.1 assists. The addition of San Jose State big man Christian Anigwe should give the Aggies a bit more of a post presence after he started 30 games with 5.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. UC Davis needs Anigwe considering 6-foot-4 Elijah Pepper is the only returner who had more than 4.1 rebounds per game, and the Aggies will look to wing Caleb Fuller for a bigger role after shooting 41.2% from 3-point range and averaging 7.2 points.
3. UC Irvine: The Anteaters have won at least 11 conference games each of the last eight seasons and at least 21 games overall in seven of them under coach Russ Turner. But this might be a tough rebuilding job as four of the team’s top six scorers are gone. Brad Greene is a 270-pound big man who averaged nine points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, and 6-foot-9 Collin Welp has NBA potential as he shot 44.2% from 3-point range and 84% at the line while leading the team at 13 points per game. The Anteaters will need Andre Henry to come in as a three-star prospect and provide backcourt stability. Sophomore Isaiah Lee figures to run the point after dishing out 2.3 assists and shooting 39.7% from 3-point range as a reserve last season on a team for which 10 players averaged over 12.5 minutes.
4. UC Riverside: The switch from coach David Patrick to Mike Magpayo last spring was quite sudden, but the Highlanders were in the bottom 10 in possessions per game. Two important big men return. Arinze Chidom had team bests of 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and made 43.5% of his 3-point shots, while 7-foot-1 Callum McRae had 9.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and a block per game. UC Riverside adds a 7-foot-1 interior presence in Jock Perry, who was buried on the Saint Mary’s bench last season, and DePaul transfer Flynn Cameron should help the outside shooting after being used sparingly last season. The Highlanders need to replace point guard Khy Kabellis, but the shooting of Dominick Pickett, who made 43.5% of his 3-point attempts and 88.4% of his free throws, should give them enough in the backcourt to support the tremendous size in the post.
5. CSUN: Northridge will look to Darius Brown II to take more ownership of the offense after making 38.4% of his 3-point shots while notching 10 points and four assists and will look to a trio of transfers to aid him. Miles Brookins started 15 games for La Salle in 2018-19, while Vante Hendrix had 8.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 18 games with New Mexico. Former Texas A&M guard TJ Starks is the key as he was an SEC all-freshman performer in the 2017-18 season. He had better numbers the next year with 12.3 points, 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game but averaged 3.8 turnovers and made just 22.4% of his 3-point shots.
6. UC San Diego: After going 30-1 at the D-II level, the Tritons are in a rare spot for a transitioning D-I team with a potential all-conference performer. Tyrell Roberts was a D-II All-American last season with averages of 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals while making 89% of his free throws and 46.3% of his 3-point shots. They also bring in a player with Division I experience in Columbia graduate transfer Jake Killingsworth, who averaged 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in the Ivy League. But UC San Diego must overcome a lack of size. Combo player Marek Sullivan can help overcome that, as he posted 8.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 66.3%. The Tritons’ + 16.5 scoring margin would rank second at the D-I level, and BYU was the only D-I team to make over 40% of its 3-pointers as UC San Diego did at a lower level.
7. Hawaii: Coach Eran Ganot’s return after battling health problems last season should provide stability, though the Rainbow Warriors went 8-5 while assistant Chris Gerlufsen stood in. Hawaii will need 6-foot-6 wing Samuta Avea to do more than just score. He produced 10.8 points and made 83.3% of his free throws but gave out just 1.3 assists. That will require transfer Casdon Jardine to make a big impact. He started 29 games for Utah Valley last season and made 39% of his 3-point shots while averaging 10.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, but he had less than an assist per game. San Diego transfer James Jean-Marie made 40% of his 3-point shots, and his 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds are even bigger since Zigmars Raimo is out of eligibility after giving the team 9.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
8. Long Beach State: Leading scorer Chance Hunter is one of the best wings in the conference, averaging a team-high 13.9 points and five rebounds while hitting 41.7% of his 3-point shots. But former Washington recruit Michael Carter III needs to be more efficient with the basketball as he had 3.4 turnovers to 2.6 assists per game. Long Beach State will look for inside help to former CSUN and juco transfer Teddy Ochieng, who averaged 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game at Panola College but has been hampered by injuries. The Beach will also look to former Minnesota and Iona guard Isaiah Washington to help with turnover problems. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, four assists and 1.7 steals per game while improving his 3-point shooting to 33.1%.
9. Cal State Bakersfield: After spending seven seasons in the WAC, the Roadrunners go into the Big West lacking a primary option but with lots of balance. De’Monte Buckingham, Justin Edler-Davis and Shawn Stith averaged between 6.5 and 9.0 points and 4.2 and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. Czar Perry had an assist-to-turnover ratio of two and helped leading scorer Taze Moore get clean looks as he had 11.2 points while making 36% of his 3-point shots. The combined 2.6 steals per game of Moore and Perry will help with coach Rod Barnes’ defense-oriented approach.
10. Cal Poly: The Mustangs have finished 6-10 or worse in conference play for seven straight seasons and will look to seldom-used Iowa transfer Riley Till to aid a young lineup. Cal Poly was the only D-I team without a player pulling in at least four rebounds per game and will look to 6-foot-10 Hank Hollingsworth to return to his 2018-19 form, when he had 4.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks before injuries derailed him last season. The Mustangs found a pass-first guard in Keith Smith, who had just 4.4 points per game while making 20 starts but gave out 2.7 assists to 1.5 turnovers while getting 1.5 steals per game. Wing player Colby Rogers will be asked to build on the 8.6 points he averaged while hitting 36.1% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman.
11. Cal State Fullerton: The Titans will rely on transfers to stay relevant as Wayne Arnold is the only returning player who averaged at least five points per game. Fullerton has no player who averaged more than 3.6 rebounds. The addition of Tray Maddox should help, as he started 31 games for Oakland last season with averages of 9.1 points and 2.2 assists and was a 37.7% 3-point shooter in 2018-19. Juco transfer Jalen Harris should also help the guard stable as he was an NJCAA All-Region IX performer at Casper Community College with 16.2 points and 4.9 assists per game while making 37.1% from 3-point range. The Titans will look to former Nevada and Missouri State transfer Josh Hall, who averaged 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, to aid returning big men Vincent Lee and Johnny Wang after they split starts last season and combined for 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Last season’s team did not reach 70 points against a D-I opponent until its road upset of UCLA, its 13th D-I game of the season.
Top 10 Players
1. Collin Welp, Junior, F, UC Irvine
2. Amadou Sow, Junior, F, UC Santa Barbara
3. Ezra Manjon, Sophomore, PG, UC Davis
4. JaQuori McLaughlin, Senior, PG, UC Santa Barbara
5. TJ Starks, Junior, G, CSUN
6. Arinze Chidom, Senior, F, UC Riverside
7. Tyrell Roberts, Junior, G, UC San Diego
8. Callum McRae, Junior, C, UC Riverside
9. Darius Brown II, Junior, PG, CSUN
10. Chance Hunter, Junior, G, Long Beach State
Guard play has won the conference in recent years, with Hofstra having one of the best backcourts among mid-majors a season ago. A number of coaching firings in recent years have led to some revamped styles. And with a lot of players transferring out, experienced teams are few and far between in the CAA.
1. Elon: Three of Elon’s top four scorers were freshmen, and one, Hunter McIntosh, has the keys to the offense. He led the team in assists overall and averaged 16.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists to 1.4 turnovers per game in the final eight games while making 40% of his 3-point shots. Hunter Woods contributed 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds as a freshman, while 6-foot-5 Zac Ervin made 36.8% of his 3-point shots while netting 8.4 points per game. Bryant graduate transfer Ikenna Ndugba averaged 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists. With 6-foot-8 Simon Wright able to stretch the floor with a 36.5% 3-point shooting percentage, the Phoenix have a chance to rise to their first trip to the NCAA tournament.
2. Hofstra: Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn are back after they combined to average 22.5 points while shooting over 39% from 3-point range and 78.5% from the free-throw line. Isaac Kante returns after giving the Pride 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, which is crucial since nobody outside of last year’s normal starting five averaged more than 3.1 points or 2.6 rebounds. Hofstra will likely look to 6-foot-5 Vukasin Masic, who played in the FIBA U18 European championship for Serbia, to continue its track record of supreme guard play.
3. Delaware: The Blue Hens must replace their top scorer and rebounder but will have a full season from Villanova transfer Dylan Painter, who had to sit out the first semester last season per NCAA rules. He shot 61.7% with averages of 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Point guard Kevin Anderson generated 11.5 points, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals, and though Ryan Allen needs to improve his 37.9% shooting percentage, he contributed 12.2 points per game. North Carolina Central transfer guard Reggie Gardner and former Stony Brook forward Anthony Ochefu should lend depth, but neither is likely to be an impact player.
4. Towson: The Tigers are in transition but should be able to control the glass with 7-foot USC transfer Victor Uyaelunmo eligible after sitting out last season. Towson’s top three scorers are gone, but Jason Gibson is back after chipping in 8.4 points and 2.1 assists while making 36.6% of his 3-point attempts and 89.4% of his free throws. In an incredibly rare move Zane Martin, who began his career at Towson, is back after getting 19 starts for New Mexico last season. When Martin last played for the Tigers in 2017-18, he averaged 19.8 points and 2.7 assists while making 38% of his 3-point shots. Curtis Holland III comes in from High Point after making 39.1% from 3-point range and averaging 12.7 points, and Cam Allen transfers from Cal State Bakersfield after making 39.6% of his 3-pointers with 7.9 points per game. If Juwon Gray and Charles Thompson can build on the combined eight rebounds per game they had a season ago, the Tigers have a chance to overcome lots of turnover for a big season.
5. College of Charleston: The Cougars lost their leading scorer, and Zep Jasper and Brevin Galloway are the only two players back who averaged more than four points per game. The addition of Minnesota guard Payton Willis, who made 35.6% of his 3-pointers while averaging 8.6 points and 3.5 rebounds, will help. Charleston will also look to be a bit more stout down low with St. Joseph’s transfer Lorenzo Edwards, who averaged 6.9 points and five rebounds. The Cougars figure to be in for a bit of a rebuild.
6. Drexel: The Dragons return double-double machine James Butler, whose 11.7 rebounds per game were the fifth most in D-I. Veteran point guard Camren Wynter led the team with 15.7 points, 5.1 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 35.5% on 3-pointers. Zach Walton had 12.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game but made just 26.5% of his 3-point shots. Mate Okros emerged as an outside threat as a freshman, hitting 41.4% of his 3-pointers, but averaged just 5.5 points despite being a starter. Juco transfer Chuka Mekkam will try to provide punch in the backcourt after having an assist-to-turnover ratio north of 4.0 while making 37% of his 3-pointers for 2019 NJCAA title team Vincennes.
7. UNC Wilmington: The Seawolves had an interim coach for the second half of the season after getting off to a 5-14 start under C.B. McGrath. Takayo Siddle takes over as coach and has back most of last year’s roster along with Holy Cross transfer Joe Pridgen, who was Patriot League rookie of the year after notching 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while making 42.9% of his 3-point shots. He did commit 3.5 turnovers per game due to the lack of talent around him, but Mike Okauru and Jaylen Sims should take pressure off hiim as they combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds per game. Size is not something UNC Wilmington has much of, making the addition of 6-foot-9 St. John’s reserve Ian Steere all the bigger.
8. James Madison: It is a completely new look for James Madison, with Mark Byington coming over to coach after previous success at Georgia Southern. In seven years there, he never had fewer than 14 wins but never exceeded 22. The Dukes lose over 70% of their minutes and will look to a lot of transfers to make an impact. But do-it-all guard Matt Lewis is coming off a season in which he averaged 19 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and a steal while making 37.3% of his 3-point shots. James Madison will look to San Diego State transfer Joel Mensah and his 6-foot-10 frame to help returning stretch player Michael Christmas on the glass. Christmas made 36.8% of his 3-pointers while registering 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, spending half the year as a starter and the other as sixth man. Jalen Hodge and Vado Morse do not bring a lot of size to the table at 6-foot-1 and 6 feet, respectively. But in 18 games last season at Louisiana-Monroe, Hodge shot 39.1% from 3-point range. Morse averaged 10.8 points and 2.3 assists but shot just 32.1% at Mount St. Mary’s. A lot of turnover and a new coach might hold back a team that has a good amount of talent.
9. William & Mary: The loss of the prolific duo of Nathan Knight and Andy Van Vliet is crushing, as they combined to average 33.9 points, 19.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. Luke Loewe will have to take ownership of the offense after making 43.9% of his 3-point shots while averaging 10.7 points. He should get help from Thornton Scott, coming off a season in which he had 7.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. After redshirting last season, Ben Wight will need to step up. He is a capable traditional post player but is unable to play on the perimeter. With starting guard Tyler Hamilton gone, the Tribe will need players like Quinn Blair to take on bigger roles. William & Mary lacks the athleticism and pure shooting to duplicate last season’s 13-5 conference mark.
10. Northeastern: The Huskies bring back just two players who averaged more than 3.5 points, though one is point guard Tyson Walker, who led the team with 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals while averaging 10.4 points. Shaquille Walters is the only returner who had more than two rebounds per game. He also made 83.9% of his free throws. Notre Dame transfer Chris Doherty sat out last season after being buried on the Fighting Irish bench, and Northeastern will need 6-foot-6 freshman J’Vonne Hadley to play key minutes despite being raw on defense and finding his own shot.
Top 10 Players
1. Camren Wynter, Junior, G, Drexel
2. Jalen Ray, Senior, G, Hofstra
3. Matt Lewis, Senior, G, James Madison
4. Payton Willis, Senior, G, College of Charleston
5. James Butler, Senior, F, Delaware
6. Hunter McIntosh, Sophomore, G, Elon
7. Kevin Anderson, Senior, G, Delaware
8. Zane Martin, Senior, G, Towson
9. Ryan Allen, Senior, G, Delaware
10. Hunter Woods, Sophomore, G, Elon
The conference has one of the most singular blends of tempo in the country: Five teams failed to average 67.5 points per game last season, while four scored at least 75.9. Many teams in the conference have been ravaged by graduation and transfer, but those that return notable players have a chance to do damage not just in the conference but nationally. Conference play will consist of teams playing each other on back-to-back days Friday and Saturday at the same location to reduce travel.
1. Western Kentucky: After being limited to 10 games last season due to injury, Charles Bassey is back and might be the best low-post player at a mid-major. When he played a full season as a freshman in 2018-19, he averaged 14.6 points, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks while making 62.7% of his shots, 45% of his 3-pointers and 76.9% of his free throws. The Hilltoppers will hope Luke Frampton can find the 2018-19 form he had while at Davidson after an injury-riddled 2019-20 season when he averaged 10.3 points while shooting 37.6% from 3-point range. Carson Williams is a similar 6-foot-5 player who shot 39% from 3-point range overall and averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals, scoring at least 10 points in 18 of the team’s final 20 games. Taveion Hollingsworth was at the controls of the offense and is back after notching 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Lipscomb transfer Kenny Cooper should allow all these guys to flourish as he is more of a true point guard than anyone from last year’s cast, compiling 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals to just 2.3 turnovers per game With Jordan Rawls back after notching 7.9 points per game as a freshman and 6-foot-6 combo player Josh Anderson returning after registering 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, the Hilltoppers are loaded and should exterminate the rest of the conference if they can stay healthy.
2. North Texas: The Mean Green return three of their top four scorers and rebounders, including floor general Javion Hamlet. As a freshman, Hamlet led the team with 14.6 points and 4.7 assists per game while making 41.9% of his 3-point shots and 87.3% of his free throws. James Reese is back after he shot 95.8% from the free-throw line and 36.6% from 3-point range while averaging 8.6 points and a steal. Mardrez McBride enters after having a good season at the juco level with averages of 14.4 points and 5.1 assists while making 53% of his 3-point shots. North Texas also has a pair of solid big men back.The 6-foot-10 Zachary Simmons provided 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, and Thomas Bell had 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. If 6-foot-7 juco transfer Terence Lewis can do close to what he did at the lower level last season, with a free-throw shooting percentage of 82.5 and averages of 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, the Mean Green should remain toward the top of the conference after winning the regular-season crown last season.
3. UAB: Former Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy returns to his alma mater and has brought in several notable transfers to make an immediate impact. Louisiana-Monroe transfer Michael Ertel should see his shooting percentages rise closer to his 2018-19 numbers of 44.4% on 3-pointers and 90.1% on free throws after shooting just 33.3% from 3-point range last year with a lack of talent around him. Quan Jackson comes in from Georgia Southern after contributing 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. UAB also gets added size from Simeon Kirkland, who was on a Florida SouthWestern team that was ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA, contributing 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Clemson transfer Trey Jemison offers a 7-foot frame after being an afterthought in the ACC. These additions join a trio who averaged at least 10 points in the backcourt last season in Tavin Lovan, Jalen Benjamin and Tyreek Scott-Grayson. Lovan and Scott-Grayson also combined for 9.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
4. Marshall: The Thundering Herd brings back the guard duo of Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West, who combined for 30.6 points, nine rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3.1 steals. West made a team-best 36.9% of his 5.8 3-point shots per game. Marshall had no seniors on last year’s roster and returns 335-pound load Iran Bennett, who registered 9.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He complements stretch big man Jannson Williams, who averaged 6.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. The Herd got great results out of freshman Andrew Taylor, who had 10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals. And 84.1% free-throw shooter Mikel Beyers returns. Ten players averaged at least 10 minutes per game last season, and with nine back, this is one of the most veteran-laden teams in the country.
5. UTEP: The Miners get a major addition with former Oklahoma guard Jamal Bieniemy, who in two seasons in the Big 12 averaged 5.1 points, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals to 1.4 turnovers and made 79.2% of his free-throw attempts last season. UTEP has one of the most well-rounded forwards in the country in Bryson Williams, who had 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks while making 81.1% of his free throws and 35.6% of his 3-point shots. Guard Souley Boum finished the year strong, netting 15.2 points per game in the final 17 games. Vuk Vulikic comes in with foreign experience from Serbia, having played in the 2019 FIBA U20 European championship. Georgia Tech transfer Kristian Sjolund missed all of last season, but the 6-foot-8 native of Norway took more than 70% of his shots from 3-point range. Christian Agnew should also add 3-point shooting, making 35.3% of his 3-point shots at North Alabama last season while registering 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Eric Vila at 6-foot-11 is a rebound specialist with five per game, and Efe Odigie was efficient in his 13.4 minutes per game, averaging six points.
6. Charlotte: The 49ers have a lot of experience back headlined by former Oklahoma guard Jordan Shepherd, who in his first season in Charlotte registered 14 points and 4.1 assists per game. Jahmir Young had a solid freshman season with 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game while making 37.3% of his 3-point shots. He was the only returning player with more than four rebounds per game last season, and that will lead to 6-foot-10 Australian freshman Aly Khalifa getting big minutes along with returning forward Milos Supica, who averaged 3.8 rebounds. Washington State transfer Marvin Cannon made 84.4% of his free throws two seasons ago while notching 7.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Transfer Jhery Matos did not see much playing time at Dayton but did shoot 38.7% from 3-point range last season and should be a big part of this offense.
7. UTSA: Guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace are back after combining for 45.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game, with each making at least 80.5% of his free throws and 35% of his 3-point shots. Knox Hellums needs to be more consistent with his 3-point shooting. He was the eighth best among qualifying D-I players in home games, hitting 58.3%, but made just 11.1% in true road games. The Roadrunners will look to be a bit stronger on the glass with the addition of Houston transfer Cedrick Alley Jr., who averaged 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 2018-19, when the Cougars made the NCAA Sweet 16. UTSA will also look to former Nevada recruit Eric Parrish for help after his 2018-19 mark of 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.1 steals and a block at the juco level. Low-post players Luke Barisic and Jacob German need to step up after combining for 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Starting guard Erik Czumbel chipped in an 88.2% free-throw mark and 36.6% 3-point shooting but averaged just 4.2 points per game.
