Friday , Nov , 03 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Independents

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) –
OUTLOOK: Every season the Independent ranks see teams come and go and this
year there is no different. One of the new teams in the conference this
season is the Chicago State Cougars. The Cougars were in the Mid-Continent
Conference last season and made it all the way to the conference’s tournament
championship, but fell just short of going to the NCAA tourney. In its first
season out of a real conference, the Cougars are scheduled to play some big
teams, such as Indiana, Michigan State and Kansas State. Other teams entering
their first season as an independent are two Division II schools making the
leap to the higher level of play in New Jersey Institute of Technology and
Winston-Salem State. Both teams will play only one year in the limbo before
heading into the MEAC next season. NJIT is coming over from the Central
Atlantic Collegiate Conference, while Winston-Salem State is making the jump
from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Other teams that will
be spending their last season as independents are North Dakota State, South
Dakota State, UC-Davis and IPFW. UC-Davis will join the Big West Conference
next season and the team gained practice against its new conference last year.
Unfortunately the Aggies struggled for the most part, finishing the season
with a meager 8-20 ledger. As for the other three schools, they will join the
Mid-Continent Conference next season. North Dakota State is probably the best
of the three schools and should instantly make a name for itself in conference
action. The Bison are coming off a solid 16-12 performance and should do
well again this season with three starters returning. As for South Dakota
State, they suffered through a terrible season last year, but things are
looking up for the Jackrabbits, as the team returns some key starters to go
along with a solid recruiting class. As for the Mastodons of IPFW, they are
coming off their best season since joining Division I basketball, albeit it
was just a 10-18 showing, but the team has reason to feel good about this
season, as all five starters are returning. The teams that will remain
independents next season are Savannah State, Texas-Pan American, Longwood and
Utah Valley State. The Wolverines of Utah State are coming off their second
consecutive 16-win season and with three starters from last year returning,
there is reason to believe the team can reach the same total of victories this
year. As for Longwood, the team has shown vast improvement since joining D-I
basketball. After setting a NCAA record for 30 losses in a season, the Lancers
posted a 10-20 mark last year and with the majority of the team back, the
Lancers will look to push their record to .500 or better this year. Texas-Pan
American did not have an easy season last year. The Broncos were riddled with
inexperience and it showed as the team went just 7-24. However, they bring
back four starters from a year ago and with new head coach Tom Schuberth, the
Broncos will look to improve this year. Finally there is Savannah State, which
has struggled tremendously over the past two seasons, winning a total of two
games. Hopefully the Tigers can show major improvement this season with the
majority of their team back, along with a nice recruiting class.

TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:

CHICAGO STATE – The Cougars’ first season as an independent looks to be a
difficult one to say the least. As mentioned before Chicago State is pitted
against some tough teams from the Big Ten and Big 12. The only hope the
Cougars have of surviving through this season is if guard Royce Parran plays
as well as he did a year ago, but that might be a bit much to ask from a guy
who is just 5-9. Parran was a dynamo last season for the Cougars and averaged
an impressive 18.1 ppg. Although just 5-9, the fans at Chicago State consider
this senior Superman, simply because he does everything a guard needs to do on
the court. Along with Parran will be David Holston, who has a terrific shot
from long range and is also extremely accurate from the charity stripe. Both
guards are impressive and should match up with almost any tandem on Chicago
State’s schedule. The frontcourt is not as stable, as the team will look for
newcomers Carl Ross and Chidozie Chukwumah to contribute instantly.

IPFW – There is plenty of reason to be optimistic this season as the Mastodons
are coming off their best Division I performance and returns all five
starters. The most dominant player on this roster is without a doubt DeWitt
Scott, who led the team last year with 14.2 ppg and also netted 70 three-point
baskets. Scott is a pure scorer and should once again lead this team
offensively. Also in the frontcourt, the Mastodons will once again have Tyler
Best who averaged 9.7 ppg last year to go along with a team-high 4.7 rpg. At
6-9, Best is a dominant inside scorer, but the coaching staff would like to
see him perform better on the boards. Jaraun Burrows, a juco transfer, will
most likely find himself in the starting lineup and should add instant help to
Best down low. Quintin Carouthers is also back for the Mastodons this season
and should continue to be a solid player in the backcourt. Last year
Carouthers posted 11.4 ppg and also did a solid job distributing the ball.

