Thursday, November 08, 2007

2007 World Vision Classic Preview

Games that actually count on the W-L record are here!

This Friday night will be the tip of the 2007 World Vision Classic presented by Pape’ at the Save Mart Center. This years field includes host Fresno State, San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference, Portland of the West Coast Conference, and Liberty of the Big South Conference. Each team play all three opponents in a round robin style tournament. Below we will give a brief overview, who to look for, and what to expect from these 4 teams.


Portland comes in from the West Coast Conference led by second year coach Eric Reveno. Last season the Pilots posted a 9-23 overall record (4-10 WCC). Reveno played for and coached for Mike Montgomery at Stanford, and he is trying to employ much of what Montgomery utilized and succeeded with during his tenure as Cardinal head coach. This is an extremely difficult rebuilding job for Reveno, Portland’s last winning record was during the 94-95 season.

Guard Jamie Jones would have been the leading returning starter for the Pilots, but he was ruled academically ineligible and left school. They will also feel the loss of All-Conference guard Darren Cooper who exhausted his eligibility during a superb senior season.

Portland will come in with one statistical lead over their tournament opponents, 10 of their 13 players on the roster are freshman and sophomores. The early development of this young team will be critical to their success, just how quickly can this team adapt to Reveno’s system and playing at a high level?

The Pilots areas of success will be rebounding and solid interior defense and overall defensive toughness. Robin Smeulders, who was ineligible last season, and Kramer Knutson will be the inside presence and rebounding force the Pilots need. Add freshman Luke Sikma, son of former NBA star Jack Sikma, into the mix on the inside.

Areas of weakness include outside scoring, a lack of a players that can create, and overall athleticism. If the inside game isn’t on or teams force Portland into shooting jumpshots they could be in for a long night. They were the worst 3 point shooting team in the WCC last season.

Taishi Ito will return to point guard duties after starting his freshman season. Ito averaged 7 points and 3 assists per game. At the other guard will be Walter Thompson (4.6 ppg .276 3 pt %). At the small forward will be Sherrard Watson (9 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

Off the bench look for Luke Sikma and guard Nik Raivio, brother of last seasons West Coast Conference MVP Derek Raivio of Gonzaga. Nik isn’t quite the shooter his brother was but he is a smart player who may be starting early into this season for Portland.


Liberty participates in the Big South Conference and comes into this season off of a 14-17 overall record (8-6 conf) with new head coach Ritchie McKay, who was fired from New Mexico. He brings experience and name recognition to Liberty which boasts the conferences largest athletic budget. They Flames are picked sixth in the Big South’s preseason poll.

Liberty lost leading scorer Larry Blair (20.4 ppg). Blair left Liberty as the conferences all-time leading scorer. The guards must pick up the scoring in his absence, but maybe the scoring by committee will be more beneficial for the Flames as unselfishness will equal greater success.

The backcourt will be led by TJ Bannister, a Virginia transfer with one season of eligibility left. He will be one of the top point guards in the Big South and will be hungry with one final year to prove himself. As he goes, so go the Flames, but can he add the scoring punch this team needs since he never showed that ability at Virginia? Joining Bannister in the backcourt will be Anthony Smith (11.4 pp, 39.3 3pt%), who is also a defensive stopper. Look for BJ Jenkins to come in at times and allow McKay to employ a three guard attack.

On the inside will be Forwards Armon Jones and Rell Porter, and Center Alex McClean (14.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg). Jones and Porter will be very inexperienced and the lack of depth behind them is a real concern for the flames. McKay had to scramble to fill the roster because of the late hiring and lack of opportunity to recruit regionally.

The Flames have a challenging non-conference schedule and the depth concerns will be very difficult to overcome. This team is in flatout rebuilding mode with 3 talented players coupled with question marks at the forward spots and a bench that may not provide much help at all.

San Diego

Steve Fisher is entering his ninth season at San Diego State (127-117 at SDSU) and coming off a 22-11 overall record (10-6 MWC). Will the departure of guard Brandon Heath and Forward Mohamed Abukar mean the door is closing on Fisher to make another NCAA run?

Another issue is the dismissal of Jerome Habel, the loss of his 10.9 points and 6.2 rebounds will be felt, Habel was to be a main cog in the Aztec attack. Couple that with the fact that point guard Richie Williams may be suspended for the tournament and you have quite a few early season issues. Habel, Abukar, and Heath accounted for 61% of San Diego States scoring last season.

Junior Forward Lorrenzo Wade (10.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 39 blks) is a very talented player. Fisher will count on Wade to shoulder a much larger load this season and take his game to a new level with all of the departures. The Aztecs will also need guards Richie Williams (7 ppg) and Kyle Spain (6.6 ppg) to step up. They will need to elevate their perimeter accuracy and show the ability to score from the outside to compliment the Aztecs inside game.

They will also look for contributions from newcomers F Ryan Amoroso (Marquette), G Kelvin Davis (UTEP), F Tim Shelton (Local product from Clovis West), and PG DJ Gay right away. They must establish themselves early and gain experience in the non-conference. Gay was a prolific scorer in high school (29.4 ppg).

