Tag Archives: Vinny Zollo

It’s Nobody’s Fault at Cleveland State

With the most disastrous season the Cleveland State men’s basketball team has had in the Gary Waters era in the rear-view mirror, this would normally be the time for everybody to take stock on what exactly went wrong. After all, if there’s something that you can fix to make next season better, you’d probably want to look into that, right?

But with the question of what is going on at CSU left completely answered for nearly an entire year, it’s pretty clear that at least from an internal standpoint, it’s nobody’s fault the way things went. The message seems to be that it was just a string of really bad luck because of all the transfers.

So, from Cleveland State’s view, nobody can be blamed for anything that transpired afterwards.

That means it’s nobody’s fault that the Vikings were left with Myles Hamilton and walk-on Nelson Maxwell as their only true point guards. And it’s nobody fault that Hamilton and head coach Gary Waters were never on the same page, which eventually led to Hamilton’s dismissal from the team after a verbal altercation during the Green Bay game.

It’s nobody’s fault that prior to Hamilton’s departure, Waters read his team the riot act for an hour after the game against Kent State at Quicken Loans Arena, much like he did the season before after CSU melted down and lost to Bowling Green. It’s also nobody’s fault that his lecture did absolutely no good, considering Hamilton’s ouster and the subsequent suspension of Vinny Zollo.

It’s nobody’s fault that the arrangement between Cleveland State and the Q was essentially a wash in its first year. Nobody can be blamed for the fact that all the non-conference games at Quicken Loans Arena were basically stacked with fans from the Mid-American Conference schools that the Vikings faced.

It’s nobody’s fault that Waters doesn’t like this deal, either, debating any home-court advantage his team had. It’s also nobody’s fault that Cleveland State won a grand total of zero games at the Q this season, emboldening Waters’ conjecture.

It’s nobody’s fault that the Wolstein Center, which was a ghost town when the Vikings were actually winning at home, was the loneliest place on the planet. This means that nobody could have possibly seen home attendance drop off to its lowest numbers since arriving at the Wolstein Center.

It’s nobody’s fault that the television deal set up by Learfield Sports was absolutely horrendous for any fan that didn’t subscribe to Time Warner Cable. Nobody could have seen coming the road game at Wright State being completely blacked out on ESPN3 for those non-Time Warner subscribers. Clearly there could be no fault found in the fact that students living on the CSU campus (where ESPN is not available to them) are completely out of luck.

It’s nobody’s fault that in spite of everybody’s best efforts, the Viking Village section of the Wolstein Center was completely abandoned during the winter break. So there was no way that students, who get in free to all sporting events, could have been incentivized to show up during the break at all.

It’s nobody’s fault that Cleveland State still struggles with deciding between live music and a DJ, leading to another head-to-head match-up between the pep band and MJ the DJ. So, there can be no fingers pointed when the aging season ticket holder base scratches their collective heads when can’t figure out what they’re supposed to be turning down.

And It’s nobody’s fault that the media, particularly the Plain Dealer, Cleveland.com, Advance Ohio (or whatever the hell they call themselves these days) has completely abandoned the men’s basketball team the way it disavowed any knowledge of any of Cleveland State’s other sports.

So, because nobody could possibly blamed for the all-around debacle surrounding this past season,  everybody at CSU Athletics will be back to try it again for another year. Since it was obviously a case of Cleveland State being subjected to a terrible set of events that couldn’t be avoided, staying the course is the current strategy for the Vikings.

Plus, there will be games at Quicken Loans Arena, both MJ the DJ and the pep band will likely be back and Learfield Sports will set up the television package for next season.

If it isn’t broke, then there’s really no need to fix it, is there?

Vikings Sign Peppers, Addressing Point Guard Issue

While it’s nobody’s fault that Hamilton didn’t pan out, Waters made it his top priority never to be left in the same lurch again at point guard. And he looked in the junior college ranks to sort this one out, signing Gavin Peppers from Laramie County Community College in Wyoming.

