Mercer University University of New Mexico Quinnipiac University Wake Forest University
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Location: Storrs, Conn.
Colors: Blue, white
Conference: Big East
2011-12 record: 20-14
NCAA Tournament appearances: 31 (3 titles)
Last appearance/finish: 2011/first round
Head coach: Kevin Ollie (1st year)
Key players: Shabazz Napier (Jr. G), Ryan Boatright (So. G), Omar Calhoun (Fr. G), Tyler Olander (Jr. F)
Notes: The Huskies may be ineligible for the postseason, but they enter Paradise Jam having knocked off then-No. 14 Michigan State on Nov. 9 in the Armed Forces Classic. The game was held in a hanger on the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Not a bad start to the Kevin Ollie era, which follows the Hall-of-Fame career of Jim Calhoun (three national titles in 26 seasons). Junior guard Shabazz Napier leads a trio of top-flight guards making UConn the tournament favorite.
Location: Fairfax, Va.
Colors: Green, gold
2011-12 record: 24-9
NCAA Tournament appearances: 5
Last appearance/finish: 2011/second round
Head coach: Paul Hewitt (2nd year)
Key players: Sherrod Wright (Jr. G), Erik Copes (So. F), Vertrail Vaughns (Jr. G), Bryon Allen (Jr. G)
Notes: One of the most exciting programs in recent NCAA history, George Mason is in its second year under coach Paul Hewitt. The former Georgia Tech coach will start the tournament without returning players Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray, whose three-game suspensions end after a first-round meeting with Mercer. George Mason, known for its improbable 2006 Final Four run, is led by junior guard Sherrod Wright. The 6-foot-4 Wright averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds last season. He'll be joined by a largely untested frontcourt.
Colors: Indigo, red
2011-12 record: 8-22
NCAA Tournament appearances: 3
Last appearance/finish: 2004/first round
Head coach: Howard Moore (3rd year)
Key players: Gary Talton (Sr. G), Daniel Barnes (Sr. G), Hayden Humes (Jr. F), Marc Brown (So. G)
Notes: The Flames and third-year coach Howard Moore struggled last year, but have four returning starters looking to be in the Horizon League mix. UIC has a strong trio of guards led by seniors Gary Talton and Daniel Barnes. Talton is in his second year with the team after transferring from a junior college in Texas. He led the Flames in scoring (11.6 ppg), free-throw percentage (.867) and assists (3.3) and was named to the Horizon's All-Newcomer team.
Location: New Rochelle, N.Y.
Colors: Gold, maroon
Conference: Metro Atlantic
2011-12 record: 25-8
NCAA Tournament appearances: 9
Last appearance/finish: 2012/first round
Head coach: Tim Cluess (3rd year)
Key players: Lamont Jones (Sr. G), Sean Armand (Jr. G), Taaj Ridley (Sr. F), Curtis Dennis (Sr. G)
Notes: Third-year coach Tim Cluess may be facing his most challenging season with the Gaels. Seven transfers will look to bolster a squad that lost guard Scott Machado, who signed a three-year deal with the Houston Rockets. Machado holds the school and conference records for career assists, and led Iona to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels also graduated leading scorer and rebounder Mike Glover. Junior Arizona transfer Lamont 'Momo' Jones was granted a waiver last year after starting at point guard and helping the Wildcats to the Elite 8 in 2011. Jones will be the primary ball handler and a top scorer. He finished second in scoring for the Gaels (15.7) last year.
Location: Macon, Ga.
Colors: Black, orange
Conference: Atlantic Sun
2011-12 record: 27-11
NCAA Tournament appearances: 2
Last appearance/finish: 1985/first round
Head coach: Bob Hoffman (5th year)
Key players: Langston Hall (Jr. G), Jakob Gollon (Jr. F), Daniel Coursey (Jr. F), Travis Smith (Sr. G)
Notes: The Bears play in a one-bid league, but have been picked as the favorite to win the Atlantic Sun. They may be the dark horse in Paradise Jam. Fifth-year coach Bob Hoffman led his team to 27 wins and a postseason title in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and lost just two seniors. Junior guard Langston Hall is a returning Atlantic Sun All-Conference first team player, having averaged 11.4 points, 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Junior forward Jakob Gollon made the conference preseason team and junior Daniel Coursey was selected as the preseason defensive player of the year.
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Colors: Cherry, silver
Conference: Mountain West
2011-12 record: 28-7
NCAA Tournament appearances: 13
Last appearance/finish: 2012/second round
Head coach: Steve Alford (6th year)
Key players: Kendall Williams (Jr. G), Tony Snell (Jr. G), Hugh Greenwood (So. G), Cameron Bairstow (Jr. F)
Notes: Sixth-year coach Steve Alford, a college basketball star in his days at Indiana, has turned New Mexico into a perennial postseason team with two NCAA appearances and three NIT bids. The Lobos are coming off a 28-7 season that saw them capture the regular season and tournament titles in the Mountain West. Junior guard Kendall Williams was selected to the league's preseason first team and is one of three returning starters, including junior guard Tony Snell and sophomore guard Hugh Greenwood. The team lost graduate Drew Gordon, who led the Lobos in scoring and rebounding and was the conference tournament MVP.
Location: Hamden, Conn.
Colors: Navy blue, gold
2011-12 record: 18-14
NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
Last appearance/finish: N/A
Head coach: Tom Moore (6th year)
Key players: Ike Azotam (Jr. F), Ousmane Drame (So. F), Dave Johnson (Sr. G), Zaid Hearst (So. G)
Notes: The Bobcats have gradually improved in coach Tom Moore's six-year tenure. In the past three seasons the team has twice won 22 or more games and appear to be inching that much closer to the school's first NCAA tournament berth. Quinnipiac led the nation in offensive rebounds the past two seasons and return the team's leading rebounder in junior Ike Azotam (9.5 rpg). Sophomore forward Ousmane Drame crushed Azotam's record for most rebounds in a season by a freshman, finishing with 232.
Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Nickname: Demon Deacons
Colors: Black, Old gold
Conference: Atlantic Coast
2011-12 record: 13-18
NCAA Tournament appearances: 22
Last appearance/finish: 2010/second round
Head coach: Jeff Bzdelik (3rd year)
Key players: C.J. Harris (Sr. G), Travis McKie (Jr. F), Codi Miller-McIntyre (Fr. G), Chase Fischer (Fr. G).
Notes: The alma mater of St. Croix native Tim Duncan is making its first appearance in Paradise Jam. It's not easy playing in the same league as Duke and North Carolina, let alone the same state, but the Demon Deacons are trying to return to relevance in the ACC. Wake returns two of the league's top-six scorers from a year ago in senior guard C.J. Harris (16.7 ppg) and junior forward Travis McKie (16.1). The leaders will have to be patient with seven freshmen looking to find their roles.