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Conference Catchup: Ivy stands ground; Canaan return bolsters Murray State

by | College Basketball Blogger
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Amaker is optimistic about Harvard's chances this season, but has concerns about his frontcourt. (US Presswire)  
Amaker is optimistic about Harvard's chances this season, but has concerns about his frontcourt. (US Presswire)  

And now, we give attention to all the other programs that have made news, should be good next season and are downright notable. There are plenty out there, you know. Coaches at small schools everywhere have spent just as much time -- if not more, in some cases -- grinding in the offseason, arranging schedules, going through stresses to get their programs to another level, a higher level. Who can be the next mid-major to become a household name? Work is being done somewhere right now to make that happen.

And since this isn't focusing on a primary league, we can't predict order of standings or anything like that. However, I can give you a vague sense of power rankings! So that's below in 140-character shots.

Offseason headlines

1. Isaiah Canaan is coming back: Huge for Murray State, huge for mid-majors, huge for the Ohio Valley. Canaan did what Damian Lillard didn't: came back to a small school to finish business despite bankable draft stock. More on what this decision means below.

2. Ivy League continues without a tournament: There has been a small but passionate pocket of Ivy fans who've longed for the league to step into the profitable 21st century. They want a tournament. But the Ivy won't budge, as the league voted to keep the automatic bid in the hands of the program that wins the regular-season title. I approve. We have 30 other leagues playing often mind-numbing, useless basketball, sometimes to the detriment of the league's best chances at earning wins in the NCAAs. The Ivy never gets its candidate wrong.

3. Cheating at Idaho State? The big, bad Bengals' program may have a rogue booster openly looking to pay incoming players in order to get Idaho State jerseys on their backs. The story depicts a completely unethical and uneasy scenario, but I can't get past the fact that hundred-dolla handshakes are going down at Idaho State. Too perfect.

4. Toledo the latest program to receive postseason ban: Like UConn, Toledo's inability to play in the 2013 postseason is due to the APR. And like UConn, Toledo's saying its cumulative score now clears the bar, but the NCAA is using data that's from an unfair four-year timeframe. Nevertheless, it's a long shot the Rockets see their appeal granted this summer.

5. Montana State got screwed by the NCAA: The decision has come and gone and there will be other cases like this in the future. While I have your attention, let me remind you how a kid from Africa who unknowingly played in two glorified pickup games ended up losing his final year of eligibility because he didn't know this dumb rule. Hate the NCAA for this.

6. At small schools, you can be an AD and hire your son: Because that's what happened at St. Francis of Pennsylvania. Straight-up nepotism.

Big question that remains

Can Murray State become a known commodity?

Canaan's decision to come back was massive. It means Murray State will be favored to win the Ohio Valley again and Canaan will have a chance to play himself into a very nice slot in the NBA Draft. But Murray State, a program that has long been respectable in the OVC and in the state of Kentucky, is one more 25-win year away from being filed under Gonzaga and Butler's genre. It'll take at least an NCAA tournament win too, I think, but this team has so much coming back. There's a good chance of it happening. It's not a program that came from nowhere, but it can turn into a program we can locate, if you get what I mean.

Notable coaches in new spots

Richard Pitino (Florida International), Donnie Tyndall (left Morehead State for Southern Miss), Sean Woods (from Mississippi Valley State to Morehead State), Tommy Dempsey (left his job at Rider for the same one at Binghamton), Keno Davis (Central Michigan), Doug Wojcik (left Tulsa for College of Charleston), Jack Murphy (Northern Arizona), Bashir Mason (Wagner), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop).

NBA Draft report

Could've gone and did: Damian Lillard (Weber State), Dominique Ferguson (Florida International).

Could've gone but stayed: Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), Tony Mitchell (North Texas), Zeke Marshall (Akron), Deonte Burton (Nevada).

Transfers at schools of interest

Coming: Amos Wilson (Lamar from Collin County Junior College), Hondo Webb (Lamar from Collin County Junior College), Dexter Fields (Murray State from UAB), Duke Mondy (Oakland from Providence), Kadeem Green (Ohio from Missouri), Travis Wilkins (Ohio from Snow College).

Going: Karon Abraham (Robert Morris), Tre Lynch (Lamar), Max Hooper (Harvard), Harley Nussman (Murray State), Jaylen Bland (Murray State), Nick Mabbutt (South Dakota State), Sam Francis (South Dakota State), Zack Monaghan (South Dakota State), Kyle Smyth (Iona), TyQuane Goard (Ohio), Ethan Jacobs (Ohio), Ryan McKeaney (Vermont), Four McGlynn (Vermont), Chris Santo (Vermont), Kyle Sikora (Oakland), Justin Drummond (Loyola-Maryland), Pierson Williams (Loyola-Maryland).

Team commentary in 140 characters or less

Murray State: Outside of Canaan, Racers kept Steve Prohm, which was huge. Prohm was tempted, but ultimately stuck around, which kept Canaan from leaving.

Belmont: The Bruins move to the OVC, meaning they'll tussle with Murray State. This is perhaps my favorite conference realignment story.

Harvard: Staff is optimistic about next season but knows it will be more uphill. Low-post presence is biggest concern. Name to know: Steve Moundou-Missi.

South Dakota State: Have written this entire catchup piece with Nate Wolters on my mind the whole time. Treasuring the fact he's only a junior.

Oakland: Sources tell me Oakland really wants into the Horizon, and belief is the feeling is mutual. Oakland is unlikely to move out of Summit next season, though.

Middle Tennessee State: Kermit Davis had job opportunities and passed on them because he's committed to turning this program into something stable as iron.

Davidson: Bob McKillop has a 6-foot-10 senior named Jake Cohen who has a chance to turn himself into one of the best big men in the country.

Ohio: Bobcats lost John Groce to Illinois. But D.J. Cooper will be a senior. One of my five favorite guards in the nation. Can get team back to NCAAs.

Loyola-Maryland: Jimmy Patsos had his first taste of mainstream love. After Loyola's tourney drought, can we see the start of a MAAC mini dynasty?

Vermont: Ryan Pierson transfers in from Northeastern, but UVM will be pressed to repeat in the America East in John Becker's second year.

Iona: Scott Machado graduated, will be drafted. Mike Glover: also gone. So the team is now in MoMo Jones' hands? This will be spectacle, defined.

Lamar: Pat Knight's team lost seven players from last season, graduates and transfers included. No idea what to expect, but Knight will make it interesting.

Long Beach State: One of my favorite mids from last season is in same boat as Lamar. A lot of talent gone. The Beach made West Coast hoops fun -- and watchable.

Final thought
This is going to be quite fun(ny) to look back on even as early as Christmas. I haven't touched on all potential teams -- because there's just too many. We've done catchups with 10 leagues, meaning the leftovers account for more than half of the D-I teams out there. There's no way to peg every program and player of impact for next season. That's the best part. It's a simple notion, but I love that there are hundreds of players and coaches working toward achieving big things at small places. These things, most of them, won't amount to huge or national headlines, but they'll be progressive steps -- and some will be bad decisions, surely -- in the evolution or changing of a program, a life, a path. We pride ourselves on spotlighting the small guys here on the site, and when we're not doing it on the front page, we're keeping at it on the blog.
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