The 6-2 Peppers, who hails from Brookeville, Maryland, split his juco time at two schools, the first being Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington. In his sole year at Olympic, he averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and three assists per game before transferring to LCCC.

His year at Laramie County ended with Peppers averaging 18.7 points and 3.8 assists per game. He also shot 37 percent from beyond the arc, which will serve to address another major deficiency the Vikings had over the last season.

With the addition of Peppers, coupled with the debut of Oral Roberts transfer Bobby Word and the return of three-point specialist Daniel Levitt, Cleveland State may yet get out of the offensive funk that was a running theme throughout the past season. The next challenge for Waters will be to fill the remaining two scholarship slots, with a second point guard, wing and big man being on his wish list.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com.

Amid Cloudy Present, Cleveland State Men's Basketball Looks to the Future

Even by Cleveland State men’s basketball coach Gary Waters’ own assessment, the selection of the Vikings to finish seventh in the Horizon League seemed exceedingly high. At the heart of the matter, as it has been throughout the non-conference slate, has been the offense.

The overriding theme Waters has conveyed, is the ongoing development of his young squad. With a schedule that would have provided a more veteran team with opportunities for quality wins and bolster post-season aspiration, the youth movement has been prone to a trial by fire.

As a consequence, there have been plenty of opportunities to get burned.

Such was the case in Cleveland State’s season opener at Quicken Loans Arena against Kent State. There were certainly flashes of what the future will hold for the Vikings during most of the first half. Leading the charge was Rob Edwards, who has ascended to a starting spot faster than any freshman in the Waters era.

And then there was Andre Yates. The junior guard had one of his best games in the young season against the Golden Flashes, joining Edwards to lead the team with 14 points. This included four three-pointers, which has been a sore spot early on for Cleveland State.

But as there were high points for the Vikings, the low points came at the part of the game you never want to have happen: the end. And the mistakes on offense that tend to happen with an inexperienced group, coupled with absolutely no answer for Kent State big man Kaliq Spicer, proved to be Cleveland State’s undoing, losing the game, 66-62.

At 2-6, Vikings fans can only really look forward to the ongoing development of the freshman. In addition to Edwards, who is making a real case for Horizon League Freshman of the Year, there’s Jibri Blout, who scored nine points against the Flashes and at times seemed to be about to get in the paint with ease.

Two other freshmen, Jeron Rogers and walk-on Daniel Levitt, will likely be relied on much more in the part of the court that’s hurt Cleveland State the most: the three-point line. The Vikings remain at the bottom of the NCAA in that category, and, Vinny Zollo, who was looked upon to provide some firepower beyond the arc, was 0-5 against Kent State and has been much more effective in the paint than the perimeter.

Assists have also been a real issue early on, as Yates, Edwards and Kenny Carpenter have struggled at the point. However, there appears to be some relief coming in the form of Myles Hamilton. The Kennesaw State transfer, who sat out the first seven contests due to a suspension and injuries, played 18 minutes against the Flashes and notched three assists. In fact, the loss to Kent State saw the Vikings post the most assists all season at 17, with four apiece coming, surprisingly enough, from Zollo and fellow forward Demonte Flannigan.

So, while the miscues and missed opportunities make the non-conference schedule seem like one big, painful learning experience, the early lesson may translate into some real surprises when the Vikings start Horizon League play.

The Present (And Future) of Cleveland State Women’s Basketball Is Bright

With all of the players that Cleveland State women’s basketball coach Kate Peterson Abiad had sitting out from last season due to injuries, it was only a matter of time before they would take their experience and translate that into wins.

It hasn’t come easily, though. Two of the Vikings’ first four losses were squeakers, including a last-second defeat in the home opener against Bucknell and an overtime loss on the road at Niagara.

As last Saturday’s 69-48 romp over Bowling Green at Quicken Loans Arena may indicate, the rebuilding for Cleveland State may, in fact, nearly be complete.

