MID CONTINENT CONFERENCE PREVIEW
-1. IUPUI. The Jaguars appeared to have the regular season title wrapped up last year, but lost their final two regular season games and followed that up with an upset loss to Chicago State in the semifinals. Still, it was a great season overall and it appears that they will be even better this year with four starters returning including junior guard George Hill
who averaged over 18 ppg last year. If the Jaguars have a weak spot, it might be under the glass. The other guys will have to step up to replace Brandon Cole
, who averaged 15 ppg and 7 rpg a season ago. Still, the Jaguars appear to be the team to beat in the MidCon.
-2. ORAL ROBERTS. The Golden Eagles return their top two scorers in forward Caleb Green
and guard Ken Tutt. Green is one of the best players in the conference and ORU will certainly depend heavily on him this season. Those are the only two starters who are returning though. In order for them to repeat as conference champions some of the other role players will have to step up. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 21 win season, but it looks as if their bench will be a little thin and that could be a problem.
-3. UMKC. The Kangaroos were a streaky team last year, but finished strong by winning five of their last six regular season games before losing in the conference tournament. With four starters coming back, they definitely have the experience to make an impact in the league this year. They are a very well balanced team. Guards Tim Blackwell and Quinton Day
both averaged in double figures a season ago, and Dee Ayuba was a big presence for them underneath. Look for that to continue through to this season.
-4. OAKLAND. The Grizzlies will lost Calvin Wooten from last years team, who averaged over 19 ppg. Replacing him wont be easy, but they do have four starters returning as well as most of their bench from last season. This team was streaky last year, but with experience they should be able to be a little more consistent this season. Guard Rick Billings (11.4 ppg) and forward Vova Severovas (14.9 ppg) will likely be the leaders of this team.
-5. VALPARAISO. The Crusaders have always been one of the better teams in this league, but this could be a rebuilding year for them. They lost four starters from last years squad and appear to be inexperienced all the way around. Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa
is one of their better prospects and hell need to step into a leadership role right away if the Crusaders are going to be successful.
-6. WESTERN ILLINOIS. The Leathernecks ended their season last year with six straight losses, and were one of the worst teams in all of college basketball. They return three starters and should be a little better this season, but most likely wont be good enough to have a big impact in the conference. Junior guard David Jackson is one of their best players and leading scorers, but other than him they dont appear to be strong in any other area.
-7. SOUTHERN UTAH. The Thunderbirds have a decent guard in Steve Barnes, but dont appear to be all that strong in any other areas. They won just ten games a season ago and lost four starters from that team. It looks as though they will be rebuilding this year. They do have a 72 center in Brad Kanis and his size alone should give them an advantage underneath. Hell have to step up if this team is going to improve this year.
-8. CENTENARY. Centenary won just three games a season ago against div1 competition, and just two games the year before that. There isnt a whole lot to say about them. Guard Tyrone Hamilton is back from a knee injury and he could be an impact. Theyve also been recruiting heavily to attempt to inject some life into the team, but depth and overall talent still appear to be lacking.
RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH
-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnt all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.
2. Oral Roberts
6. Western Illinois
8. Southern Utah
-Please feel free to send me feedback at email@example.com, whether its good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as its constructive.