8. Old Dominion: One of the most methodical offenses in college basketball since coach Jeff Jones took over will look to some notable transfers to help the backcourt. Xavier Green, A.J. Oliver II and Malik Curry combined for 37.5 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, but all three shot below 32.6% on 3-pointers. Jason Wade contributed 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals while shooting a team-best 56.2%. Rhode Island 6-foot-7 transfer Mekhi Long enters after registering 3.1 points as a freshman, but he is shaky from outside, hitting 29.2% of his 3-point shots. Kansas State transfer Austin Trice, who had 2.5 rebounds in 7.7 minutes per game two seasons ago, will be key in replacing Aaron Carver, who had 4.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a senior.
9. Louisiana Tech: Replacing leading scorer DaQuan Bracey, who was 33rd among qualifying D-I players in 3-point shooting percentage at 44.5, may not be easy, but Kalob Ledoux and Amorie Archibald are back. Each made at least 36.5% of his 3-point shots and 80% of his free throws while combining for 22.9 points per game. The Ragin’ Cajuns will look to JaColby Pemberton to return to his 2018-19 form, when he averaged 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Jace Bass was leading all juco transfers in the country with 30.7 points, but his season was cut short by injury. With no returner who had at least 4.5 rebounds per game last season, Louisiana Tech will look to Isaiah Crawford for help. He had 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game but was limited to 16 games due to injury.
10. Florida Atlantic: With Jailyn Ingram the only player from last season’s roster pulling in at least 3.5 rebounds per game, the Owls will need sharpshooters Michael Forrest and Karlis Silins to improve their production. Silins made 42.5% of his 3-point shots while averaging 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds, while Forrest had 9.3 points and 1.1 steals while making 38.6% from 3-point range. At 6-foot-7, Ingram also made 33% of his 3-point shots while leading the way with 12 points, 5.4 rebounds and a steal per game. Adding Minnesota transfer B.J. Greenlee, who was used very seldom last season, should help.
11. Southern Miss: A multiyear rebuild that involves replacing last year’s top scorer is going the juco route. The Golden Eagles bring in two players ranked in JUCORecruiting.com’s top 20. DeAndre Pinckney, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 16.8 points and eight rebounds and wing Justin Johnson shot over 50% while accounting for 16.9 points per game. Southern Miss also brings in 6-foot-8 forward Tyler Morman from Wyoming. Starting guards Tyler Stevenson and Ladavius Draine return. Draine was the only main rotation player to make at least 30% of his 3-pointers, and he and Stevenson combined for 25.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. The Golden Eagles get back point guard Jay Malone, who appeared in just 19 games last season due to injury but had averages of 5.6 points, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals. Freshman Javarzia Belton and his 6-foot-10, 274-pound frame should provide more rim protection than in Jay Ladner’s first year as coach.
12. Middle Tennessee: In the two years since Kermit Davis left to coach Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee has lost more than 20 games both seasons after having two 20-loss seasons in their first 66 at the D-I level. Charleston Southern transfer Dontrell Shuler tore it up in the Big South last season, stacking up 17.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He should aid Donovan Sims and Jayce Johnson, who combined for 17.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Jordan Davis was a two-year starter at Dayton before sitting out but practicing with MTSU last season, notching 8.9 points on 35.9% 3-point shooting at Dayton. DeAndre Dishman also practiced with the team last season after averaging 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds for Eastern Kentucky. Former St. Francis (N.Y.) guard Jalen Jordan should establish himself as the team’s top outside shooter, making 42% of his 3-point shots while averaging 14.8 points per game. Tyson Jackson averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a freshman, and Jo’Vontae Millner-Criss averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds and had the team’s best 3-point percentage among returners who played at 33.3%.
13. Florida International: Last season’s top three scorers are out of eligibility. FIU had been among the top 40 D-I teams in possessions per game the last two years and will need guard Antonio Daye Jr. to be smarter with the ball. He averaged 10.6 points, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals but posted four turnovers per game, ninth worst in D-I. After sitting out last season, St. John’s transfer Sedee Keita will try to plus some defensive holes. Getting Tevin Brewer for a full season should relieve some pressure on Daye. In 10 games last year, Brewer recorded seven points, 4.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game while knocking down 37% of his 3-point shots, the best of any returner. Eric Lovett will also be a key piece to the backcourt after he averaged 8.5 points while making 36.4% from 3-point range.
14. Rice: It’s not good to have to replace the top five scorers, but that is where Rice is. Guard Chris Mullins averaged 7.3 points and 1.3 assists but converted just 21.4% of his 3-point shots, so Quincy Olivari will need to duplicate his 38% 3-point shooting while logging six points per game as a freshman. Max Fiedler is the only returner who had more than 2.6 rebounds per game last season, compiling 2.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. Former Texas Tech reserve Malik Ondigo will need to blossom after practicing with the team last season. Transfer Riley Abercrombie comes in after getting close to no playing time at Boise State, but more than 70% of his shots came from 3-point range as a 6-foot-9 stretch player. Furman transfer Tre Clark was a glue guy the last two seasons with averages of 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds last season. VMI transfer Travis Evee made 36.2% of his 3-point shots while leading the team with 12.6 points and 1.4 steals as a freshman, and Cavit Ege Havsa was a 37.5% 3-point shooter at Utah State last season.
Top 10 Players
1. Charles Bassey, Junior, C, Western Kentucky
2. Jhivvan Jackson, Senior, G, UTSA
3. Bryson Williams, Senior, F, UTEP
4. Jarrod West, Senior, G, Marshall
5. Keaton Wallace, Senior, G, UTSA
6. Javion Hamlet, Senior, G, North Texas
7. Carson Williams, Senior, F, Western Kentucky
8. Taevion Kinsey, Junior, G, Marshall
9. Jordan Shepherd, Senior, G, Charlotte
10. Taveion Hollingsworth, Senior, G, Western Kentucky
A league that has been known for upsets in the conference tournament has been a haven of up-tempo teams in recent years. The tide might be changing with Illinois-Chicago’s hiring of Luke Yaklich, a defense-oriented coach who was an assistant at Michigan and Texas; UW-Green Bay bringing in Will Ryan, the son of Bo Ryan; and coach Dennis Gates having Cleveland State take the fewest 3-point shots of any team in college basketball last season.
1. Wright State: The Raiders need to replace two of the four players who averaged more than 10 points last season. But Tanner Holden established himself as a well-rounded freshman with averages of 11.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals while making 42.4% of his 3-pointers. In a reserve role, James Manns made 44.9% of his 3-point shots and averaged 5.7 points in 7.8 minutes. Back-to-the-basket big man Loudon Love put up averages of 15.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, and former Grand Canyon recruit Tim Finke should give Wright State up to 10 scoring options.
2. Cleveland State: Even with no outside presence, the Vikings were highly competitive in the Horizon League with a lineup of transfers thrown together by coach Dennis Gates after getting the job late in the 2019 offseason. Al Eichelberger and Torrey Patton were a solid duo with a combined 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Patton made 42.4% of his 3-point shots, the lone returner to shoot at least 28% from the outside. They will be complemented by 7-foot-2 Mabor Majak, who should provide an immediate imposing force down low. The Vikings bring back their main facilitator in Craig Beaudion, who had 11.4 points, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Tre Gomillion needs to cut down on the 3.1 fouls per game he averaged last season, but he showed promise with 8.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. With the addition of D’Moi Hodge, who tore up the NJCAA last season with 22.3 points per game, this program should continue to ascend.
3. Northern Kentucky: Former Western Kentucky and South Carolina coach Darrin Horn found success in his first season with the Norse, winning the Horizon League tournament title. The real work will begin now, as the Norse must replace their top three scorers. Bryson Langdon issued 3.3 assists to 1.8 turnovers while averaging 7.6 points per game. Northern Arizona transfer Carlos Hines should help in the backcourt after starting in 2018-19 with averages of 12.9 points, four assists and 1.4 steals. Trevon Faulkner will get the keys to the offense after giving the team 11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
4. Youngstown State: After being an up-tempo team with limited defense, the Penguins are going in a different direction under coach Jerrod Calhoun, who got them above .500 in conference play last season for the second time since they joined the Horizon League 19 years ago. D-II Shaw transfer Greyson Kelley should give Youngstown State the 3-point shooting it lacked last season after he was a second-team D-II All-American, averaging 19.2 points per game while making 43.4% of his 3-point attempts and 91.8% at the free-throw line. The main facilitator, Darius Quisenberry, is also back after leading the team with 16.6 points, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a sophomore. Much of the Penguins’ offense came from offensive rebounds for second chances, with Naz Bohannon pulling in four offensive rebounds per game, seventh most in D-I, while chipping in 11.2 points and 2.5 assists per game. Youngstown State also brings back Michael Akuchie and Garrett Covington, who combined for 17.5 points and 10.1 rebounds. With reserves like Jamir Thomas and Christian Bentley back, the Penguins should be able to maintain their status after climbing the league standings a season ago.
5. Robert Morris: The Colonials enter the Horizon League after winning the Northeast Conference tournament last season. Junior point guard Dante Treacy will be called on to continue his 39.6% 3-point shooting, and Jon Williams is back after matching that figure. Treacy also had 4.5 assists to two turnovers along with 1.3 steals per game and should be able to help freshman guards Enoch Cheeks and Kam Farris make an immediate impact. AJ Bramah’s averages of 13.4 points and 8.2 rebounds give the team stability down low, and 6-foot-7 Bucknell transfer Kahliel Spear, who made 36% of his 3-point shots as a reserve last season, should add versatility.
6. Detroit Mercy: The Titans return Antoine Davis, whose 24.3 points per game were the fifth most in D-I last season. He also chipped in 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game while making 90.1% of his free throws. Detroit brings in transfers Noah Waterman of Niagara and Taurean Thompson of Seton Hall and Syracuse to help down low. Marquell Fraser of Idaho and Cal Baptist transfer Bul Kuol should provide a pair of versatile wings. With Chris Brandon back after leading the Titans with 8.1 rebounds per game, the team has the potential to improve on defense, especially in the interior. At 6-foot-7, Kuol knocked down 47.5% of his 3-point shots while averaging 5.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 16 games. He was the second-best D-I 3-point shooter in road and neutral-court games, making 62.5% away from home. With the 6-foot-11 Waterman being a 42.9% 3-point shooter, the Titans finally have size and outside shooters to support Davis.
7. UIC: The Flames replaced coach Steve McClain with Luke Yaklich, a defensive guru who was a finalist for the Michigan job in 2019. He will look to transfer guards Maurice Commander and Teyvion Kirk to help run the offense. Kirk’s stats at Ohio dipped from from his freshman to sophomore years. Commander is more of a pass-first guard, issuing 2.6 assists to 1.4 turnovers per game as a starter at Chattanooga while scoring 6.2 points per game. The Flames lose all three of their double-digit scorers and will look to Iowa State transfer Zion Griffin and top returning scorer Michael Diggins to extend defenses. Diggins averaged 9.3 points, five rebounds and a block, while Griffin scored three points in 10.7 minutes per game. UIC will likely look to 6-foot-10 Braelen Bridges a bit more given the turnover in the backcourt after he had 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds as a starter last season.
8. Oakland: Rashad Williams played only 15 games a season ago but still has the second-most points of any returner. He averaged 19.5 points per game while attempting 12.6 3-point shots, 1.9 more than any other player in Division I. Daniel Oladapo developed as a back-to-the-basket big man with 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. He is the only returnee who averaged more than 3.1 rebounds. The Golden Grizzlies will look to Western Illinois transfer Zion Young to aid pass-oriented guard Kevin Kangu. Kangu averaged 3.5 assists last season but scored just 5.2 points per game and made 25% of his 3-point shots, while Young made 86.3% of his free throws and 41.3% of his 3-pointers while registering 13.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Coach Greg Kampe, the longest-tenured coach outside a Power Five conference, saw his team average fewer than 69.7 points per game for the first time in the 21 seasons the program has been at the D-I level. Kampe will look to former juco All-American Jalen Moore to build on the 19.3 points and 7.9 assists per game he accumulated at the lower level last season.
9. Green Bay: The Phoenix will likely be slowing significantly after making a coaching change from Linc Darner to Bo Ryan’s son Will Ryan. The younger Ryan’s only head-coaching experience came at D-II Wheeling College in West Virginia last season, and the team went 14-13 with 71% of its shots coming from inside the 3-point arc, which should be a system that fits Amari Davis. He earned league rookie-of-the-year honors while giving Green Bay 15.9 points and four rebounds per game despite not making a single 3-pointer. Having Josh Jefferson, who sat out but practiced with the team last season after transferring from Illinois State, should help the backcourt. He averaged 8.7 points per game while knocking down 40.2% of his 3-point shots. But the Phoenix does not return a player who had more than four rebounds per game. Green Bay has no player taller than 6-foot-8 and will look to Cem Kirciman, a stretch player from Turkey, to provide multiple options. But with the youth and a new coach, the Phoenix will have a tough time team staying toward the top of the conference after winning at least 10 Horizon League games in eight of the last nine seasons.
10. Purdue Fort Wayne: The Mastodons join the conference for travel reasons, a move that was made before the pandemic. They will look to be more stout down low with the addition of big men RA Kpedi from Vermont and Bobby Planutis from St. Bonaventure. Kpedi sat out last season after being buried on Vermont’s bench, while Planutis had 5.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in inconsistent minutes. Purdue Fort Wayne will look to Pensacola State JC transfer Bryce Waterman to stretch the floor. He averaged 12.4 points per game while shooting 43.5% on 3-pointers but is unable to create his own shot. Jalon Pipkins will look for more of a role after being a reserve for Loyola (Chicago). Deonte Billups and Jarred Godfrey are back as a pair of guards with size who combined for 9.4 rebounds and two steals per game. Godfrey also scored 15.6 points per game. If either can shoot better than their sub-32.5% from 3-point range of a season ago, this team has upside.
11. Milwaukee: Former Illinois guard Te’Jon Lucas made an impact last season with 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. But with leading scorer Darius Roy gone after being the only rotation player to make over 33% of his 3-point shots, UTEP transfer Jordan Lathon can be of immediate assistance. Lathon made 35% of his 3-point shots as a freshman in 2018-19 and averaged 10.9 points, but he was less of a focal point last season and his average dipped to five as he made just 22.2% of his 3-point shots. The Panthers will look to D-II transfer Joey St. Pierre to offer more resistance in the paint after averaging 2.1 blocks per game, which should help Josh Thomas and Courtney Brown on the perimeter. Brown averaged 4.6 points as a freshman while Thomas made just 25.3% of his 3-pointers but notched 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
12. IUPUI: The Jaguars have plenty of offense and bring back Jaylen Minnett and Marcus Burk, who combined for 37.9 points and 2.4 steals per game. Both made at least 36.5% of their 3-point shots and 77% of their free throws. IUPUI will need help down low for Elyjah Goss, who was seventh in D-I with 11.5 rebounds per game to go with a block and 9.3 points per game. Seven-footer Acton Shirley comes in from Saddleback College after making 75.7% of his field goals and 84.2% of his free throws at the community college level. Isaiah Williams had eight points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 36.4% on 3-pointers. The Jaguars will need Bobby Harvey to duplicate the 11.9 points per game he scored on 36% 3-point shooting at Wabash Valley last season. The team will look to have more chemistry with Byron Rimm now the full-time coach after being thrust into the role just before last season began.
Top 10 Players
1. Antoine Davis, Junior, G, Detroit Mercy
2. Loudon Love, Senior, F, Wright State
3. Marcus Burk, Senior, G, IUPUI
4. Rashad Williams, Junior, G, Oakland
5. Tanner Holden, Sophomore, G, Wright State
6. Darius Quisenberry, Junior, G, Youngstown State
7. AJ Bramah, Sophomore, G, Robert Morris
8. D’Moi Hodge, Junior, G, Cleveland State
9. Amari Davis, Sophomore, G, Green Bay
10. Naz Bohannon, Senior, F, Youngstown State
The Metro Atlantic was one of the most balanced conferences in the country last season, evidenced by home underdogs winning nearly 66% of games. The conference also lacked firepower with no team averaging more than 72.2 points. Siena, the top dog, finished 135th in scoring across all divisions and 116th in Division I. Many of these programs have had recent coaching changes, which helps account for some reversals of fortune, such as St. Peter’s jumping from ninth place to second last season.
1. Siena: Reigning conference player of the year Jalen Pickett headlines an experienced group that won the MAAC last season in part by adding nearly six more possessions per game. Pickett averaged 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, six assists, a steal and 1.1 blocks per game while committing just 1.8 turnovers and making 37.4% of his 3-point shots. The Saints will miss Elijah Burns, who averaged 14.4 points and shot 62.2% from the floor, and Donald Carey, who made 38.2% of his 3-point shots. But it helps to bring back swingman Manny Camper, who averaged a double-double with 13.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Garry Harris Jr. and Jordan King showed promise as freshmen, averaging a combined 8.8 points per game. King made 46.2% of his 3-pointers in Siena’s final 12 games. They’ll get help from several transfer students, including former Pepperdine post player Jackson Stormo. Belmont transfer Nick Hopkins made 37.4% of his 3-point shots and averaged 6.5 points per game in three seasons in Nashville. Detroit Mercy graduate transfer Harrison Curry should aid Camper down low after posting 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the 2018-19 season, and 6-foot-10, 225-pounder Kyle Arrington averaged 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in one season at Western Illinois. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
2. St. Peter’s: Despite not having a player who averaged more than 8.5 points per game, the Peacocks were able to generate a lot of offense late thanks to three players, Quinn Taylor, Matthew Lee and Doug Edert, who made at least 41% of their 3-point attempts. KC Ndefo had team highs of 8.5 points, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals last season, but he needs to cut down on fouls after averaging 3.2 in 22 minutes. The blocks were the 23rd most of any Division-I player last season and on a per-minute basis, the 17th most. The team added freshman swingman Zarique Nutter late in the spring after guard Aaron Estrada transferred to Oregon. Much of the core returns for a team that gave up more than 72 points just four times last season, none in the final 10 games.
3. Niagara: A coaching change just weeks before the start of last season didn’t keep the Purple Eagles from being competitive all season. Under the guidance of former Duke guard Greg Paulus, who was promoted to head coach after Patrick Beilein’s abrupt resignation, Niagara finished 9-11 in the MAAC, tied for sixth. Guard Marcus Hammond did it all, leading the team with 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and a steal per game while making 42.5% of his 3-point shots and committing just 1.5 turnovers per game. The Purple Eagles shot 37.2% from 3-point range, including 40.7% in conference play. Help inside is on the way with 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Cintron arriving from Longwood, where he averaged 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds as a starter, and 6-11 freshman Touba Traore, a native of Mali who played at Massanutten Military Academy. Raheem Solomon, who averaged 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and a steal per game, returns in the backcourt along with Justin Roberts, who made 42.5% of his 3-point shots, and Nick MacDonald, who shot 42.9% on 3-pointers. The team had to contend with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
4. Monmouth: Even with all-conference guard Ray Salnave transferring to DePaul, the Hawks have a strong backcourt, led by Chattanooga transfer Donovann Toatley. Toatley averaged 11.2 points and 2.9 assists per game in 2018-19, his lone season in the Southern Conference. Deion Hammond is back after scoring 16.3 points per game while shooting 35.7% from 3-point range. Junior guard Samuel Chaput was solid in a pass-first role last season with 5.2 points, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. George Papas was a solid sixth man, averaging 8.5 points and two assists per game while shooting 88.7% on free throws. The team’s top returning rebounder is junior forward Nikkei Rutty, who grabbed just 4.2 rebounds per game. He should get help from 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward Klemen Vuga of Slovenia.
