Murray State vs. 2019-2020 edition

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Murray State vs. 2019-2020 edition

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:02 pm

As part of the preseason, i wanted to find some write ups on the teams that are on the schedule. That way we can have some information on the teams prior to playing them, and prior to 75fan dissecting them . The best I found is from Three Man Weave. Now you don't have to agree (its a message board, who the heck agrees on here?!?) but they put forth a ton of information.

In a way, this is like a preseason lookahead in some of the yearbook style publications out there.

Admins- I am putting this on a single thread as to not have a ton of new threads showing up.
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Southern

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:03 pm

No write up yet.
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Tennessee

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:04 pm

#35(NATIONAL,6th SEC) Tennessee 2019-20 Preview
July 29, 2019
-Jim Root
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +ranks.JPG" alt="tenn ranks.JPG" />

Key Returners: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, John Fulkerson, Yves Pons
Key Losses: Grant Williams (pro), Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone (pro), Kyle Alexander
Key Newcomers: Josiah-Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua, Drew Pember, Devonte Gaines, Uros Plavsic (Arizona St.)**
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... roster.JPG" alt="tenn roster.JPG" />

** - As of this writing, Plavsic was seeking a waiver to play immediately.
Outlook: After two tremendous seasons on the broad shoulders of the Bash Brothers (Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield), Tennessee suffered a heartbreaker in the Sweet 16 against Purdue, unable to survive the Ryan Cline Fireworks Display in an instant classic overtime battle. The Volunteers now face a transitional offseason in which they lose the aforementioned gladiators plus the relatively surprising pro defection of point guard Jordan Bone, and Rick Barnes will need to re-tool and re-design the Vols' strategy quickly to avoid a large drop-off.
Playing through Williams, Schofield, and Bone, the Vols had one of the best offenses in the country last season, using a flex-heavy system to attack in the post and take advantage of mismatches. Williams threw himself a one-man parade to the free throw line, while the Vols' shooters enjoyed countless open looks thanks to all of the attention paid to the interior. Last year's Tennessee team ranked 28th nationally in frequency of post ups and 13th in efficiency on those possessions, per Synergy, but it was almost all thanks to Williams, Schofield, and Kyle Alexander. Frenchman Yves Pons (a constant favorite of Draft Twitter) has the physicality and athleticism to slide into the "mismatch" role, but he has a long way to go in terms of actual skill development to become an offensive focal point. It's possible he can get there with a wide open path to playing time and touches, but the Vols will need other avenues to buckets.
For that reason, the Vols may need to restructure their offense to be far more perimeter-oriented, where arguably their three best players reside: seniors Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden and five-star freshman Josiah-Jordan James. Bowden is locked in as a big wing scorer and shooter, but it will be interesting to see how Barnes divvies up ball-handling duties between Turner and James, a skilled big guard who played a ton of point in high school. Bone seemed like a lock all-conference pick before he opted for the draft, but the Vol offense surprisingly did not drop off at all when Turner ran the show without him:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... t+bone.JPG" alt="turner without bone.JPG" />

Barnes rarely ran any pick-and-roll last year, but attacking with both Turner and James might maximize the strengths of his backcourt more than in past years. Additionally, the off-ball screening and cutting action will be difficult to guard since all three of Turner, Bowden, and James can shoot and attack closeouts, and it's easy to imagine the big lefty James excelling off the Vols' frequent down-screen action, shooting over smaller defenders and attacking the paint:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... screen.gif" alt="tenn downscreen.gif" />

Bowden and Turner both had success off screens last year, as well, ranking in the 78th and 76th percentiles, respectively, per Synergy. It's not quite Virginia's mover-blocker, but it's a smart set to utilize the scoring talents of these guards. With little depth behind them (it's basically wing Jalen Johnson and hyper-thin freshman Davonte Gaines and that's it), expect Pons to see some minutes at the 3, and scouts will be eager to see how he looks with the ball in his hands more.
Tennessee also found a ton of easy points via the offensive glass, an area where active big man Alexander's departure will be felt heavily. John Fulkerson brings many of the same traits in his bouncy body, so Barnes will look to him to take over Alexander's role, but the depth behind him is exceedingly unproven: three-star freshmen Olivier Nkamhoua and Drew Pember plus returner Zach Kent, all of whom have a combined 13 minutes of game experience. Tennessee hopes to have another big body in Uros Plavsic, though it's unclear how the NCAA will handle his immediate eligibility waiver. With such turnover in the front court and the lack of post-up threats in the flex, generating easy buckets may be even more crucial this year.
Like in 2017-18, Tennessee's calling card may need to be on the defensive end. The Vols ranked sixth that year in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, extending its man-to-man pressure to force turnovers and bother opposing shooters. Despite nearly having an identical roster last year, Tennessee became far more offense-oriented, but given the size and versatility dotting the roster - Pons, James, Bowden, Johnson, Fulkerson, Gaines - this team seems capable of returning to that defensive identity. All of those guys can switch most screens, and Turner isn't a slouch despite being smaller at 6'2.
Bottom Line: As noted at the top of this preview, I voted Tennessee 33rd in our poll to assemble our Top 40 countdown, but after writing it, I've cooled a little on the Vols. They will have to prove they can score in different ways without the inimitable Williams to run the offense through, and the lack of experience in the front court may hinder the potentially imposing man-to-man defense. Barnes almost never fell out of the top 40 at Texas, but in an extremely deep SEC, the margins for error will be razor thin. I would exercise caution with the Vols until we see a little more how they'll use this specific roster and if James can be a dynamic contributor from day one.

