The Akron Men’s Basketball program will enter a new era for the 2017-18 season, as first-year head coach John Groce will lead the Zips’ squad. Akron returns one starter and four letterwinners, while adding a graduate transfer and five newcomers to the 2017-18 roster. The Zips also added three transfers that are eligible to compete for the 2018-19 season. Akron is coming off a historical 2016-17 season after posting the most wins in school history with a 27-9 overall record, and continuing to be one of four teams in the NCAA to achieve 12 straight seasons of 21 or more wins, joining the likes of Duke, Gonzaga, and Kansas. In addition, the Zips claimed back-to-back Mid-American Conference regular-season championships and two consecutive trips to the National Invitation Tournament. The Zips posted a first round NIT win over No. 2 seed Houston (78-75). The 2016-17 squad also set the longest home-court winning streak in James A. Rhodes Arena history at 30 consecutive wins, ranking as the second longest streak in the NCAA. The Zips also posted the second longest single-season winning streak with 12 straight victories in the midst of claiming the 2016 Savannah Invitational and 2016 Don Haskins Sun Bowl championships.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Davidson returns four starters and eleven total letterwinners from last year’s team that finished 17-15 overall. Among those returning includes senior Peyton Aldridge, who averaged 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 2016-17, while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range and 83.3 percent at the line. Head Coach Bob McKillop is entering his 29th season at the helm of the Wildcats. McKillop is the fifth longest-tenured coach in the country, behind only Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Greg Kampe (Oakland), and Rick Byrd (Belmont). Davidson has advanced to 15 post-season appearances under McKillop, including six of the last seven season. The Wildcats competed in the Southern Conference for 74 years prior to joining the Atlantic 10 in July of 2014. Davidson, which captured the A-10 regular season title in its inaugural season in 2015, is a combined 32-22 against league competition in just three seasons. The 2017-18 roster will feature players from six different countries (Finland, Iceland, Nigeria, Serbia, Sweden, and the United States).
The University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior basketball team entered last season with a slew of unknowns. Without a single returning starter and 10 newcomers joining the squad, preseason polls pegged UH near the bottom of the Big West. The ’Bows, however, defied expectations to finish a respectable 14-16 overall and fourth in the league standings. Now, with the return of four starters and seven of its top eight scorers from last season, optimism is high for 2017-18 season. Among the returnees are senior forward Gibson Johnson (11.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg), and junior forward Jack Purchase (9.6 ppg and 4.3 rpg), both of whom were All-Big West honorable mention. Johnson had a team-high 21 double-digit scoring games, while Purchase was one of the top long-range shooters in the Big West, finishing with 72 three-pointers. The team also welcomes the return of senior forward Mike Thomas who red-shirted last season due to a wrist injury. Thomas (7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) was a starter on the 2015-16 squad that captured the Big West Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Hawaii is also excited for another red-shirt to take the court this year—freshman point guard Drew Buggs (Long Beach Poly HS) who should compete for a starting spot in the back-court. With an experienced and always diverse (four different states and four foreign countries) squad, the Rainbow Warriors are primed to make a leap in 2017-18.
In 2017-18, head coach Jim Larrañaga will begin his seventh year at the helm in Coral Gables. Recording a 21-12 overall record, Miami played in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time since going to three straight from 1997-98 to 1999-2000. Over the course of the season, the Hurricanes defeated three ranked teams, downing No. 9/6 North Carolina, No. 10/11 Duke in Coral Gables, and No. 18/19 Virginia on the road. This marked the third-straight year and the fifth time in Larrañaga’s six seasons the Canes defeated two top 15 teams. Key returners from the 2016-17 campaign include sophomore guard Bruce Brown and senior guard Ja'Quan Newton. Brown finished his freshman year averaging 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while Newton is the Canes’ top returning scorer and passer after averaging 13.5 points and 3.4 assists per game. Overall, seven out of nine scholarship players are returning from the 2016-17 roster, including two of the top three scorers and the top two passers from last season. Those seven players accounted for 68.1-percent of the Canes' scoring, 65.4-percent of rebounds, 74.8-percent of assists, 68.8-percent of blocks, 73.2-percent of steals, 68.4-percent of field goals made and 62.2-percent of 3-pointers made. Larrañaga and his staff also welcome three top-100 players from the 2017 class in McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic All-American guard Lonnie Walker IV (No. 12) and Jordan Brand Classic Regional Team honorees guard Chris Lykes (No. 46) and forward Deng Gak (No. 92). New Zealander Sam Waardenburg also joins the class, and practiced with the team during the spring.
Following their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament Second Round, Head Coach Kermit Davis and the Blue Raiders turn to All-Conference USA shooting guard Giddy Potts and All-Freshman point guard Tyrik Dixon to lead Middle Tennessee back to a postseason berth in 2017-18. Senior guard Ed Simpson returns from last season’s starting five and is joined in a deep back-court by junior guard Antwain Johnson. Upperclassmen Brandon Walters and Karl Gamble return the most experience in the post, which will be re-vamped with the additions of Alabama graduate transfer Nick King and red-shirt freshman Davion Thomas. Davis led the Blue Raiders to a program-best 31-5 record in 2016-17 while notching a Conference USA record 17-1 mark in league play. Middle Tennessee swept the regular season and tournament titles last season to give the Raiders a total of seven league titles across the last eight years.