5. Iona: The hiring of coach Rick Pitino has college basketball buzzing, but he has a tough task ahead of him as the team lost nearly 63% of last season’s scoring. The backcourt duo of Isaiah Ross and Asante Gist is back after combining to average 21.2 points per game. Pitino has imported a bunch of transfers to try to give this team an immediate boost. Berrick JeanLouis arrives from notable junior college Florida Southwestern State after not getting a lot of minutes at New Mexico State. Osborn Shema, 7-foot-1, averaged 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and three blocks per game while making 30% of his 3-point shots at New Mexico Military Institute. Freshman guards Ryan Myers and Omar Rowe have potential, but they will need reps before the Gaels will able to match the firepower of the MAAC’s best teams. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
6. Manhattan: UMass transfer Samba Diallo looks to replace leading scorer Pauly Paulicap, who transferred to DePaul. In 30 starts last season, Diallo averaged 6.7 points and 5.9 rebounds. He should be aided by the return of 6-foot-9 Warren Williams, who posted 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The backcourt will be led by Samir Stewart, who averaged 8.4 points, three assists and 1.1 steals but shot only 28.5% from 3-point range. Elijah Buchanan will miss former backcourt running mate Christian Hinckson, who transferred to Binghamton after hitting 45.5% of his 3-point shots, 19th among D-I players. Nehemiah Mack will look to contribute more on offense after logging 24.2 minutes per game with just 3.8 points and 2.2 assists per game to show for it. Forward Ebube Ebube should give the Jaspers a boost in the paint after playing just three games as an encore to a promising sophomore season. A pair of 6-foot-5 junior-college transfers in Nick Brennen of Harcum College, who made over 39% of his 3-point shots, and Marques Watson, who had 9.8 points and 2.7 assists per game for Miami Dade College should give this team solid depth, but without an obvious go-to guy.
7. Quinnipiac: The team lost its leading scorer and assist man when Rich Kelly transferred to Boston College and the nation’s leading rebounder when Kevin Marfo departed for Texas A&M. Marfo averaged 13.3 rebounds per game, and no returning Bobcat averaged more than 3.2 last season. Kelly averaged 16.7 points and 4.5 assists while making 39.4% of his 3-point shots and 89.1% of his free throws. Guard Tyrese Williams is the top returning scorer at 9.9 points, with 3.2 rebounds. Jacob Rigoni is also back after hitting 40.5% of his 3-point shots and 84% of his free throws while contributing 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Matt Balanc returns to the guard rotation after scoring 7.3 points per game last season. The Bobcats need 7-foot-1 Seth Pinkney and 6-7 Brendan McGuire to take big steps forward with a lean recruiting class coming in. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
8. Marist: There’s work to be done for the team that finished last in the MAAC last season at 6-14 and 7-23 overall. Leading scorer Michael Cubbage returns after averaging 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The team will lean on the 3-point shooting of Matthew Herasme and Braden Bell after both shot better than 38% percent. Herasme also led the team with 1.5 steals per game. Transfer Victor Enoh did not get much playing time at Memphis, but he figures to be an upgrade down low with his 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame. Raheim Sullivan, a transfer from McCook Community College, averaged 16.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season and shot 37% on 3-pointers. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
9. Canisius: Leading scorer Majesty Brandon is back after logging 13.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last season. He likely will be asked to do more without Malik Johnson, who averaged 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists and two steals as a senior. Jordan Henderson returns after scoring 9.3 points and averaging two assists last season. The Golden Griffins will look to Morehead State transfer Malek Green for help down low. He started 14 games and came off the bench in 19 others during the 2018-19 season with averages of 7.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Jacco Fritz showed good versatility as a freshman with 7.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game and 6-foot-8 forward Scott Hitchon had 8.2 points per game. With little help coming in by way of transfers and freshmen, Jalanni White will need to improve upon his averages of seven points and 3.4 rebounds from a season ago for the Golden Griffins to move in the right direction. The team had to deal with a 14 day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
10. Fairfield: One of the worst shooting teams in the country must replace leading scorer Landon Taliaferro, who accounted for 45.7% of the team’s 3-pointers and shot 92.3% on free throws, the fifth-best percentage in Division I. The top returnees include Jesus Cruz, who averaged 11 points per game but shot just 25% on 3-pointers, Taj Benning, who averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds, and Vincent Eze, who averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds but made only 58% of his free throws. Holy Cross transfer Caleb Green figures to get the keys to the offense after averaging 10.8 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in the Patriot League in 2018-19. Richmond transfer Jake Wojcik should make the offense a bit less one-dimensional as well. He started for the Spiders during the 2018-19 season with 7.7 points and 1.2 steals per game while converting 36.3% of his 3-point shots and 82.1% of his free throws before having his minutes slashed from 30 per game to 11.7 per game last season. Tshiefu Ngalakulondi, a 6-foot-7 stretch player, started 11 games for St. Bonaventure during the 2018-19 season, hitting 34.5% from 3-point range, before sitting out last season.
11. Rider: The Broncs must replace their top five players in both points and rebounds per game and will need Albany transfer Malachi De Sousa to make an instant impact after he averaged 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. Christian Ings started 18 games as a freshman but averaged just 4.9 points per game and is the only returning player who made at least 19% of his 3-pointers. Dwight Murray Jr., a transfer from Incarnate Word, will be asked to play big minutes at guard after averaging 9.6 points and 2.4 assists last season. His 88.4% accuracy from the free-throw line was 36th among qualifying D-I players, but his 3-point percentage fell 10 points to 27.5% from the prior season. The team also could get a boost from transfer Rodney Henderson Jr., who averaged 10.6 points and 3.4 rebounds for Cal State Northridge two seasons ago before missing most of last season. With much of the rest of the team made up of lightly recruited freshmen, this is one of the biggest rebuilds in the country. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
Top 10 Players
1. Jalen Pickett, Junior, G, Siena
2. Manny Camper, Senior, F, Siena
3. Deion Hammond, Senior, G, Monmouth
4. Marcus Hammond, Junior, G, Niagara
5. Donovann Toatley, Sophomore, G, Monmouth
6. Asante Gist, Senior, G, Iona
7. Majesty Brandon, Senior, G, Canisius
8. KC Ndefo, Junior F, St. Peter’s
9. Nick Hopkins, Senior, G, Siena
10. Isaiah Ross, Senior, G, Iona
Few conferences offer as wide a variety of styles as the MAC with Buffalo and Central Michigan being frequently in the top 20 in possessions per game while schools such as Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan prefer to slow things down to a crawl. With many of last season’s top performers out of eligibility, a conference known for having teams ascend or sink in the standings should see more of the same.
1. Akron: Three of the four players who averaged more than 10 points per game last season are gone, but floor general Loren Cristian Jackson returns after leading the way with 19.8 points, 4.5 assists and a steal per game while making 42.6% of his 3-point shots and 87.7% of his free throws. He will look to senior forward Camron Reese to lend support after Reese averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Former St. John’s guard Bryan Trimble, who is a career 88.9% free-throw shooter and 32.1% 3-point shooter also will be looked to for some offense. The team also should get some versatility from former Iowa wing Maishe Dailey, who was a 38.9% 3-point shooter as a sophomore during the 2017-18 season. Jermaine Marshall, 6-foot-6 transfer, is also a capable 3-point shooter but is better at cleaning up the glass, logging 10.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for notable juco Florida Southwestern State. Former Wisconsin recruit Taylor Currie and Wake Forest transfer Michael Wynn are also new to the roster. If 7-foot Senegal native Aziz Bandaogo can be a rim protector, this team will be stifling on defense and efficient on offense.
2. Buffalo: The Bulls continued to play at a breakneck pace last season, their first since coach Nate Oats left for Alabama, and return three of their top four scorers. Jayvon Graves averaged 17 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting 36% from 3-point range, and he may find the ball in his hands even more with point guard Devonta Jordan having exhausted his eligibility. Josh Mballa was strong in the post with 10.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. MAC sixth man of the year Ronaldo Segu contributed 8.2 points per game and a team-best 36.2% 3-point shooting percentage. Jeenathan Williams, who averaged 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, keeps this backcourt dangerous. Malik Zachery, a transfer from Chipola JC, who averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 assists, should help make up for the loss of Jordan. Coastal Carolina transfer Keishawn Brewton should help keep this high-octane offense humming after averaging 14.5 points and 1.2 steals with just 1.7 turnovers last season and making 37.1% of his 3-point shots in another fast-paced offense.
3. Bowling Green: Leading scorer Justin Turner passed on the chance to transfer to a bigger school to try to lead Bowling Green to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1968. The Falcons’ priorities include replacing last season’s assists leader Dylan Frye, who averaged 13.3 points and four assists, and improving the defensive effort. In eight of their last 10 games, the Falcons gave up more than 70 points, going 5-5 in that stretch after a 17-5 start. The team’s low-post depth took a hit with Tayler Mattos transferring to New Hampshire, but 6-foot-6 Daeqwon Plowden returns after averaging 12.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Turner closed the season strong after dealing with injuries in November and December, averaging 20.5 points per game while making 38.7% of his 3-point shots in the last 13 games of the season. He’ll look to Caleb Fields and Trey Diggs to support him in the backcourt. The duo combined for 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds with Diggs making 39.1% of his 3-point shots.
4. Ohio: In the first season under former Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals, the team found chemistry in sophomores Jason Preston and Ben Vander Plas who combined for 32.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game while Preston made 40.7% of his 3-point shots and was fifth among D-I players in assists per game with 7.4. The Bobcats added freshman Mark Sears from renowned Hargrave Military Academy to help bolster their backcourt depth, and forward Dwight Wilson should help in the paint after averaging 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds for James Madison. The team also returns what was a very productive freshman class, headlined by Lunden McDay, who averaged 8.2 points, and Ben Roderick, who averaged six points. The duo each made at least 36.7% of their 3-point shots. Depth was an issue last season as just six players averaged more than 12.2 minutes per game, but Nolan Foster played well in bursts and Rifen Miguel should help in the post after playing big minutes for notable juco Tallahassee Community College.
5. Kent State: The Golden Flashes return just one player who averaged at least 4.5 points or 2.5 rebounds last season, but that player is one of the best in the conference in 6-foot-9 Danny Pippen. He stuffed the box score last season with 14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while making 77.2% of his free throws. Kent State will turn to a pair of transfers in the backcourt. Michael Nuga averaged 10.5 points per game as sixth man for Portland State in the 2018-19 season before joining the Golden Flashes. James Jordan scored 18.8 points per game and made 39.5% of his 3-point shots last season for Roane State CC. Depth will be an issue for Kent State, but Temple transfer Justyn Hamilton, a 6-foot-10 forward who can shoot 3-pointers, should help after averaging just 10.1 minutes per game in three seasons with the Owls.
6. Toledo: The Rockets need to find a way to replace frontcourt duo Luke Knapke and Willie Jackson, who combined for 28.1 points, 20.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game with Knapke adding 1.9 blocks and 39.4% shooting on 3-pointers. The good news is point guard and leading scorer Marreon Jackson is back after averaging 19.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals, with 36.9% shooting on 3-point shots and 81.6% on free throws. Toledo will look to 6-foot-9 England native Jonathan Komagum to help take the pressure off of Jackson. Komagum took a big step forward at Williston State College last season, averaging 9.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The Rockets also return 6-foot-10 AJ Edu, who redshirted last season with an injury. In the backcourt, Keshaun Saunders was a MAC all-freshman performer last season with 7.7 points per game and Spencer Littleson averaged 10.5 points and 1.7 steals while making 39.3% of his 3-point shots.
7. Ball State: A team that had one of the best defenses in all of college basketball last season will look to build around talented 3-point shooter Ishmael El-Amin, who made 39.3% of his long-range shots and averaged 13.8 points per game. Sophomores Jarron Coleman and Luke Bumbalough will aid El-Amin in the backcourt. Coleman averaged 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game and will be able to play off the ball a little more with the return of K.J. Walton. Walton averaged 13 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game when healthy during the 2018-19 season before playing in just 10 games last season. Tahjai Teague’s graduation cost the Cardinals 9.1 rebounds per game, but Tulsa transfer Reggie Jones should soften the blow. Jones, who began his career playing for Western Michigan, averaged 10.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a priority reserve in his last season in the MAC.
8. Eastern Michigan: Coach Rob Murphy's teams have given up fewer than 70 points per game in seven of his nine seasons, and he expects more of the same this season. Leading scorer Ty Groce, a 6-foot-8 forward, is back after averaging 11.5 points and 1.8 steals last season. The Eagles must replace Boubacar Toure, who averaged 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. With that in mind, they welcome a pair of big-man transfers in 7-foot center Axel Okongo, who was used sparingly in the SEC by Missouri, and James Love III, a 6-11 forward from Kansas State. Another transfer, guard Drew Lowder from Holy Cross, should help on offense after averaging 14.1 points and 3.3 assists in 12 games while making 42% of his 3-point shots. Darion Spottsville should also help run the offense after he averaged 3.4 assists per game. Yeikson Montero, who averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 steals last season, also returns.
9. Northern Illinois: With leading scorer Eugene German out of eligibility after averaging 20.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists, the Huskies will need to retool an offense that finished in the bottom 25 in points per game last season. The guard tandem of Trendon Hankerson and Darius Beane will be asked to increase the combined 14.8 points per game they had a season ago as sophomores. Hankerson was 14th among all D-I players in 3-point shooting percentage, making 46.1%. Juco transfer Tavon Jones will get an opportunity after making 35.6% of his 3-point shots while averaging 13.7 points per game. Tyler Cochran is the only returning player who averaged more than 3.3 rebounds per game. Daytona State College transfer Adong Makoui, a 6-foot-9 center, should help in the post. Anthony Crump should provide depth after spending the last two seasons as a reserve at Middle Tennessee State.
10. Central Michigan: A team that has played at one of the fastest paces of any team in college basketball in recent years under coach Keno Davis may have to slow down just a bit with the addition of a promising newcomer. After being buried on the Michigan State bench, 7-foot, 245-pound center Braden Burke is expected to play big minutes for a team that lost all four of its players who averaged at least 11 points and 3.5 rebounds last season. East Los Angeles College transfer Malik Muhammad will also help fortify the paint after averaging averaged 9.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season. Facilitators Deschon Winston and Devontae Lane will be asked to do a lot after they combined for 15 points, 2.9 steals and 5.7 assists per game last season. Lane’s 35.3% 3-point shooting and 80.6% free-throw shooting are both the best among returning players who played more than six minutes per game. Juco transfer Caleb Huffman averaged 16.1 points last season and will need to produce at this level if Central Michigan wants to avoid regressing.
11. Western Michigan: The team is full of moving parts with their top two scorers gone and a new coach in Clayton Bates taking over after serving as an assistant for Steve Hawkins within the program for many years. Guard B. Artis White emerged as a freshman, scoring 7.3 points per game, though he seemed to regress as the season went along, scoring 4.4 points per game on 32.1% shooting from the floor in the final 11 games. Rafael Cruz Jr. also returns after scoring 7.1 points per game. The Broncos are hoping transfer Greg Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward, will improve upon his numbers at Cal State Bakersfield, where he averaged 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. A step forward by 6-8 sophomore center Titus Wright, who averaged 6.2 points and four rebounds, would also help the program move in the right direction.
12. Miami (Ohio): With leading scorer Nike Sibande having transferred to Pittsburgh, the RedHawks will look to go inside a bit more with Oakland transfer James Beck a big part of the plan. The 6-foot-8 forward sat out last season after averaging 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench during the 2018-19 season. The team recruited 6-foot-11, 240-pound freshman Jackson Ames to be a rim protector. Dalonte Brown is the only returning player who averaged more than 3.3 rebounds per game last season. Brown averaged 9.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in more of a stretch role. Dae Dae Grant proved he can create his own shot, scoring 9.3 points per game last season and Makhi Lairy and Isaiah Coleman-Lands return to aid him in the backcourt after both made 35.3% of their 3-point shots and combined to average 16.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. It should be another tough season for a RedHawks team that finished last in the MAC last season at 5-13.
Top 10 Players
1. Loren Cristian Jackson, Senior, G, Akron
2. Marreon Jackson, Senior, G, Toledo
3. Justin Turner, Senior, G, Bowling Green
4. Jason Preston, Junior, G, Ohio
5. Jayvon Graves, Senior, G, Buffalo
6. Ben Vander Plas, Junior, F, Ohio
7. Danny Pippen, Junior, F, Kent State
8. Daeqwon Plowden, Senior, F, Bowling Green
9. Josh Mballa, Junior, F, Buffalo
10. Dwight Wilson, Senior, F, Ohio
The MEAC has a lot of teams that play well on one end of the floor, but North Carolina A&T was rewarded for being solid on both ends last season. Across the conference, there has been an influx of talented freshmen and transfer students, which should give whoever earns the conference’s NCAA Tournament berth a good chance of being able to avoid Dayton.
1. North Carolina A&T: The Aggies cranked up the tempo enough to finish in the nation’s top five in possessions per game after coach Will Jones took over the program from Jay Joyner last December. It resulted in a 14-5 conference record under Jones after A&T had gone 3-10 under Joyner. Point guard Kameron Langley averaged 9.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, eight assists and 2.1 steals per game, but he was even better in the MEAC, leading the nation in assists per game in conference play with 10.3 (no other player had more than 7.9), and his 2.4 steals per game were the 11th most in conference play. The Aggies lost Ronald Jackson, who led the team with 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, but they are high on former Missouri and N.C. State guard Blake Harris, who shot 42.1% from 3-point range and averaged 1.5 assists in 9.5 minutes per game at N.C. State. Intraconference graduate transfer Tyler Jones, a 6-foot-8 forward, will look to recapture his 2027-18 form when he averaged 12.2 points and five rebounds per game despite shooting just 23.9% on 3s at Maryland-Eastern Shore. SIU-Edwardsville transfer Kenyon Duling made 34.6% of his 3-pointers as a freshman and should lend support to fellow guard Fred Cleveland Jr., who put up nine points and a steal per game with a team-best 79.2% at the free-throw line. The team brought in a 7-foot body in David Greer, but he had just 3.3 rebounds per game at the juco level, likely meaning 6-11 sophomore center Harry Morrice will get a big increase over his eight-minute per-game average from last season.
2. Norfolk State: With two of last year’s top three scorers out of eligibility, the team will put the ball in the hands of Devante Carter, who averaged 9.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season. He will look to pass often to Joe Bryant Jr., who posted 12 points, 2.1 steals, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while knocking down 91.2% of his free throws, 11th best in Division I. In need of rebounding, the Spartans will turn to 6-foot-9 Arkansas State transfer J.J. Matthews, who averaged 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The team also expects help from a pair of transfers in Mustafa Lawrence, who posted 6.4 points and 2.9 assists per game at Fresno State, and Jalen Hawkins, who averaged 7.3 points per game for Robert Morris. With 6-foot-6 combo player Keshaun Hicks returning after making 37.5% of his 3-point shots with 4.9 points per game, this team has depth and lots of talent.
3. Morgan State: The Bears went 9-7 in the MEAC in coach Kevin Broadus’ first season despite being undisciplined. They ranked in the top five in the country for most free throws given to opponents. Four of the team’s top five scorers from a season ago are back, and they’ll be joined by a pair of transfers in Jacksonville State guard De'Torrion Ware and Cincinnati 6-foot-5 defensive stopper Trevor Moore. Ware did a bit of everything with 11.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 34.9% from 3-point range off the bench. With Stanley Davis out of eligibility, Troy Baxter Jr. is the leading returning scorer. Baxter came in from Florida Gulf Coast last season and made his presence felt with 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Another returning guard, Sherwyn Devonish-Prince Jr., posted 10 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. Isaiah Burke scored 7.9 points and Malik Miller 7.7. If Troy Holston can find the form that led him to averaging 9.7 points per game while making 31.7% of his 6.6 3-point shots per game at South Florida, the program should continue to gain momentum under Broadus.
4. North Carolina Central: LeVelle Moton, John Wall’s former AAU coach, will look to point guard Jordan Perkins to keep things running smoothly. The pass-first Perkins averaged 6.8 points, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season. Perkins made only 20.5% of his 3-point shots last season, but teammate C.J. Keyser made 40.9% of his 3-pointers while scoring 11.4 points per game. Keyser hit 48.7% of his 3-point shots in road and neutral-court games, which was 33rd among D-I players. With Jibri Blount out of eligibility after leading the team with 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game, the Eagles will be looking at younger guys with limited experience to keep things solid on the glass. That includes Nehemie Kabeya, a 6-9, 235-pound juco transfer who was born in the Congo.
