Thursday, October 18, 2007

2007 NCAA teams 51-65

51. Xavier (Atlantic 10)

What to like: The sterling backcourt of Stanley Burrell and Drew Lavender gets a boost with Manhattan transfer CJ Anderson, which should snag the last at-large bid.
Weaknesses: Justin Doellman's loss may be crippling for the post defense. That guy, and departed forward Justin Cage, were scrappers.
Who to watch: Anderson, of course, but power forward Derrick Brown should step into a starting role. This guy can grab boards, and the only returnee who showed any ability at this center Brandon Cole. 6-6 BJ Raymond could see time at either forward spot, and 6-5 Dante Jackson could also contribute right away.

52. Weber State (Big Sky)

What to like: Last year's Big Sky champs should repeat thanks to a good returning nucleus and great recruiting class, headlined by Jucos Nate Brumfield and Johnny McLawhorn.
Weaknesses: David Patten is a tough loss. One of those guys who did a little of everything, he'll be missed by a team who's interior defense was already suspect.
Who to watch: The best of auto-bids, the conference tourney will still be paramount to Weber State's chances of a NCAA berth. Look for Brumfield & McLawhorn to shine in Big Sky play. Juan Pablo Silveira's playmaking will be the most fun to watch, but Dezmon Harris needs hang to the ball better.

53. Holy Cross (Patriot)

What to like: Tim Clifford will carry this club to the top, even as the whole of the Patriot League takes a downturn this season, & the Holy Cross-Bucknell oligarchy becomes shaky.
Weaknesses: Losing Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas will make life a lot harder on Clifford. Doherty should keep the backcourt steady, but the perimeter defense becomes a worry.
Who to watch: Alex Vanderbaan and Kyle Cruze. If they can handle minutes on the wing, the Crusaders will be fine. Otherwise, frosh guard 6-3 Andrew Beinart will be pressed into action, perhaps before he's ready.

54. California-Santa Barbara (Big West)

What to like: The Gauchos get almost everyone back and add IPFW transfer DJ Posley, who might be able to take over PG duties right away.
Weaknesses: This was a slow team last season, and was only okay on protecting the ball. A low-possession team that doesn't offensively rebound has got to protect the ball better.
Who to watch: The inside-outside game of Alex Harris & Chris Devine. Harris has the sort of 2-guard game that the NBA scouts love, and could shine in March.

55. Sacred Heart (NEC)

What to like: The return of 6-6 forward Ryon Howard should help nullify the loss of last year's top player (Jarrid Frye), and the balanced roster should dominate the NEC.
Weaknesses: Size would appear to be a weakness, but they've got 7-0 Liam Potter apparently ready for more minutes. The rebounding and FG% defense need to get better.
Who to watch: Howard & Potter for sure to see if they can improve an unimpressive defense, but also guard Drew Shubik has a nifty all-around game, & should be fun to watch.

56. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)

What to like: In what might be a bit of a down year for the A-Sun conference, Belmont's backcourt seems poised to direct them to the conference crown and a NCAA berth.
Weaknesses: Clubs don't often lose two 6-10 players from their rotation and remain in title contention. But ball control may be a bigger worry for the Bruins.
Who to watch: 6-3 Justin Hare could well capture A-Sun Player of the year honors, but the two players to watch are probably junior point guard Henry Harris and his assist/turnover ratio, and sophomore back-up post 6-9 Keaton Belcher. They've got to give Hare, wing Andy Wicke and center Matthew Dotson the support needed to win.

57. High Point (Big South)

What to like: The Panthers return almost everyone from the second-best Big South squad. With Winthrop's dominant nucleus finally graduated, the smart money is now on these guys.
Weaknesses: A pretty decent defense was only mediocre in the paint. If you're playing these guys, pound the ball inside and go after the offensive rebounds!
Who to watch: The undersized Arizona Reid may remind you of Alando Tucker, but the guy to watch might well be 6-11 sophomore Cruz Daniels, who's got upside written all over him.

58. Rider (MAAC)

What to like: Jason Thompson. This 6-10 senior averaged an amazing per game line last year (20ppg/10rpg/2apg/2bpg). NBA scouts will be at Rider games this year.
Weaknesses: Defense. As a team they didn't rebound very well, and their FG% defense was some of the worst in the MAAC. Losing a point guard always begets questions as well.
Who to watch: It'll be hard to watch anyone but Jason Thompson, but the team has to hit the boards and play better defense, if Rider's to live up to its potential. Soph Ryan Thompson does a little of everything, & could be a real threat. Also frosh 6-7 Mike Ringold & 6-1 Justin Robinson could put this team out of reach if they're ready for meaningful minutes.

