I’m ranking and previewing the nine teams of the Horizon League leading up to the start of the 2012-2013 season. Rankings are based on a host of tempo-free and other factors. I invite your take in the comments section below.
Last season: D’Aundray Brown stepped in for the NBA-departed Norris Cole, and everybody else returned from the 27-win team to push the Vikings to a 22-11 record, an NIT bid and a second-place finish in the Horizon League regular season standings.
The Vikes ranked fourth in offensive efficiency (1.027 points per possession) and second in defensive efficiency (0.935 ppp) last season.
This season: Almost nobody returns. Tim Kamczyz — the sole returning starter — will have to lead a young team that is highlighted by All-Horizon League Preseason Second-Team selection Anton Grady and sophomore point guard Charlie Lee.
Coach: Gary Waters (122-82 at CSU) has only had two losing seasons in his six-year tenure at CSU. Two winning season separated those seasons, and two winning seasons separate the last losing season from this season. Waters faces an uphill battle to break that pattern, but he’s done well as far as recruiting goes.
Returning minutes: 46.21% (9th) Returning possessions: 41.52% (9th) Returning scoring: 41.07% (9th) Returning starters: 1
1. Tim Kamczyz (33 games played last season/33 games started last season/1.30 points per possession last season) - After two seasons as a full-time starter in CSU’s frontcourt, Kamczyc will most be counted on for leadership as the only senior on this team.
But teams that overlook his scoring ability will not do themselves a favor. Kamczyc scored 1.3 points per possession when CSU possessions ended in his hands last season, second only to Green Bay’s Kam Cerroni. The fact that he scored 9.1 points per game last season is misleading. Kamczyc only earned 14.3 percent of the Vikings’ possessions when he was on the floor, but used them exceptionally efficiently to become the overall Horizon League leader in offensive rating (125.9).
Waters has said that Kamczyc will have an expanded scoring role this season, and it should pay dividends.
2. Anton Grady (33/3/1.10) - Grady is fun to watch, and it shows in the press. He was selected to the All-Horizon Newcomer Team at the end of last season as a freshman, and made the All-League Second Team before this season.
Some questioned how Grady would handle the transition at the beginning of last season until they saw him play. By March he was leading the Vikings and the League in defensive rebounding rate (26.3 percent) and led his team in block rate (8.0 percent). He’s also an exceptionally adept driving scorer that downed 55.0 percent of his attempts from inside the arc. The 6-8 Cleveland native is a lock to start as a sophomore.
3. Charlie Lee (33/3/0.70) - Despite being a true freshman and a reserve for most of the season, Lee demonstrated the most efficient passing-ability. He led the Vikings in assist rate with one in 24.1 percent of his possessions while playing in 43.9 percent of CSU’s minutes.
Waters has said that the 5-9 sophomore will start at point guard.
4. Sebastian Douglas (15/0/0.86) - Douglas has been biding his team after an accident-related injury kept him sidelined as a freshman and an MCL injury limited him to 15 games last season. That after choosing the Vikings over offers from Wichita State, Texas A & M and Houston in 2010. The 6-4 guard played point in high school, but has had plenty of time to learn the two-guard spot in Waters’ scheme.
Douglas posted a steal rate of 3.4 percent last season that is encouraging despite the small sample size. Only D’Audray Brown (5.3 percent) was better last season.
5. Marlin Mason (18/3/1.00) - Waters converted Mason to the three spot after the 6-6 sophomore was forced into action instead of red-shirting last season.
1. Trevon Harmon (32/32) - Harmon, an All-Horizon Second-Team selection, leaves after three years as a full-time starter in CSU’s backcourt. The combo guard took more shots (25.6 percent), launched more threes (189) and played more minutes (74.7 percent) than any other Viking last season. Harmon was one third of CSU’s monster backcourt last season.
2. Jeremy Montgomery (33/33) - Montgomery, another three-year full-time starters, is also another departed monster third. He was No. 1 for the Vikings in possessions (24.6 percent) last season. His value on the floor is difficult to translate into words.
