Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
To be completely honest, I struggled putting the Utah State Aggies this low due to their stellar past decade-plus and recent dominance in the WAC. However, since the Aggies lose so much from last year’s team, I have to knock then down.
UTAH STATE AGGIES
Last Season: 1st, 15-1 in WAC, 30-4 overall
Predicted WAC Finish: 3rd
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Brady Jardine (Sr)/Igor Premasunac (Jr)/Jordan Stone (Fr)
F: Morgan Grim (Sr)/Kyisean Reed (Jr)/ Ben Clifford (Fr)
G/F: Antonio Bumpus (Jr)/Mitch Bruneel (So)/David Collette (Fr)
G: E.J. Farris (Jr)/Preston Medlin (So)/Steven Thornton (Fr)/Adam Thoseby (Fr)
PG: Brockeith Pane (Sr)/Sam Orchard (Fr)
Gone: PF-Taj Wesley, SG-Brian Green, G/F-Pooh Williams, G/F-Tyler Newbold, PF-Nate Bendall, PF-Matt Formisano, PG-James Walker (transfer)
First off, the projected depth chart is a total crapshoot. With so much turnover from last year’s roster, only returning starter Brockeith Pane and key reserve Brady Jardine appear to be sure things in the starting five. After that, there is going to be competition all across the roster to see who earns minutes.
Pane made an immediate impact last season after transferring in from Midland Junior College. He will take on an even larger role running the Aggies’ offense but also more than likely being relied on as the go-to scorer. After Pane, E.J. Farris is the only returning contributor from a year ago and he only played in 21 games.
Utah State did have a pair of guards redshirt last season in Preston Medlin and Antonio Bumpus. Medlin saw decent playing time as a freshman during the 2009-2010 season while Bumpus was a former third team National Junior College Player. Both players should see significant minutes this season while a host of newcomers will try to work themselves into the rotation. The transfer of talented point guard James Walker leaves freshman Sam Orchard as the Aggies only true back-up point guard.
On the interior, Utah State will miss the physicality and experience of WAC Player of the Year Taj Wesley and Nate Bendall. Jardine will have to pick up the slack. He is an effective back-to-the-basket player and a terrific rebounder. The concern is who else will step into a significant role?
Morgan Grimm is the only other Aggie with Division One experience and he only saw eight minutes per game last year as a junior. JUCO transfers Kyisean Reed and Igor Premasunac will try to step in right away and contribute off the bench. Reed relies on his athleticism while Premasunac is more of a physical presence. 6-10, 270 pound freshman Jordan Stone adds some much needed size and muscle into the equation as well.
It is really hard to doubt three-time defending WAC Coach of the Year Stew Morrill after the success his program has had since his arrival. The past twelve years under Morrell (he is entering his 14th year as head coach so I am throwing out his first year), the Aggies have averaged almost 26 wins, have the fourth highest winning percentage of all Division One teams, and never finished with fewer than 23 victories in a season. So by Utah State standards, this could be somewhat of a “down” year. It will also be a strange year considering the Aggies will not play in-state rival Utah for the first time in 67 seasons.
Player to Watch: Brockeith Pane
An All-First Team WAC honoree, Pane also earned the distinction of the league’s top newcomer last season. His Achilles heel though was from beyond the arc where he hit just 16 of his 76 triple tries which is a major drop from the 37.3% he connected on during his sophomore season. An up-grade in competition obviously made his looks more difficult last season, but if Pane can return his outside shooting form to what it was during his JUCO days, it will tremendously help Utah State’s effort to win at least a share of their fifth straight WAC title.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. BYU
11/15 at Weber State
12/10 at Wichita State
12/22 vs. Kent State
12/31 at Mississippi State
2/18 vs. TBA (Bracket Busters)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraka Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, 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. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.