5. Howard: After a disappointing 1-15 MEAC record in their first season under coach Kenneth Blakeney, the Bison brought in loads of talent, including consensus top 25 freshman Makur Maker. Maker’s 6-foot-11, 235-pound frame should make him the best true post player in the conference. He will be complimented by Purdue transfer Nojel Eastern, who started 62 games the last two seasons and averaged 4.9 points, four rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals last season. Wayne Bristol Jr. is back after an outstanding freshman season in which the 6-foot-6 wing made 40% of his 3-point shots and scored 12.5 points per game. Also returning is Kyle Foster, who averaged 9.6 points per game and shot 35.2% from long range. Khalil Robinson’s fundamentals at the point guard spot should allow this talent to flourish as averaged 3.9 assists while scoring 6.8 points and shooting 81.1% from the free-throw line. Sam Green, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Drexel, shot 38% from 3-point range. The players need reps together, but the sheer talent is there.
6. Coppin State: Injuries held coach Juan Dixon’s team back last season, but the addition of some big transfers, headlined by Anthony Tarke, should help this team ascend. Tarke was not given the same opportunities at UTEP last season as he did in 2017-18 when he was a full-time starter at NJIT and averaged 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, two assists and 1.3 steals per game. Koby Thomas, the Eagles’ leading returning scorer, averaged 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season. Two-time All-MEAC point guard DeJuan Clayton should have things flowing smoothly again after posting 12 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season. The loss of Brendan Medley-Bacon leaves a big hole down low, considering he averaged 10.8 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in MEAC play. The rebounds were sixth most in conference play and the blocks were 11th. Juco transfer Domantas Sakickas should help in a variety of ways after making 36% of his 3-pointers while averaging 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. Coppin State needs Chereef Knox to improve on what he achieved at St. Joseph’s last season, shooting 25.3% from 3-point range while registering 4.2 points per game.
7. Delaware State: It will take a team effort to replace departed leading scorer John Crosby, who averaged 19.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Pinky Wiley, who is likely to take over the offense, averaged 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals while committing 2.3 turnovers per game. The Hornets have plenty of raw size in 7-foot-3 center Chris Sodom and 6-foot-10 Tennessee transfer Zach Kent, but Sodom saw fewer than 10 minutes last season and Kent played a total of 23 minutes in two seasons in the SEC. If Kent can hit from 3-point range, that could give more open looks to junior guard Myles Carter, who made 42.2% on 3s last season and averaged 9.1 points. Junior forward Ameer Bennett averaged 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds. Getting guard John Stansbury back at full health should help as he averaged 8.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game early last season before suffering an injury.
8. Florida A&M: The Rattlers had success getting the ball inside last season, but their 3-point shooting was sorely lacking. They have just one returning player who hit 17 total 3-point shots, and no returning rotation players made at least 20% of their 3-point shots. The offense will run through junior MJ Randolph after he averaged 13 points, 5.8 rebounds. 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game and was incredibly consistent, scoring at least nine points in each of the last 20 games of the season. Kamron Reaves will be asked to step up and help Randolph after averaging 5.5 points and 2.2 assists as a junior. The post will continue to be held down by 300-pound center Evins Desir, who averaged 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The duo of DJ Jones and Bryce Moragne combined for 13.6 points and 10.7 rebounds.
9. South Carolina State: Junior guard Tariq Simmons will be counted on to generate some offense with the Bulldogs’ top four players in points and rebounds having departed. Simmons, a former Citadel guard, averaged 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and made 29% of his 3-point shots and 86.9 percent of his free throws last season. Juco transfer Majok Madol, a 6-foot-10 forward, should provide some size inside after averaging 11 points and eight rebounds while shooting 70% from the floor on the lower level. The Bulldogs hope another juco transfer, guard Brandynn Manning, can come close to duplicating his 51 percent 3-point shooting from last season.
10. Maryland-Eastern Shore: A program that has averaged 62.3 points per game or fewer each of the last three seasons and has had one winning season in the last 26 years will turn to guard Da’Shawn Phillip to build off the 7.4 points per game he averaged last season. He is the only returning player who had more than three rebounds per game, so 6-foot-8 forward/center Walter Prevost will have to step up after averaging 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds. Sophomore guard Glen Anderson is the only returning player who made at least 30% of his 3-point shots, but he averaged just 3.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Unless little-known low-level college transfers Zion Styles and Mike Mensah are able to hit a few 3-point shots to give the team multiple dimensions on offense, it will likely lead Maryland-Eastern Shore to play a bunch of defensive slogs again this season. The team is planning to play only conference games, which could lead to early season rust in MEAC play.
11. Bethune-Cookman: The school announced in late October that it will not participate in any sports for the 2020-21 season, but we have seen things change like what happened for Big Ten and Pac-12 football. Even if the Wildcats do play, though, who knows who will be on the floor. Six of the team’s top seven scorers from last season are gone, leaving Joe French and his 8.5 points per game. KJ Simon, a 6-foot-3 guard, made 12 starts for Troy last season, averaging 4.7 points and 3.6 rebounds, but he’s a lifetime 46.6% free-throw shooter and 26.6% 3-point shooter. Central Arkansas transfer Matthew Mondesir at 6-foot-5 is multifaceted as he posted 6.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game during the 2018-19 season, but he made just 53.8% of his free throws and 29.7% of his 3-point shots. Unless 6-foot-10 Alex Ismail and juco transfer Calvin Poulina can both pound the glass, it will be impossible to replace Cletrell Pope, the nation’s leader in offensive rebounds last season with 11.9 per game.
Top 10 Players
1. Kameron Langley, Senior, G, North Carolina A&T
2. Makur Maker, Freshman, F, Howard
3. DeJuan Clayton, Senior, G, Coppin State
4. Joe Bryant Jr., Junior, G, Norfolk State
5. Nojel Eastern, Senior, G, Howard
6. De’Torrion Ware, Junior, G, Morgan State
7. C.J. Keyser, Senior, G, North Carolina Central Central
8. Troy Baxter Jr., Senior, F, Morgan State
9. Devante Carter, Senior, G, Norfolk State
10. Koby Thomas, Senior, F, Coppin State
The conference’s overall depth was much improved last season, headlined by the oddity of Evansville, which did not win a game in conference play, upsetting then-No. 1 one Kentucky on the road. The conference figures to have a pair of teams in Loyola-Chicago and Northern Iowa contending for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid in a conference that features lots of superb 3-point shooters.
1. Loyola-Chicago: Cameron Krutwig fills up every box of the stat sheet, averaging 15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The 6-foot-9 post player enters his senior year as the main carryover from the program’s 2018 Final Four run. A trio of seniors in Lucas Williamson, Tate Hall and Keith Clemons will run the offense. They combined for 32.1 points, 5.9 assists and 4.2 steals per game with Clemons and Hall combining to shoot 44% from 3-point range. Hall and Clemons were in the top 80 in 3-point shooting percentage in Division I last season. Marquise Kennedy made 48.4% of his 3-point shots at home during his freshman season, 61st in D-I, while averaging 9.2 points and 1.2 steals per game. The team had only six players play more than 14 minutes per game last season, which makes 6-foot-7 senior Aher Uguak all the more important after he averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds as a defensive specialist. But the rotation should be deeper with the additions of Cooper Kaifes and Braden Norris. Kaifes shot 46.5% from 3-point range during the 2018-19 season before sitting out last season. Norris comes in from Oakland, where he made 48.6% of his 3-point shots during the 2018-19 season while averaging 8.4 points, 5.2 assists and just 1.9 turnovers per game. If Indiana transfer Damezi Anderson can live up to the four-star recruit billing he had coming out of high school, this team has Top 25 potential.
2. Northern Iowa: AJ Green is coming off a season in which he averaged 19.7 points, three rebounds and three assists per game while making 39.1% of his 3-point shots and 91.7% of his free throws. Trae Berhow emerged as a solid second scoring option, averaging 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds while making 44.6% of his 3-point shots. Austin Phyfe helped down low, posting 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds while being a surprisingly good passer with 2.1 assists per game. Depth was an issues for the Panthers last season as just one reserve player averaged more than 9.5 minutes, and that was Tywhon Pickford, who led the team in rebounds as a freshman during the 2017-28 season with 9.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game but has seen his minutes slashed each of the last two seasons. George Mason transfer Goanar Mar, a 6-foot-7 wing, also will try to recapture his freshman form as he posted averages of 10.9 points and 4.4 rebounds while making 35.7% of his 3-point shots before seeing his minutes reduced the last two seasons. The team has been operating without a true point guard in recent years, but freshman Bowen Born has a chance to be a solid pass-first option. If forwards Noah Carter and James Betz can do enough to warrant minutes, the Panthers should have the depth to support a good starting cast and replace the combined 18.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game left behind by the graduations of Isaiah Brown and Spencer Haldeman.
3. Southern Illinois: Despite losing their last four games in their first season under coach Bryan Mullins, the arrow is pointing up as the Salukis found two cogs to build around in Marcus Domask and Lance Jones. Both were freshmen last season as Domask led the team with 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while making 39.7% of his 3-point shots and 82.5% of his free throws, while Jones had 9.3 points, 2.5 assists and a steal per game. With three of the team’s top five scorers gone, Southern Utah transfer Jakolby Long, who began his career at Iowa State, will be called upon to build off the six points and 2.9 rebounds per game that he averaged in the Big Sky. Eastern Illinois transfer Ben Harvey provides a 6-foot-5 presence and averaged 10.2 points on 38.9% 3-point shooting with 3.9 rebounds during the 2018-19 season. The team returns close to nothing down low, but J.D. Muila, a top 25 juco transfer, according to JUCORecruiting.com, grabbed 6.8 rebounds per game for notable junior college Indian Hills. Division II standout Steven Verplancken Jr. also knows about being a go-to guy, registering 16.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while making 45% of his 3-point shots for Glenville State. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
4. Bradley: The Braves won the conference tournament each of the last two seasons, but they must replace the floor general from both of those teams in Darrell Brown. A good way to do so is by bringing in two solid guards from the Atlantic 10. Sean East averaged 9.3 points, 4.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game as a freshman for UMass, while Terry Nolan averaged 10.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and a steal per game for George Washington during the 2018-19 season. Danya Kingsby is back to aid those two after averaging 7.2 points and 2.1 assists. Eastern Michigan transfer Kevin McAdoo adds even more depth after starting 19 games in the MAC during the 2018-19 season with 8.6 points per game. Senior forward Elijah Childs, who averaged 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks last season, is an impact player ast the Braves were 16-6 with him in the lineup and 7-5 while he was injured. Ari Boya figures to see more than the 10.5 minutes he averaged last season as is an intimidating 7-foot-1 presence. If Ja’Shon Henry can build off the 9.5 points and six rebounds he averaged last season and take a few more 3-point shots, this team has great potential in a solid mid-major conference.
5. Drake: It is not an easy task to replace 7-foot Liam Robbins, who was the team’s leader in most categories with 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, the fifth most of any Division I player. But the Bulldogs still have a stud point guard in Roman Penn to run the offense. Penn made 40.3% of his 3-point shots and 78.8% of his free throws while generating 12 points, 5.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals to just 2.4 turnovers per game. The return of Tremell Murphy is a big boost after he was limited to five games last season. During the 2018-19 season, he had 10.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while making 41% of his 3-point shots. Former Green Bay starter Shanquan Hemphill also looks to return to form after missing almost all of last season. Hemphill, who averaged 11.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 2018-19, should help D.J. Wilkins see more open looks. Wilkins saw his numbers fall off last season after an impressive freshman season. Garrett Sturtz, a 6-foot-3 guard, is the only returning player who averaged more than five rebounds per game. He posted 7.4 points and 5.8 rebounds while making 34.6% of his 3-point shots. Noah Thomas, who averaged 5.7 points per game and made 35.6% of his 3-pointers last season, adds depth.
6. Indiana State: The Sycamores will look to a pair of transfers in Towson’s Tobias Howard Jr. and North Carolina Central’s Randy Miller Jr. to help make up for the loss of starting point guard Jordan Barnes, who averaged 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 38.5% on 3-point shots. Miller played in just eight games last season. Combining those games with his 2018-19 season, he averaged 13.5 points while making 37.3% of his 3-point shots and 82.2% of his free throws. Howard posted 10.2 points and 2.5 assists per game as the CAA sixth man of the year during the 2018-19 season. Rebounding has been a sore spot for Indiana State in recent years, but the emergence of 6-foot-9 combo player Jake LaRavia should help. As a freshman last season, LaRavia averaged 9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while hitting 40.9% of his 3-point shots. The team also is looking to Butler Community College transfer Ndongo Ndaw, who averaged 5.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last season, and 6-foot-10 Nick Hittle for post depth. Tyreke Key will continue to be the focal point of the offense after he led the team with 15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while making 38.9% of his 3-point shots and 84.6% of his free throws. The duo of Cooper Neese and Tre Williams combined for 14.5 points, and Williams averaged 1.2 blocks per game. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
7. Missouri State: The Bears lost three of their top four scorers from last season, but the one who remains, 6-foot-8 Gaige Prim, was one of the best all-around players in the Missouri Valley. He averaged 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds while making 78.5% of his free throws in 21.7 minutes per game. And Prim was consistent, scoring 10 or more points in his final 25 games. As a freshman, Isiaih Mosley emerged as a 6-foot-5 Swiss Army knife-type of player, contributing 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while making 90% of his free throws and 41.5% of his 3-point shots in the final 22 games after being an afterthought the first month-plus of the season. The Bears added a pair of big transfers in 7-footer Dawson Carper, who started 22 games for Hawaii last season, and 6-foot-10 juco transfer Nic Tata, who averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, should give the team added punch down low.
8. Valparaiso: Multiple players will be needed to fill the void left by the loss of Javon Freeman-Liberty, who led the Crusaders with 19 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season. They also have to replace Ryan Fazekas, who averaged 10.6 points and made 49.5% of his 3-point shots, the fifth-best percentage in Division I. Freeman-Liberty and Fazekas led Valpo’s run to the conference tournament final. Eron Gordon is set to become an offensive focal point after shooting 42% from 3-point range and averaging 5.2 points per game. He will look to fit in with stretch players Donovan Clay and Mileek McMillan, who combined for 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Ben Krikke needs to use his 6-foot-9 frame to pull in more rebounds after averaging 2.9 and 6.7 points last season. Junior Daniel Sackey is a solid pass-first guard who averaged 6.3 points, 3.6 assists and a steal per game.
9. Illinois State: After winning 28 games during the 2016-17 season, the program’s victory total has dipped each of the last three seasons as the Redbirds have given up at least 70 points per game in all three seasons after allowing an average of 65.3 in each of coach Dan Muller’s first five seasons in Normal. Keith Fisher III is the leading returning scorer and rebounder with averages of 9.6 points and six rebounds. He also shot 37.5% from 3-point range. DJ Horne is another good outside shooter as he made 40.2% on 3s and scored 8.7 points per game. After averaging 13.2 points per game during the 2017-18 season at Eastern Illinois, transfer Dedric Bod fell short of expectations last season, averaging just 6.1 points and 14.3 minutes. Juco transfer Josiah Strong could bolster the offense after he converted 46.2% of his 3-point shots at Iowa Western last season with per-game averages of 17.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. UMass transfer Sy Chatman figures to be ineligible this season.
10. Evansville: After pulling off their signature upset of No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington, the Purple Aces’ season went down the toilet with coach Walter McCarty being relieved of his duties after Title IX violations came to light and the team went 0-18 in conference. Former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter now has the job and returns quite a few of last season’s contributors. However, former Arizona State and Kansas wing Sam Cunliffe, who averaged 11.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season, opted out of playing this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander entered with some fanfare last season as the brother of NBA star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but he redshirted after appearing in just three games. Evansville should get production from Noah Frederking and Evan Kulhman, who each averaged 5.8 points per game and shot a combined 32% from 3-point range. Jax Levitch joins the program after producing nothing at UNC Asheville last season, but as a starter for Purdue-Fort Wayne during the 2017-18 season, he averaged 5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Junior Shamar Givance will look to take the step forward that he failed to do last season after a promising freshman year.
Top 10 Players
1. Cameron Krutwig, Senior, F, Loyola Chicago
2. AJ Green, Junior, G, Northern Iowa
3. Elijah Childs, Senior, F, Bradley
4. Roman Penn, Junior, G, Drake
5. Tate Hall, Senior, G, Loyola Chicago
6. Tyreke Key, Senior, G, Indiana State
7. Marcus Domask, Sophomore, G, Southern Illinois
8. Gaige Prim, Senior, F, Missouri State
9. Sean East, Sophomore, G, Bradley
10. Trae Berhow, Senior G, Northern Iowa
The conference looks a bit different without reigning NEC Tournament winner Robert Morris, as the Colonials moved to the Horizon League in the offseason. The conference saw a lot of teams slow down their pace of play late last season, the opposite of many Division I conferences. Merrimack came up from D-II to win the regular-season conference title but would have been unable to play in the postseason even if the NCAA Tournament had not been canceled.
1. Bryant: Adam Grant, last season’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, is gone, but the Bulldogs still have a lot of talent. Michael Green III averaged 9.3 points and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman while classmate Charles Pride had 8.2 points and five rebounds per game. Benson Lin’s decision to go pro was a bit surprising considering he averaged only 8.6 points per game as a freshman, but the addition of Rutgers guard Peter Kiss should offset that loss. Kiss was injured for nearly the entirety of the 2019-20 season but had six points per game the previous season, and in one season at Quinnipiac, he posted 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Juco transfer Chris Childs should be a key addition as he made 45% of his 3-point shots at the lower level last season. Melo Eggleston, who began his career at Wake Forest before spending the 2019-20 season at Arkansas, could give this team a lift on the glass after averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game a season ago. Bryant also brought two players who were not receiving minutes at their previous D-I stops in Luke Sutherland of Siena and Luis Hurtado Jr. of UAB. If juco stretch player Darius Guinn can build off the 17 points and six rebounds per game he averaged a season ago, this team will be able to win the conference and compete against solid non-conference opponents.
2. Long Island: Though the newly rebranded Sharks lost top scorer Raiquan Clark and two other starters from last season, the team still has a good interior presence to build around in Ty Flowers, a 6-foot-9 stretch forward who averaged 14.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Junior guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. will take command of the offense. The Detroit transfer had averages of 14.7 points and four assists while making 37.4% of his 3-point shots in the last 14 games of last season, 13 of which were starts after he began the season in a reserve role. Coach Derek Kellogg continues to bring in transfers from UMass, his previous stop, including Tre Wood, who averaged 2.4 assists in 16 minutes per game with the Minutemen in 2018-19. The return of Eral Penn, who missed the 2019-20 season because of injury, should help Flowers down low. Penn averaged 6.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game off the bench in 2018-19. UMass-Lowell transfer Alex Rivera should pick up some of the scoring slack as he averaged 9.2 points per game as a freshman. Guard Virshon Cotton is back after averaging 8.6 points and 1.1 steals per game last season.
3. Fairleigh Dickinson: After losing 10 of the first 11 games they played against Division I competition last season, the Knights managed to right the ship, thanks to making 42.7% of their 3-point shots at home compared with 31.3% on the road, where they played most of their games to start the season. Three of the four players who averaged double-figure points last season are back, including leading scorer Jahlil Jenkins, who made 39.8% of his 3-point shots and 82.4% of his free throws while posting 16 points, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game. With leading rebounder and shot blocker Kaleb Bishop out of eligibility, the team will lean on Elyjah Williams, who averaged 11.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. The Knights will look to Brandon Powell and Devon Dunn for 3-point shooting after both shot better than 40% from long range and combined for 15.9 points and 1.9 steals per game. Xzavier Malone-Key overcame a slow start, due partly to injury, and shot 41% from 3-point range the final 14 games of the season while averaging 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. Reserve big man Oscar Okeke’s lack of development leaves Fairleigh Dickinson thin in the paint.
4. Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers endured a rough end to last season, losing eight of their last nine games, exceeding 67 points just once in that stretch. Leading scorer Damian Chong Qui is the only returning player who shot at least 33% from 3-point range. He averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and a steal per game while also making 84% of his free throws. Jalen Gibbs averaged 11.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Malik Jefferson and Nana Opoku, a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards, combined for 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Opoku made 31% of his 3-pointers. Samford transfer Deandre Thomas should pick up some of the scoring slack after averaging 6.6 points per game last season, but he made just 26.5% of his 3-point shots. Unless Czech Republic native Frantisek Barton can offer some outside shooting as a 6-foot-7 wing, scoring figures to be a problem for this team once again.