After a record 28-win season in 2016-17 and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, first year head coach Chris Jans looks to lead the Aggies back to the Big Dance for the upcoming 2017-18 campaign. New Mexico State returns a pair of all-conference players in Eli Chuha and Jemerrio Jones. Chuha was a Second-Team All-WAC honor as a sophomore year, averaging 12.4 points while pulling down a team-best 8.9 rebounds per game. Chuha also boasted the team’s best field-goal percentage, standing at 61-percent. Jones, who was named to the WAC All-Newcomers team, dropped 9.7 points per game while grabbing 8.4 boards per contest. Red-shirt senior Johnathon Wilkins and Las Cruces native Joe Garza are amongst returners for the Aggies. Sidy N’Dir returns to the court after missing most of the season with an injury while Ohio State transfer AJ Harris takes the court in the Crimson and White for the first time after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. The Aggies also get local product Johnny McCants this season after red-shirting last year. Jans and his new coaching staff have worked tirelessly on the recruiting trail since taking over the program and have reloaded their roster with five transfers and two freshmen. The five transfers for New Mexico State are highlighted by the SWAC Player of the Year, Zach Lofton, who comes to the Aggies as a graduate transfer. Joining Lofton is Keyon Jones (Odessa College), Shunn Buchanon (Northeast Mississippi College), Wayne Stewart (Lamar CC) and Leston Gordon (Lee College). New Mexico State also added the services of a perimeter shooter in Gabe Hadley and dynamic guard in Kortrijk Miles.
Coming off its Ivy League-best 27th Ivy title and 25th NCAA Tournament appearance, one that saw the team take ACC Tournament finalist Notre Dame to the final possession, Princeton returns Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year junior Myles Stephens and honorable mention All-Ivy honoree junior Devin Cannady as the Tigers aim for a return to the top of the Ivy. Mitch Henderson, the team’s seventh-year head coach, is already the third-winningest coach in program history, entering the season with 119 wins, behind only Franklin C. Cappon (250), for whom Princeton’s head coaching position is co-named, and Naismith Hall of Famer and his former coach, Pete Carril (514). Henderson was a part of three Ivy League championship teams at Princeton, including his senior-year team in 1998 that was ranked No. 8 in the nation by the AP and made the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Though Princeton graduated three starters in big man Pete Miller and guards/forwards Steven Cook, a first-team All-Ivy Leaguer, and Spencer Weisz, the 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year, the Tigers’ returning experience goes beyond Stephens and Cannady. Senior Amir Bell averaged 8.7 points per game in Ivy League play and shot .581 from the field and .559 from 3. In all, Princeton returns 13 players from last year’s Ivy-title winning team. Cannady and Stephens were Princeton’s top two scorers in Ivy League play last season, with Stephens putting in a team-best 15.4 points per game, shooting .564 from the field, and Cannady close behind at 14.4 ppg, including a league-best .941 clip from the stripe.
The USC men’s basketball program enters the 2017-18 season with high expectations coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, a school-record 26 wins and returning virtually its entire roster. USC’s top eight scorers from last year’s team are back and are joined by Duke transfer guard Derryck Thornton and three highly-touted freshman, guard Charles O’Bannon Jr., wing Jordan Usher and forward Victor Uyaelunmo. USC’s leading scorer junior forward Bennie Boatwright (15.1 ppg) missed half of last season with a knee injury before returning to lead USC’s postseason push. Fellow junior forward Chimezie Metu averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game and is a force in the paint with 55 blocks a year ago. Sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic provides great depth off the bench, averaging 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds last season. The Trojans play an up-tempo style which places a premium on stellar guard play. Senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin is a 1,000 point scorer in his career and averaged 12.9 points and 5.5 assists per game last season. He also ranks second on USC’s all-time assist list with 457. Senior guard Elijah Stewart averaged 12.3 points last season and made a team-leading 78 three-point baskets. He ranks sixth on USC’s all-time three-point baskets made list with 175 and has a chance to graduate as the school’s all-time leader in that category. Sophomore guards De’Anthony Melton and Jonah Mathews had an immediate impact as freshmen last season. Melton started 25 games and averaged 8.3 points and 3.5 assists, while leading the conference with 69 steals. Mathews averaged 7.0 points mostly coming off the bench and was fourth on the team with 42 three-point baskets made. Also, versatile junior wing Shaqquan Aaron is a big-time scoring threat who averaged 7.6 points and played the fifth-most minutes on the team. For the first time since the 2004-05 season USC has two four-year senior scholarship players on its roster and the hope is with the combination of depth, experience and talent, that the 2017-18 Trojans can take the program to new heights.
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