Leading the team against the Falcons was sophomore Kayla Livingston, who tied her season high with 21 points. Her 14 points per game and 45.7 percent three-point shooting since returning from an injury that wiped out here 2014-15 campaign has providing the Vikings with an offensive spark and allowed her to return to the form that put her on the Horizon League All-Newcomer team in 2013-14.

Making her own bid to be this season’s top freshman and returning from her own injury last season, forward Ashanti Abshaw has started this year leading the team with 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Her 16 points and eight boards against Bowling Green, coupled with her double-double in CSU’s 60-49 win against Kent State, was good enough for her to be named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week.

Coming off the bench, junior guard Adesuwa Aideyman has made her minutes count. She has scored 17 points in three straight contests, putting those numbers up in 20 minutes against the Falcons.

While Wright State and Wisconsin-Green Bay remain the overwhelming favorites at the top of the Horizon League standings, CSU may be on better footing than their sixth-place conference finish prediction would suggest.

Cleveland State Is Back on Television (If You Have Time Warner Cable)

After Cleveland State finished last season with games televised on Sportstime Ohio and the Horizon League TV schedule limited the Vikings to ESPN3, it had some wondering if the only way fans could see them play was to come to the arena or have an Internet connection.

The good news is that CSU will, in fact be back on the airwaves. Starting with Saturday’s contest against Ohio at the Q, the Viking men will play on television seven times this season, and the women will appear three times.

The bad news, though, is that if you don’t have Time Warner Cable, you still need your Internet connection. All of these contests, which will feature the announce team of Al Pawlowski and former Cleveland State standout Pat Vuyancih, will only be aired on TWC Sports Net.

Of course, when you’re staring at the prospect of having no TV games at all, you can sort of view this as progress.

The 2015-16 Cleveland State Men’s Basketball Preview: If a Tree Falls In the Woods…

This is probably the part of the year in which I run around like Glinda the Good Witch of the North singing, “Wake up, wake up, wherever you are” to the obviously slumbering masses of Cleveland State basketball fans (and most of the media, for that matter).

But that’s pretty pointless. Most of you are probably going to sleep-walk through this upcoming season.

That said, for those of you who have been hibernating since the Vikings fell to NJIT, 80-77 in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament last season, here’s what you missed.

First, everybody left the team. That’s a little bit of an embellishment, but all of Cleveland State’s top scorers are gone. You probably knew that, though, when you were watching SportsCenter and happened to spot a clip of Wichita State or Louisville and saw either Anton Grady or Trey Lewis. And you likely thought to yourself, “Hey, wasn’t that guy at CSU last year?”

They were. And they wanted a chance to be on the big stage. Cleveland State, we keep hearing, is not that.

In fact, one of these overriding themes you will probably hear this season, if you hadn’t heard it 100 times already, is that CSU is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with NCAA transfer rules.

The Vikings probably tried to sell both on staying. But it’s terribly hard to do that when the team finished last in the Horizon League in home attendance and can only get some crazy guy from More Than a Fan: Cleveland to cover them on a regular basis, even in the off-season.

Add in the fact that Valparaiso is the heavy favorite to repeat as conference champs and, well, that’s pretty much it. Head coach Gary Waters didn’t have a chance to keep them. So he wished them well and off they went to seek fame and fortune.

There were also the graduations of Charlie Lee and Marlin Mason, plus Kaza Keane returning home to Canada. So, you can pretty much see where this Viking team is headed this season, leaving only Andre Yates and Vinny Zollo as the players with any starting time.

Now, before you continue to burn your invoices for season tickets (which you probably started doing when you found out you’d pay full price to watch a pair of non-Division I teams again), next year should actually not be a complete disaster.

Sure, Waters will pretty much be starting from scratch in the frontcourt. Zollo made some starts when Cleveland State had to compensate for Mason’s illness. But that leaves the role of replacing Grady in the hands of either Demonte Flannigan or Aaron Scales. And nobody has a clue what to make of redshirt freshman Jono Janssen.

