medlin

Season Predictions: WAC Basketball

1. Utah State. Preston Medlin. Preston Medlin. Preston Medlin. Who had the highest offensive rating in the WAC last year? I'll give you a hint – it was Preston Medlin. After a quiet freshman year, Medlin redshirted for a season and by all appearances that was a great decision. He still needs to get stronger and understand his roll on defense, but he made 43% of his threes, 58% of his twos, and 80% from the line. JUCO transfer TeNale Roland should be able to step in at the point, and the Aggies have a couple solid 4s in Kyisean Reed and Ben Clifford, and two bigs in Jarred Shaw (6-10, Oklahoma State) and Matt Lopez (6-11, La Salle – won't be eligible until after the fall semester).

2. Denver. WAC newcomer Denver (from the Sun Belt) lost one of their stars when Brian Stafford graduated, but they return stat-stuffing junior Chris Udofia. Udofia led the team in scoring (tied with Stafford), rebounding, assists and blocks. He gets to the line. He shot 62% on twos. He was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. The key will be who steps up behind him. 6-5 sophomore Royce O'Neale had a terrific freshman season, so you can count him in. Guards Chase Hallam and Brett Olson return from injuries which hampered them last year. If they find someone to help out in the paint, then Denver could win this conference.

3. New Mexico State. Head coach Marvin Menzies lost his top three scorers from a year ago (as well as Christian Kabongo, who transferred) including superstar Wendell McKines. But there was plenty of athletic youth behind them, so the defending WAC Tournament champs should be in good position to contend again this year. 6-2 sophomore Daniel Mullings is poised to breakout. And keep an eye on 6-10 junior Tshilidzi Nephawe (from South Africa) who has developed nicely in his first two seasons.

4. Texas-Arlington. Another first year WAC member (from the Southland), the Mavericks return three starters from a team which won their first 15 conference games last season. And they're an entertaining team to watch. Head Coach Scott Cross ran the 13th fastest tempo in the nation last season, and they were the 14th best team in the nation at forcing turnovers. 6-5 senior Kevin Butler and 6-3 senior Cameron Catlett are terrors in the passing lanes.

5. Louisiana Tech. Tech really struggled early last season, but then their offense began clicking and they won seven of eight to reach the WAC final. Now head coach Michael White returns for year No. 2 and needs to show that the late-season team wasn't a fluke. Look for last year's WAC Freshman of the Year Raheem Applebee to blossom into a star this season. He can shoot from anywhere, but needs to work on his ability to get to the line. 6-8 sophomore Isaiah Massey (a transfer from Ole Miss) could be the wildcard.

6. Idaho. The Vandals lost a trio of starters but return a nice inside-out combo in 6-10 senior Kyle Barone and 6-5 junior Stephen Madison. Idaho really slows things down on offense, and will be a nice comparison in the middle of the conference with the Southland newcomers. Look for 3-point specialist Connor Hill (sophomore) to expand his roll – 84% of his shots last season were from beyond the arc.

7. Texas-San Antonio. Texas-San Antonio, another team from the Southland, returns an array of players who can all knock down the three. They made over 39% as a team last year, which makes them capable of pulling big upsets. Last season they made 16-28 while upsetting a 15-0 UT-Arlington team. Unfortunately, coach Brooks Thompson's are typically ranked worse than 200th nationally. That puts a lot of pressure on the 3-point shooters.

8. Seattle. Seattle ends their days as an Independent with their move to the WAC. This team went 9-3 down the stretch last year, but graduated three key players. They ran the fastest tempo in the nation last year and will look to run teams out of the gym.

9. Texas State. On their one-year layover between the Southland and the Sun Belt, Texas State will rely on two senior starters and a bunch of sophomores who struggled as freshmen. The seniors are 6-10 Matt Staff and 5-11 Vonn Jones.

10. San Jose State. The Spartans won one conference game last year and graduated their most efficient offensive option. They still have 6-2 senior James Kinney who will shoot from anywhere at anytime.

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

Preston Medlin, Jr., Utah State (Player of the Year)

Chris Udofia, Jr., Denver

Raheem Applebee, So., Louisiana Tech

Daniel Mullings, So., New Mexico State

Kyle Barone, Sr., Idaho

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