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September 4, 2008


Head coach: Doug Wojcik
Last season: 25-14 overall, 8-8 in Conference USA
Postseason: Won CBI title in best two-of-three over Bradley, 70-64 in Game 3
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook

BACKCOURT

The big news out of Tulsa is that Ben Uzoh, the Golden Hurricane's leading scorer last season, probably will start the season at the point. The coaching staff tried him there during a three-game exhibition trip to Canada over the Labor Day weekend and came away pleased. Uzoh averaged 14 points and had just four turnovers in the three games.

Ben Uzoh could slide over to point guard for Tulsa this season.

PROBABLE STARTING FIVE
G Ben Uzoh, 6-3/Jr.
15.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg
G Glenn Andrews, 6-3/So.
7.9 ppg
C Jerome Jordan, 7-0/Jr.
10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.7 bpg
F Ray Reese, 6-5/Sr.
7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
F Bishop Wheatley, 6-6/Jr.
3.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
TOP RESERVES
G Adrian Hernandez, 6-3/Jr.
Junior college transfer
G Justin Hurtt, 6-4/Soph.
3.1 ppg
F Sam Mitchell, 6-9/Sr.
2.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
Tulsa still will need Uzoh to score, and he's highly capable. He can put the ball on the floor and create, but he also can shoot it reasonably well from deep (55 3-pointers). He started all 39 games last season, and he averaged 17.1 points during the six-game run to the CBI title. He also handles himself well on the defensive end.

Sophomore Glenn Andrews should work his way into the starting lineup after scoring the third-most points ever by a Tulsa freshman. He was a major factor in the first two-thirds of the season, registering all 15 of his double-digit scoring efforts in the Golden Hurricane's first 25 games. He'll need to improve his shot selection and accuracy (36.8 percent) in order to secure his role, but he's a good athlete who can hit the long ball (his 53 3-pointers were second on the team).

FRONTCOURT

Center Jerome Jordan blossomed last season into a major threat in C-USA and into a big-time NBA prospect. The 7-footer got better as the season wore on. In Tulsa's 10 postseason games (a run to the C-USA title game before winning the CBI), Jordan averaged 14.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks. He had eight blocks in the CBI finale against Bradley. He's still on the thin side (Tulsa lists him at 240 pounds), but if he can add some muscle, the C-USA should consider itself on notice.

Another starter up front is Ray Reese. The only senior who will start, he's a favorite of coach Doug Wojcik because he's one of those guys who does the little things. Once inserted in the starting lineup last season, he had a 10-game stretch in which he averaged 10.4 points. Reese also led the Golden Hurricane in free-throw shooting (82.9 percent).

The coaches expect more production from Bishop Wheatley, a 6-6 junior. He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals, but he's back to 100 percent and will play a significant role in the rotation.

There isn't a lot of depth up front. Sam Mitchell (6-9) played in all 39 games last season but averaged only 2.1 points and 2.3 rebounds. He'll be a senior and he probably will see increased minutes.

OFFENSE

Tulsa is a team that likes to run half-court sets because it possesses the size and athleticism to do so. The Golden Hurricane will make a concerted effort to get the ball to Jordan on the block, and they'll play inside out. They're also solid on the wing, and Uzoh can get his own shot.

Point guard play is the biggest question and the biggest key for Tulsa to make the NCAA Tournament. The coaches hope junior college transfer Adrian Hernandez or freshman Brandon Jackson can develop enough to give them some important minutes at the point and allow Uzoh to shift to his more natural off-guard position. If that happens, this could be a major sleeper team. The CBI provided valuable March experience for Uzoh and Jordan, two of the best players in C-USA. The coaching staff is quietly confident that this team is on the upswing. It will get a great measure in a non-conference schedule that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. The Golden Hurricane is at least an NIT team, and if things break right, they could move into the NCAA Tournament.

DEFENSE

Few teams in the country stick to the man-to-man more than Tulsa. Wojcik is not going to throw any zones at an opponent, and his teams rarely pick up beyond halfcourt. But once you cross that line, well, it's tough to score against them.

SHOES TO FILL

F Calvin Walls. He was second on the team in rebounding (7.2) and third in scoring (8.5 ppg). He took a lot of pressure off Jordan.

MUST STEP UP

Wheatley. Walls' production, particularly on the boards, will have to be accounted for by someone. The coaches believe Wheatley could be that guy.

IMPACT NEWCOMER

F Armond Battle. The 6-7 Minnesota product was a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He led his high school team to a state title, averaging 22.3 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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