By Scott Haynes, Associate College Basketball Editor
OUTLOOK: There are only two remaining programs in the NCAA Division I not belonging to a conference in 2012-2013.
The Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners managed a winning record under the independent status, but they did not pick up any notable victories along the way. Coach Rod Barnes will guide the program into the Western Athletic Conference next season.
New Orleans is back at the Division I level after spending a few seasons trying to reclassify to a lower level. The Privateers will migrate to the Southland Conference at the end of the season.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Cal State Bakersfield, 2. New Orleans.
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:
CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD The Roadrunners are guided by second-year head coach Rod Barnes, who led the program to a 16-15 record in his first season with the school. CSUB had its season end with a 75-69 loss to Utah State in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Barnes should be able to duplicate his inaugural success with the talented trio of Stephon Carter (12.1 ppg), Issiah Grayson (10.2 ppg, 179 assists), and Zach Lamb (10.2 ppg) manning his backcourt for the second year in a row. Brandon Barnes, who is the son of the team's head coach, will also be eligible to suit up this season after sitting out last season to complete his transfer from Lipscomb.
NEW ORLEANS Coach Mark Slessinger managed to lead the Privateers to a 17-15 overall record in 2011-2012, but they will face much tougher competition on a consistent basis as a member of Division I this season. UNO was just 1-5 against Division I schools with its only victory being a 63-56 triumph over Alcorn State. The Privateers were outscored by an average of 1.6 ppg. The loss of forward Antonio Wertz (11.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) will hurt, but a crop of interesting recruits surfaced shortly after the school announced its intent to return to the Division I level. Kevin Hill (6-7, 190) and former UIC Flame Eddie Denard (6-6, 230) join the team this season to help Lovell Cook (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) in the paint. Junior Max Banchy (6-2, 170) and senior Rarlensee Nelson (5-8, 180) will be asked to handle the ball and facilitate more to replace the departed Brandon Knight's team-leading 150 assists.