YCS College Basketball Preview Part Four-Americans overcome Commies

>> Thursday

In these next sections, I will preview the major, non-BCS conferences. There will be some dangerous tournament teams in this group, with Memphis once again the best of the bunch. Projected NCAA Tournament teams in bold italics, NIT teams in italics.

1. Memphis: They lost Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington. Not a problem for John Calipari's crew, as they bring in highly regarded point guard Willie Kemp and super athlete Doneal Mack to join a talented group of returnees.

Kemp takes Washington's spot at the point, and will do a much better job of running the offense. The Tigers mightily struggled when teams kept them from running last season. Kemp gives the Tigers a floor general who will set up his teammates and not force shots. Andre Allen returns, and should be an excellent back-up to Kemp. Allen also is a pass first point guard, and his minutes increased throughout last season as Washington played more off the ball.

On the wing, a talented pair of sophomores lead the way. Chris Douglas-Roberts simply can be called a scorer. He shoots the ball well, including a very nice mid-range game, and has a deceivingly strong slashing ability. He always seems to be in the right place at the right game. Antonio Anderson is the Tigers best perimeter shooter. While he had the typical inconsistent efforts as a freshman, he showed flashes of brilliance including a 31 point effort. In more of a featured role this season, he could easily double his 7 point a game average.

Mack, a late commit after initially signing with Florida, will bring serious athleticism off the bench. Possessing a 41 inch vertical, look for him to replace Carney as Memphis's representative during Throwdown Thursdays.

Up front, Joey Dorsey returns to intimidate opponents in the lane. The 6'8, 260 bruiser averaged nearly 8 rebounds a game last season, despite often spending many minutes on the bench with foul trouble. While he does an excellent job of altering shots, he needs to occasionally curb his aggressiveness to stay on the court. If he has improved his offensive game, this will likely be his last year in college. Joining him upfront will be the super athletic Robert Dozier. While Dozier does not have the body to bang down low, the athletic 6'10 forward can score in many other ways. He has a nice touch from the perimeter and will also make many appearances on the highlight reel.

Kareem Cooper gives the Tigers an excellent option off the bench if his back has healed. The back injury hindered his conditioning last season and restricted him to short spurts on the court. When he played, he showed a real nice offensive game with strong post skills and a good shot from the perimeter.

Like Gonzaga, they have to replace significant contribrutots but should reload very nicely. If everything comes together, the Tigers could definitely make another deep run in the tournament.

2. Houston: Tom Penders has done an excellent job in revitalizing a dormant Cougars program. Best known for the Phi Slamma Jamma era with Clyde Drexler and Akeem (No H yet) Olajuwon, this group of Cougars should make some new memories this season.

Lanny Smith, an extremely underrated point guard, returns to lead the Cougars attack. Assuming his toe injury has healed, Smith will successfully run Penders fast paced attack. Averaging 12 points and 5.4 assists a game last season, Smith nicely balances looking for teammates and his own shot.

At one of the other perimeter spots, scorer deluxe Oliver Lafayette returns. While he did not shoot a high percentage last season, Lafayette did manage to average just under 16 points a game. With a year of division one experience under his belt, he should improve his percentage by not forcing as many shots. At the other wing spot, Texas transfer Dion Dowell will nicely compliment Smith and Lafayette. Eligible at the start of the second semester, Dowell will give the Cougars a defensive stopper. After coming into Texas with a heralded reputation, Dowell has the motivation and an opportunity to play to his vast potential.

Penders has another pair of junior college transfers ready to contribute in the backcourt. Robert Lee and Robert McKiver both shoot the ball well from 3, and will get an opportunity to earn quality plating time before Dowell becomes eligible.

Jahmar Thorpe returns to anchor the Cougars frontcourt. The undersized 6'6 big man averaged 9 poins and 4 rebounds a game last season. He will have to incease his rebounding totals after the graduation of last season's leading rebounder, Ramon Dyer. Freshman Nick Mosley and JC transfer Tafari Toney will compete for the other starting frontcourt spot.

If the frontcourt can hold their own, the Cougars talented backcourt should lead Houston back to the NCAA Tournament for first time since 1992.

3. UAB: New coach Mike Davis has a tough act to follow, with Mike Anderson taking his version of 40 minutes of hell to Missouri. He will have to replace last seasons two top scorers, Marvett McDonald and Demarrio Eddins, along with team leader and top playmaker Squeaky Johnson.

Talented swingman Wen Mukubu will be counted on to be the team's most prolific scorer. Primarily in a reserve role, he averaged 9 points a game last season. Mukubu thrived in Anderson's up tempo system, and it remains to be seen how he adjusts to the slower pace of Mike Davis. Paul Delaney will join Mukubu in shouldering the scoring load. Delany also averaged 9 points a game a year ago while shooting 50 percent from the field. In a more featured role, he will have to take more contested shots.

JC transfer Andre White, just a sophomore, looks to be the favorite to replace Squeaky at the point. Frank Holmes and Lawrence Kinnard return the anchor the frontcourt, along with freshman Jeremy Mayfield. Holmes and Kinnard will not be big scorers, but successfully rebound and compete in the post. Mayfield, a talented post player who originally signed with Oklahoma, has a chance to win a starting spot this season.

Other tidbits:
Rice could be a major player in the conference race if someone could help complement star swingman Morris Almond. UTEP has to overcome the loss of four starters and coach Doc Sadler to Nebraska. Tulsa may return to the postseason thank to a strong recruiting haul by Doug Wojcik.

Player of the Year: Morris Almond, Rice
Newcomer of the Year: Willie Kemp, Memphis
All-Conference team:
Morris Almond, Rice
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
Lanny Smith, Houston
Josh Peppers, Central Florida
Oliver Lafayette, Houston


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