PREVIEWING THE JIM THORPE CLASSIC - Ole Miss Rebels: Located in Oxford, Miss., and playing out of the Southeastern Conference, Ole Miss lost four starters from last year's team that finished 14-17 overall and 4-12 in the SEC
• The leading returning scorer is senior F Londrick Nolen, who averaged 9.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 2004-05
• Head coach Rod Barnes (Ole Miss `88) is 127-93 in his eighth year at the school...he took over for Hobbs, N.M., native Rob Evans after Evans went to Arizona State...Barnes, the 2001 Naismith National Coach of the Year, has the most wins in his first seven years of any Ole Miss coach ever
• Ole Miss defeated Spring Hill College 91-70 in an exhibition on Nov. 11...6-8, 290-pound sophomore post Dwayne Curtis, a transfer from Auburn, led the Rebels with 29 points and 18 rebounds
South Carolina State Bulldogs: Located in Orangeburg, S.C, and playing out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, SCSU returns a pair of starters from last year's team that finished 19-12 overall and 11-7 in the MEAC...the Bulldogs won at Miami (Fla.) last year, 60-50
• South Carolina State was chosen as the favorite by the head coaches and Sports Information Directors to win the 2005-06 MEAC title...SCSU received 10 of the 20 first-place votes and was chosen over last year's champion Delaware State
• The leading returning scorers are senior F Thurman Zimmerman (15.2 ppg and 7.2 rpg) and sophomore C Chris Lee (13.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg) in 2004-05...Zimmerman and Brian Mason were selected to the MEAC preseason all-conference team...Zimmerman was placed on the first team for the third time in his career
• Head coach Ben Betts, Jr. (Roanoke College `90) is 37-23 in his third year at SCSU
• The Bulldogs beat Claflin 62-57 in an exhibition on Nov. 9...Brian Mason led the Bulldogs with 18 points
Southern Utah Thunderbirds: Located in Cedar City, Utah, and playing out of the Mid-Continent Conference, Southern Utah returns three starters from last year's team that finished 13-15 overall and 6-10 in the MCC...SUU has just five returning players and nine newcomers, including walk-ons and redshirts
• The leading returning scorer is senior wing Rand James, who averaged 8.7 ppg in 2004-05
• Head coach Bill Evans (Southern Utah `72) is 183-189 in his 14th year at SUU...he is the winningest coach in school history
• The Thunderbirds defeated Western New Mexico 77-65 in an exhibition on Nov. 5, and toppled Adams State 59-54 last Thursday
LOBOS VS. THORPE CLASSIC PARTICIPANTS - UNM/Ritchie McKay vs. South Carolina State: First meeting for the Lobos. McKay's 2001-02 Oregon State team defeated the Bulldogs 62-46 in Corvallis on Dec. 23, 2001.
UNM/Ritchie McKay vs. Ole Miss: The 16th-ranked Lobos topped Ole Miss 75-64 in the championship game of the 1996 Lobo Invitational. Rebels Ansu Sesay and Keith Carter were named to the all-tournament team. UNM's Clayton Shields was the MVP. The victory completed a 11-1 start for a UNM team that would finish 25-8. Ritchie McKay's first game as a head coach came at Ole Miss on Nov. 23, 1996. The Rebels squeaked out a 56-54 win over Portland State.
UNM/Ritchie McKay vs. Southern Utah: The Lobos are 1-1 against the Thunderbirds with both games played at The Pit. UNM won 62-57 on Dec. 11, 1999, and lost 69-57 on Dec. 21, 2002 when current Lobos David Chiotti, Jeff Hart and Mark Walters were freshmen. McKay is also 1-1 against SUU. The loss was three years ago in Albuquerque, while the victory came when he was at Oregon State, 73-61 on Nov. 30, 2001.
2005-06 PERSONNEL PICTURE - The Lobos return eight lettermen, including two starters, from last year's team that finished 26-7, won the MWC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999. Chad Toppert, a redshirt last season, gives the Lobos nine players total returning from 2004-05.
The biggest loss from a year ago is Danny Granger, the 17th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, going to the Indiana Pacers. The versatile 6-8 forward led the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (8.9 rpg), blocks (2.0 bpg) and steals (2.1 spg). He was an All-American (AP honorable mention, Basketball Times 3rd Team), two-time first team All-MWC and the 2005 MWC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Other starters lost include Alfred Neale and Troy DeVries, both who are playing professionally as well. The trio of Granger, DeVries (11.0 ppg) and Neale (10.3) combined to average 40.1 points a game. Additionally, they were the top 3-pointer shooters on the team, making a combined 43% (197-of-455) of their attempts.
Other lettermen not returning are 6-7 forward Bambale Osby, 6-0 guard Ryan Wall and 6-9 forward Sean Phaler. Osby, Wall and Phaler all decided to transfer following the 2005 season.
Returning starters include senior forward David Chiotti (10.4 ppg) and senior guard Mark Walters (10.5 ppg). Senior Kris Collins, who started 18 games before being sidelined with a foot injury, senior Jeff Hart, junior Kellen Walter and sophomores Tony Danridge, Blake Harden and Darren Prentice are also be back.
McKay and his staff welcome six new faces to the team in 2005-06, three junior college transfers (Joel Box, Kyle Prochaska and Anthony Teague), two freshmen (Daniel Faris and Ryan Kersten) and a Division I transfer from Kansas (J.R. Giddens eligible in 2006-07).
A look at the New Mexico tourney field
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