The lack of a Grady-like presences up front will likely provide a window of opportunity to incoming recruits Jibri Blount and Jeron “Buddha” Rogers.  Both are sons of pro athletes (Jibri’s father is Steelers Hall of Famer Mel Blount; Jeron’s father is NBA lottery pick Carlos Rogers). And both had a reputation for being monsters on the glass, with Blount averaging 11 rebounds a game and Rogers pulling down eight boards a contest.

However, Waters has typically favored upperclassmen in starting roles, at least in the beginning of the season. So Rogers and Blount will probably be fighting for playing minutes off the bench when the season tips off.

Yates, of course, will be the undisputed leader of this team at guard. It’s also a safe bet that he will also lead the team in scoring as well. And he will probably be joined by Myles Hamilton, the transfer from Kennesaw State who Waters granted a scholarship in the off-season. With Waters likely going with a traditional three-guard set on the floor, that third player in the backcourt will probably be Terrelle Hales.

The sophomore from Detroit was the breakout freshman last season, making the most of his opportunities by tearing down offensive rebounds seemingly at will. He was hampered by an ankle injury near the end of the season, but that didn’t stop him from notching four steal in the February loss to Valpo.

Kenny Carpenter will also fight for playing time at guard this season. His shining moment came during the CIT, when he played a season-high 27 minutes in the loss to NJIT. With Hales likely moving into the starting spot, Carpenter will have to contribute off the bench.

And yes, Derek Sloan will be back this season. The 6-6 guard out of St. Ignatius was mostly used in a defensive role. With the arrival of Rogers, Blount and guard Rob Edwards, there’s a good chance that Sloan will find himself slotted in that “break glass in case of emergency” role again this season.

What really stands out the most about this Viking roster is its sheer volume. Along with the team’s scholarship players, Cleveland State has four walk-ons, including the most recent addition, Dan Levitt from Montreal, who joins German Tim Hasbargen, senior Khyler Fields and newcomer Nelson Maxwell, who was coached by former Viking Derrick Ziegler at Orange.

Looking at the entire schedule, while Cleveland State will probably not be looking at a horrendous showing like it did in 2012-13, it probably won’t be setting the world on fire, either. Waters hasn’t been able to figure Toledo out since Tod Kowalczyk took over as head coach. And Akron and Kent State look to have big seasons ahead of them.

But Bowling Green was blindsided by the dismissal of coach Chris Jans after an embarrassing incident at a bar. Plus Saul Phillips at Ohio hasn’t completely rebuilt that program in his image yet. The two non-Division I games should be instants wins, as should the Cancun Challenge tilts against Rider and either Houston Baptist or South Dakota State.

A return to Chicago to face old Horizon League foe Loyola could be a coin-flip, given the Ramblers’ lack of size. Belmont and Rhode Island look like tough games to win, and the road trip to Maryland, who is picked to finish at the top of the Big Ten standings, will be a virtually impossible game to win.

For as much as has been made about where the Vikings will finish in the conference, the arrival of Northern Kentucky and the changes around the Horizon League as far as players and coaches would leave you to believe that they will finish in the middle of the pack.

Given teams during the Waters era tending to overperform in most years they are supposed to be down, I would predict that Cleveland State will finish fifth in the league this year. The irony, should this come true, would be that this year’s team would finish only slightly worse than last season.Plus, if the Vikings finish a tick over .500, don’t be surprised if they end up in the CIT again.

And they will probably do it with very little fanfare, which apparently is the way they seem to like it these days.

If you’ve made it this far, I have a mission for you. Not that I’m running out of ideas or anything, but what would you like see me write about this season. Reply to me on Twitter – @bobmcdonald.

Kaza Keane Bolts, Leaving Cleveland State With Yet Another Hole to Fill

Remember when Cleveland State was going into the 2015-2016 season with a healthy dose of senior leadership?

Yes, that memory is getting fuzzier and fuzzier as the days leading up to next season.