The Aztecs will struggle in the early going as Fisher tries to solidify a rotation and players fight to establish themselves and for minutes. There is talent on this team but it is unproven and lacks experience so the speed of that development will be key for the Aztecs.

Fresno State (Season Preview):

Steve Cleveland enters his 3rd season with the Bulldogs on the heels of a momentum building season in which the Bulldogs finished 22-10 overall (10-6 WAC) and lost in the first round of the NIT on the road against Georgia.

The Bulldogs main challenge will be replacing the contributions of Forwards Quinton Hosley (13.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Dominic McGuire (13.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3 apg, school record 114 blocks), who entered the NBA after his junior season. Although the Bulldogs have yet to find a true inside presence under Cleveland, Hosley and McGuire provided defensive intensity, rebounding, and a tenacity on both ends of the floor that will be difficult to replace.

First mention will be the fact that FSU will be without transfer Forward Rekalin Sims for the tournament because of academic reasons. Sims should be back Monday, but his absence will provide an opportunity for players to get extended minutes and minutes they may otherwise not have accrued. This may be valuable early in the season.

This team begins and ends with Senior point guard Kevin Bell (9.6 ppg, 5.6 apg). Bell enters as the favorite to be 1st team all WAC as he is the conferences leading returning assist man. Bell will be looked towards to distribute to an outstanding perimeter shooting team, disrupt opposing PGs, provide some scoring punch, and not to mention be the emotional leader of the Bulldogs. Bell is in phenomenal shape and even looks to have added a few pounds of muscle which can only help as he will be called on to play extensive minutes, partly due to the loss of USC transfer Kevin Galloway who fell behind on classwork and transferred to a JC.

At guard with Bell will be Eddie Miller (10.5 ppg, 87 3pt Fgs). Miller led the team in 3 pointers made last season and will pick up where he left off. Coach Cleveland expects Miller to make 4 3 point field goals per game. Miller will be asked to help on the defensive boards with his athleticism, and will need to improve his on the ball defense. Hopefully, his confidence off the dribble has improved and he is more willing to put the ball on the floor when opponents fly out at him. His confidence is of the utmost importance and he must be mentally strong all season.

At the third G/SF spot will be Dwight O’Neil. He is coming off of a redshirt season and will provide instant toughness for the Bulldogs. He will be asked to penetrate and slash to the rim, backup Bell at PG, play tough defense, and help on the glass. He seems to have improved his shooting touch which if true could be deadly for an already perimeter oriented team, and also open up more lanes to penetrate.

The Forwards will be Alex Blair and senior Hector Hernadez (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Blair will fill in for Sims while he is suspended and until he earns his spot back. Blair is an energy player that has defined and narrow roles-rebound the basketball on both ends, play solid defense, and finish when afforded the opportunity to score. Hernandez got valuable experience playing with the Mexican National team in the FIBA Americas tournament. He is in the best shape of his career and will be called on more than ever to provide some semblance of a post presence. He will continue to be a solid three point shooter, but he will be asked to rebound and defend the post also as the Bulldogs are thin in the frontcourt.

Off the bench on the perimeter will be Bryan Harvey, the Louisville transfer, and there may be very minimal minutes for backup PG Myles Green. Harvey brings size to the wing at 6’5” and very solid perimeter shooting. He will have to show an ability to get to the rim and be versatile on an FSU team that needs all players to expand their roles to fill in for obvious shortcomings in multiple facets of the game.

Frontcourt reserves include senior Sean Taylor, freshman Brandon Webster, and fellow freshman Ned Golubovic. Taylor needs to step up in his last season, he will be asked to show improvement in post defense, rebounding on both ends of the floor, and in his general court savvy. Another welcome addition would be Taylor’s ability to hit the jump hook occasionally and show some sort of post game with his back to the basket. His roll is very defined and not much is asked of him. Webster is a long term project who has the ability to become very good. He needs to continue to get in better shape and adjust to the physical nature of the college game. Any court experience he can gain in the early going can only be beneficial as the season progresses. Golubovic was thought to be redshirting but that may not be the case as he has shown the ability to step out and shoot to go with his size.

Lastly, we will focus on who may be the biggest key to the season in Rekalin Sims. Kalin is a transfer from Kentucky with one season to play. He is considered more of an old school player who will not wow opponents with his athleticism but uses his skill around the basket and court sense to make things happen. He is crafty around the basket and possesses the ability to step out and knock down the open jumper. He will have to come up big on the boards and also be able to step inside and show the ability to post up and shoot the jump hook with both hands. He should be extremely focused and hungry as this is last opportunity to leave his mark on college basketball.

Of Note:

Fans attending the tournament games are asked to bring new or gently used basketball. There will be storage bins provided by Papé and World Vision at each of the entrance and there will be one big storage bin collected all the basketball at the end of the day.

The Bulldog Football team will be on the Islands to play undefeated Hawaii, lets keep this thing respectable and get home without any more injuries, this team has suffered more than enough in this season. Ball control, forcing turnovers, winning the special teams battle, and an off night by Colt Brennan and Hawaii will be the necessary recipe for an upset.

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