Depending on if Seton Hall beats Long Beach State in the first round of the Charleston Classic, the Pirates will take on Virginia or Bradley. I preview both teams as well as Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.
Ranked No. 6 in the preseason USA Today poll, the Virginia Cavaliers (30-4) are the favorite to win the Charleston Classic.
After bowing out in the Round of 32 to Michigan State and losing Justin Anderson (12.2 ppg 4 rpg) to the NBA, Tony Bennett is looking to take his team to new heights.
Roster subtractions: Justin Anderson (NBA; 12.2 ppg, 4 rpg), Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 6 rpg)
Key additions: Darius thompson (Tennessee; 2.6 ppg, 2 rpg, 2.4 apg), PF Jarred Reuter, PF/C Mamadi Diakite
Justin Anderson and forward Darion Atkins (7.6 ppg, 6 rpg) are the only guys Bennett loses from last season, so this is a cohesive team that held opponents to under 50 points 15 times last year including under 30 two times, most memorably when they beat Rutgers 45-26 at the Barclays Center.
The Cavs ranked first in the country in defensive efficiency and were top-25 in four other major statistical defensive categories. (Check graphic to the right)
Anthony Gill vs. Angel Delgado will be a big-time matchup while strong 6-5 Malcolm Brogdon will probably be guarded by Derrick Gordon.
Getting to play Virginia is a win no matter how you look at it: It boosts schedule strength and won’t hurt RPI even if the Hall loses. Charleston Classic wise, it also sets up a solid third place game against likely Ole Miss or Oklahoma State, which is a chance for a quality win.
If Seton Hall does lose to Long Beach State in the first round, that surely sets the Pirates up with Bradley in the losers bracket.
The Braves were a poor 9-24 (3-15) in the Missouri Valley last season and have a new head coach in Green Bay’s Brian Wardle. Bradley loses an incredible nine players to transfer or graduation including seven of their top eight scorers.
Roster subtractions: Warren Jones (11.9 ppg), Tramique Sutherland (11.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3 apg), Josh Cunningham (7.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Auston Barnes (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Omari Grier (7.9 ppg), Nate Wells (3 ppg), Nate Morgan (2.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg), Xzavier Taylor (2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg), Anthony Fields (1.2 ppg)
Returnees to watch: Ka’Darryl Bell (6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Donte Thomas (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Mike Shaw (1.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Key additions: Eight freshmen
Bradley has eight incoming freshmen to go along with the three returnees to watch listed above so this is basically a completely different and less experienced team from the 9-24 squad a year ago, so that doesn’t bode well for Bradley.
This will likely be an RPI killer for Seton Hall and stresses the importance of beating Long Beach State in their opening game.
As for Seton Hall’s two most likely third-round opponents, I’ve decided to quickly look at both Ole Miss and Oklahoma State instead of Towson and George Mason.
Like Virginia, the Ole Miss Rebels are also looking to build on a round of 32 exit from the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Andy Kennedy loses a few key players from his 2014-15 rotation, but also returns leading scorer Stefan Moody.
Roster subtractions: Jarvis Summers (12 ppg, 4.8 apg), LaDarius White (11.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg), MJ Rhett (7.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Dwight Coleby (5.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Terrence Smith (3.9 ppg)
Returnees to watch: Stefan Moody (16.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg), Sebastian Saiz (7.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Martavious Newby (4 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Key additions: PF Tomasz Gielo (Liberty; 12 ppg, 6.3 rpg), G Sam Finley (JUCO; 17 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 apg), G/F Rasheed Brooks (JUCO; 14.2 ppg)
Point guard Jarvis Summers, wing LaDarius White, and forwards MJ Rhett and Dwight Coleby have moved on but leading scorer Stefan Moody will see an even larger role in the backcourt while Ole Miss adds Liberty graduate transfer Tomasz Gielo (12 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and two junior college guards in Sam Finley and Rasheed Brooks.
Guard Martavious Newby and forward Sebastian Saiz will likely see larger roles as they return for another season.
I’d expect Ole Miss to be a bubble team/higher seed in the NIT this season but still a top-75 RPI type team that would be a notable win.
Lastly, Travis Ford’s Oklahoma State Sooners are another tournament team from a season ago playing in Charleston.
Roster subtractions: Le’Bryan Nash (17.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2 apg), Anthony Hickey (9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.4 apg), Michael Cobbins (6.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg),
Returnees to watch: Phil Forte (15 ppg), Jeff Newberry (6.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.4 apg),
Key additions: F Chris Olivier (EIU; 13 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Igor Ibaka (JUCO)
The Cowboys lose leading scorer Le’Bryan Nash, center Michael Cobbins and point guard Anthony Hickey, so they will need to be anchored by returning starting guards Phil Forte and Jeff Newberry.
Travis Ford will receive some instant help at forward from Eastern Illinois graduate transfer Chris Olivier and he has a potential gem in the curious case of Igor Ibaka. The brother of NBA star Serge Ibaka, Igor was 22 years old during last season and therefore was too old to compete at his junior college. A forward, Ibaka averaged 13.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg as a freshman at junior college and had offers from Wichita State and Old Dominion.
The Cowboys are generally in the same position as Ole Miss in that they lose a few key players from their NCAA teams a season ago, but do have the potential to play at a similar level. I’d expect both teams to win their first round games against Towson and George Mason, respectively.
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