Boston College Eagles
(Head Coach: Jim Christian, Atlantic Coast Conference) – Jim Christian welcomes back nine players from last season’s rotation that earned three wins over eventual NCAA Tournament invitees (Florida State, Louisville, Minnesota)…leading the pack is forward Nik Popovic, who is the Eagles’ leading returning scorer at 14.5 ppg…he also hauled down 7.2 rebounds a game…Popovic is one of two returning players in the ACC to rank in the top 20 in scoring and rebounding and top 10 in field goal percentage…guard Wynston Tabbs was an integral part of the BC lineup prior to suffering a season-ending injury…prior to injury, Tabbs was the only freshman nationally to average 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.1 steals per game…BC went 10-5 when Tabbs played and 4-11 without him in the lineup…junior Steffon Mitchell ranked among the ACC leaders in rebounds for the second straight season, pulling down 7.9 rebounds per game – good for fifth in the conference.
Saint Louis Billikens
(Head Coach: Travis Ford, Atlantic 10 Conference) – In three years, Travis Ford has rebuilt the Billikens program…in his first season, SLU won 12 games and followed that with a 17-win campaign…last season, the Billikens won 23 games, including four in four days to capture the Atlantic 10 tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament…the 23 wins were the most since the 2013-14 season…third-team All-Atlantic 10 selection forward Hasahn French posted averages of 9.3 points and 8.4 rebounds a game to go along with 66 blocked shots…6-3 guard Jordan Goodwin averaged 10.5 points and an impressive 7.5 rebounds a year ago…he also had 123 assists and 66 steals.
(Head Coach: Casey Alexander, Ohio Valley Conference) – Casey Alexander takes over the helm of his alma mater after the retirement of Rick Byrd, who won 805 games and led his team to a 27-6 record and an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament…Alexander comes to Belmont with an impressive resume of his own, most recently leading Lipscomb to the most wins in school history (29) in reaching the finals of the 2019 NIT…10 players and three starters return this season for the Bruins, led by center Nick Muszynski, who registered 14.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and a team-best 70 blocked shots last year en route to freshman All-America honors…guard Grayson Murphy netted 9.6 ppg and dished out 214 assists a year ago.
Eastern Washington Eagles
(Head Coach: Shantay Legans, Big Sky Conference) – Eastern Washington won 13 of its final 19 games in reaching the championship game of the Big Sky tournament last season…this year, three starters are back as Shantay Legans enters his third season at the helm of the Eags’ program…leading the way are EWU’s top two scorers from a year ago – second-team All-Big Sky selection forward Mason Peatling, who amassed 15.5 ppg to go along with a 7.5 rpg average, and third-team honoree Jacob Davison, who tallied 15.2 ppg a season ago…point guard Tyler Kidd averaged 9.9 ppg and handed out 96 assists last season…the Eags previously played in the 2015 Gotham Classic.
High Point Panthers
(Head Coach: Tubby Smith, Big South Conference) – Tubby Smith is in his second season at his alma mater, leading the Panthers to a 16-15 record a year ago…in 28 seasons as a head coach, Smith has led his teams to 613 wins and 20 postseason appearances, including 18 NCAA Tournament trips, and the 1998 National Championship (Kentucky)…this year he welcomes his first full recruiting class, which features a pair of first-team All-North Carolina honorees in guard John Michael Wright, a McDonald’s All-America nominee, and guard Bryant Randleman…guard Curtis Holland III is the Panther’s leading returning scorer at 7.6 ppg.
Head coach Jamie Dixon has guided the Panthers to 307 wins in 12 seasons at the helm of the program, winning at least 20 games in 11 of those campaigns…he has also led Pitt to the postseason all 12 seasons, including 10 NCAA Tournament berths and a trip to last year’s NIT…the Panthers enter the 2015-16 season with four starters returning, including leading scorer Jamel Artis (13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and leading rebounder Michael Young (7.3 rpg, 13.4 ppg), both of whom will be juniors…Pittsburgh has been to 25 NCAA Tournaments with one trip to the Final Four.
GET THIS: Pitt ranks among the nation’s top six programs in winning percentage (.765, 364-121) over the past 14 years. During that span, the Panthers have made one NCAA Elite Eight appearance, five Sweet Sixteen appearances, won six Big East titles, and advanced to 12 of the last 14 NCAA Tournaments.
KEEPING GOOD COMPANY: Pitt is one of only nine schools nationally to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 12 of the last 14 seasons: Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, Pitt, Texas, and Wisconsin.
TOP THIS: Pitt is the only team in the last 10 years to post wins over top 15 teams from Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Villanova, and West Virginia.
THE MAN: Jamie Dixon is in his 13th season as a head coach with 307 career victories. He already ranks ninth in NCAA history for most coaching wins through 13 seasons.