5. St. Francis (Pa.): It’s a new era for the Red Flash as the dynamic backcourt duo of Isaiah Blackmon and Keith Braxton is gone after they combined for 36.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and three steals per game last season. The team will likely need to be better in the interior to compensate, and that starts with 6-foot-9 Mark Flagg, who posted 6.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Combo player Myles Thompson averaged 10.2 points and five rebounds per game and Tyler Stewart had 8.2 points per game. With five of last season’s nine main rotation players gone, Justen Anderson, who is the son of the program's all-time leading scorer Joe Anderson, will be looked to for big minutes and to knock down outside shots after redshirting last season.
6. Wagner: Things went downhill for the Seahawks last season because they allowed 76.2 points per game, the most they have allowed since the 2001-02 season and the second time in 12 seasons that they gave up more than 70.5. All three players who averaged 3.1 assists per game last season are back, and they’ll get extra support from Duquesne transfer Ashton Miller, who was stranded on the bench at his previous stop. Alex Morales contributed mightily with 13.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals last season, but he needs to reduce his 3.4 turnovers per game. Chase Freeman, one of the top assist men, averaged 6.2 points per game and made 90.9% of his free throws, which was 13th in Division I. Elijah Ford also returns after averaging 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and 6-foot-10 Chattanooga transfer Justin Brown should help on the glass after having a tough time finding playing time in the Southern Conference.
7. St. Francis Brooklyn: Senior guard Chauncey Hawkins returns as the Terriers’ leading scorer, having averaged 15.1 points, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game.Though he is just 6-foot-2, UMass transfer Unique McLean led the team in rebounds with eight per game while averaging 11.4 points, eight rebounds, and a steal. Deniz Celen’s departure after averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and making 43.6% of his 3-point shots puts the pressure on Stevan Krtinic as the team’s top returning outside shooter. Krtinic posted six points per game and was limited to 24 games because of injury. He made 41.2% of his 3-point shots from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1 before his injury. Serbia native Vuk Stevanic arrives as a 6-foot-8, 240 pound stretch forward who can shoot 3-pointers. If Travis Atson can build on the 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds he averaged at Quinnipiac during the 2028-19 season, the Terriers should be able to put last season’s 3-8 finish in the rearview mirror.
8. Merrimack: The Warriors’ unique zone defense, led by the nation’s leader in steals, Juvaris Hayes, allowed them to go from Division II to NEC champions in their first season after the jump, but they’ll miss Hayes this season. On top of his 3.9 steals per game, Hayes averaged 10.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists. His seven assists per game in conference play ranked him No. 7 in the nation. Guards Devin Jensen and Mikey Watkins are the top returning scorers, each having averaged 7.5 points last season. Jensen shot 43.5% on 3-pointers. Justin Connolly, who sat out last season, will be looked to for minutes in the post after averaging 1.3 blocks per game off the bench when Merrimack was still D-II. His return is all the more important because Jordan Minor is the only player back from last season who grabbed more than 2.5 rebounds per game.
9. Central Connecticut State: It was another tough season for the Blue Devils, but Ian Krishnan was a bright spot in conference play after missing the first portion of the season. In 19 games he averaged 12.5 points and shot 45.2% from 3-point range, which was 24th in Division I, and 80% from the free-throw line. Greg Outlaw, Jamir Reed and Myles Baker all averaged between eight and nine points per game as freshmen with Reed and Wallace combining for 8.1 rebounds per game. Trey Tennyson did not take a lot of 3-point shots last season but converted 42.6% of them. In the final nine games, Tennyson shot 52.6% from 3-point range and 100% from the free-throw line, averaging 5.7 points in 11.6 minutes.
10. Sacred Heart: The Pioneers lost five of the six players who averaged at least eight points per game last season, and they have one returning player who had at least 2.5 rebounds per game. Aaron Clarke took over at point guard after Cameron Parker, who was averaging 7.8 assists per game, suffered a season-ending injury in January. Clarke averaged 14 points and 3.7 assists to 2.1 turnovers per game in 15 starts beginning Jan. 20. The return of senior Zach Radz, who missed last season, is significant as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season. He should help Tyler Thomas, who scored 5.6 points per game as a freshman last season. Sacred Heart is counting on interior strength from juco transfer and former North Alabama recruit Cantavio Dutreil, who averaged 8.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and two blocks per game on the lower level. This figures to be a transitioning team after back-to-back 11-plus win seasons in the NEC. The team had to deal with a 14-day COVID-19 shutdown in November.
Top 10 Players
1. Jahlil Jenkins, Senior, G, Fairleigh Dickinson
2. Ty Flowers, Senior, F, Long Island
3. Elyjah Williams, Senior, F, Fairleigh Dickinson
4. Chauncey Hawkins, Senior, G, St. Francis Brooklyn
5. Michael Green III, Sophomore, G, Bryant
6. Xzavier Malone-Key, Senior, G, Fairleigh Dickinson
7. Damian Chong-Qui, Junior, G, Mount St. Mary’s
8. Peter Kiss, Senior, G, Bryant
9. Jermaine Jackson Jr., Junior, G, Long Island
10. Melo Eggleston, Senior, G, Bryant
Since Belmont joined the conference, the Bruins and Murray State have completely dominated, with the pair winning seven of the last eight conference tournaments. That could change this season as Austin Peay has a lethal combo few in any mid-major conference can match up with in a conference full of fast, explosive offenses and many poor defenses.
1. Austin Peay: The Governors return a dynamic duo in Terry Taylor and Jordyn Adams. Taylor, a senior swingman, stuffed the stat sheet last season, averaging 21.8 points, 11 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He finished 10th in the nation in rebounds. Adams scored 17.4 points per game as a freshman, hitting 37.7% from 3-point range. After being limited to six games last season, Reginald Gee will look to pick up where he left off as he made 47.4% of his shots from long range while scoring 9.3 points in 19.2 minutes per game. In Gee’s last full season during the 2018-19 season, he was an All-SWAC performer at Alabama State with 13 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while making 39.2% of his 3-pointers. The team will get stronger down low with Georgia transfer Mike Peake entering the program after a season in the SEC, and Oklahoma’s Corbin Merritt coming in after being buried on the Sooners bench. Sophomore guard Carlos Paez holds things together as a glue guy, averaging 6.5 points, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game while making 34.6% of his 3-point shots and 88.5% of his free throws, 42nd in Division I.
2. Murray State: Much of last season’s core that posted a 15-3 conference record returns, including leading scorer Tevin Brown, who averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 41.9% from 3-point range. The Racers also get back their 6-foot-10 rebounding leader, KJ Williams, who had 12.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while hitting 36% of his 3-point shots in primarily a reserve role. Freshmen Dionte Bostick and Justice Hill should give the team added guard depth and 3-point shooting and sophomore DaQuan Smith gives the team flow on offense with 3.4 assists to two turnovers per game as a primary ball handler. Forward Demond Robinson and guard Chico Carter both saw quality minutes as freshmen. Robinson averaged 6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 14.5 minutes, while Carter posted 6.3 points and 2.3 assists and made 38.2% of his 3-point shots. At home, Carter averaged 9.2 points and 2.9 assists while making 52.6% of his 3-point shots and 91.3% of his free throws. On the road, he averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 assists, while making just 12.5% of his 3-point shots and 75% of his free throws. If he can improve on those splits, the Racers should continue to contend in the OVC.
3. Belmont: The Bruins enjoyed a seamless transition last season after Casey Alexander stepped in for retired coach Rick Byrd, but this season might be where the rubber meets the road. Three of the team’s top five scorers from a season ago are gone, but Grayson Murphy remains at the controls of the offense after posting the country’s fifth-best assist-to-turnover ratio. He averaged 9.8 points, 6.2 assists, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game, with the steals placing him seventh in Division I. Belmont’s free-throw shooting could be shaky as no returning regular shot better than 66% from the line last season. Combo big man Nick Muszynski gives the team versatility after averaging 15.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season. In limited minutes, 6-foot-6 wing Tate Pierson made 40.4% of his 3-point shots and Caleb Hollander averaged 4.3 points and two rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game. The Bruins’ frontline talent is there, but the depth they typically had under Byrd appears to be depleted, making the addition of 6-foot-9 forward Even Brauns important for this team to stay near the top of the conference.
4. Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels return a pair of players who were in the top 50 among Division I players in steals per game last season with Jomaru Brown and Jacquess Hobbs. Brown is the key to the offense as he was the leading scorer with 18.4 points per game to go with 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals, but he must cut down on his 4.7 turnovers per game, the most for any returning D-I player. Hobbs averaged 1.9 steals in 20.1 minutes per game as more of a defensive-minded guard with 4.7 points and 2.6 assists per game. Eastern Kentucky will need more 3-point shooting as Russhard Cruickshank is the top returning top 3-point shooter, averaging 6.2 points per game while making 34.6% of his 3-pointers. The Colonels should get a boost from Peyton Broughton, who returns after missing the entire 2019-20 season. He made 33.6% of his 3-pointers in his first two seasons. Charlotte transfer Cooper Robb made 43.9% of his 3-point shots and averaged five points and 1.6 steals per game during the 2019-20 season in Conference USA. The team is still thin in the post as 6-foot-7 Michael Moreno is the team’s top returning rebounder, averaging 6.1 per game. With West Virginia transfer Brandon Knapper adding depth in the backcourt, this team should be able to crank up the tempo and turn games into track meets.
5. Eastern Illinois: Last season, the Panthers were the only Division I college basketball team without a freshman or sophomore. They are experienced again this season, with eight seniors on the roster for one last dance. The top six scorers from a season ago are back, led by Josiah Wallace, who averaged 15.6 points and 2.3 assists per game, and Mack Smith, who contributed 13.4 points and 1.8 assists. A healthy Deang Deang, who was limited to 10 games last season, should provide a boost after posting 9.5 points, three assists and 1.7 steals per game. The team will look to give Kashawn Charles more open looks after he finished 29th among D-I players in 3-point shooting percentage, converting 44.7% from long range while averaging 6.2 points per game. Marvin Johnson became a solid facilitator with 8.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, three assists and 1.4 steals per game. The team will look to 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward Madani Diarra for more of a presence in the paint after he was bolted to the bench at Saint Louis last season. Sammy Friday IV, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Siena, further balances the lineup, though the lack of a true No. 1 is glaring in this high-octane conference.
6. Morehead State: Limited backcourt and outside shooting production hurt the Eagles last season and might be their undoing again. No returning player averaged more than 9.5 points per game. Morehead will look to Ta’Lon Cooper to run the offense after he averaged seven points and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 38.8% from 3-point range. Cooper needs to be better on the road, where his numbers fell off from his home averages of 9.3 points and 3.9 assists. Tyzhaun Claude showed promise as a freshman with 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s the only returning player who averaged more than 3.3 rebounds per game. Former Florida Atlantic wing Jaylen Sebree should help. He averaged 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while making 35.7% of his 3-point shots as a freshman before having his minutes cut nearly in half. The Eagles will look for a return to form from DeVon Cooper, who appeared in just five games last season while battling injuries. He started 33 games as a sophomore in 2018-19 averaging 8.8 points and shooting 44.5% from 3-point range.
7. Jacksonville State: For the first time in his nine years of coaching in Division I, coach Ray Harper had a sub-.556 winning percentage last season as Jacksonville State’s roster was gutted after a 24-9 finish in 2018-19. The Gamecocks lost a lot of talent to transfer again this year, but they also landed a trio of transfers who should contribute immediately. That includes former Power Five big men Brandon Huffman of North Carolina and Amanze Ngumezi of Georgia. Graduate transfer Darian Adams averaged 12.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists for Troy last season. The transfers will back Kayne Henry, the leading returning scorer, averaged 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 35.6% from 3-point range. Henry is the only returning player who was among the Gamecocks’ top seven scorers last season. Juco transfer Damaree King could help after averaging 12.8 points and shooting 48.6% for Northern Oklahoma.
8. Tennessee-Martin: The stunning death of 50-year-old coach Anthony Stewart in November means the Skyhawks will play with a heavy heart this season. Patrick Stewart, the son of the late coach, is the top returning scorer at 19.2 points per game. He finished 22nd in the nation in 3-point shots attempted last season and averaged 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. UT Martin generated a lot of offense last season but was a no-show on defense. With three of their top four scorers gone, the Skyhawks will look to newcomers for help. Ajani Kennedy, a 6-foot-9 transfer from UC Riverside, averaged 7.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while making 46.4% from 3-point range during the 2018-19 season. He could form a solid post duo with 7-foot-1 Eric Rustin, who played limited minutes as a freshman. The team added another good 3-point shooting option in Jonte Coleman, who made 44.9% of his 3-point shots at the juco level while averaging 14.1 points per game. Fellow juco transfer Cam Holden averaged 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, three assists and two steals while making 36.3% from 3-point range. The Skyhawks would love to see Eman Sertovic build on the 4.8 points per game on 92.9% free-throw shooting he posted as a freshman.
9. SIU Edwardsville: The program has never had more than 12 wins at the Division I level, but coach Brian Barone is bringing in some talent, including former UConn stretch player Sidney Wilson. Wilson has dealt with myriad off-court issues and injuries, limiting him to averaging four points per game, but he is a former consensus top-100 high school prospect who made 33.3% of his 3-point shots last season. Combo player Mike Adewunmi showed flashes of being a big-time contributor, averaging 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in the final 12 games of last season, making 78.6% of his free throws and 34.4% of his 3-point shots. Cam Williams, who is good at getting to the basket, is the top returning scorer after averaging 9.6 points, 2.2 assists and a steal per game last season. Freshman Desmond Polk should be able to give the Cougars another outside scoring option. Juco transfer Philip Pepple Jr., at 6-foot-10, could be a force down low, having averaged 12.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game at the lower level.
10. Tennessee State: Despite balanced scoring, the Tigers had an up-and-down conference season last year, finishing 9-9. Three of their top six scorers from last season are gone, including Jy’lan Washington, the Division I leader in 3-point shooting percentage at 53.8%. In the wake of the departures, pass-first point guard Mark Freeman might have to become more of a scorer after averaging 6.5 points and 4.3 assists per game as a freshman. Carlos Marshall Jr. is the top returning scorer at 11.8 points per game. He also averaged two assists and made 79.1% of his field goals. Forward Shakem Johnson averaged nine points and 5.3 rebounds. Georgia State transfer Josh Linder should help in the post after averaging 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in the Sun Belt. Wing Jon Brown should also receive substantial minutes after averaging 3.6 points and three rebounds per game as a junior.
11. Tennessee Tech: Former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey endured a long first season in Cookeville as his Golden Eagles finished 9-22 and 6-12 in the OVC. But he had the team playing more competitively toward the end of the season. The strong backcourt duo of Jr. Clay and Keishawn Davidson returns. Clay scored a team-best 13.4 points last season and averaged 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals. Davidson averaged nine points and 4.4 assists. The team is thin in the post as Amadou Sylla led the team with 5.5 rebounds per game to go with 5.9 points. The Golden Eagles could use an immediate impact from 7-foot juco transfer Marcus Hopkins with no other returning player having averaged more than 3.6 rebounds last season. Another transfer, 6-foot-10 Shandon Goldman, didn’t put up big numbers at Northern Iowa, but he has 3-point range. Fellow transfer CJ Gettelfinger was glued to the Oakland bench, but the Tennessee high school standout likely will be called upon to make shots for a team that is young and inexperienced.
12. Southeast Missouri State: Former Kansas State assistant coach Brad Korn has his hands full with a program that has had a winning conference record three times in the last 20 years, none better than 9-7. After having his season limited to two games, Chris Harris will look to pick up where he left off last season, when he averaged 15.5 points. He’ll look to help sophomore DQ Nicholas, who is the top returning scorer from last season with 7.6 points per game. Korn welcomed a pair of forward transfers in Manny Patterson of Green Bay and Nolan Taylor of Cal Poly. Patterson averaged 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season and started 24 games for Green Bay. Taylor played in just 14 games last season with averages of 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. HIs 35-point, nine-rebound performance in a quadruple-overtime game against Cal State Fullerton proved to be an aberration. The program also has former Nebraska 6-foot-6 wing Nana Akenten, who averaged 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game during the 2018-19 season in 12.9 minutes per game.
Top 10 Players
1. Terry Taylor, Senior, G, Austin Peay
2. Tevin Brown, Junior, G, Murray State
3. Grayson Murphy, Senior, G, Belmont
4. Jordyn Adams, Sophomore, G, Austin Peay
5. Nick Maszynski, Junior, C, Belmont
6. KJ Williams, Junior, F, Murray State
7. Parker Stewart, Senior, G, UT Martin
8. Josiah Wallace, Senior, G, Eastern Illinois
9. Jomaru Brown, Junior, G, Eastern Kentucky
10. Reginald Gee, Senior, G, Austin Peay
The Patriot League is planning a conference-only schedule, which will reward up-tempo play as every team that had a winning record last season scored more than 70 points per game. Other than Colgate being the clear top team in the conference and Holy Cross being by far the worst, this is a highly competitive league with a lot of teams either relying heavily on 3-pointers or generating steals on defense.
1. Colgate: The Raiders return three of the five players who averaged double-figure scoring last season, including All-Patriot League performer Jordan Burns, who posted 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals to just 2.4 turnovers per game while making 35.9% of his 3-point shots. Colgate needs to replace top rebounders Will Rayman and Rapolas Ivanauskas, who accounted for 25.7 points, 16.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. It likely will lean on 6-foot-10 Keegan Records to step into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. Junior guards Tucker Richardson and Nelly Cummings are back. Richardson averaged 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists and shot 40.5% from 3-point range, while Cummings posted 10.8 points and 1.8 steals. With the team using just seven main rotation players last season, Jack Ferguson will need to build off his seven points-per-game average. One key addition is Houston Baptist transfer Oliver Lynch-Daniels, who sat out last season after averaging 8.5 points and two assists per game the previous season.
2. Lafayette: The return of Alex Petrie will give the Leopards one of the more lethal backcourts among mid-major programs. Petrie missed all of last season with an injury, but in his first two years he made 40.2% of his 3-point shots and 85.5% of his free throws while scoring 14.8 points per game. Justin Jaworski is coming off a terrific season in which he averaged 17.1 points, 2.8 assists and a steal per game while making 86.7% of his free throws and 36% of his 3-point shots. E.J. Stephens, another guard, was used mainly as a sixth man as he averaged 12.1 points and 2.1 assists while committing just 1.1 turnovers per game and made 86.8% of his free throws. The Leopards will look to 7-footer Neal Quinn for added production after he averaged just 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman, while classmate Leo O’Boyle, a 6-foot-7 stretch player, made 35.4% of his 3-point shots while averaging 7.1 points per game.
3. Boston University: The Terriers will rely on guard play in their bid to repeat as Patriot League Tournament champs because versatile post player and leading scorer Max Mahoney is gone. Point guard Javante McCoy averaged 12.2 points and 3.4 assists per game last season and was helped by the 3-point shooting of Walter Whye and Jonas Harper. Whyte is the top returning scorer and rebounder, having averaged 13 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Sukhmail Mathon, a 6-foot-10 forward, should step up on the boards after averaging 4.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in limited minutes last season. Garrett Pascoe, a defensive stopper as a freshman, returns after missing all of last season. Freshmen Caelan Jones and Miles Brewster both have a chance to see minutes immediately to help a backcourt in need of 3-point shooting. Senior guard Andrew Petcash, a 38.5% 3-point shooter, should see significant minutes this season.
4. Loyola-Maryland: After missing the first three months of last season with a knee injury, Santi Aldama, a highly regarded 6-foot-11 big man from Spain, made a late splash, averaging 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 10 games. Cam Spencer had the third-best assist-to-turnover ratio in Division I at 3.8, averaging 10 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists while making 43.6% of his 3-point shots and 85.7% of his free throws. The Greyhounds must replace top scorer Andrew Kostecka, who accounted for 19.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but senior guard Isaiah Hart should help with that as he put up 9.3 points and 3.1 assists per game. Brent Holcombe and Golden Dike give this team tons of depth in the post. Dike averaged seven points and 5.2 rebounds last season while Holcombe averaged 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds.