Call it whatever you want: Extremely bad luck, an odd alignment of the NCAA rules playing against them or an indictment of the Gary Waters system that was, until very recently, not producing very damaging departures. It’s still happening to the Vikings, and still, nobody has any kind of answers that make sense.

This time, it’s Kaza Keane, the transfer from Ajax, Ontario by way of Illinois State. Per a report by long-time CSU blogger Tom Mieskoski, Keane was not among the players back for the summer session and ever again, apparently. For the second year in a row, Keane will be seeking a new school to play at.

Keane, of course, will mark the third player who will be transferring from Cleveland State, following fellow guard Trey Lewis, who will play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, and forward Anton Grady, who will call Wichita State home next year.

While his stats from last year were rather mundane, only averaging 4.4 points per game, he did start 20 contests during the 2014-15 campaign, spotting Charlie Lee during his two suspensions and assuming Andre Yates’ spot in the rotation when he went down with an ankle injury and was subsequently moved to the role of sixth man.

It was already a given that Yates would assume the role of the leader in this squad. That said, we at least though he was going to have a little help from Keane with his starting experience in the backcourt. And at least with the departure of Lewis and Lee, Keane would have added a little more depth at guard that includes Yates, Kenny Carpenter, Terrelle Hales, Kennesaw State transfer Myles Hamilton and freshman Rob Edwards.

No longer. A line-up that was already going have to try to figure out how to play without most of its starters from last season gets to figure it out with one less guy.

With graduation and transfers, Cleveland State will have to fill the chasm left by more than 75 percent of last year’s scoring walking out the door.

This will also leave only Yates and Vinny Zollo, the other senior on scholarship remaining (Kyler Fields is a walk-on), as the only players with any starts, as Zollo filled in for Marlin Mason who sat due to illness.

Prospects for 2015-16 already had looked bleak for Viking fans, with everybody seemingly walking out the door, not just players. Waters has also had to fill two spots in the coaching staff, when long-time assistant Jermaine Kimbrough and, most recently, Director of Basketball Operations and former CSU player Victor Morris leaving.

Now that Keane is out of the picture, even though there may not have been a lot in the way offensive productivity last year, there was at least some hope for a little bit of experience in the backcourt and, again, senior leadership.

That’s gone, and with it, potentially, was Cleveland State last opportunity to compete in the upper half of the Horizon League without it being a complete surprise to anybody.

Certainly, there is the prospect that the Vikings will outperform their losses. In fact, aside from the disastrous 2012-13 season, Waters has been able to get his team to overachieve.

But honestly, do fans want to go into the season opener banking on hope? Again?

From what it looks like, fans, much like Cleveland State students and, more to the point, most media outlets, have essentially taken the summer off from CSU to concentrate on other things, from the Cavs off-season to the Browns to watching paint dry. At a glance, it looks as if the dwindling fan base is getting smaller and less attentive as the years drag on.

None of this is really surprising. Hell, half of the columns that I have written over the past year make me feel like I am talking to myself. This one is shaping up to be no different in that department.

But it’s not like anybody else is asking anything at this point. The annual season ticket holder event is coming soon. As we did last year, we’ll speculate on the types of questions that could possibly get asked. Not to give anything away, but it’s a good bet this year’s questions could be a bit snarkier. And it probably won’t be because Cleveland State finished last in the conference in home attendance.

Probably.

CSU Softball Wraps Up Trip Down Under

It appears that at least one Cleveland State team is enjoying the summer. That tends to happen when you get to travel abroad.

The Vikings wrapped up their portion of the Softball Australia International Series late last week in Brisbane with a trio of games and a third-place finish in the tournament. The first two, which set up the draw for the final day, saw Cleveland State lose a close contest to Australia Gold, 3-2. The decision catapulted Gold to the top of the standings, and eliminated the Vikings from the championship game.

After that, CSU turned it around, much as it had all tourney, by crushing its second-game opponent, this time the Coyotes Softball Club, 11-0. This set up a playoff round match-up with New South Wales, who had blanked the Vikings, 3-0, on the first day.

