#1) among the best returning core since the fab four returning for their junior and senior years, and then Caffey/Papps/DJ/Ennis for Ennis last year
the Murray-Jones-Traore core (and add in Rotegaard as a nice versatile role player) is basically 3 first team Big West talents coming back, and they could all be 1st team Big West next year. Jones - DPOY, Traore could have been co-DPOY and newcomer. Murray was clutch so many games and frankly was co-MVP of the team with Slater.
#2) a good mix of recruits. There were two gaps, post & ball-handling wing players, more so in the post, like always not all will acclimate to D1. the quad of post players does appear to have a lot of upside, and some athleticsm.
Tone Hunter & Thohonis much needed to fill the gap left by Slater & Cobb in particular. the two obvious questions are Thohonis is now in his 3rd college so it's a valid question to think how well he'll adapt and fit in after bouncing around - history isn't too kind, just reality, and he's coming into a role as a role player until he proves he can handle some point/ball-handling duties, play defense first (never a given, see Kaela King), and be glue first, and score 2nd. We know he can hit a 3 and he'll get the chance, so long as he's not a jack the 3 up type of mentality.
Tone Hunter. The #1 guy I'm excited about. He's not Ennis, but maybe more AJ, and basically high caliber guards from high caliber Juco's have done well (AJ & Booker & even Papps) with us. Like all things, he's got to play foot first Defense.
These two guys are a big key to whether we can play as many pressure & press defense as last year after we lose Roberts/Cobb/Slater - Can't just roll out pressure defense, especially since we are expected to play more post players who I believe will have quite a ways to go to integrate as pressure defensive players, it took Ramsel 3 years to properly learn to hedge a screen well. One thing about last year, we could switch all over the place on defense, which compenstated for lack of size in terms of pressure. I just don't see how we replicate that playing one to two of these post players who unless have more foot quickness than I expect will make it more difficult. But I expect us to play a lot of lineups with only one of those post guys out there, assuming Hunter/Thohonis can acclimate fast so we have our 4 of the quickest experienced guys (of Traore/Jones/Murray/Hunter/THononis) out there to play with as much team speed as last year. Believe we will not have as good of team speed, but will have some better interior defense with these post guys to add to Jones/Traore's ability to board and wreck havoc defensively.
why won't we win the Big West?
#1) all four post guys turn out to be duds, which I highly doubt
#2) chemistry and team speed on defense never materializes. always a concern given CDM's history, and why Murray returning is such a big deal. But even Caffey struggled ultimate to share ball-handling effectively with King in that fiasco ending to 2013, so nothing is ever a given.
#3) Hunter, Rootegaard, & Thohonis can't mature their 3 point shot at the D1 level. You have to make 3s at this level to be really good. All signs point to their ability, so pretty confident, and can add that to Jones & Murray's ability
#4) spacing and ball sharing. this is tough to develop, it took half a season, even with veterans, to get this down. If so, watch out if Murray & one of Thohonis or Hunger...or Hart, and our bigs...can understand and space well on offense at the D1 level. Just look at Dallas taking apart the Jazz with Gobert. You can have the best defense interior big in teh league, and if you can space and move like Dallas, you pick those teams apart.
#5) well, if Murray doesn't come back, every single concern gets magnified in spades, and every plus has expectations lowered unless Hunter is another Booker
This is going in the #1 team in the Big West with Murray, not just on paper but in skill.
I would say if Murray, Jones, & Traore are not starters, it means we can get to teh final four because it would mean the new guys are that much better and we have 8 first team Big West players....but that's dreaming. Those 3 are 98% starting, and the other two who knows, the ability will jump out initially the first couple weeks...but by mid-December, the new guys who take on roles to shuffle their feet defensively and can knock down 3s and move the ball will emerge.