Previewing mid-major basketball

America East
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. %%offer%% 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
American Athletic
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
Atlantic Sun
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
Big Sky
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.
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Greg, originally from Wisconsin and a UW Oshkosh alumnus, is widely recognized in the sports media industry, particularly for his expertise in college basketball, which earned him the nickname "Hoops" from Brent Musburger. He has worked with Vanderbilt and Oregon's flagship stations and joined VSIN in 2017. Greg contributes to various channels, hosting "The Baseball Betting Show" and "Coast To Coast Hoops" podcasts, and writes for DK Nation, building on his experience with over 500 articles for the New York Post. Known for his analytical approach, he produces daily spreadsheets for college basketball and MLB games, focusing on educating bettors about the importance of betting on numbers rather than teams.