Cleveland State would avenge its defeat by blanking New South Wales, 9-0, clinching its third-place finish. USA Athletes International, the Vikings’ travel partner, would go on to win the tournament with an 11-0 romp of Australia Gold.

The Vikings picked up individual awards as well, with senior shortstop Cynthia Woodard leading the way being tabbed most valuable player. She was also joined on the All-Tournament team by freshman outfielder Kait Garing.

And, of course, no trip to the Gold Coast of Australia would be complete without a trip to the beach, surfboard in hand, which CSU made sure to do.

Cleveland State Men's Basketball Preview – Win Or Else (Sort Of)

What’s to say about this year’s edition of the Cleveland State men’s basketball team that hasn’t already been said?

There’s the loss of two guards, Sebastian Douglas and Bryn Forbes, the latter making headlines for transferring to Michigan State and receiving a hardship waiver, making him eligible to play this season instead of having to sit out the mandatory year.

There’s the gain of one and possibly two guards transferring in. Andre Yates finally gets to make his debut in a Viking uniform after waiting a year after his departure from Creighton. Plus, there’s Illinois State transfer Kaza Keane, who recently received a waiver to start playing this year.

Then there’s the oft-maligned frontcourt. Last season, Cleveland State was bolstered by the presence of senior Jon Harris, who brought in both much-needed rebounding and perimeter shooting that hadn’t been around in recent years. Harris has graduated, though, leaving junior star Anton Grady without a running partner.

Let’s not forget the long-standing trouble the Vikings have had in the middle. For all intents and purposes, Grady is not, nor should ever have been, the answer at center. He has always been best-suited as a power forward.

This is where the return of Aaron Scales from his redshirt year and the signing of Vinny Zollo come in. As long as the two are able to contribute at least 20-25 minutes per game in the middle, it will free Grady up to play at his more natural position and, more importantly, prevent him from being subjected to the wear and tear of going up against bigger bodies at center for an extended period of time.

Besides the losses of Douglas and Forbes, the starting backcourt hasn’t really changed that much, and will probably be the best it’s ever been. Senior Charlie Lee, whose first two years were marked with a great deal of inconsistency, seemed to break out last season, at times being the catalysts that Cleveland State has desperately needed.

Trey Lewis, the Penn State transfer, is entering his second year as a Viking, and has some lofty accolades already, being named a pre-season first team Horizon League player in nearly every major college basketball publication.

While Lee and Lewis remain stalwarts in the starting guard position, the question of depth undoubtedly will come to light. While Yates will certainly help address the depth issue, the remainder of that question will likely be answered by Keane and freshman Kenny Carpenter.

And what about Marlin Mason? This season will be his last chance to expound on the flashes of brilliance that he’s displayed over his past three years. But will he? Mason has proved to have some talent both in the paint and behind the arc, but seems to have always deferred to his teammates for most of his career at Cleveland State.

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Now that Forbes is gone, Mason will have to step it up even more than he has. He’ll likely have the chance to play at the small forward position when coach Gary Waters opts to do so. But he will have to fix the issues that resulted in foul trouble for him last season, plus he will have to start being more sure of his shot. We’ve seen him have the ability to make shots. He just have to do it more often to cancel out Forbes leaving.

Then there’s the non-conference schedule.

Honestly, aside from road trips to Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth and Louisville, who on this schedule scares anyone? Toledo? This will be a home game for the Vikings this time, and a certain opportunity to avenge the narrow loss from last season at Toledo.

Cleveland State should absolutely not lose any non-conference games at the Wolstein Center this year.  That said, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to schedule anyone, let alone non-Division I schools, on the same night as Cavaliers home games?

The Vikings have their home opener on November 17th against Tiffin. And no, Tiffin didn’t all of a sudden join the ranks of Division I. You can also imagine what’s going on down the street at Quicken Loans Arena the same night. That’s right. The Cavs will be hosting the Denver Nuggets.

