Fresno State Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #89
Conference Rank: #4 WAC
2006-07: 22-10, 10-6, 3rd
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Fresno State and Coach Steve Cleveland are hoping to build off of their NIT appearance last year. Their 22 wins was the highest total for the Bulldogs since the 1995-1996 season and it was their first trip to the postseason since the 2001-2002 campaign. With the absence of a few key players, the Bulldogs may take a small step back, but the newcomers will not allow a big slip this season.
Losing Quinton Hosley and Dominic McGuire is not good. The do everything wings combined to average 27.4 points, 18.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 4.2 blocks per game. Those are some gaudy numbers that will not be easily replaced. Ja’Vance Coleman was still a decent scorer when he suited up for the Bulldogs, but his last season in Fresno was marked with inconsistent shooting. Little used guard Ajay Riding and forward Renato Cesar have wrapped up their collegiate careers.
The out list does not look good, but the in list has some impressive names of its own. Transfers Rekalin Sims and Bryan Harvey will immediately make a huge impact. Sims started six games at Kentucky as a junior and averaged 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. With the expected increase in playing time, the 6-8 forward should drastically improve on those numbers at Fresno State. Harvey has a little less experience, only playing in 18 games with Louisville during the 2005-2006 season, but the 6-5 wing is a tremendous athlete and will help replace the versatility of Hosley and McGuire. Dwight O’Neil is not really a newcomer, but the junior guard redshirted last year and will be suited up and ready to play this season. O’Neil came on strong at the end of the 2005-2006 season and ended the year averaging 10.8 points per game. Even if he does not regain a starting role right away, O’Neil will be a great spark off the bench. With the addition of 6-8 Nedelijko Golubovic and 6-10 Brandon Webster, the Bulldogs have found their frontcourt depth.
Who to Watch:
Point guard Kevin Bell is the new star of the team. The 5-10 senior has led the conference in assists the last two years and he will very likely make it three in a row. Bell is a decent scorer, but occasionally can get a little trigger happy on the long balls. The only concern at the point guard spot is finding a quality backup. Tyson Parker and newcomer Harvey are the prime candidates, but neither are true point guards. Senior Eddie Miller will do the shooting. Miller hoisted up 7.5 long balls per game, which is not as many as it sounds with the Fresno State long range shooting game plan. He made over 36 percent of those shots and averaged 10.5 points per game. Adding another dynamic to his game and getting to the basket would turn Miller from a long range specialist to a big time scorer.
The long range shooting does not end with the perimeter group. Hector Hernandez made 2.5 shots per game from beyond the arc and the 6-9 forward is the most consistent shooter on the team. With the top two rebounders leaving, Hernandez will have to help out on the glass a little more than he needed to last season. Shawn Taylor did not quite do as much as many hoped during his first year at Fresno State. But the 6-11 senior is running out of time to make a big impact. The former Alabama center has some decent offensive moves in the post, but will at least be a defensive stopper under the basket.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Kevin Bell, Senior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Eddie Miller, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Bryan Harvey, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Hector Hernandez, Senior, Forward, 11.2 points per game
Rekalin Sims, Senior, Forward, 11.2 points per game