LONGWOOD – The Lancers have gotten better each and every year since jumping to
Division I ball and the team should continue to improve this year with all
five starters returning. The best player on this roster is Maurice Sumter.
Sumter averaged 15.5 ppg last season to go along with 5.4 rpg. Sumter is a
tremendous force offensively and has the ability to dominate a game with his
silky shot or by playing hard nosed basketball in the lane. Forward Clayton
Morgan should also have another solid season for the Lancers. At 6-7, Morgan
is a monster on the glass, collecting 8.6 rpg last season, but the forward
proved he can score as well, averaging 12.3 ppg. Morgan should continue to
improve and could possibly average a double-double this season. Also back are
juniors Dana Smith, Lamar Barrett and Brandon Giles. All three players made
considerable contributions last season and Coach Mike Gillian is hoping for
more of the same this season.

NJIT – The Highlanders are coming off a poor 8-19 ledger last season and now
the team has to jump into Division I competition. So to say it is going to be
a bumpy first year for NJIT is putting it lightly. The team does return all
five starters, but how well those players will do against better competition
is yet to be seen. Guard Clayton Barker should be able to adjust rather
quickly. The 5-10 senior averaged an impressive 21.9 ppg last year for the
Highlanders and was a consistent threat offensively. Courcy Morgan will most
likely join Barker in the backcourt again this season. Morgan is an
intelligent guard with impressive speed and ball-handling abilities. In the
frontcourt, the Highlanders are filled with talented players, especially Marc
Milbourne Swan, who averaged 12.2 ppg last year along with 6.2 rpg. Milbourne
Swan is a dominating force inside and should continue to help the Highlanders
offensively and on the glass. Kraig Peters and Kyle Edwards will give
Milbourne Swan some much needed help down low.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE – The Bison are without a doubt the best team among the
Independents. Last season NDSU went into Madison and shocked the 13th-ranked
Wisconsin Badgers. The Bison should once again be a solid team, especially
with the return of three starters. Ben Woodside averaged 17.5 ppg, which was
the most by any player in the Indy ranks last season. Woodside is only 5-10,
but he is lightning fast and has terrific ball-handling skills. Woodside also
averaged over five assists per game, showing how he can also get the rest of
his teammates involved in the action. Andre Smith is the anchor in the
frontcourt for NDSU, as the 6-8 senior is coming off a season in which he
averaged 13.4 ppg to go along with a team-high 8.0 rpg. The senior is also a
tremendous defensive player and should improve on the end of the court this
year. Also back are Brett Winkleman and Mike Nelson, two players who should
once again be solid contributors for North Dakota State.

SAVANNAH STATE – After just two seasons in Division I basketball the Tigers
have a total of two victories, both of which were collected last year. Things
can only get better this season for Savannah State, as the Tigers will look to
improve on their two-win season from a year ago. If the team is going to reach
new heights the Tigers will have to be led by Javon Randolph, who paced the
team last year with 17.0 ppg. Randolph is a very quick guard with an
impressive shot. At 5-10 the guard does struggle sometimes with bigger
opponents, but he is extremely creative and can find open looks most of the
time. Joseph Flegler, who averaged 10.0 ppg last year will join Randolph in
the backcourt. At 5-9, Flegler and Randolph might be the smallest backcourt in
the nation. Overall the Tigers will welcome seven new players to the team this
season and Coach Horace Broadnax is hoping a couple of the newcomers can
contribute right away.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE – The Jackrabbits’ season last year was a complete
nightmare. The team not only had to deal with a ton of injuries, but the squad
also had to endure issues on and off the court. Steve Holden, one of the
team’s best players was lost after five games with a knee injury. On top of
that, starters Mohamed Berte and Andre Gilbert were suspended for committing a
very serious crime. SDSU will try to get past last season and move forward,
but it won’t be easy, especially since the team is not very talented. The team
does return leading scorer Matt Cadwell. The 6-3 guard was one of the only few
bright spots last season, as the sophomore finished with 15.6 ppg. With a year
of experience under his belt Cadwell should perform even better this season.
Head Coach Scott Nagy does welcome a solid recruiting class which includes 6-6
forward Kai Williams. Williams is an exciting player with tremendous leaping
ability. Although a freshman, expect to see Williams in the lineup
immediately.

TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN – The Broncos are coming off a rebuilding year in which the
team finished with just a 7-24 ledger. The horrendous record led the school to
make a coaching change, bringing in Tom Schuberth. Schuberth will benefit from
having four returning starters, including Colin Lien. Lien is a dominating
defensive center at 6-11, but the big man needs to improve offensively as well
as on the glass. There is no reason a player his size should collect only 6.2
rpg, while scoring just 10.4 ppg. Lien must improve in both those areas for
the Broncos to be successful this season. Dexter Shankle is also back for
Texas-PANAM and is looking to improve on his team-leading 11.0 ppg that he
averaged last year. Shankle is a very intelligent guard who has tremendous
basketball savvy. Shankle will not only be the leader of this team, but he
will be the offensive force that drives it. The big recruit this off season
was Julius Allgood. This juco transfer came close to averaging a double-double
last season for his team, and will now look to help Lien on the inside, giving
the Broncos a tough duo down low.

UC-DAVIS – The Aggies will finish their final Independent season before
heading into the Big West Conference. Last season the team was able to face
opponents from the Big West, but had very little success. Overall the team was
just 8-20 on the season, but this year the team looks to make drastic
improvements thanks to the return of three starters, including last year’s
leading scorer Rommel Marentez. At 5-10, Marentez is an undersized guard, but
plays with a big heart. Last year, he averaged 12.7 ppg and also dished
out 3.4 apg. Marentez is an all-around guard that makes everyone on the court
better. Joining Marentez in the backcourt will be Vince Oliver. As a freshman,
Oliver averaged 11.0 ppg, but struggled at times with consistency. The 6-3
guard also struggled from long range netting just 29.6 percent of his
attempts. Oliver has the potential to be a sensational player for UC-Davis,
but he needs to improve offensively. Leading the frontcourt will be 6-8
powerhouse Kyle Brucculeri. Brucculeri posted 10.9 ppg last season, but had
trouble collecting rebounds, averaging just 3.6 rpg. Offensively the forward
is solid, but he must do a better job on the boards, especially since he is
the tallest guy on the team.

UTAH VALLEY STATE – The Wolverines are coming off their second consecutive
16-win season and with three players returning to the starting lineup, there
is a distinct possibility that this squad can make it three straight seasons.
The Wolverines’ frontcourt should once again be solid thanks to the return of
David Heck and Matt Peterson. Both players averaged 11.2 ppg last season and
should continue to be a dominating duo down low. Running the show for the
Wolverines will once again be Chris Bailey. Bailey is a terrific floor general
and averaged 2.6 apg last year and also finished the season with 51 steals.
Coach Dick Hunsaker is hoping forwards Peter Brown and Richard Troyer will
make solid contributions this season.

WINSTON SALEM STATE – The Rams are making a quick stop in the Independent
ranks before heading to the MEAC next year. While it is only a one year stint,
it might be a painful one for Winston Salem, as the team will have to face the
likes of Georgetown, Kansas, USF, Georgia Tech and other high-powered teams.
Regardless, this should be good preparation for a team that is returning three
starters. Overall the Rams have just three seniors on their roster, so the
team is young an somewhat inexperienced. Out of the starters returning, Jamal
Durham has the most talent. As a freshman, Durham averaged 9.7 ppg and should
definitely increase his scoring production in his second season. The forward
can score from anywhere on the court and not only can beat his opponent with
his quickness, but can also abuse the opposition with his sweet stroke.
Joining Durham down low will be forward Darrell Wonge. Wonge is another
forward with a solid shot. Last year Wonge averaged 8.0 ppg as a sophomore and
there is no reason why this gifted player can not reach double figures this
year. The backcourt will most likely be led by Lowen Wray and Roy Peake, but
it would not be surprising if newcomer Patrick McCandies finds his way into
the starting lineup. The freshman guard is 6-5 and has tremendous leaping
ability. McCandies is not only a solid offensive contributor, but the first
year player can also attack the boards.