2008-09 Team Capsules
By Kyle Whelliston
The Gentlemen started strong in 2007-08 with a 6-3 record, highlighted by a surprise win over Texas Tech (the game in which Bobby Knight walked out at halftime). But they went 4-18 afterward, and the school let Rob Flaska go after three underachieving seasons. Centenary has never finished better than second to last during its five years in the league, and it would not have made the eight-team conference tournament had NDSU been eligible. New sideline pacer Greg Gary, previously an assistant at Duquesne, inherits some functioning pieces: Three returning seniors averaged double figures last season.
After six years as a Division I independent, the Mastodons proved they could hang in their new conference. Led by 29-year-old head coach Dane Fife, IPFW finished with a 9-9 Summit League record and averaged 80 points at home. Keep an eye on Ben Botts
, who averaged 10 ppg and shot 45.3 percent from 3 during his rookie season. The 6-1 sophomore guard shot 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in his college debut at Wisconsin last November.
Despite the early loss of floor leader George Hill
(the 26th overall pick in the NBA draft) and second-leading scorer Austin Montgomery
(13.7 ppg), head coach Ron Hunter calls his 2008-09 team the best he's had from top to bottom. Gary Patterson
, a 5-10 senior who averaged 12.9 ppg last season, will lead the Jaguars into 2008-09. Intriguing newcomer Larry Stone
, a 5-9 point guard from T.C. Howe High in Indianapolis, could pick up some of the 4.3 assists per game that Hill left behind.
North Dakota State
The spotlight will be on NDSU's well-traveled senior class, but the next wave of talent is coming up right behind to ensure continued success. Sophomore forward Michael Tveidt
nearly double-doubled in his college debut against two-time defending champion Florida (12 points, 8 rebounds) and played a key backup role down the stretch. Junior Josh Vaughan
cracked the starting lineup during conference play, drawing raves for his defense and 38.6 percent 3-point shooting.
Coach Greg Kampe's league-best recruiting class will need to mesh with a core of established veterans. The gold and black return practically intact, led by Derick Nelson
, who was Oakland's top producer last season with 17.3 ppg and 7.4 rpg. The 6-5 senior-to-be went off for 22 and 9 in the team's shocking win over Oregon last December. Junior Johnathon Jones
(14.9 ppg) and senior Erik Kangas
(14.6 ppg) will hold down backcourt duties. The Golden Grizzlies are loaded.
Already adjusting to the loss of three senior starters, head coach Scott Sutton kicked three players off the team in July for unspecified rules violations. One of the banished parties was senior Marchello Vealy
, who became an instant celebrity on Nov. 15, 2006, after his 22 points helped the Golden Eagles sink Kansas on the road. Vealy didn't reach 20 again for the remainder of his ORU career. The remaining G'Eagles, led by all-guts 5-11 shooting guard Robert Jarvis
(16.1 ppg), will try to maintain the best defense in the Summit (only 60.2 points allowed per contest in 2007-08) and return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year.
The No. 7-seeded Kangaroos nearly made up for a 6-12 regular season in the conference quarterfinals, pushing IUPUI to within four points of its playoff life. Second-year head coach Matt Brown will use that near miss as inspiration for a group that includes senior sharpshooter Dane Brumagin
(team-leading 17.1 ppg), as well as one of the most exciting newcomers in the league last season. Sophomore-to-be Reggie Hamilton
, a 6-0 point guard, came out of Chicago's legendary Thornwood prep program and grabbed the reins of the Roos' offense, averaging 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per game.
South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits are eligible for the conference postseason as well, but their odds are somewhat longer than those of the Dakotans to the north. Scott Nagy's club has managed just 32 wins in four Division I seasons and struggled mightily to shoot 40 percent most nights. SD State will try again with a similar cast that includes Kai Williams
, a rare bright spot from an 8-21 (3-13 Summit) season. The 6-6 junior averaged 14 ppg on 49.3 percent shooting and chipped in 7.8 rpg.
The Summit's western outpost built some serious Mountain Standard Time momentum in Roger Reid's first season. SUU finished with a 9-9 conference record, and captured the nation's attention with the story of one-handed baller Dax Crum
. But Geoff Payne
, the team's only double-figure scorer and leading rebounder (20.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), opted for a transfer ticket out of town instead of a senior season in Cedar City. "We're pretty much starting from scratch," said T'Birds assistant Johnny Brown.
The 2007-08 Leathernecks won 12 games, five more than they did the previous season, and earned 10 home victories for the first time since 1998-99. But that improvement was not enough. In steps Jim Molinari, who spent 11 seasons leading Bradley and more recently served as Minnesota's interim coach when Dan Monson resigned during the 2006-07 season. Now Molinari has to find some players. No. 1 scoring option David Jackson
(13.7 ppg) graduated, and top marksman James Washington
(10.5 ppg, 42.4 percent from 3) transferred out after one year.