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College basketball preview: Howard Bison

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2012

HOWARD BISON

Coach: Kevin Nickelberry. Second season, 16-45

Last season: 10-21, lost in MEAC quarterfinals

Key player: F Mike Phillips. Concussion issues slowed Phillips a year ago, but earlier in his career he was a ferocious rebounder for the Bison. Nickelberry says Phillips' impressive work ethic has put him in line to be even better than he was as a sophomore as he closes out his career.

Biggest loss: G Glen Andrews. The Tulsa transfer led the Bison in scoring with 13.3 points per game, but he took 167 3-pointers in just 18 games and wound up coming off the bench at year's end. Howard won't miss his inefficiency (30.4 percent shooting) but will some scoring from elsewhere to improve on a team scoring average (60.7) that tied for 312th nationally.

Top newcomer: G Keon Hill. The freshman point guard was a pleasant surprise throughout the preseason and could factor into the Bison's rotation this year.

Best case: Howard's veterans and Nickelberry's recruits fully mesh and the Bison not only snap their streak of nine straight 20-loss seasons, but also secure their first winning record since 2001-02 as they continue their rise and secure a top-four finish in the MEAC.

Worst case: Wins are hard to come by early and the Bison's rebuilding project doesn't progress quite as quickly as they'd like as they remain in the bottom half of the MEAC and endure another 20-loss season as a talented sophomore class continues to take some lumps.

Key games

Dec. 4 vs. American. The Bison's only meeting with a fellow D.C. team comes against American, which has topped Howard in seven straight seasons and has won nine straight in the series.

Jan. 14 vs. Norfolk State. The defending MEAC champions pay a Monday night visit to Burr Gymnasium in the season's only game between the two teams.

Feb. 2 vs. Savannah State. The Tigers' trip to D.C. starts Howard's stretch of six home dates in nine games to finish the regular season.

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