#87 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season.  We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

In the ever not-so-popular era of conference realignment, Conference USA has taken a huge hit, losing some of their big name programs to more financially luring leagues.  One of the eight new teams to enter the C-USA this year is the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs who are coming off a terrific 2012-13 campaign and should be one of the favorites to capture the conference crown.

LOUISIANA TECH BULLDOGS
Last Season: T-1st, 16-2 in WAC, 27-7 overall
Predicted C-USA Finish: 1st

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Michale Kyser (Jr)/Isaiah Massey (Jr)/Gilbert Talbot (So)
F: Chris Anderson (Sr)/Stojan Gjuroski (Jr)/Leo Edwards (Fr)
G/F: Cordarius Johnson (Sr)/Jaron Johnson (Sr)
SG: Raheem Appleby (Jr)/Kenyon McNeail (Sr)/Dominic Jackson (Fr)
PG: Kenneth Smith (Jr)/Alex Hamilton (So)

Gone: SF-Brandon Gibson, F/C-J.L. Lewis

2013-2014 Outlook:
During their record setting 2012-13 campaign, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs relied heavily on their deep 11-man rotation to keep fresh bodies rotating in and out of the game while playing a fast pace on both ends of the floor.  That should once again be the M.O. with nine key contributors returning.

Even with that balance, expect head coach Michael White to lean heavily on junior guards Raheem Appleby and Kenneth Smith.  Appleby serves as the LA Tech go-to scoring option as he was the lone player on the roster to average more than eight points per game.  Smith is a do-it-all point guard who is more of a distributor than scorer.  He is also a terrific on the ball defender and finished second on the team in rebounding.

Cordarius Johnson will join Appleby and Smith on the wing.  He has been a solid contributor since his freshman year and makes his biggest impact with his three-point shooting.  Depth at guard is a huge advantage for the Bulldogs since Kenyon McNeil and Alex Hamilton both averaged around seven points per game while JUCO transfer Jaron Johnson became a key contributor as well.  White has the luxury of mixing and matching these six guys and will probably show plenty of four guard looks as well since the strength of the team is in the backcourt and relying on that group’s quickness.

The graduation of Brandon Gibson and J.L. Lewis opens up minutes inside.  Due to his length and athleticism, Michale Kyser led the WAC in blocked shots last season providing Louisiana Tech with a true rim protector in the middle.  Chris Anderson (no, not the Birdman) brings a little more physicality to the forward spot though he is a bit undersized to be a true power forward since he stands only 6-6.  Expect former Ole Miss transfer Isaiah Massey to see a larger role off the bench with seldom-used Gilbert Talbot and Stojan Gjuroski competing for minutes with freshman Leo Edwards.

White also picked up a transfer in Murray State combo forward Erik McCree.  His versatility will be a good fit for the Bulldogs but McCree must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

The new look C-USA will really be a crapshoot this year since there is no clear cut favorite like Memphis has been for the past several years.  Despite the fact that they’ll see a more challenging conference schedule compared to what the WAC offered, LA Tech returns as much talent as any other team in the league and gets my vote for preseason favorite.

Player to Watch: Kenneth Smith
I’m a big fan of guys who don’t necessarily score a ton but contribute in numerous other ways on the court and that is a perfect way to describe Smith’s presence for LA Tech.  “Speedy” uses his high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor and plays bigger than most point guards.  He might be one of the more unheralded mid-major players in the country.

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#88 Towson
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#91 Rutgers
#92 Drexel
#93 USC
#94 Charleston
#95 Seton Hall
#96 Vanderbilt
#97 George Mason
#98 Clemson
#99 Penn State
#100 Nebraska
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#104 DePaul
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#107 TCU
#108 Virginia Tech
#109 Georgia
#110 Utah
#111 Auburn

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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