5. Bucknell: The Bison lost their top two players in points and assists from a team that was far from prolific on offense. Senior forward John Meeks is the top returning scorer and rebounder, averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Junior guard Andrew Funk averaged 10.8 points. Walter Ellis likely will have to kick up his scoring volume after making a team-best 41% of his 3-point shots while averaging 5.9 points per game. Bucknell needs more from Paul Newman than the 4.6 rebounds per game he averaged last season. Andre Screen, a 7-foot freshman, might be the best big man to enter the program since current NBA power forward Mike Muscala. Stony Brook transfer Miles Latimer is unlikely to be eligible this season, making it crucial for Xander Rice to improve as a sophomore. The Bison’s defense down the stretch was good last season as they allowed 70 points or fewer in nine of the final 11 games.
6. Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks went 9-13 with leading rebounder James Karnik in the lineup last season and 2-8 when he was out. Now that he has transferred out of the program, they’ll need others to step up. The only player taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster is 6-11 Nic Lynch, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 19 games. He played a big role in Lehigh winning four of its final five games. The leading returning scorer and rebounder is the versatile Jeameril Wilson, who averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds and shot 38.3% from 3-point range. Sophomore guards Evan Taylor and Reed Fenton combined to average 14.3 points last season. The Mountain Hawks will need freshman Jayshen Saigal to make outside shots for Lehigh to get back into the upper portion of the league.
7. Navy: Consistently one of the slowest teams in terms of pace of play, the Midshipmen will look to star guard Cam Davis to once again lead the offense after he averaged 16.3 points and 2.5 assists while committing 1.5 turnovers per game. Greg Summers returns as well after grabbing a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game while chipping in 9.7 points and 2.3 assists. But he’ll need help on the boards as the only player to average at least five rebounds last season. John Carter Jr. is another key player after averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Other than Davis, Luke Loehr is the only returning player who made over 31% of his 3-point shots. Since Navy is not equipped to bring in impact transfers or recruits, Loehr will need to increase his production after averaging 4.9 points and four rebounds last season.
8. American: The Eagles have big shoes to fill after the loss of Patriot League player of the year Sa’eed Nelson. Nelson averaged 18.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and his 2.8 steals per game were the fifth most Division I. Jamir Harris, who averaged 10.9 points a game, is a sharpshooter who made 39.9% of his 3-point shots, and his 93.2% free-throw-shooting accuracy was third best in Division I. Stacy Beckton Jr. will join him in the starting backcourt after averaging 9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game as a junior. Connor Nelson, a 6-foot-6 wing, made 36.7% of his 3-pointers while adding 7.9 points and 1.4 steals per game. The team should get help down low from 6-foot-9, 260-pound juco transfer Christian Lorng. Still, the team lacks depth and will need newcomers, such as freshman guard Victor Brown Jr., to make immediate contributions.
9. Army: The graduation of point guard Tommy Funk is a devastating blow for the Black Knights. Funk was Army’s leading scorer last season with 17.5 points per game, but beyond that, he was ninth in the nation in assists at 7.1 per game and 51st in assist-to-turnover ratio. Matthew Wilson also is out of eligibility after producing 16.4 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game. Seniors Lonnie Grayson and Alex King are the new go-to guys. Grayson averaged 10.3 points, four rebounds and 2.2 assists, while King had 8.3 points, four rebounds and 1.6 assists. They both shot better than 34% on 3-pointers. Junior guard Josh Caldwell is back after posting 6.9 points and five rebounds per game while leading a poor free-throw shooting team with a 69% accuracy rate. Underclassmen with limited game experience will need to produce for Army to avoid the bottom half of the Patriot Leagues standings.
10. Holy Cross: The program was left in a tough spot when former coach Bill Carmody stepped down during the summer of 2019, and the rebuild resulting from the transfers lost in the process will be extensive. It will be up to 6-foot-5 senior point guard Austin Butler to lead the way after he averaged 11.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal while making 34.6% of his 3-point shots, all team-bests for returning players. Sophomore Ryan Wade is expected to take a step forward after averaging 5.7 points last season and shooting 88.5% on free throws. With 6-foot-7 Marlon Hargis transferring out and New Orleans transfer Gerrale Gates planning to sit out this season, the team needs 6-foot-9 Matt Faw to build off his 2019-20 season, in which he averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds while hitting 33.7% of his 3-point shots.
Top 10 Players
1. Jordan Burns, Senior, G, Colgate
2. Santi Aldama, Sophomore, F, Loyola-Maryland
3. Justin Jaworski, Senior, G, Lafayette
4. Cam Davis, Senior, G, Navy
5. Walter Whyte, Junior, G, Boston University
6. Tucker Richardson, Junior, G, Colgate
7. Nelly Cummings, Junior, G, Colgate
8. Javante McCoy, Senior, G, Boston University
9. John Meeks, Senior, F, Bucknell
10. Jeameril Wilson, Junior, F, Lehigh
The SoCon has a few clear bottom feeders, but the conference has seen several programs become forces thanks to rising young coaches. Depth is an issue for quite a few teams, but the frontline talent is there along with a lot of teams that play a controlled style.
1. UNC Greensboro: The Spartans had to deal with a mandatory quarantine because of an early fall COVID-19 outbreak, but they have the senior leadership to overcome it, starting with two-time SoCon defensive player of the year Isaiah Miller. Miller recorded the fifth-most steals in America last season with 2.8 while averaging 17.8 points, five rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Kaleb Hunter will be Miller’s main form of support in the backcourt after posting 10.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. With leading rebounder James Dickey gone, the Spartans brought in 7-foot transfer Hayden Koval to defend the basket. At Central Arkansas, Koval averaged 3.1 blocks per game, the most for any returning Division I player. He also produced 12.2 points and 7.6 rebounds. The team will look to 6-9, 255-pound big man Mohammed Abdulsalam to help Koval down low after he had 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in a reserve role. Keyshaun Langley adds a sharpshooting presence after making 39.4% of his 3-point shots as a freshman while chipping in 6.6 points and 1.1 steals per game. Jarrett Hensley, a 6-8 freshman, should play big minutes right away, thanks to his raw athleticism and ability to guard a variety of positions.
2. Mercer: The defense improved significantly throughout Greg Gary’s first season as coach, and now the Bears have a pair of transfers in Neftali Alvarez and Felipe Haase ready to bolster the backcourt. Alvarez averaged 11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game in his lone season at Fairfield. At South Carolina, Haase made 41.3% of his 3-point shots and 82.1% of his free throws during the 2018-19 season while averaging 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Jeff Gary, the top returning scorer, will support that duo after averaging 11.5 points on 39% 3-point shooting and 90.5% free-throw shooting. Ross Cummings, a 2018-19 all-conference performer who led the team with 17.4 points per game, returns after being limited to six games last season. At 6-foot-11, Maciej Bender is the team’s main post presence. He averaged seven points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game after transferring in from West Virginia. After combining for 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, James Grissom III and Kanar Robertson will be looked to for big minutes with Robertson emerging as a good outside shooter, making 40.3% of his 3-point shots.
3. Furman: Top-end talent is not an issue for the Paladins, but they will need to find ancillary pieces to surround their three returning double-digit scorers. Noah Gurley is the top returning scorer at 14.3 points per game, shooting 40.7% from 3-point range. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists last season. Fellow forward Clay Mounce averaged 13.2 points, six rebounds and 2.1 assists, shooting 39.1% on 3s. Junior guard Mike Bothwell is likely to take the starting spot of departed top scorer Jordan Lyons. Bothwell posted 10.9 points, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 37.7% on 3-pointers. Senior guard Alex Hunter will run the offense with Bothwell after averaging 8.9 points, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals. Junior forward Jalen Slawson, who averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, is the only other returning player who played more than 6.5 minutes per game, which makes the development of role players Jaylon Pugh and Ben Beeker paramount for Furman to threaten for an NCAA Tournament berth.
4. Western Carolina: The return of all-conference guard Mason Faulkner makes the Catamounts dangerous as he does a variety of things, registering 17.7 points, six rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season. He is the only returning player to have averaged more than 2.8 rebounds per game. That puts the focus on the sophomore combo of Tyler Harris and Xavier Cork as both were role players last season and combined for 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Matt Halvorsen, a 40.2% 3-point shooter, likely will need to improve his averages of 9.5 points and a steal per game to take pressure off Faulkner. Kameron Gibson, who earned SoCon all-freshman honors two seasons ago when he averaged 13.6 points per game, was limited to 17 games last season. The Catamounts went 12-5 with him in the lineup and 7-7 without him. The addition of Corey Hightower from Presbyterian should fortify the post after he averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. With Matt Halvorsen’s brother Brad Halvorsen in the fold as a true freshman and Marcus Thomas coming off a season in which he made 40.7% of his 3-point shots in a reserve role, the team should have the depth behind Faulkner to lead Western Carolina to a quality season.
5. Chattanooga: With their two leading scorers from last season gone, the Mocs offense will be centered around senior guard David Jean-Baptiste, who averaged 12.6 points and 2.4 assists per game. Former Wright State guard Malachi Smith should help him on the perimeter. Stefan Kenic is a 6-foot-9, 225-pound wing who knocked down 40% of his 3-pointers and 80% of his free throws last season while averaging 7.2 points per game off the bench. Wings Darius Banks and KC Hankton enter the program as promising transfers. Banks averaged 12.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game for James Madison last season, but his 3-point shooting percentage dipped to 33.3% after it was 49.3%, the third-best mark in the country, during the 2018-19 season. Hankton spent the last two seasons glued to the Saint Louis bench. Hankton will join forces with another former Atlantic 10 player, the well-traveled Josh Ayeni, who averaged 6.1 points per game for St. Bonaventure in two seasons before playing just eight games for South Alabama last season.
6. Wofford: The Terriers lost a lot from their team that nearly made the 2019 Sweet 16. They must replace the top two scorers from a season ago, but point guard Storm Murphy returns after he contributed 11.9 points and 3.5 assists per game last season while making 42.4% of his 3-point shots. Messiah Jones, a 6-foot-6 forward, shot a team-best 70% from the floor last season and averaged 7.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a reserve. South Florida transfer B.J. Mack should help in the paint after being on the Bulls bench last season, and Trevor Stumpe also likely will play a lot of minutes after making 38.7% of his 3-point shots and 84.3% of his free throws with 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season. Starting guard Ryan Larson, a defensive stopper, is back along with sophomore guard Isaiah Bigelow, who made 38.7% of his 3-point shots in a reserve role.
7. East Tennessee State: Few teams are going through a bigger transition than the Bucs as coach Steve Forbes left for the Wake Forest job in the offseason and the team’s top eight scorers from last season are also gone. Brothers Ty and Ledarrius Brewer have teamed up after Ty, a 6-foot-7 wing, was Southeast Louisiana’s top scorer last season with 14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks with a 34.8% 3-point shooting. Leddarius Brewer sat out last season after transferring from Southeast Missouri, where he averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, two assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2018-19. More transfers have joined the fold, including 6-foot-4 guard Serrel Smith, who played sparingly at Maryland last season. Kansas State transfer David Sloan averaged 5.3 points and 2.3 assists per game a season ago. Silas Adheke comes from Northern Kentucky, where he made 28 starts last season and averaged 3.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. After redshirting last season, 6-foot-6 forward Damari Monsanto should make an impact. And Vonnie Patterson, the top returning scorer, at a mere three points per game, could be in line for a larger role after averaging 16.6 minutes last season.
8. Samford: The offense should be more efficient this season after departed point guard Josh Sharkey set a Division I record for most turnovers with 5.9 per game. The Bulldogs have a new coach in Alabama high school coaching legend Bucky McMillan, who is expected to implement a high-pressure defense. Florida Atlantic transfer Richardson Maitre should provide a boost after he started 32 games last season and produced 9.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game while making 40.5% of his 3-point shots. Jalen Dupree is the team’s top returning contributor from last season as he had 11.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and a block per game while making 40% of his 3-point shots and 82.2% of his free throws. Portland transfer Jacob Tryon, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, is a versatile 6-foot-11 center who made 41.3% of his 3-pointers. East Carolina transfer K.J. Davis averaged 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and a block per game in 2018-19. Former Tennessee-Martin and Citadel point guard Preston Parks has seen his scoring average drop from 17.5 as a freshman to 10.9 in 2018-19. Myron Gordon, who missed the entire 2019-20 season after averaging 12.2 points per game as a junior, is back. Logan Dye, a 6-8, 235-pound forward, should provide low-post depth after averaging 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
9. VMI: For the second straight offseason, the program’s top scorer transferred out of the program, leaving the Keydets to replace two of their top three scorers and assist leaders from last season. Greg Parham emerged at the end of last season, making 43.8% of his 3-point shots in the team’s final 16 games while averaging 11.8 points per game in a sixth-man role. Kamdyn Curfman made 38% of his 3-point shots with 10 points per game, and Sean Conway made 38.4% of his 3-point shots while averaging 5.7 points as a freshman. Myles Lewis and Jake Stephens are the only returning players who hauled in more than three rebounds per game last season, combining for 14.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. VMI will need 6-foot-9 freshman DJ Nussbaum to play significant minutes as a rim protector for the team to avoid the bottom tier of the SoCon standings.
10. Citadel: The Bulldogs have a 16-74 conference record in five seasons under coach Duggar Baucom and have allowed 88.9 points per game in that stretch, most among Division I programs. Fletcher Abee emerged as a freshman last season with 12.2 points and 1.1 steals per game while knocking down 84.9% of his free throws and 37.4% of his 3-point shots. Hayden Brown looked good in the six games he played in last season, averaging 13.3 points and 1.2 steals. Kaiden Rice, a 6-foot-7 wing, scored 12.7 points per game. Point guard Tyler Moffe, a transfer from Division II Mansfield, will try to duplicate the 4.9 assists per game he had in seven games last season before going down with an injury.
Top 10 Players
1. Isaiah Miller, Senior, G, UNC Greensboro
2. Mason Faulkner, Senior, G, Western Carolina
3. Clay Mounce, Senior, F, Furman
4. Noah Gurley, Junior, F, Furman
5. Ross Cummings, Senior, G, Mercer
6. Hayden Koval, Senior, C, UNC Greensboro
7. David Jean-Baptiste, Senior, G, Chattanooga
8. Storm Murphy, Senior, G, Wofford
9. Felipe Haase, Junior, G, Mercer
10. Mike Bothwell, Junior, G, Furman
Aside from one down season in 2018-19, Stephen F. Austin has been the class of the conference over the last decade, even through a couple of coaching changes. The Lumberjacks pulled off a landmark upset a year ago, taking down Duke in overtime at Cameron Indoor Arena. Many conference rivals have copied Stephen F. Austin’s model of pressing full court and trying to force as many turnovers as possible. Because of this, the Southland has teams with a disproportionately high number of turnovers both forced and committed.
1. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks won 27 or more games for the sixth time in the last eight seasons and return three of their top four scorers, each of whom also averaged more than a steal per game. Senior forward Gavin Kensmil is the top returning scorer, having averaged 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals last season. Cameron Johnson averaged 11.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 assists, while fellow guard Roti Ware posted 9.5 points, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals. Ware made 42.9% of his 3-point shots, placing him No. 73 on the Division I list. UTEP transfer Nigel Hawkins had a breakout freshman season, averaging 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, before having his minutes slashed in his sophomore year. Calvin Solomon is a low-post specialist off the bench for the Lumberjacks, averaging 4.3 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. Former Kansas walk-on Elijah Elliott is unlikely to do much offensively but could get minutes as a defensive stopper and glue guy.
2. Nicholls: Three of the Colonels’ top four scorers from last season are gone, but the offense is in good hands with senior guard Andre Jones, who averaged 12.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season. Kevin Johnson, another senior guard, is back after he made 36.4% of his 3-point shots while contributing 9.8 points, 3.9 assists and two steals per game. Since coach Austin Claunch took over the program in 2018, the team has built around transfers with Division I experience. This season will be no different with Troy transfer Ty Gordon expected to make an impact in the backcourt after averaging 12.1 points, 3.2 assists and a steal while making 35.2% of his 3-point shots. Shawn Williams will look to return to his 2018-19 form at East Carolina, when he averaged 12.8 points per game, before his numbers dipped considerably last season at New Mexico State. Jaylen Fornes is eligible after transferring from UNC Wilmington, where in three seasons he averaged 7.5 points on 36.8% 3-point shooting. Damien Sears averaged 1.9 rebounds per game in limited minutes with St. John’s last season, and Western Illinois transfer Isaac Johnson averaged 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Colonels lack a bit of size but have lots of firepower on the perimeter.
3. Abilene Christian: The Wildcats had a youthful roster last season, which is reflected by six of their top seven scorers returning this season. Big men Joe Pleasant and Kolten Kohl headline a team that operates without a true star. Pleasant averaged 11 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, while Kohl had 9.6 points and 4.3 points. Pleasant also made 36.8% of his 3-point shots. Damien Daniels is a pass-first point guard who had 5.2 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. and the duo of wings Clay Gayman and Airion Simmons combined for 13.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. With eight of the 10 guys who played regular minutes back for a team that values defense and winning the turnover battle, the chemistry should be strong.
4. Sam Houston State: Two of the Bearkats’ top three scorers from last season are gone, but the one who remains is leader Zach Nutall, who posted 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals per game as a sophomore. Nutall will run the show and should look to get redshirt freshman Pierce Hellums going after he shot 45% from 3-point range in high school. Senior guard Damarkus Lampley needs to improve on defense, but he scored eight points per game last season. The Bearkats expect contributions from a few juco transfers. Tristan Ikpe can be a difference-maker in the post as he averaged 17.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on the lower level. Another juco transfer, Dylan Robertson, shot 74.1% from the floor with 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. And Donte Powers made 39% of his 3-pointers in junior college.
5. McNeese: The Cowboys boast an impressive guard stable for a mid-major program. But with leading scorer and rebounder Sha’markus Kennedy gone, McNeese needs 6-foot-8 Mississippi State transfer KeyShawn Feazell to make an impact after he spent three seasons stuck on the bench in the SEC. He has big shoes to fill as Kennedy last season averaged 18.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game, placing him 14th in the country for blocks. Point guard AJ Lawson will need to be more efficient as his four turnovers per game were the 11th most for any player in the country. Lawson averaged 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and a steal per game. Senior guard Dru Kuxhausen made 45.8% of his 3-pointers last season, 15th in the country. He scored 14.8 points per game and made 91.9% of his free throws, the seventh-best percentage in the country among qualifying players. Myles Hutchinson posted 5.2 points and 1.8 assists per game while making 50% of his 3-point shots. Louisiana Tech transfer Ra’Shawn Langston should also help the backcourt after averaging 7.2 points per game as a priority reserve during the 2018-19 season. The team will also get a boost from Florida Gulf Coast transfer Zach Scott, who averaged 10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 86.9% at the free-throw line for one of the worst offensive teams in college basketball last season.
6. Lamar: The Cardinals were not afraid to let guard Davion Buster launch from 3-point range as his 8.7 3-point attempts per game were the 10th-most of any player in America. He took 43.9% of the team’s 3-point shots, converting 37.8% while averaging 14.6 points, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Anderson Kopp will aid him in the backcourt after putting up 10.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. Senior guard Ellis Jefferson helps Lamar generate turnovers, averaging 1.7 steals per game to go with 5.4 points and 2.1 assists. Avery Sullivan is the team’s rim protector, averaging 12.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and a block per game. He should get help from 6-foot-6 juco transfer Mason Senigaur, who posted 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game at Dodge City Community College last season. David Muoka, a 6-10 center, contributed 3.2 points, 1.8 blocks and 4.5 rebounds while making 15 starts as a freshman last season.
7. Central Arkansas: Losing a 7-foot center who can shoot 3-pointers and averaged 31 blocks per game as Hayden Koval did would be tough for any team, but the Bears have the guards to go in a new direction. Rylan Bergersen led the team with 15.8 points per game last season to go with 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Point guard Deandre Jones averaged 12.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, six assists and a steal per game while making 82.2% of his free throws and 35% of his 3-point shots. Central Arkansas went 8-14 with him in the lineup and 2-7 without him. He’ll get help from wings Jaxson Baker and Jared Chatham, who combined for 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. Eddy Kayouloud averaged 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, but he, Jones and Bergensen need to cut down on turnovers. After redshirting last season, 7-footer Jonas Munson should help in the post and SK Shittu should play much more than the eight minutes per game he did last season.
8. Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions lost their leading scorer and rebounder in Ty Brewer and their point guard in Von Julien. But the cupboard isn’t bare as they look to improve a defense that allowed at least 75 points in 13 of their final 14 games last season. Max Brackmann, a 7-foot-2 German who redshirted last season, should play big minutes in the post. UMass transfer Keon Clergeot, a 6-1 guard, will look to duplicate the numbers he posted during the 2018-19 season when he averaged 7.5 points and sank 38.3% of his 3-point shots. Pape Diop, a key defender down low, contributed 11 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season. Brandon Gonzalez and Byron Smith should help with perimeter scoring after they combined for 15.9 points and 5.7 rebounds last season. After being stuck on the Boston College bench for two seasons, Avery Wilson should help the offense flow better. Louisiana-Monroe transfer Elijah Ifejeh figures to see big minutes down low after averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The versatility of 6-7 Nick Caldwell should allow him to improve upon his freshman averages of 6.7 points and three rebounds.
9. Incarnate Word: The future is now for the Cardinals, who had no seniors on the roster last season and only one junior who played regularly. That upperclassman is Des Balentine, who had 6.6 points and a steal per game last season in support of freshman breakouts Keaston Willis and Drew Lutz. Willis scored a team-leading 13.3 points per game, and Lutz, the point guard, averaged 11.6 points, 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Lutz also made 88.6% of his free throws, 33rd best in Division I. Marcus Larsson, a 6-foot-10 big man from Norway, will play big minutes after posting 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman last season. The team will look to 6-foot-7 juco transfer Bradley Akhile and 6-foot-5 freshman Logan Bracamonte to give the team added 3-point shooting and versatility.
10. Northwestern State: The Demons must replace their leader in points, rebounds and blocks in Chudier Bile, who transferred to Georgetown. The only silver lining: Bile committed the 13th-most turnovers per game in the country last season with 3.9. Point guard Brian White will look to run a more efficient offense after averaging 7.8 points and 3.1 assists per game while making 88% of his free throws. Jairus Roberson, who made 37% of his 3-point shots, is the leading returning scorer at 11.9 points per game. Trenton Massner averaged 9.6 points, four rebounds, 2.1 assists and shot 41.5% on 3-pointers. Jamaure Gregg will be key in the team’s interior defense after posting 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks to go with 6.5 points per game. He’ll be aided by 6-foot-7, 300-pound load Larry Owens, who made 15 starts last season, posting 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. After starting every game during the 2018-19 season with 9.3 points per game, Laterrance Reed returns after missing all but five games because of injury last season.
11. New Orleans: The Privateers are happy to get guard Damion Rosser back after he missed all but seven games last season. He will look to give the team a boost on offense after averaging 11.3 points, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game in limited action last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by senior Troy Green, who averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game. New Orleans gets even more backcourt depth with Derek St. Hilaire joining the program after posting 6.8 points and 1.9 assists per game last season at Jacksonville State. Senior guard Lamont Berzat is another facilitator, a pass-first guy, who posted 4.3 points, 1.3 steals and 2.8 assists per game while making 35.7% of his 3-point shots. The versatile Jahmel Myers contributed 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. The team has close to nothing in terms of forwards and rebounding, but Tamir Bynum played a high-pressure defensive style with Prairie View, though he had only 2.8 points in 9.9 minutes per game last season.
12. Texas A&M Corpus Christi: The Islanders were among the bottom five teams in the country in nearly every metric in taking care of the ball, so they need the duo of Myles Smith and Jordan Hairston to cut down on the combined 5.2 turnovers per game they committed last season. Smith, the leading scorer with 13.5 points per game and 41.5% shooting from 3-point range, also posted 4.5 rebounds, a team-leading 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals. Hairston scored 12.9 points per game, making 44.4% of his 3-point attempts, 34th best in Division I. Lado Laku, a 6-foot-10 freshman, will attempt to add some rebounding prowess as 6-foot-8, 240-pound Perry Francois grabbed just 1.9 rebounds per game off the bench last season. Juco transfer Rasheed Browne should help the backcourt after he averaged 13.9 points, 9.6 assists, and 3.8 steals per game at Beaver County JC. Another juco transfer, 6-8 forward De’Lazarus Keys, pulled down 5.3 rebounds per game at notable Florida SouthWestern.
13. Houston Baptist: The Huskies gave up the third-most points on a per-possession basis last season and had the second-most possessions per game. The result? They allowed more points than any other team in the country, 93.9 per game. The team will look to 6-foot-10 senior Ryan Gomes for more minutes and to improve the defense after he averaged just 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season. Myles Pierre and Ty Dalton are the only returning players who averaged at least 4.5 points per game for a full season. Pierre averaged 8.1 points and 2.2 assists, while Dalton put up 4.6 points, 2.4 assists and made 50% of his 3-point shots. Philip McKenzie, who started 13 games last season, will be looked to as a key defender inside after averaging 3.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Beyond that, the Huskies are looking to low-level juco transfers and freshmen to try to get back to respectability.
Top 10 Players
1. Zach Nutall, Junior, G, Sam Houston State
2. Dru Kuxhausen, Senior, G, McNeese
3. Gavin Kensmil, Senior, F, Stephen F. Austin
4. Davion Buster, Junior, G, Lamar
5. Rylan Bergersen, Senior, G, Central Arkansas
6. Andre Jones, Senior, G, Nicholls
7. Kevin Johnson, Senior, G, Nicholls
8. Avery Sullivan, Senior, F, Lamar
9. Ty Gordon, Senior, G, Nicholls
10. Nigel Hawkins, Junior, G, Stephen F. Austin
The SWAC Tournament champion has been given a No. 16 seed in 21 of the last 22 NCAA Tournaments, a trend that could end because of the top-line talent conference coaches are attracting. A variety of styles will be on display with the SWAC being home to the lowest-scoring team in the nation as well as one that allows more points per game than almost every other team in Division I.
1. Jackson State: All-SWAC performer Tristan Jarrett is back after averaging 16.8 points per game despite making just 26.9% of his 3-point shots for one of the worst outside shooting teams in America. Louisiana transfer Calvin Temple averaged only 3.2 points per game last season but has the skill set of a floor general, making him the likely point guard. Jayveous McKinnis, the SWAC defensive player of the year, averaged 9.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as a sophomore last season. He should pair well with former N.C. State forward Darius Hicks, who averaged 5.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game at Eastern Kentucky last season. Jonas James, the only returning player who shot better than 27% from 3-point range last season, averaged 8.3 points, 2.9 assists and a steal per game. With Montana State transfer Zeke Quinlan giving the team even more low-post depth, the Tigers should use a combination of strong defense and depth to excel in the SWAC.
2. Southern: Depth was key for the Jaguars going 13-5 in SWAC play last season as they did not have a player who averaged more than 9.5 points per game. The backcourt duo of Micah Bradford and Ashante Shivers is back after combining for 18.3 points and 1.9 steals per game. Bradford also led the team with 3.3 assists per game. Brendon Brooks is Southern’s sharpshooter, making 36.2% of his 3-point shots and 88.2% of his free throws with 5.6 points per game. Isaiah Rollins led the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 37.7 in limited opportunities. After being stuck on the bench at USC and Milwaukee the last four years, 6-foot-10, 240-pound Harrison Henderson should provide needed help on the boards. The Jaguars should also get help from Arizona State transfer Andre Allen, who two years ago was one of the top-ranked juco transfers in the country before playing sparingly last season.
3. Texas Southern: The Tigers have loads of experience as the lone freshman redshirted last season and reserve Ja’Mare Redus is the only other player who is not a junior or a senior. They’re counting on junior Yahuza Rasas to crash the boards after he posted a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game last season to go with 9.8 points. Versatile wing Justin Hopkins is the top returning scorer with 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 36.2% from 3-point range and 77.5% from the free-throw line. John Jones and Bryson Etienne are constants in the backcourt. Jones scored 8.7 points and shot 86.4% on free throws. Etienne added 7.2 points and 1.6 assists. Former LSU and Georgetown wing Galen Alexander played just nine games for the Hoyas last season but made 43.8% of his 3-point shots while averaging 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds.
4. Alcorn State: Three of the Braves’ top four scorers from last season are gone, but Troymain Crosby is back. Crosby averaged 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game and made 84.8% of his free throws last season. He’ll be assisted by a pair of transfers with upside. Kurk Lee comes from Drexel after appearing in only nine games the last two seasons. Before injuries kept him off the floor, Lee started two full seasons, averaging 14.9 points, five assists and 1.6 steals as a freshman. In a reserve role for Stephen F. Austin, Oddyst Walker scored 3.2 points per game but should see open looks opposite Arne Morris, who made 42.4% of his 3-point shots last season. The team also picked up a rare intraconference transfer with Jacoby Ross coming over from Alabama State after his minutes were cut dramatically. Senior big men Kobe Wilson and Anthony Fairley will be asked to secure the low post.
5. Prairie View: After winning each of the past two conference regular-season championships, the Panthers are rebuilding as their top five scorers from last season are gone. Prairie View does not return a player who made at least 28% of his 3-point shots last season, magnifying the addition of former Nebraska starting point guard Cam Mack, who had 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game while hitting 33.9% of his 3-point shots. The team also added Jalon Clark, who rode the bench at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Dajour Joseph, who appeared in three games the last two seasons at New Mexico State. Lenell Henry gives this team a good 6-foot-8 rim protector after he averaged 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Junior guard Faite Williams will help run the offense after posting 4.9 points, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season.
6. Alabama A&M: Cameron Alford, the team’s leading scorer last season, transferred out of the program, but the Bulldogs still have a lot of developing players who played significant minutes last season. In fact, all five of their top scorers last season were freshmen. The Bulldogs get a boost from 6-foot-7 Auburn transfer Myles Parker after he spent two years on their bench. Parker should take some pressure off 6-foot-10, 275-pound big man EJ Williams, who averaged 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season. Garrett Hicks, the leading returning scorer with 11 points per game, is the only returnee who made over 29% of his 3-point shots. Point guard Cameron Tucker posted 7.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. With freshman forwards Dailin Smith and Anjay Cortez in the fold, the Bulldogs should continue to develop and improve as they discover the cornerstones needed to take the next step.
7. Grambling: The Tigers have big holes to fill with top scorer Devante Jackson and point guard Ivy Smith Jr. both out of eligibility, but they still have a solid low-post presence in leading rebounder Terreon Randolph. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder averaged 4.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season. Sharpshooter Cam Christon, the leading returning scorer at 9.4 points per game, should help stabilize the backcourt as he made 35.8% of his 3-point shots and 90.5% of his free throws last season. Prince Moss averaged 8.3 points per game but saw his 3-point shooting accuracy slide from 46.4% to 25.8% season to season as he went from reserve to starter. The duo of Kelton Edwards and Trevell Cunningham will try to help Moss find open shots as Cunningham will likely run the point after posting 4.9 points and 2.2 assists per game as a part-time starter. Edwards made 39.7% of his 3-point shots and averaged 8.1 points per game. Getting Tra’Michael Moton for a full season after he showed promise in six games with six points and 1.8 steals in 11.4 minutes per game last season should give this Tigers a decent base to work with. But it will be up to lesser-known juco transfers to help get this team back in the upper half of the SWAC.
8. Alabama State: Former NBA guard Mo Williams takes over a program that returns just one player who averaged at least five points per game. Williams has brought in loads of transfers, mostly from the junior-college level, to try to make the team competitive immediately. Kenny Strawbridge, a former UMKC commit, averaged 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game at the juco level last season. He will look to aid Brandon Battle, the leading returning scorer, who averaged 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. D.J. Heath should give the Hornets an outside shooting presence after averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. Tyrese Robinson, who was limited to 16 games last season, has a chance to do some damage in the post after averaging 5.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in the final five games. Kareem Clark should help on the perimeter after making 43.8% of his 3-point shots at the juco level. Trace Young, a 6-foot-8 stretch player, averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds for Wyoming two seasons ago, shooting 37% on 3-pointers and making 13 starts.
9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff: The offense was unable to get out of neutral last season as the Golden Lions averaged the fewest points per game and on a per-possession basis of any Division I team. The return of 6-foot-5 forward Shaun Doss should help. Two seasons ago he averaged 12.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game before injury limited to three games last season. Doss should pair well with the post presence of Markedric Bell, who led the team with 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last season. The duo of Terrance Banyard and Dequan Morris is back after they combined for 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season. Banyard made 36.4% of his 3-point shots and averaged a block per game, while Morris averaged 1.5 steals per game.
10. Mississippi Valley State: It’s not a good combination to be first in the country in possessions per game while being 346th in the country in points per possession allowed on defense and 349th in points scored per possession. The Delta Devils lost the only three players who had more than 3.2 rebounds per game last season and will hand the keys to the offense to Caleb Hunter, who as a freshman averaged 15.7 points, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Gebreal Samaha, Cossy Kowouto, and Dario Milojevic will need to improve their offense as the trio had a combined 2.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season. Louisiana transfer Tirus Smith averaged 8.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last season.
Top 10 Players
1. Tristan Jarrett, Senior, G, Jackson State
2. Cameron Mack, Junior, G, Prairie View
3. Jayverous McKinnis, Junior, F, Jackson State
4. Kurk Lee, Senior, G, Alcorn State
5. Yahuza Rasas, Junior, F, Texas Southern
6. Micah Bradford, Senior, G, Southern
7. Troymain Crosby, Senior, G, Alcorn State
8. Ahsante Shivers, Senior, G, Southern
9. Darius Hicks, Senior, F, Jackson State
10. Justin Hopkins, Senior, F, Texas Southern
The Summit League has seen one of the biggest home-court advantages in recent years, due in part to conference road trips being long and the cities not easy to get to. The travel has been alleviated a bit with Fort Wayne moving to the Horizon League and Kansas City rejoining the Summit League. Much like in past years, the league has a bunch of must-see scorers.
1. South Dakota State: Despite a coaching change, the Jackrabbits did not have to deal with a lot of roster turnover and return the reigning conference player of the year in Douglas Wilson, who averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He and Matt Dentlinger were a formidable duo, shooting 62.8% from the floor to become the only teammates in the top 25 for shooting percentage among Division I players. Dentlinger averaged 12.2 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Sophomores Alex Arians and David Wingett combined for 17.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and three assists per game with both making at least 34.9% of their 3-point shots. Freshman Noah Freidel contributed 12.2 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 39.5% from 3-point range and 85.2% at the free-throw line. Baylor Scheierman, a 6-foot-6 combo player, should see more minutes this season after averaging six points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. A full season from Tray Buchanan, who scored 6.3 points per game while appearing in just 12 games last season, should keep this team firing on all cylinders.
2. Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles’ top two scorers from a season ago are gone, but Max Abmas emerged as a solid offensive option with 14.4 points per game as a freshman while making 36.6% of his 3-point shots and 83% of his free throws. Kevin Obanor is the top returning rebounder, grabbing 6.8 per game to go with 12.3 points. Elijah Lufile, a 6-foot-8, 275-pound big man is key on the glass after he averaged 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. DeShang Weaver, a 6-8 stretch player who redshirted last season, returns after averaging 9.8 points per game and making 42.1% of his 3-point shots in 2018-19. Another player who missed last season, Carlos Jurgens of Estonia, should help as a glue guy. He should be a good match with Arkansas Tech transfer RJ Glasper, who at the D-II level last season averaged 17.6 points, six assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 83% from the free-throw line and 35.7% from 3-point range.
3. North Dakota State: The back-to-back Summit League Tournament champs have relied on their outside shooting being at its best in March the last two seasons to get those titles. But with their top two perimeter scorers gone, the Bison may need a new blueprint centered around 6-foot-10 Rocky Kreuser. The big man had 10 points and six rebounds per game last season and is a capable 33.1% 3-point shooter. Tyree Eady and Sam Griesel will play big roles on the perimeter after combining for 13.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season. Jarius Cook, who missed all of last season, should be a solid defensive stopper. Boden Skunberg, a 6-foot-5 freshman, was a prolific high school scorer and should provide a strong offensive presence.
4. Kansas City: The first season of the coach Billy Donlon era was a success with the Roos finishing above .500 for the third time in the last 15 seasons and returning to the Summit League after seven seasons in the WAC. Four of the team’s top five scorers from last season are gone, but starting point guard Brandon McKissic is the returnee who averaged 11 points, three assists and 1.3 steals per game while making 36.8% of his 3-point shots. Marvin Nesbitt Jr. also returns after making 45.5% of his 3-point shots while averaging 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The Roos should get a big boost from guard Kyle Brown, who scored 24.7 points per game at the juco level last season. After sitting the bench at Oklahoma State, 6-foot-10 Hidde Roessink should be the team’s main rim protector, and he has the range to shoot from the perimeter. Josiah Allick averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. Allick provides depth along with Division II transfer Demarius Pitts, who averaged 13.1 points per game as a freshman before sitting out last season.
5. South Dakota: The Coyotes built their offense on 3-point shooting and might need to retool after losing five of their top six scorers from last season, including leading scorer Tyler Hagedorn. The 6-foot-10 Hagedorn had the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in the country at 51.4 while leading the way with 18.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The roster turnover leaves senior Stanley Umude to spearhead the offense after he put up 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game as a 6-foot-6 wing who made 33.3% of his 3-point shots. Ty Chisom and Hunter Goodrick are the only other two players from last season who averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman, a 6-11 forward, should strengthen the post. South Dakota will look to juco transfers for depth with D.J. Dial likely to run the offense after averaging 14.3 points and 4.9 assists per game. A.J. Plitzuweit and Boogie Anderson stuffed the stat sheet at the lower level.
6. North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks ended last season with a surprise run to the conference tournament final behind senior Marlon Stewart. This season they will look to big man Filip Rebraca to carry much of the load after he posted 14.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and a block per game. De’Sean Allen-Eikens keys the backcourt after averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. He scored at least nine points in 30 of the team’s 33 games and shot 44% from 3-point range in the final 12 games of the season. Gertautas Urbonavicius and Brady Danielson are the only other returning players who netted more than 2.1 points per game. Weber State transfer Caleb Nero will need to improve on the 6.2 points per game he had as a freshman during the 2018-19 season. Unless Carlos Ramsey Jr. can contribute some outside shooting after redshirting last season, a lack of depth and offense will hold this team back.
7. Western Illinois: Former Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter will try to turn around a program that won just five games last season and has had a losing record in 20 of the last 21 seasons. He has his work cut out for him as over 93% of last season’s scoring is gone. Anthony Jones, who posted 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, is the only returning player who averaged at least one point per game last season. Chattanooga transfer Rod Johnson Jr. should help the backcourt after averaging 6.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a redshirt freshman. His running mate is expected to be freshman Marcus Watson Jr., a pass-first guard. Division III transfer Will Carius likely won’t come close to the 25.5 points and 11 rebounds per game he had at Monmouth College, but he should still provide quality minutes. UAB transfer Tamell Pearson made 18 starts in Conference USA last season, averaging 3.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
8. Omaha: With the graduation of backcourt starters KJ Robinson and JT Gibson, the Mavericks need to replace 28.9 points, 1.9 steals and 4.9 assists per game. It helps to have 6-foot-8 post presence Matt Pile returning after he averaged 11.6 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Pass-first guard Ayo Akinwole will have a big part to play in the offense as well after averaging seven points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists. As a freshman, Marlon Ruffin stepped up to average 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game off the bench. Zach Thornhill and Wanjang Tut were versatile contributors last season, combining to average 15.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Kansas City transfer Marco Smith adds depth, and the Mavericks will look to juco transfer Sam’i Roe to produce from the perimeter after he averaged 14.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game at the lower level.