https://www.three-man-weave.com/3mw/ten ... eview-2020
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Southern Illinois

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:06 pm

10(MVC). Southern Illinois
Key Returners: Aaron Cook, Eric McGill
Key Losses: Kavion Pippen, Armon Fletcher, Sean Lloyd, Marcus Bartley, Rudy Stradnieks, Thik Bol, Darius Beane
Key Newcomers: Ronnie Suggs (Missouri), Barret Benson (Northwestern), Harwin Francois (JUCO), Lance Jones, Marcus Domask, Sekou Dembele (Redshirt), Trent Brown, Stevan Jeremic (JUCO)
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="SIUC roster pic 19-20.PNG" />

Outlook: The Barry Hinson era has ended in Carbondale after seven seasons of competitive basketball. Hinson spent 16 total years in the Valley as head coach of Missouri State and SIUC, but never made the NCAA Tournament. His 2018-19 Salukis were the 3rd best team in the Valley last year but failed to excel in postseason play. New head coach Bryan Mullins will start with a mostly empty cupboard highlighted by two key returning guards and a slew of newcomers. Mullins played point guard for the Salukis back in the mid-to-late 2000s under then-head coach Chris Lowery, making two NCAA Tournaments during his career. He's since spent time as an assistant under Porter Moser at Loyola, and now becomes one of the youngest head coaches in the country at just 33 years old. His team will be experienced, starting perhaps four seniors, but the new faces will need to gel quickly to be competitive in an improved MVC.
Mullins' preferred style of play is an unknown at this point, but he may take cues from his former boss, Moser, and/or former coach, Lowery. Offensively, the Salukis will likely spread it out and go with a 4-out look, looking to score from the perimeter instead off drives and post-ups. Moser's squads are notorious for not crashing the glass and getting back on defense, so Mullins may instruct his teams to do the same. As a former PG, Mullins likely will put a heavy emphasis on ball movement, motion, and finding open looks from the outside. Defensively, Lowery's teams pressured and forced turnovers and Moser's have done the same the past few years. Mullins was a part of some elite defenses as a player, so this end of the floor will likely be a focus in his inaugural season.
Personnel-wise, SIU will rely on returners Aaron Cook and Eric McGill for offensive production. Cook runs the point and doubles as a pesky defender on the other end. He'll be asked to take a step-up in usage and be a reliable three-level scorer. McGill knocked down 40.2% of his three-point tries in 2018-19. Like Cook, McGill can handle the ball, create steals, and create his own shot, and also adds a stout rebounding presence from the backcourt.
The returning guards will be flanked by Missouri transfer Ronnie Suggs, JUCO import Harwin Francois, and freshmen Marcus Domask, Lance Jones, and Trent Brown. Suggs started his career in the Valley at Bradley where he earned a ton of minutes as a freshman. He was nothing special at Mizzou but likely starts for the Salukis given his size and experience. Perhaps a shift down in competition will allow Suggs to have a bigger impact this season. Domask, Wisconsin's 2019 Mr. Basketball, comes in as a big guard who can handle the rock and shoot from the outside. His HS competition is a bit suspect, but he can absolutely play in the MVC and should be ready to provide key minutes in his freshman season. Francois will add shooting (47.8% from three last year in JUCO) and defense to the wing. He'll challenge Suggs for the third starting backcourt spot. Jones is a super shifty, athletic, and strong guard who can shoot from deep. I love his game and think he can be a very good player in the MVC in the near future. Brown adds even more shooting from the perimeter; he teamed up with Arizona freshman Nico Mannion in high school.
Mullins will rely heavily on his backcourt for scoring this season because his frontcourt is quite thin. The aforementioned Domask will likely have to steal minutes at the 4-spot this season with only four other guys, Brendon Gooch, Barret Benson, Sekou Dembele, and late signee Stevan Jeremic possessing the requisite size to play up front. Gooch can space the floor from the 4-spot and rebounds well for his size, but he's yet to play major minutes at the collegiate level. Benson comes by way of Northwestern and should start at center for the Salukis in 2019-20. He'll add rebounding and shot blocking but won't offer much help offensively. Dembele, a redshirt last season, is still a bit raw offensively, but he gives the Salukis more muscle up front and will help on the glass. Jeremic is the tallest player on the roster and will be forced into minutes at the 5.
Bottom Line: Being picked to finish this low is unfamiliar territory for SIU, a school that hasn't finished lower than 5th in the Valley since 2015. A new coach and major roster turnover creates too much uncertainty in a league where nearly every other school is improving.
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Guy Coast Showcase