3. D’Aundray Brown (26/25) - Brown missed the 2010-2011 season with an injury, and a groin injury left him on the sidelines for seven games last season but Norris Cole’s replacement ended up as the nation’s fourth-ranked steal-grabber with one in 5.3 percent of his opportunities.
Brown yesterday was cut from the Cleveland Cavaliers after he was signed to a contract last Thursday.
Together Brown, Montgomery and Brown accounted for 48.0 percent of CSU’s scoring last season and 50.3 percent of shots.
4. Aaron Pogue (32/32) - Pogue too spent three seasons starting for Waters. The 6-9 big provided huge inside presence that included a 10.9 percent offensive rebounding rate and a 4.0 percent block rate.
1. Junior Lomomba - Lomomba is easily Waters’ big-name recruit for this season. The 6-5 forward had outstanding offers from Cincinnati, Baylor, Xavier and Washington State but committed to CSU. He’ll be a versatile piece of the frontcourt that should be able to guard almost anybody. He’ll get major minutes as a reserve this season.
2. Aaron Scales - Scales had originally committed to Missouri but instead attended the American Basketball Institute before arriving at Cleveland State. He adds more size and depth to a solid frontcourt.
3. Bryn Forbes - Forbes was likely scouted for his rangy potential. The shooting guard from Michigan was ranked by ESPN as the No. 12 player in the state before Waters nabbed him. The 6-3 freshman adds backcourt depth.
Projected starting five: Charlie Lee (PG), Sebastian Douglas (SG), Marlin Mason (SF), Tim Kamczyz (PF), Anton Grady (F/C)
1. At NC State on Dec. 8 - The Wolfpack will be among the ACC’s best this season with C.J. Leslie deciding not to turn pro, three other starters back and a corpse of McDonald’s All-Americans joining the mix. This matchup provides a televised look at how CSU can compete.
2. Old Dominion on Nov. 17 - In their last season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference (they’re joining Conference USA), the Monarchs are starting over with their starters. They’ve been picked by several outlets to finish near the middle of the CAA, offering a solid opportunity for a young CSU team to reel in a solid mid-major win at home.
3. At Akron on Dec. 23 - The Vikes have won this intrastate matchup the last two seasons, but the Zips are the favorites to win big in the MAC this season. Akron’s Zeke Marshall and Alex Abreu will make keeping bragging rights difficult for CSU.
1. Frontcourt depth. While Kamczyc is a returning starter, Grady played starter-like minutes last season as the year went on. Mason also saw some significant time, and 6-7 junior Devon Long and 6-9 junior Ludovic Ndaye also bring plenty of experience back from time spent last season on the bench. Scales also will challenge the returners for minutes.
2. Tim Kamczyc realized. Kamczyc can score with the best of them, but he previously hasn’t gotten huge possessions. That should change this season, and the senior will get some deserved attention.
3. Anton Grady. His passion is almost as evident as his talent. He’ll cause matchup problems for every Horizon League team.
1. Getting to the stripe. The Vikings ranked dead last in the Horizon League in both getting to the stripe and keeping opponents off the stripe last season, and the exit of Aaron Pogue changes the dynamic underneath. They need to capitalize.
2. Backcourt experience. Lee, Douglas, Forbes and Trey Lewis come in as an untested backcourt rotation with giant-sized Montgomery-Brown-Harmon shoes to fill.
3. Defense. What made CSU’s backcourt so exceptional last season is that they played effective and disruptive defense. The Vikes made their opponents search for shots, garnering the lowest opponent eFG% in the league (45.8 percent) and the second-worst opponent turnover rate (23.7 percent) that meant CSU came into every game with a defensive advantage. With that backcourt gone, can the new rotation keep pace?
The Horizon League’s media voters tabbed the Vikings fifth, and my numbers tend to agree. While they may rank last in the league in returning minutes, possessions and scoring, some of the Vikings’ best returners actually were playing off of the bench last season because their corpse of starting seniors was just so good.
They won’t be as dominant as they had been the last two seasons, but I expect solid defensive play and a competitive frontcourt to keep CSU in the upper half of the league standings.