You’d like to think this was an isolated incident, but Cleveland State-Jacksonville State takes place on the same night as Cavs-Spurs (November 19th), and the Vikings take on another non-Division I opponent Mt. Vernon Nazarene when the Cavs play the Charlotte Hornets.

There’s no doubt that Cleveland State will win these games. It’s too bad nobody will likely be around to see them.

As far as the Horizon League goes, the Vikings will likely finish second. Wisconsin-Green Bay remains the odds-on favorite to win the conference, and senior point guard Kiefer Sykes is, by all accounts, this year’s mid-major darling when it comes to NBA draft prospects. And why not? The 5-11 Sykes has ridiculous vertical leap and outstanding ball-handling skills. It should remind Cleveland State fans of Norris Cole a little bit. Greg Mays and Jordan Fouse will also give the Vikings plenty of headaches as well. Most pundits have the top two spots going either way, but the leadership of Sykes gives the Phoenix a slight advantage.

Valparaiso should have been the one team that would be going toe-to-toe for that second spot against Cleveland State, but the recent knee injury by Lexus Williams will be a blow to the young Crusaders squad, and they will likely finish third. Detroit, led by Juwan Howard, Jr., may surprise some and compete with the Vikings, but the Titans don’t appear improve enough to overtake the top three teams, so fourth place is probably where they’ll end up.

Wright State, the team that upset Cleveland State in the Horizon League Tournament last year, will likely not repeat that feat this season, having lost all of their starters from last year. However, returning guard Reggie Arceneaux and Butler transfer Crishawn Hopkins might have a little something in store for the Vikings, so fifth place is as good a spot as any for the Raiders to finish.

Oakland lost a huge piece in Travis Bader, and Corey Petros won’t be enough to keep the Grizzlies from a sixth-place finish. Defending Horizon League tournament champ Milwaukee is in rebuilding mode, as is Youngstown State, and will finish seventh and eighth, respectively.

Rounding out the conference teams, as at seems they are every season, are the Flames of Illinois-Chicago. Last place is once again their destination, and the only plausible reason why Howard Moore will retain his job as head coach is because it would be far too expensive to buy him out.

In the end, unless there’s some great collapse or surprise by any of the Horizon League teams, Cleveland State will, in all likelihood, win 20 games once again but get stopped by Green Bay and therefore end up in the NIT. In other words, the Vikings will probably win enough games not to anger too many people. However, given their professional competition down the street, they likely won’t see an outpouring of new fans, either.

There is one last thing. Last season, Cleveland State, for some odd reason, accepted an invitation to the CollegeInsiders Tournament, which seemed to be a horrible, hastily thrown together type of deal. If the Vikings do fail to make the NCAA or NIT, they would do well not to consider this train wreck of a tournament as a viable option. Just call it a season.

Cleveland State Transfer Troubles and Help Up Front

Amid conflicting reports from multiple news outlets in both Cleveland and Michigan, it appears that Cleveland State guard Bryn Forbes may be seeking life elsewhere in the form of Michigan State. As a Lansing native and with family close by, the move presumably would make sense to the 2012-13 Horizon League Newcomer of the year.

While according to the Plain Dealer and the Detroit Free Press, nothing has been finalized (Though the Cleveland Leader and WTAM’s Nick Camino disagree), all signs would appear to point to Forbes hitting the road out of Cleveland. History, as it turns out, is not on the side of the Vikings.

Over the course of the past three years, at least one player has transferred out of Cleveland State for a better situation in their mind.

Last year, it was Junior Lomomba. The much-touted recruit from Madison, Wisconsin by way of Montreal was started off slow due to a foot injury. Ironically, his playing time during his freshman year wasn’t high due to the emergence of Forbes. As a result, Lomomba decided to leave, and will play for Providence next season..

The year before, guard Ike Nwamu said good-bye to the Vikings, making Mercer University his school of choice. This past season, the Bears beat last season’s NCAA Tournament Cinderella team , Florida Gulf Coast, to take the Atlantic Sun conference crown and make their own way to the NCAAs.

