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Great West preview: All of the talent, with none of the perks

Jeremy Robinson, Tim Shelton

Chicago State’s Jeremy Robinson (31) blocks a shot by San Diego State forward Tim Shelton (10) and picks up a foul in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)


How does a conference that doesn’t get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament have so much talent? The Great West has that question to answer this season. North Dakota joined the Big Sky Conference this season trimming the Great West to six teams.

Cal State-Bakersfield has an All-Independents team selection in Stephon Carter and two other solid guards in Zach Lamb and Issiah Grayson. Chicago State had the Great West Newcomer of the Year last season in Jeremy Robinson (13.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg in 2011-12). Six junior college transfers also made their way to the Cougars’ roster this season, and they’ll need a lot to improve on last season’s 4-26 record.

NJIT brings back guard Chris Flores (13.1 ppg) and Jim Engles’ Highlanders are coming off back-to-back 15-win seasons. Texas-Pan American has one of the best guards in the six-team conference in Brandon Provost and his 13.4 points and 3.5 apg. The most impressive team in the conference will be Utah Valley State under coach Dick Hunsaker. The Wolverines had a 20-win season in 2011-12 and returns forward Ben Aird and coaches’ son Holton Hunsaker as major contributors. Houston Baptist is trying to bounce back from a 10-20 season, but three double-figure scorers return.

All-Conference Team

G: Stephon Carter, California State-Bakersfield

G: Chris Flores, NJIT

G: Brandon Provost, Texas-Pan American

F: Ben Aird, Utah Valley State

F: Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State

Player of the Year

Jeremy Robinson, Chicago State

Predicted Finish

1.) Utah Valley State

2.) California State-Bakersfield

3.) NJIT

4.) Texas-Pan American

5.) Houston Baptist

6.) Chicago State

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.