The duo of Mark Linebaugh ’04 and Howard Blue ’04 took with them many things upon their graduation. Among those, the most important were the 26.5 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, and 117 assists. When one adds to that loss the graduation of Josh Humphrey ’04 and the loss of sophomores Kendall and Kyle Chones for the season, you find a very young and inexperienced Colgate men’s basketball team. Those five players combined for 60 percent of the Raider offense last season. Head coach Emmett Davis returns only two players, senior co-captain Andrew Zidar and junior Alvin Reed, who made significant offensive contributions last year. Zidar averaged 9.5 points per contest and led the league in rebounding last year, ahuling in 6.6 rebounds per contest. Reed scored 11.4 points per game, third best on the team behind Linebaugh and Blue. “We’ve returned some very solid players, yet we are still very inexperienced,” Davis said. The coach is not worried, however, feeling that the void left by Linebaugh and Blue created “an opportunity for other young players to step up.”With many players missing, there is no shortage of players ready to step up. Senior co-captain Keith Williams has been sidelined by injuries for much of his Colgate career, but this year he will need to play a legitimate leadership role as one of two seniors on the team. Sophomore guard Jon Simon, who played well in limited action last season, will see a much-increased role this year as one of the Raiders’ top guards, while classmate Todd Checovich will contribute heavily on the defensive end. Two juniors will compete for time in the frontcourt as well, as Jon Foss will look to help Zidar on the defensive boards while Marc Daniels, a 6’9” center, will attempt to give the Raiders a legitimate low post threat. “We have some real good young players, and everyone has improved in different areas over the summer,” Davis said.But despite the improvement of the young players, the team’s success will likely hinge on the performance of Reed and Zidar.Another key to the season will be the ability of the first-year players to step up and contribute immediately.”Our [first-years] this year will play more of a role than any class I have seen in my four years here,” Zidar said. “If the young guys can learn the system and contribute, we should be a very good basketball team.”First-year players Kyle Roemer and Tim Pounds have already proved their worth in the team’s exhibition game with Waterloo, in which Roemer bucketed 14 points and Pounds added 10 points. Roemer played from the high school powerhouse De La Salle in California, where he led his team to the state Championship game while being named the Most Valuable Player in his league. Davis points out that first-years are rarely physically ready to immediately play significant minutes, but he believes that Roemer “has a chance to play right away; he’s physically ready.” The Raiders look to be strong and deep at the guard position with Reed, Simon, Roemer, Pounds and Checovich all competing for minutes.The Raiders are picked to finish fifth in the Patriot League this season in a poll of league Athletic Directors and Sports Information Directors. Bucknell is the favorite to win the league as the Bison return all five starters from a squad that contended for the Patriot League championship last year, including three players who were named to the preseason all-League first team. Lehigh, who won the Patriot League title last year, will look to defend its crown and avenge a NCAA Tournament Play-in Game loss last season.The Raiders open their regular season tonight against a tough Central Connecticut team in the opening round of the Mohegan Sun Classic. Davis does not have a starting five set in stone, but Simon, Checovich, Roemer, Zidar and Daniels played well together against Waterloo. No matter who gets the starting nod, look for Davis to spread out minutes throughout the Raider squad. Other contests to look forward to are the annual trip to Syracuse on December 4 and the Patriot League home opener on January 8 against Army, followed by a visit by Bucknell on January 12.