The Wildcats are coming off their first season as a member of the Atlantic 10…after being picked 12th in the league’s preseason poll, Davidson won the A-10 regular season title and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament…four starters return for the Wildcats, led by the back court of junior Jack Gibbs (16.2 ppg, 120 assists) and senior Brian Sullivan (12.7 ppg, 124 assists)…head coach Bob McKillop will enter his 27th season at Davidson, having amassed 496 victories…the Wildcats have participated in 13 NCAA Tournaments, eight of which have come during McKillop’s tenure.
HALL OF FAMER: When Bob McKillop strolls the sidelines during the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 20, he will do so as a new member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, having been inducted on September 16. Although he has been at Davidson for 27 seasons, McKillop is a New Yorker, born in Queens and growing up in Long Island.
DID YOU KNOW, PART I: The Wildcats are averaging 23.4 wins a year dating back to 2004-05 season. To keep that going, Davidson returns four starters from last season, including all-conference performers Brian Sullivan, Jack Gibbs, and Peyton Aldridge.
DID YOU KNOW, PART II: Each of the last four seasons has seen a Wildcat named conference Player of the Year. Last season it was graduated Tyler Kalinoski. In addition, Bob McKillop was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.
Eastern Washington Eagles
EWU posted a 26-9 record en route to winning a share of the Big Sky Conference regular season championship, the league’s postseason tournament championship, and earning a NCAA Tournament berth for the second time ever (2003-04)…head coach Jim Hayford, the Big Sky co-Coach of the Year, welcomes back five letterwinners and three 2014-15 redshirts, including senior forward Venky Jois, a first-team all-league honoree who averaged of 16.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg…forward Bogdan Bliznyuk was named the Big Sky’s Freshman of the Year for averaging 8.7 ppg and 4.0 rpg last season.
THE FOUNDATION: Head coach Jim Hayford took over an Eastern team four years ago that had been to the Big Sky Tournament just once in five seasons. With 66 victories overall and 39 league wins under Hayford, EWU experienced the best four-year stretch since 2000-04 when Eastern had 69 wins overall and 41 in the Big Sky.
CLASSROOM SUCCESS: For the second year in a row, EWU was honored with the NABC Team Academic Excellence Award. Eastern’s 3.27 team grade point average was the best in the Big Sky Conference in the 2014-15 season, and .20 better than the team’s 3.07 average of a year ago.
VENKY, VENKY GOOD: Venky Jois was named to the All-Big Sky Conference first team as a junior in 2014-15, and then was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Tournament team. He also has a 3.51 grade point average as an interdisciplinary studies major (biology/pre-med emphasis). He is a three-time member of the Big Sky All-Academic team and was a member of the NABC Honors Court as a junior.
Morehead State Eagles
The Eagles went 17-17 and advanced to the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament last season…senior guard Brent Arrington leads a group of six returning players from a year ago after averaging 11.1 ppg to go along with 77 assists and 65 steals…he’s joined in the back court by junior Corban Collins (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg)…head coach Sean Woods is in his fourth season at Morehead State…the 35 wins over his first two seasons are the most by any Eagles’ coach in history.
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NEW BLOOD: MSU welcomes eight new players this season, including two true freshmen (Malik Maitland, Lamontray Harris) and six junior college transfers (Ty’Quan Bitting, Keion Alexander, DeJuan Marrero, Xavier Moon, Treshaad Williams, Ronnye Beamon). Only six players return from last season’s 17-17 squad.
THE BEST: During head coach Sean Woods’ first three seasons at Morehead State, the Eagles won 52 games, which is the most for any coach in his first three seasons in MSU history. Wood came to Morehead State after a successful four-year run at Mississippi Valley State.
Western Carolina Catamounts
Head coach Larry Hunter, who has won 664 games in 35 seasons as a head coach, welcomes back 10 players, including four starters, from a team that went 15-17 a year ago in advancing to the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament…leading the way is senior guard Mike Brown, who was the Catamounts’ second leading scorer at 13.8 ppg and their leading rebounder at 6.3 rpg…also back is senior guard Rhett Harrelson, who averaged 11.8 ppg and handed out 73 assists.
HISTORICAL FIRSTS: Western Carolina’s Henry Logan – the program’s all-time leading scorer – helped break the color barrier in college basketball when he signed with WCU in 1964, becoming the first African-American collegiate athlete in the history of North Carolina and perhaps at any predominantly white institution in the southeastern United States. Logan scored an astounding 3,290 points – an average of 30.7 points per game – during his career and was a four-time NAIA All-America selection.
Western Carolina also gave birth to the first 3-point shot in NCAA history as former Catamount Ronnie Carr buried a 3-pointer in WCU’s 77-70 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 29, 1980.
STAYING HOME: All three Western Carolina assistant coaches call WCU their alma mater. Anquell McCollum played from 1993-96 and is a member of WCU’s 12-man, All-20th Century team. Brigham Waginger played from 2007-10 and shattered the school’s career record for steals by 64, finishing with 285 career thefts. Willie Freeman played for two seasons from 2000-02 and was a starter for the Catamounts from day one and later served as team captain after transferring from Spartanburg Methodist College.