USD Men's Basketball 2003-2004 West Coast Conference


OPPOFITUNITY KNOCKS Nebraska-Kearney leads a group of up-and-comers looking to seize a shot at championship glory this season BY ELI PACHECO W ith champion Northeastern State needing to replace five key

head coach, and will call on asenior nucleus of Spencer Ross, Moustapha Diouf and Hector Valenzuela to repeat as Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Con– ference regular-season champs. The Tritons were 13-1 at home last season, and return guard Sharrod McCree (13.9 ppg) and forwards Marcus Bryant (12.9) and Anthony Washington (10.5). Eckerd was only 5-5 on the road , but finished 25-7 overall, with two eight-game winning streaks. All five starters and the Broncos' top six scorers return. Last season, Cal Poly Pomona won the West Region in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1976. Leading rebounder and scorer Jeff Bonds returns, and the Broncos set aschool mark by allowing only 63.5points per game last season. Elad lnbar leads 12 returning 5 players for the River Hawks, who ~ won a school record 28 games last ~ season. lnbar led Massachusetts ~ Lowell with 16.1 ppg and 6.9 rpg . He ~ led the Northeastern Conference by V, ~ making 52.9 percent of his three- fil point field goal attempts. "' ::, 8 9. Millersville (Pa.) The Marauderswere 13-0at home last season and won 20 of 22 to finish the campaign. Michah Davenport, 6. Eckerd (Fla.) 7. Cal Poly Pomona 8. Massachusetts Lowell

players, and perennial power Kentucky Wesleyan dealing with the aftermath of an NCAA eligibility infraction from last season, Nebraska-Kearney is rising to the top. The Lopers are coming off their best season, returning three starters and bringing in atalented group of transfers to claim our preseason No. 1spot. The Lopers posted aschool-record 30-3mark last season, and return three starters and seven letterwinners. Forward Nick Branting (14.8ppg) and guard Brian Dunagan (10.3ppg) were all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference picks aseason ago. Conference Coach of the Year Tom Kropp has added three JUCO transfers, including swingman Will Taukiuvea (17.5 ppg at McCook (Neb.) Community College). Jeff Oliver led the Coyotes to their fourth straight California Collegiate Athletic Association title . All – Conference wing Jonathan Levy returns, and the squad adds post depth with transfer Joe Dural (13 ppg at Moorpark. Calif.) and local prep star Jacob Daigle (17 ppg as a high school senior). 1. Nebraska-Kearney 2. California State-San Bernardino In his first season, head coach

Nick Branting (top) and Brian Dunagan (above), who led Nebraska-Kearney to a school-record 30 wins last season, return

3. Northeastern State (Okla.)

Last season's national champs lost five to graduation, and have attempted to reload with five JUCO transfers.

to lead the surging Lopers.

who emerged late last season and scored 30 in a tournament victory against Belmont Abbey, blocked 58 shots last season and shot 59 percent. 10. Michigan Tech The Huskies, who attained their first No. 1ranking last season, have won two straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournaments. Replacing Matt Cameron (16.8 ppg, 6.5rpg) won't be easy, but Michigan Tech returns two all-league second-team picks in Jason Marcotte and Josh Buettner and has talented freshman guard Justin Cushingberry coming in. ■

Howwell NABC Coach ofthe Year Larry Gipson can mesh the newtalent will determine the Redmen's chances of arepeat.

4. Kentucky Wesleyan This is annually one of Division ll's elite programs (six straight title-game appearances with two championships), and despite the eligibility problems, KWC will sport asolid nucleus again this season, led by forward Damon Garris, the team's leading returning scorer. 5. Queens (N.C.) The Royals ended their finest season by reaching the Rnal Four and finishing 29-4. Barclay Radebaugh takes over as

Eli Pacheco is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.

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