The Fresno State Bulldogs join former WAC member Nevada in an attempt to navigate the MWC in search for the .500 status, a status not reached by the Bulldogs since the 2006-07 season. Head Coach Rodney Terry is entering his 2nd year in hopes that 2nd year will sail more smoothly. The Bulldogs were 13-20 overall and got chewed up by the WAC and only had a mere 3-11 conference record to display their efforts. The transition from the, considerably weak, WAC to the much more competitive MWC may be a rough one for the Bulldogs, though the return of 4 of the top 5 scorers will inevitably help them compete, and notch in a couple wins in the non-conference season and give them momentum in their first year in the MWC.
Coach: Rodney Hood (2nd year)
Key Returnees: SG Kevin Olekiabe: 17.8 PPG-3.2 RPG
PG Tyler Johnson: 9.3 PPG-2.5 APG
SF Jerry Brown: 8.8 PPG-5.5 RPG
PF Kevin Foster: 8 PPG-5.4 RPG-0.8 BPG
C Tanner Giddings: Redshirt freshman
Key Losses: G Steven Shepp: 5.6 PPG-5 APG
G Johnathan Willis: 10.3 PPG-4.2 RPG
Projected Staring 5:
SG Kevin Olekiabe
PG Tyler Johnson
SF Jerry Brown
PF Kevin Foster
PF Braeden Anderson
Team Overview: The Guard play for the Bulldogs will be crucial for their success as their top two returning scorers contribute the most points in PG Tyler Johnson (9.3 PPG-2.5 APG) and All WAC First Team SG Kevin Olekiabe (17.8 PPG-3.2 RPG). The play of the front court will also be key for the Bulldogs because of the forward presence on the team. PF Kevin Foster and SF Jerry Brown are the only two big men returning for the Bulldogs; PF Braeden Anderson will likely join the starting 5 for a 3-2 Forward-Guard ratio.
True freshman Robert Upshaw should also crack the starting lineup, but he sustained a leg injury during the first week of Fresno State's practice, and is out indefinitely. Upsahw was ranked as the No. 52 player in Rivals, and the 12th power forward in the nation, for the 2012 class.
Key Opponents: @ UCLA, @ Texas, VS Colorado
UCLA: Can we finally say that UCLA is back? That's what we said last year about Ben Howland's underwhelming pre-season 17th ranked Bruin team that finished with a 19-14 record (no post season tournaments of any kind) and set a blaze to Howland's seat: perhaps that was an exaggeration. UCLA is inching back to their respectable title as a basketball powerhouse, and nabbing the #2 recruit in Shabazz Muhammad certainly helps that cause. Muhammad is joined by fellow All American's SF Kyle Anderson and C Tony Parker. Former Tar Heel PG Larry Drew II (4.4 PPG-3.9 APG) transfers to UCLA in order to reunite with fellow Tar Heels PF David Wear (10.2 PPG-6.3 RPG) and PF Travis Wear (11.5 PG-5.9 RPG-1.2 BPG). The frontcourt of the Bruins will be unparalleled to any other team in college basketball as the Bruins starting 5 will likely be sporting 4 Forwards (with the exception of Muhammad of being a Guard-Forward combo) and Drew II running the point. In case the Bruins have trouble blowing out the Bulldogs when they play in LA, they have C Joshua Smith (9.9 PPG-4.9 RPG) waiting in the wings.
Texas: The Longhorns are never easy team to play (ask Kansas) and will most likely be an "L" on the Bulldog's schedule. Texas starts out the season as the #24 team in the nation and with good reason. Rick Barnes has done an outstanding job in his 14 years in Austin by getting the Longhorns to the big dance every year he has been there and intends on getting the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in a row. Top Scorer (and ball-hog) G J'Covan Brown (20.1 PG-3.8 APG) left Texas early so that he may pursue his NBA dreams, but like any Longhorn, he can be replaced. Super sophomore PG Myck Kabongo (9.6 PPG-5.2 APG) and SG Sheldon McClellan (11.3 PPG-3.3 RPG) headline the Texas backcourt and add C Cameron Ridley for a powerful Texas core, one that will not be beat by the Bulldogs.
Colorado Buffaloes: The Colorado Buffaloes are slowly establishing their selves as a basketball power in the Pac-12 as they won the conference tournament in their first year as a starter and made it to the big dance for the first time since 2003. The Buff's return PG Askia Booker (9.1 PPG-2.7 RPG), SG Spencer Dinwiddie (10 PPG-3.6 PRG), and double-double machine SF Andre Roberson (11.6 PPG-11.1 RPG) Roberson is the bread and butter of this Buffaloes team as he also lead last year's starting 5 in steals per game (1.3), blocks per game (1.9), and field goal percentage (.510). Colorado will likely add ESPN 100 recruits SF Xavier Johnson and C Josh Scott to the starting 5 for what will be a powerful frontcourt.
The Rest: VS Long Beach State, @ Long Beach State, VS Pacific, @ Washington State, @ UC Riverside, @ Cal Poly, @ Southern Illinois, VS San Diego Christian, VS UC Irvine, VS Sonoma State.
Non-Conference Schedule Prediction: 8-5 (Losses @ Long Beach State, @ UCLA, @ Texas, VS Colorado, @ Washington State)
The Bulldog's non-conference slate is chalk full of other RPI quality teams like Long Beach State and Washington State, though if the Bulldogs can beat even one of those opponents it would be an accomplishment for the Bulldogs. Factor in that more than half (7) of their games are on the road, it would be a miracle if they were to finish with an 8-5 stance before conference play.