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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

August 30th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball

 

Rice Owls

Overall Rank: #72

Conference Rank: #3 C-USA

 

2005-06: 12-16, 6-8, 6th (t)

2005-06 postseason: none

 

Morris Almond and Lorenzo Williams provide a great 1-2 combination at Rice.  The problem is nobody behind them are proven quality players.  If a few players can step up and become more productive, Rice has a decent shot at ending in the top two of the conference. 

 

Who’s Out: J.R. Harrison and Jamaal Moore leave some questions in the frontcourt.  Harrison averaged 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds during his senior campaign, while Moore added on 8.0 points and 4.0 boards.  Seldom used Arthur Culver and Jason Bridges have also graduated.

 

Who’s In: Coach Willis Wilson’s group of newcomers will add some depth to the Owls roster.  Lawrence “Cliff” Ghoram can help out immediately at both guard spots.  The 6-5 Baton Rogue, Louisiana native is a great scorer and can get to the basket and finish.  Chris Hagan is the heir apparent to the point guard spot and will spend the year as one of the backups to Williams.  Hagan is a great passer and a proven winner and should be a solid option as a freshman.  Small forward Charles Belton redshirted last year and will add some depth on the wings.  Power forward Marius Craciun is just the third junior college transfer to head to Rice during Coach Wilson’s 14 year tenure, which can imply all sorts of things.  The most extreme being Coach Wilson is not happy with the frontcourt or Craciun is too good to turn away.  The truth lies somewhere inbetween.  Craciun can score inside and out and, with his experience, will battle for a starting job.  At the least, the 6-8 Romanian should be a major contributor off the bench by mid-season. 

 

Who to Watch: All-America Candidate Almond and point guard Williams are fun to watch and will have to carry on their shoulders.  Almond averaged a team high 21.9 points, which was good enough for first in the conference, and tied for team highs with 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.  He will be the team leader in every sense of the phrase.  Williams is a solid point guard who averaged 10.5 points and 6.1 assists as a junior.  With that duo of seniors on the floor, Rice can win those tough games down the stretch.

 

Final Projection: How successful the Owls can really be depends on the other returning players.  Patrick Britton, Paulius Packevicius and Matt Hagen have starting experience up front and Aleks Perka showed promise as a freshman.  In the backcourt, sophomores Rodney Foster and Cory Pflieger will need to step up.  Foster is a solid back-up point guard and Pflieger, with a little more consistency, can become a threat from long range.  It appears that the top of Conference USA has moved down and the bottom has moved up.  There shouldn’t be too much separating second place from eighth place.  With senior leaders like Almond and Williams, Rice has the experience to make a nice run in the conference. 

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT

 

Projected Starting Five:

Lorenzo Williams, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game

Cory Pflieger, Sophomore, Guard, 3.3 points per game

Morris Almond, Senior, Forward, 21.9 points per game

Patrick Britton, Junior, Forward, 5.6 points per game

Paulius Packevicius, Junior, Forward, 2.7 points per game

73 Miami (OH) » Complete List » 71 UNLV

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