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Colorado

Tad Boyle’s Buffs have proved they are serious players in the Pac-12. Boyle’s team, which won the 2012 Charleston Classic, captured the Pac-12 tournament in 2011-12, and has never won fewer than 21 games in Boyle’s four seasons. CU might have challenged for the Pac-12 crown in ’13-14 had they not lost leading scorer, forward Spencer Dinwiddie, to an ACL on Jan. 12. They played .500 without him but still earned a high seed in the conference tournament. Forward Josh Scott, a double-double machine even before Dinwiddie’s injury, was in the top 15 in the conference in scoring and in the top five in rebounding, while guard Askia Booker picked up his scoring and was superb taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers. Wesley Gordon is among the top young bigs in the conference, ranking among the leaders in blocks, offensive and total rebounds.

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DePaul

The Blue Demons will continue to try to turn things around in 2014 after enduring another tough season in the Big East. Oliver Purnell’s team won only three Big East games and lost 13 of 15 conference games at one point, including 10 in a row, with 11 of the 13 losses by at least 10 points. But help is on the way, as guard Billy Garrett, Jr. was a serious contender for win Big East Rookie of the Year. A five-time freshman/rookie of the week, Garrett led all freshmen in scoring, assists and free throw percentage. Fellow freshman Tommy Hamilton IV led Big East first-year players in rebounding and also took home a freshman of the week award. DePaul will be the first Big East team ever to play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
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George Washington

George Washington had a breakthrough season in its 100th season of college basketball, winning 20 games for the first time under Mike Lonergan. GW, fourth in scoring and scoring defense in the A-10, used an unselfish approach, resulting in five players scoring in double-figures. Three of those five, guard Kethan Savage, forward Kevin Larsen and guard/forward Patricio Garino, all sophomores, will be in the Diamond Head. Point guard Joe McDonald, also a sophomore, was top 10 in the A-10 in assists, assists/turnovers and steals. Injuries hampered GW, as Garino (finger) missed time early, Savage (left foot) was out late, and McDonald battled hip problems all season. GW liked playing high-profile teams, knocking off Miami and No. 20/18 Creighton in ESPN’s Wooden Legacy, then, three days later, upending Maryland in the 19th BB&T Classic.

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Hawaii

Hawai’i continued trending upward in its fourth year under Gib Arnold. The Big West’s top scoring and shooting team, improved its win total for the third straight season. Senior forward Christian Standhardingerwho led the Rainbow Warriors in scoring and rebounding, ranking in the top five in both categories, but UH also got a boost from juniors, Keith Shamburger, who led the Big West in assists, Garrett Nevels, who led the conference in three-point shooting, and sophomore center Isaac Fotu, who led the team in field goal percentage at 58.3 percent and stepped up in conference play, scoring better than 17.0 ppg, while shooting north of 60 percent and 84 percent from the line. UH won two of three games at the 2013 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (beating Saint Mary’s and Oregon State).
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Loyola Marymount

Loyola Marymount looks to bounce back after finishing at the bottom of the West Coast Conference in ’13-14. LMU lost 13 of 14 during one stretch of WCC play and, down the stretch, was down to six healthy players. The Anthony Ireland era ended in ’13-14 but the Lions saw an infusion of youth in guard Evan Payne, who finished eighth in the WCC in scoring, setting a school record for points by a freshman, and forward Gabe Levin, who finished ninth in the conference in rebounding with the second-best season ever for an LMU frosh, and sixth in blocked shots, just behind teammate Marin Mornar. Lions coach Max Good, two years removed from a 21-win season, was forced to use 10 different starting lineups, as the team lost 67 manpower games. 

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Nebraska

Nebraska made history in 2013-’14, with its first double-digit-wins season in Big Ten play and first winning season in conference play since 1998-’99. It’s the third straight season coach Tim Miles’ club improved its win total — beating five of the previous year’s Sweet 16 teams in the process. After surviving a shaky start to Big 10 play, Nebraska got hot down the stretch, sparked by the conference’s third-best defense. The Huskers’ young core features explosive swingman Terran Petteway, the Big 10′s leading scorer and only player with multiple 30-point games, leading rebounder Shavon Shields, who adds 12.0 ppg, and athletic big Walter Pitchford, the Florida transfer, who at 6-10, shoots almost 40 percent on 3′s. UNL was 1-2 in last year’s Charleston Classic, beating Georgia after losing to UMass and UAB.

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Ohio University

The Bobcats’ 20-win season in 2013-’14 was the 15th in program history, their fourth in five years, their third in a row and second under Jim Christian, the winningest coach in MAC history. But they’ll come to Honolulu in 2014 needing to replace last year’s leading scorer Nick Kellogg, top shooter Jon Smith and top three-point shooter Travis WilkinsMaurice Ndour is a good starting point. The 6-9 forward was a beast for the ‘Cats, ranking in the MAC’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots and finishing 12th in field goal percentage. Helping Ndour are Stevie Taylor, one of the MAC’s top points until he suffered a leg injury, and guard Javarez Willis, who can hit the three and run the point.

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Wichita State

Wichita State brings its “Play Angry” tour to Honolulu following its 31-0 regular season and Missouri Valley Conference Championship in 2013-’14. Gregg Marshall, who won his third straight Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year award, brings back a lot of those pieces, including point guardFred VanVleet, the MVC Larry Bird Award Player of the Year. VanVleet, also named to the All-Improved Team, led the conference in assists and assist/turnover ratio, and was top-ten in steals, three-point shooting percentage, free throw percentage, and field goal percentage. He also was named to the MVC All-Defensive Team. VanVleet, Cleanthony Early and guard Ron Baker, formed the first trio of teammates in 30 years to be named MVC First-Team. Guard Tekele Cotton, Second-Team All-Conference and the Defensive Player of the Year, and forward Darius Carter, MVC Newcomer of the Year, also return.