59. IUPUI (Summit)

What to like: An average Mid-Continent team returns 2 starters that missed most of last season, and is posed to capture the inaugral Summit championship.
Weaknesses: It's pretty simple. The Jaguars need to shoot a little better, and get their opponents to shoot worse, especially from beyond the arc.
Who to watch: George Hill & Fred Kounkorgo. The team's best scorer and starting power forward missed almost all last year. If these guys are healthy, this is the conference's premier team.

60. Austin Peay (OVC)

What to like: By most measures, Austin Peay was the best OVC squad last season. Look for the Governors to be on a mission to get to the Big Dance this year.
Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding. The interior defense is perhaps the one major flaw, and defensive rebounding was the OVC's worst.
Who to watch: Pint-sized Derek Wright is a solid scorer and runs the offense while nabbing 2spg. Also, reserve Wes Channels will probably make the team better in his new starting role.

61. Columbia (Ivy)

What to like: Big Red brings back the nucleus of an efficient offense and strong defense, and adds a balanced group of newcomers. Louis Dale & Ryan Wittman are amazing 3-point sharpshooters.
Weaknesses: Losing Andrew Naeve could cause a drop in the interior defense, and losing point Graham Dow could cause problems in ball control.
Who to watch: 7-0 Jeff Foote. If he can fill the bill in the middle for Cornell, sophomores Dale and Wittman will run rampant in the Ivy league. Guard Colin Robinson could work into the starting five also.

62. Stephen F. Austin (Southland)

What to like: A deep experienced squad returns five starters, and adds the conference's best recruiting class. Josh Alexander & Matt Kingsley may be an unstoppable inside-outside 2-man game in the Southland.
Weaknesses: The Lumberjacks did lose the next three most productive players which will hurt the solid rotation. Also, the shooting overall needs to improve.
Who to watch: 6-9 Benson Akpan should make an instant splash in the Southland. If he can provide a back-to-basket presence, the field-goal defense should improve. A real play-maker is still lacking, so watch guards Will Johnson and Gerald Fonzie and their ability to create shots for others. If Johnson can improve on his 21% shooting from behind the arc, that might create more space for the offense to oeprate.

63. Vermont (America East)

What to like: The Catamounts dominated their league last season, and will be looking for revenge in the conference tourney this season on their closest competitor, Albany.
Weaknesses: I was a hair away from picking Albany as AmEast title fave. It should be another great battle for AmEast supremacy, even if the teams are a little less good this season.
Who to watch: 6-10 Freshman Pat Bergman could step in and help shore up the loss of center Chris Holm, but guard Mike Trimboli's the returning star and 6-8 Colin McIntosh is a rising star. This team's only weakness is that they turn the ball over too much. Well, that and that they're the best team in the America East.

64. Hampton (MEAC)

What to like: A solid MEAC club returns all of their starters and adds some recruits with good height this season. Rashad West, Mike Freeman, and Matthew Pilgrim are a great 1-2-3.
Weaknesses: Turnovers. The whole team was bad, and they really need their set-up man (Vincent Simpson) to cut down on them.
Who to watch: Rashad West is a great shooter and ought be a lot of fun to watch, but Freeman, Pilgrim, and Simpson could all make big jumps in productivity and efficiency in their sophomore seasons. It's doubtful that the 6-10 Milade Lola-Charles or Juco 6-9 Donte Harrison get into the starting five, but they could play really big off the bench.

65. Grambling State (SWAC)

What to like: A solid group of returnees from a 3rd-place SWAC club should have a good inside-outside balance and perhaps the conference's best point guard, Andre Ratliff.
Weaknesses: Well, for a club that ranked in the 300's in most RPI's, there's obviously a lot. But in-conference their opponents' high 2pt FG% was the killer, and needs to be addressed.
Who to watch: 6-7 Martez Stevens, who came off the bench to be the arguably best rebounder and shot-blocker on the team. However, 2.4ppg impresses noone. If Stevens can shake off his Rodman-like refusal to shoot and get close to 30mpg, GSU's interior defense could get a nice boost.


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