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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Team preview: Montana State

Blue Ribbon Yearbook

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

COACH AND PROGRAM

There have been so many unanticipated changes to the Montana State basketball roster the last two years that a revolving door might be a worthy addition to the locker room. Since the end of the 2010-11 season, seven players with remaining eligibility have either transferred, quit, been ruled ineligible or dismissed.

Will that lack of continuity make Bobcats coach Brad Huse the next person to exit the program? Huse is heading into the last season of his contract, and does so after the Bobcats went 12-19 in 2012, their worst record since 2006-07 when Huse first came aboard as coach. It also marked the fourth losing record for Montana State in Huse's six seasons in charge.

A tumultuos offseason did not help matters. Since Montana State's season ended in the opening round of the Big Sky tournament, the Bobcats' list of tribulations includes the following:

" The NCAA ruled starting center Mohammed Fall out of eligibility, thanks to two showcase exhibition games he played in four years ago.

" Two other players, including double-figure scorer and starting small forward Shawn Reid, quit the team.

" Tre Johnson, the starting power forward, and Jeff Budinich were arrested this summer on charges of criminal trespass, breaking into a vehicle and theft.

After the arrest, Huse cancelled the team's scheduled trip to Canada to play some exhibition games. He kicked off Johnson, pulled Budinich's scholarship and had to go back on the recruiting road to fill those two spots on the roster. After all that, one of Montana State's assistant coaches decided to step down for family reasons.

"One of the issues we've had the last couple years, we haven't played as good of team basketball as we could have," Huse said. "I think this team is really committed to that.

"Overall, once the dust settles, I feel like we have a very good team."

And, if all goes according to plan, a more athletic team. The perimeter is proven, although MSU will be breaking in a new point guard, and Huse thinks his front-line players are better shooters than last season's group.

"We're going to open it up a little bit," he said. "Not be a run-and-gun team by any means, but put pressure on the defense with an attack mode. We'll not be as conservative as we were the last couple years."

Xavier Blount (11.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.0 apg) returns after leading the team in scoring -- a statistical feat he achieved despite missing the final five games with injuries sustained in a bar fight. Huse challenged the 6-4 Blount to raise all his shooting percentages during his senior year.

Christian Moon, a 6-2 senior, has the potential to put up points in bunches -- increments of three, to be pre-cise. In his first tour of duty after transferring from junior college, Moon (10.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.3 spg) hit a team-high 58 3-pointers while logging a .384 percentage that ranked eighth in the Big Sky.

Technically, Antonio Biglow is a newcomer, but the 6-0 guard enrolled at MSU in January and practiced with the team. Biglow (22.4 ppg) originally was part of last year's recruiting class but had to stay at Mt. San Antonio College for the fall semester clearing up his eligibility issue. That cost Biglow (22.4 ppg in 2010-11) his redshirt year, but on the bright side he's the front-runner to be the new starting point guard.

Michael Dison (3.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.1 apg) had a solid freshman year, and the 5-9 sophomore from Houston figures to be the first guard off the bench this season.

The Bobcats also added 5-11 freshman point guard Marcus Colbert, who set the career points record at Post Falls High School and led his team to the state title game in Idaho's biggest classification.

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Jamie Stewart (9.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg), a 6-1 senior, is back after being ruled academically ineligible for the latter half of last season.

Up front, the Bobcats have zero proven Division I players at either forward or center. Expect a committee approach.

"We led the league in blocked shots last year," Huse said. "I don't see that happening this year, but we should be able to score the basketball with more efficiency."

Budinich (4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg) is the tallest guy on the roster at 6-10 -- but the junior averaged just 11 minutes per game and landed in the doghouse with this summer's arrest. The Bobcats also bring back Blake Brumwell (0.6 ppg, 0.9 rpg), a 6-7, 250-pound sophomore.

Huse signed two junior college transfers. Junior Flavien Davis stands 6-5 and should replace Reid as the starting small forward. Davis (16.4 ppg) won all-region honors twice at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College and drew a program-record 75 charges in two seasons there.

Paul Egwuonwu, the other transfer, is a 6-9 center who spent time at two junior colleges after high school in Boise, where he hit an astounding 10 3-pointers during a state tournament game.

Montana State also added two freshman forwards, Ryan Shannon and Danny Robison, both listed at 6-8. Shannon (10.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg) averaged a double-double for three straight seasons at Mountlake Terrace High in Marysville, Wash. and was one of the top forward prospects in the Apple State. Robison was voted Gatorade Player of the Year in Montana after leading Billings West High to a state championship.

In August, Huse signed 6-4 junior shooting guard Calen Coleman (16.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 apg) out of Cuesta (Calif.) College.

Later that month, 6-9 sophomore Eric Stewart decided to transfer in from SMU, where he appeared in five games as a true freshman. Norman was a double-double performer as a high-school senior in the San Diego area, and has petitioned the NCAA for the chance to play right away.

Mitchell Schwab, a 6-4 redshirt freshman, rounds out the roster.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B-
BENCH/DEPTH: C-
FRONTCOURT: D
INTANGIBLES: C-

First, the good news. Montana State has a deep and talented contingent of perimeter players and, while the candidates at point guard may take time to adjust, the play at that position should see an upgrade in 2012.

Unfortunately, the Bobcats boast one of the weakest frontcourts in the Big Sky. Montana State will miss Fall at center, and there's nothing even approaching a go-to scorer in the paint. If the Bobcats have to rely on the perimeter to do all their scoring, it could be another long season in Bozeman.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.