9. Denver: In four seasons coaching Denver, Rodney Billups has seen the team’s win total tick downward every season, but he hopes the Pioneers’ promising backcourt can reverse that trend. Jace Townsend averaged 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season. Roscoe Eastmond was a pass-first point guard as a freshman last season with 4.6 points and 2.8 assists per game. Juco transfer Kobey Lam likely will be heavily involved in the offense after he made 41.1% of his 3-point shots while averaging 18.1 points per game at the lower level. Colorado transfer Frank Ryder should provide a low-post presence with his 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame. He will look to support another 6-foot-10 big man in Robert Jones, who is coming off a season in which he averaged nine points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The growth of junior guard Taelyr Gatlin is important as he scored 4.6 points per game in a starting role last season but shot just 33.8% from the field.
Top 10 Players
1. Douglas Wilson, Senior, F, South Dakota State
2. Stanley Umude, Senior, F, South Dakota
3. Jase Townsend, Junior, G, Denver
4. Matt Dentlinger, Junior, F, South Dakota State
5. Matt Pile, Senior, F, Omaha
6. Noah Freidel, Sophomore, G, South Dakota State
7. Kevin Obanor, Junior, F, Oral Roberts
8. Filip Rebraca, Junior, F, North Dakota
9. Max Abmas, Sophomore, G, Oral Roberts
10. Brandon McKissic, Senior, G, Kansas City
Coaching turnover in recent seasons has led to a lot of volatility in the Sun Belt standings. Post play is at a premium in the conference as most teams are built around 3-point shooters or guards who generate steals.
1. Little Rock: Forward Kris Bankston, who led the nation in field-goal shooting percentage at 81.3 in 2018-19, returns after being hurt much of last season. Point guard Markquis Nowell needs to reduce the 3.7 turnovers per game he committed last season, the 20th-most for any Division I player. But Nowell made the offense go, leading the Trojans with 17.2 points, 4.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game, finishing No. 20 among Division I steals leaders. He made 39.1% of his 3-point shots and was 46th among D-I players in free-throw shooting percentage at 87.9. The 6-foot-10 Ruot Monyyong gives Little Rock an elite post presence as the reigning Sun Belt defensive player of the year posted 11.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal per game. He finished 38th in blocks in Division I. Ben Coupet and Nikola Maria both made better than a third of their 3-point shots while combining to average 19.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and three assists per game, though Maric was limited to 15 games. SMU transfer CJ White, another perimeter threat, made 35.5% of his 3-point shots last season. After spending time on the U18 Tunisian national team, 6-foot-9 Yacine Toumi should provide added rim protection for a team loaded with size and international flair.
2. Georgia State: Entering their second season without coach Ron Hunter, who left last year for Tulane, the Panthers program continues to be built on 3-point shooting and returns floor general Kane Williams, who averaged 14.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season. Justin Roberts is also back after making 40.4% of his 3-point shots while posting 13.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals and making 86.6% of his free throws. After each of the team’s top four scorers last season averaged at least two turnovers per game, Georgia transfer JoJo Toppin will attempt to stabilize things as a 6-foot-6 multifaceted guard. Cincinnati transfer Eliel Nsoseme will try to bolster a frontcourt that did not have a single player average at least five rebounds per game last season. Joe Jones III, a 6-9, 225-pound center, should support him down low after he averaged 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a freshman. Corey Allen also returns after averaging 13.5 points and a steal per game. Allen should see more open looks with the addition of 6-6 guard Ryan Boyce, a transfer from Memphis.
3. South Alabama: As has become the norm since coach Richie Riley took over, the Jaguars lost much of the production from last season and will use transfers to fill the void. Michael Flowers comes in from Western Michigan after running the offense with 16.9 points and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 36.8% from 3-point range and 84.4% at the free-throw line. David Walker tore up the juco ranks at Casper College with 22.4 points on 44.6% 3-point shooting. American transfer Sam Iorio, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and a steal per game during the 2018-19 season while making 38.8% of his 3-point shots. Former Florida wing Deaundrae Ballard had a tough time finding his comfort zone in two seasons in the SEC, averaging 4.1 points per game while shooting 26% from 3-point range, but his athleticism should play well at a lower level. With the top five scorers gone from last season, the main holdovers are John Pettway and Tyreke Locure, who combined to average 10.6 points and 2.5 steals per game.
4. Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers stumbled to the finish last season, losing 10 of their final 15 games and allowing at least 70 points in 15 of their final 17 games. Do-it-all guard DeVante’ Jones will attempt to get things back on track after he averaged 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Former Middle Tennessee and Missouri State guard Tyrik Dixon will allow Jones to play off the ball more after Dixon averaged 7.2 points, four rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Dixon played just 17 games for Missouri State last season because of injury. The team gets 6-foot-6 combo player Ebrima Dibba back after he was limited to six games last season, and he looked good with 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game while making 94.4% of his free throws. Deshawn Thomas, who went from junior college to LSU to Coastal Carolina, should provide size down low with his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame. Kevin Williams, another juco transfer, averaged 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game at the lower level but made just 24.3% of his 3-point shots. Garrick Green averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-6 wing.
5. Texas State: The resignation of coach Danny Kaspar late in the offseason puts a team predicated on defense behind the eight ball and interim coach Terrence Johnson, an offensive-minded guard as a player, has no head coaching experience. The Bobcats have a pair of players in Mason Harrell and Marlin Davis who can run the offense after combining for 14.7 points, 5.8 assists and two steals per game with Harrell making 44.6% of his 3-point shots, which put him 31st among Division I players. There are no players taller than 6-foot-8 on the roster, so the 6-8 Isiah Small will need to build on the eight points, 6.5 rebounds and a steal per game he averaged last season. Collin College 6-foot-8 transfers Nighael Ceaser and Mason Hix will look to duplicate their numbers from a season ago as Ceaser averaged 14.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while Hix was a 33.1% 3-point shooter who averaged 14 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Caleb Asberry returns after averaging 6.7 points per game while making 86.1% of his free throws, and Alonzo Sule is back after putting up 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
6. Appalachian State: Second-year year coach Dustin Kerns will look to build on last season’s upward momentum by bringing in James Madison transfer Deshon Parker, who averaged 10 points, four assists and 1.2 steals per game last season. Parker’s 3-point shooting percentage fell to 24.4 last season after he made 39.8% as a freshman. Leading scorer Justin Forrest is back after filling it up after averaging 17.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He’s the only returning player who made at least 31% of his 3-point shots last season. Adrian Delph averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last season, and he will get some help from freshmen Xavion Brown and Michael Eads, who can both handle the ball and are solid jump shooters. The team lacks size with no returning player averaging more than four rebounds per game. Kendall Lewis will need to step up after averaging 7.4 points and four rebounds last season.
7. UT Arlington: The Mavericks lost their top two rebounders to graduation, making 6-foot-10 Grayson Carter being eligible all the more important after he was unable to find a role with Georgetown. Lazaro Rojas was in a similar spot at Fresno State and provides a 6-foot-11, 235-pound presence in the post. Juco transfer Shahada Wells comes in to bolster the backcourt after averaging 21.6 points and six assists per game while making 46.5% of his 3-point shots at the lower level. The offense will run through David Azore, who was an All-Sun Belt performer last season, averaging 14 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal while committing just two turnovers per game. Sam Griffin, who averaged 9.4 points, is the only returning player who made over 33 percent of his 3-point shots.
8. Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns bring back two of their top three scorers from last season in Cedric Russell and Mylik Wilson. Russell averaged 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Wilson posted 11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.3 steals, 15th most for any Division I player. Kobe Julien, a 6-foot-6 wing, is a key returnee after he was limited to eight games as a freshman. He averaged 12.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game, and the team went 5-3 with him and 9-17 without him. Louisiana will look for continued improvement from Dou Gueye down low after the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a season ago. Portland transfer Theo Akwuba should help after averaging 3.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in two seasons in the WCC. Cal transfer Jacobi Gordon, rarely used in Berkeley, can be a valuable 6-foot-7 wing. Mississippi State transfer Devin Butts comes aboard after a freshman season derailed by injuries. Juco transfer Brayan Au could provide a boost after averaging 15.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game at the lower level.
9. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves need help on the boards, but they bring back their top two scorers in guards Marquis Eaton and Caleb Fields. Eaton averaged 13.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game, shooting 38.2% from 3-point range. Fields posted 11.1 points, three rebounds, 3.5 assists and a steal per game. Freshman Caleb London should also help in the backcourt. Juco transfer Markise Davis, at 6-foot-8, will help bolster the frontcourt after averaging 10 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 32.4% on 3-pointers. Arkansas State will look for rebounding help from sophomore Antwon Jackson, who averaged 3.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season, and 6-foot-9 juco transfer Keyon Welsey, who posted 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on the lower level.
10. Louisiana-Monroe: Last season’s top four scorers are gone, but 7-foot-1 Chris Efretuei is back after averaging 5.4 points and five rebounds per game. Sacred Heart transfer Koreem Ozier should immediately become the Warhawks’ leading scorer after averaging 14 points and 1.1 steals per game last season while shooting 35.5% from 3-point range. Juco transfer Elijah Gonzales is likely to take over at point guard after averaging 11.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, seven assists and two steals per game. Russell Harrison, Gonzales’ teammate at Clarendon College, also enters the program after he averaged 18.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while making 41.6% of his 3-point shots. Marco Morency, another juco transfer, should boost the backcourt after averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and two steals per game while shooting 34.9% from 3-point range.
11. Georgia Southern: The Eagles have finished at least .500 in all six of their seasons in the Sun Belt, but that will be difficult this time around after the departure of coach Mark Byington along with seven of their top eight scorers. Elijah McCadden, the top returning player, posted 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game while making 35% of his 3-point shots. The team will trust former UAB guard Zack Bryant and IUPUI transfer Grant Weatherford to run the offense. Bryant played just three games last season, but in 2018-19, he averaged 14.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Weatherford had 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game while making 35.9% from 3-point range. Prince Toyambi, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound rim protector, comes over from Cincinnati despite never playing for the Bearcats in two seasons on campus. The Eagles will look to 6-foot-11 Fred Odhiambo to carry over the two blocks per game he had at Hutchinson CC. Kaden Archie comes in after stints at TCU and UTEP, but he failed to produce at either stop, averaging just 3.1 points per game and making 19.4% of his 3-point shots in two seasons.
12. Troy: In trying to rebuild the program, coach Scott Cross hopes he has found a reliable post option in Zay Williams, who averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 16 games last season before an injury sidelined him. Desmond Williams, originally expected to redshirt last season, made 38.9% of his 3-point shots while averaging 9.8 points and 1.9 assists per game, including 10.6 points, three assists and a steal per game in the team’s final eight games. Nick Stampley should also give the Trojans a bit of a post presence after contributing 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. After being limited to 13 games as a freshman, Jakevan Leftridge should play a big role in the offense after shooting 36.8% from 3-point range while averaging 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. With a freshman-heavy roster, and few very highly touted, this appears to be a rebuilding season for Troy.
Top 10 Players
1. Markquis Nowell, Junior, G, Little Rock
2. Ruot Monyyong, Senior, F, Little Rock
3. Kane Williams, Senior, G, Georgia State
4. Michael Flowers, Senior, G, South Alabama
5. David Azore, Junior, G, UT Arlington
6. Justin Roberts, Senior, G, Georgia State
7. Mylik Wilson, Sophomore, G, Louisiana
8. Deaundrae Ballard, Junior, F, South Alabama
9. Justin Forrest, Senior, G, Appalachian State
10. Cedric Russell, Senior, G, Louisiana
New Mexico State has completely dominated the WAC since it has been populated with most of the teams from the former Great West. The conference also has become a haven for teams transitioning from Division II to Division I as three of the nine member schools were D-II schools three years ago. Spanning from Chicago to Riverside, Calif., WAC teams rack up the most miles of any conference in the country.
1. New Mexico State: The program has become a machine, winning at least 23 games in nine straight seasons and making the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last eight seasons in which there has been a tournament. Despite injuries derailing what had been a 12-man lineup, the Aggies were still solid enough on defense last season to give up the seventh-fewest points per game in Division I. They must replace two of their top three players in terms of points and rebounds, but Jabari Rice is back after averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while making 38.8% of his 3-point shots and 82.7 percent at the free-throw line. He will pair with 6-foot-7 wing Johnny McCants, who averaged 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and a steal per game while making 40.3% of his 3-point shots. Evan Gilyard, another good 3-point shooting option, averaged 7.5 points and 2.8 assists per game while making 39.7% of his 3-point shots. The team should get even more versatile with the addition of former Utah and UNLV wing Donnie Tillman. He wasn’t a fit with UNLV, but two seasons ago at Utah, he posted 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while making 36.1% of his 3-point shots. The team will also get back senior guard Clayton Henry, who missed all but one game last season after averaging 5.4 points per game in 25 starts two seasons ago. Juco transfer Kalen Williams averaged 13.5 points per game while making 39.8% of his 3-point shots. An original Oklahoma commit, 6-foot-6 Marcus Watson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is a capable ball handler and 3-point shooter. Wilfried Likayi, a 6-9 juco standout, should help this team be stout on the boards.
2. UT Rio Grande Valley: The Vaqueros are in good hands with guard Javon Levi, who finished second in the country in assists with 7.96 per game last season. He also averaged 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. The steals were the 14th most for any Division I player last season. An influx of transfers will help Levi keep the flow of the offense. Weber State transfer Ricky “Doc” Nelson averaged just four points per game in the Big Sky but made 43.2% of his 3-point shots and added two assists per game. Former America East defensive player of the year Jeff Otchere averaged 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in two seasons at Stony Brook. Former Western Kentucky wing Marek Nelson made 37.5% of his 3-point shots during the 2018-19 season. Connor Raines is back after making a team-best 40.9% of his 3-point shots while scoring 3.9 points in 12.4 minutes per game. Sean Rhea should help shore things up in the paint after he contributed six points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He and fellow 6-foot-8, 230-plus-pound forward Anthony Bratton both shot at least 63% from the floor.
3. Grand Canyon: After the Antelopes went 13-17 last season, coach Dan Marjerle was fired for former Vanderbilt and Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew. Despite the coaching change, most of last season’s producers are back with 6-foot-10 stretch forward Alessandro Lever leading the way after averaging 15.7 points, six rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 38.3% from 3-point range. Mikey Dixon was 72nd in Division-I 3-point shooting percentage at 43.1 while scoring 11.8 points per game. Jovan Blackshear figures to be the Antelopes’ floor general again after posting averages of 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a freshman last season. Southeast Missouri State transfer Gabe McGlothan and 7-foot former Wichita State center Asborn Midtgaard should help on the glass. In 2018-19, McGlothan had 7.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, including 11.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in the final 12 games while making 48.3% of his 3-point shots. Chris Freeman and Quinton Johnson II split starts last season and both are back after combining for 14.3 points and two assists per game with Freeman making 36% of his 3-point shots.
4. Cal Baptist: The Lancers are 17-15 in the WAC since moving up to Division I for the 2018-19 season, but they’ve lost many of the offensive weapons that allowed them to have instant success. The team’s top nine scorers from last season are gone, leaving Tre Armstrong as the top returning scorer. He averaged four points and 2.6 rebounds per game and shot 35.7% on 3-pointers and 93.8% on free throws. He’ll be helped by an influx of transfers. Elijah Thomas and Jermaine Miranda were stuck on the bench at St. Mary’s and Hofstra, respectively, but New Hampshire transfer Mark Carbone averaged seven points and two assists while making 41% of his 3-point shots and 88.6% of his free throws last season. Florida transfer Gorjok Gak, a highly thought of player in the 2016 recruiting class with a 6-foot-11, 245-pound frame, should see big minutes this season. So could Russell Barlow, a 6-10 transfer from TCU. Malik Wade, a 6-8 freshman from the NBA Academy, will also be asked to contribute immediately.
5. Seattle: The Redhawks lost five of their top six scorers, including their top two facilitators, so they have their work cut out for them. Riley Grigsby provides a 6-foot-6 wing presence as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game but made just 23.4% of his 3-point shots. Aaron Nettles can help on the perimeter as he made 36.9% of his 3-point shots and 80.5% of his free throws while averaging 5.6 points per game last season. Juco transfer Darrion Trammell is the likely point guard after putting up averages of 10.3 points, 4.1 assists and 4.4 steals per game while shooting 87% at the free-throw line. The team will also look to Angelo Stuart to help in the backcourt after he was an NJCAA Division I All-American with averages of 17.8 points and 2.5 assists per game while making 40% of his 3-point shots. Washington State transfer Daron Henson will attempt to help down low after making 40% of his 3-point shots as a 6-foot-8 stretch forward with 3.6 points in 10 games played.
6. Dixie State: The Trailblazers were dominant in Division II, winning at least 66.6% of their games in each of the past 11 seasons and return last season’s top scorer, 6-foot-8 stretch forward Huner Schofield, who averaged 16.4 points and six rebounds per game while making 34.9% of his 3-point shots. Frank Staine is one of the best outside shooters in the conference after he scored 8.8 points per game while shooting 44.9% from 3-point range last season. Juco transfer Mikey Frazier, originally a Boise State recruit, will look to help returning post player Jarod Greene in the post. Greene averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, while Frazier averaged 14.2 points and 5.3 rebounds while making 36.7% of his 3-point shots a season ago. Humboldt State transfer Isaiah Pope made 37.4% of his 3-point shots with 9.4 points per game as a freshman last season. Former Washington State recruit Trebon Allfrey is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds and should help in the paint.
7. Utah Valley: The Wolverines’ top four scorers and rebounders are out of eligibility, so they will look to the duo of Jamison Overton and Trey Woodbury to ignite the offense. Each averaged 7.2 points per game last season, shooting under 30% from 3-point range. Woodbury shot 82.9% from the free-throw line. The team is banking on transfers excelling right away to keep the team competitive in the WAC. Georgia Tech’s Evan Cole, Mercer’s Fardwas Aimaq and Weber State’s Tim Fuller will form a low-post trio. Cole averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in the ACC last season. Aimaq, who sat out last season, posted five points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2018-19. And Fuller averaged 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as a part-time starter last season. UAB transfer Jordan Brinson will help the guard stable after averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last season. Juco transfer Asa McCord made 40.8% of his 3-point shots while averaging 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season.
8. Tarleton State: A familiar coach leads one of college basketball’s newest D-I programs as the Texans are coached by former Texas Tech and Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. Gillispie last coached in Division I in 2011-12, leading Texas to an 8-23 record. The Texans bring in three transfers with Division I experience: Caleb Starks, who was stuck on the bench at Stephen F. Austin and LSU; Tahj Small, who averaged 4.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game at Troy; and forward Jonathan Jackson Jr., who had 3.6 points per game as a reserve at Prairie View. Isaiah Range returns after averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Without a single player back from last season who shot at least 30% from 3-point range, the Texans might be in for a rough transition.
9. Chicago State: The Cougars had a minus-25.4-point scoring margin the last two seasons against Division I competition, and no other D-I team has had one worse than minus-21.4 either of the last two seasons. The team will look to 6-foot-6 wing Coreyoun Rushin, an Idaho State transfer, to try to ignite the program after he averaged 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. Xavier Johnson was seventh in the country among D-I players in turnovers per game while leading the team with 15.4 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He also made 39.2% of his 3-point shots. Isaiah Lewis was limited to six games a season ago but looked solid, making 37.9% of his 3-point shots while averaging 9.3 points and two assists. Andrew Lewis averaged 12.2 points and four rebounds per game while he and Johnson both made over 86% of their free throws. Solomon Hunt posted six points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and 6-foot-7 Ka’Sean Davis had 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. The Cougars had the highest percentage of possessions that ended in a turnover last season and allowed the most points on a per-possession basis on defense. They have not won a conference game since the 2017-18 season.
Top 10 Players
1. Javon Levi, Senior, G, UT Rio Grande Valley
2. Alessando Lever, Senior, F, Grand Canyon
3. Jabari Rice, Junior, G, New Mexico State
4. Johnny McCants, Senior, F, New Mexico State
5. Jovan Blackshear, Sophomore, G, Grand Canyon
6. Evan Gilyard, Senior, G, New Mexico State
7. Donnie Tillman, Senior, F, New Mexico State
8. Hunter Schofield, Senior, F, Dixie State
9. Mikey Dixon, Senior, G, Grand Canyon
10. Tim Fuller, Junior, F, Utah Valley