At the end of the 2010-11 season found Cleveland State staring down the barrel of a mass exodus, as
Charlie Woods and Josh McCoy departed to play at Division II Missouri-St. Louis. On top of that, guard Anthony Wells also went the Division II route, taking off to play for Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and back-up center Joe Latas went to Houston Baptist, though he had already graduated. Despite this, and the loss of Norris Cole to graduation and the NBA, the Vikings still managed to share the regular-season Horizon League title.

None of this even counts the 2009-2010 season, when all three Viking junior college transfers, Lance James, Jared Cunningham and Kevin Anderson, disappeared off the planet. Though, to be fair, 2010-11, which featured Cole as the superstar, made everyone pretty much forget those three.

Understandably, this trend shouldn’t sit well with anyone, from fans to the Cleveland State coaching staff. But it keeps on happening, and Forbes isn’t even the only one from this year. Ismaila Dauda, center from Polk Junior College, is also gone, transferring to North Florida.

The Vikings still seem to overcome this ongoing issue, posting 20-win seasons four out of the last six seasons. However, in this particular instance, this potentially represents a 1-2 punch to depth at the guard position that Cleveland State didn’t need to take.

As Forbes contemplates leaving, another stalwart of the Viking rotation looks to be gone as well. Sebastian Douglas, who has undoubtedly been one of the team’s best players off the best, not to mention a defensive force, has suffered from multiple issues in both knees. The situation has apparently gotten to the point where Douglas will need to call it a career.

The loss of Douglas was already a blow to the Cleveland State backcourt. Forbes leaving would blow a hole in the rotation, especially given that he averaged 15.6 points a game.

Even in this possible latest round of departures, Vikings head coach Gary Waters may very well move past this once again. First of all, he still keeps his primary two starting guards, senior Charlie Lee and junior Trey Lewis. He also has Creighton transfer Andre Yates, as well as freshmen Terrell Hales Kenny Carpenter.

At some point in time, though, Waters will have to figure out how to keep all of his players around for their entire careers.

While the backcourt depth gets thinner or, at the very least, more inexperienced, the Vikings may very well have gotten a shot in the arm with the signing of 6-8 forward Vinny Zollo and the return of 6-9 Aaron Scales, who spent the 2013-14 season as a redshirt.

Zollo comes to Cleveland after a long and winding journey back to Division I basketball. The Winchester, Kentucky native started his career with Western Kentucky, where he started 14 of 35 games and helped the Hilltoppers to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

After the 2011-12 season, Zollo went the juco route, spending last season at Northwest Florida State, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds a game in a crowded frontcourt.

Having Zollo and Scales in the rotation present an opportunity for Waters to keep forward Anton Grady from spending the entire season in the middle. While Grady has been used in that capacity, it’s clear that getting banged around by bigger centers will eventually take its toll. And as everyone saw in 2012-13, when Grady was out with a knee injury, he is the one player the Vikings can’t afford to lose again.

The expectations for both Zollo and Scales are pretty reasonable at this point. Even if the two average 10 minutes a game, it will an entire half in which Grady can play a more natural position at power forward. That was clearly the original goal when Scales was redshirt in favor of seniors Devon Long and Luda Ndaye. But Ndaye was hurt until the very end of the season, and it became clear that Grady and fellow forward Jon Harris proved to a more effective duo up front.

Another potential effect of the signing of Zollo, plus the potential departure of Forbes, is a shift at the 3. Traditionally, in the guard-heavy Horizon League, Waters has made it a habit of putting three guards out on the floor.

However, with Forbes possibly gone and Zollo having previously started in Division I, Waters now has the option of shifting Marlin Mason to the small forward position which, like Grady at power forward, would be a more natural position. This could also give Mason some additional scoring chances, which, as a 4, he appeared hesitant to take advantage of in spite of the ability to put the ball in the basket from multiple spots on the court.