The Matadors finished 2015-16 at 10-20 with a 5-11 Big West Conference record, tied for sixth in the conference standings. CSUN improved its road record from the 2014-15 season and earned BWC series wins over the Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly, marking the first time the Matadors swept two conference opponents in five seasons. During the season, CSUN saw the emergence of an array of talented new faces in the lineup as well as the final season of one of the school’s all-time greats. Junior transfer Kendall Smith joined the team in mid-December and made an immediate impact, leading the team in scoring en route to earning a Big West Conference Honorable Mention. Other newcomers included sophomore guard Micheal Warren, sophomore forward Tavrion Dawson, and sophomore guard Jerron Wilbut. Senior forward/center Tre Hale-Edmerson ended his Matador career as the all-time school leader in blocks (188), games played (129) and games started (124) and also ranks on the Matadors all-time rebounding (fifth – 727), minutes played (sixth – 3,521), assists (eighth – 303) and steals (eighth – 137) lists. Hale-Edmerson is also the only Matador ever to record at least 800 points, grab 700 rebounds and dish out 300 assists.
Nebraska returns a pair of starters among seven letterwinners from a team that went 16-18 last season. NU was a youthful squad in 2015-16 with four freshmen among its top eight players, and fifth-year coach Tim Miles is optimistic that the experienced gained will pay off this season. Senior guard Tai Webster is the only senior on the 2016-17 squad and returns after averaging 10.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steal per game. The 6-foot-4 guard also brings international experience, as he is a member of New Zealand’s National Team in 2016. In addition to Webster, freshmen Glynn Watson Jr. and Michael Jacobson highlight the returnees. Sophomores Ed Morrow Jr. and Jack McVeigh are also sophomores who could be poised for big jumps in 2016-17. Junior guard Anton Gill will also play a significant role as he becomes eligible after transferring from Louisville, and Miles believes he can he provide some of the scoring punch after losing a pair of All-Big Ten performers in Shields and Andrew White III. NU could also rely on its freshman class of center Jordy Tshimanga and forwards Isaiah Roby and Jeriah Horne to play a role. All three were rated among the nation’s top 150 high school seniors in the country by Rivals.com in 2016.
The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team had one of the youngest teams in the nation in 2015-16, but still outperformed the preseason expectations. The Lobos finished fourth in the Mountain West, two places above the preseason poll prediction. The Lobos have 10 players returning including four starters. For the first time ever, the Lobos will return two All-MW First Team selections in Elijah Brown and Tim Williams. They are the only two players returning to the conference that averaged 16 or more points last season. The Lobos are led by head coach Craig Neal, who enters his fourth season as the head coach and 10th season with the program. During his tenure, he has become one of the winningest coaches in program history and has led the league in Academic All-MW selections in every season as head coach.
Led by SEC All-Freshman Team performers Tyler Davis and D.J. Hogg along with proven contributors in sophomore guard Admon Gilder and junior center Tonny Trocha-Morelos, Texas A&M enters the 2016-17 campaign looking to build upon last season’s 28-win, Sweet 16 squad despite losing four senior starters (Alex Caruso, Anthony Colllins, Danuel House & Jalen Jones). Entering his sixth year in Aggieland, head coach Billy Kennedy has significantly raised the program’s talent level by bringing in back-to-back highly-ranked recruiting classes and will be seeking his third consecutive 20-win campaign.
UCLA will enter the 2016-17 season returning four of its five starters from last year’s team. Led by senior guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, the Bruins have added three freshmen from southern California ranked among the top 25 players in the nation, with Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu. Entering his fourth season as UCLA’s head coach, Steve Alford looks to get the Bruins back to the NCAA Tournament, having led the program to consecutive Sweet 16 appearances in 2014 and 2015. This will mark the Bruins’ first appearance in the Wooden Legacy, since the event evolved into its current format four years ago.
The Virginia Tech Hokies return the nucleus from the team that surprised many by finishing last season 20-15 overall and 10-8 in conference, good for a seventh place finish in the ACC. Tech advanced to the second round of the 2016 NIT. Tech returns its top four scorers from last season, highlighted by seniors Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, who each topped the 500-point mark last season. Tech is also bolstered by the return of wings Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw, who missed last season due to medical issues. Head coach Buzz Williams has been the architect of this quick turnaround, that saw the Hokies close the regular season with five consecutive ACC wins, plus a first-round win the 2016 ACC Tournament. This will be the Hokies’ second appearance in the Wooden Legacy, when in 2010 Tech was the runner-up in the then 76 Classic.
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