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:10 pm

11(A10). La Salle
Key Returners: Isiah Deas, David Beatty, Saul Phiri, Ed Croswell, Jared Kimbrough, Jack Clark
Key Losses: Pookie Powell, Traci Carter, Jamir Moultrie, Miles Brookins
Key Newcomers: Scott Spencer (Clemson), Brandon Stone, Christian Ray, Ayinde Hikim, Sherif Kenney, Moustapha Diagne (Western Kentucky)
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="la salle roster pic 19-20.PNG" />

Outlook: Ashley Howard took over the La Salle job last year from John Giannini, who manned the sidelines for the Explorers for 14 seasons, reaching one NCAA Tournament and one Sweet Sixteen in that span. Howard comes off the Jay Wright coaching tree, serving under the ridiculously good-looking Villanova coach from 2013 - 2018. As expected, La Salle hit some road bumps in year one under Howard, starting the season 0-10, but turned things around once A-10 play began. The Explorers finished a respectable 8-10 in conference (9th place), exceeding their 12th place preseason ranking. This year, La Salle will be without lead guard Pookie Powell, a team leader the past three seasons, but Howard does return a good crop of talent and brings in a promising group of newcomers. Though the Explorers may struggle once again in 2019-20, it's clear Howard has this program trending in the right direction.
Similar to Jay Wright's teams over at Villanova, Howard's squads shoot a ton of threes. In 2018-19, La Salle ranked 1st in the A-10 in percentage of points scored via the three and 3rd in 3P%. Howard likes to run a 4-out, spread offensive scheme with multiple ball handlers on the floor at once and plenty of shooting. Turnovers were an issue last season and likely will continue to be with the departure of Powell and fellow point guard Traci Carter. Howard will need to find consistent ball handling among his bevy of combo guards and wings. Powell's absence is also concerning from a scoring points perspective - La Salle was already terrible offensively, but without Powell on the floor the Explorers mustered a measly 0.87 PPP.
Howard has plenty of returners who can handle the ball, but none of them are true point guards used to conducting an offense. Isiah Deas was the 5th highest used player in the A-10 last season and is capable of creating his own offense or penetrating and dishing to open shooters. He was quite inefficient last year as a junior, but did improve on his 3P% despite shooting a higher volume. He'll need to evolve into a leader this season and be one of La Salle's go-to scorers on offense. Like Deas, David Beatty can also handle the ball, but his true talents lie on the defensive end where he can body opposing ball handlers. The former South Carolina Game Cock shot poorly from the outside during his first year in Philly, but has potential to grow into a more consistent offensive threat after coming out of high school as a highly regarded recruit.
Saul Phiri and Jack Clark likely stay primarily on the wing where they can do damage with their deadeye three-point strokes. Phiri knocked down 39.4% of his trey ball tries last year and Clark connected on 41% of his in limited games. Clark played only nine games for the Explorers last year, missing the first seven due to a high school ACL tear and the latter half of the year due to a lower body injury. When healthy, Clark was one of the best scorers and most reliable shooters on the team. In an offense that prioritizes spacing and shooting, Clark's health will be key in 2019-20.
Clemson transfer Scott Spencer and freshman Christian Ray will provide depth and versatility on the wing while freshmen Ayinde Hikim and Sherif Kenney will compete for starting minutes at the point. Hikim is a 3-star prospect out of Mount Zion Prep who averaged 36 PPG in high school. He's quick and can change directions on a dime, but his ball handling and passing will be his biggest contributions to this squad. Kenney is a 4-star recruit out of Chicago who garnered a slew of high major attention early on in his high school career. At 6'4" 212 lbs, Kenney can use his size and strength to bully smaller defenders into the paint off drives. He has the inside route to an early starting gig in Philly if he can get his body ready from a conditioning perspective.
La Salle doesn't have a ton of size on its roster, but that isn't a death sentence for a team that will most likely run out four guards majority of the time. One of either Jared Kimbrough or Ed Croswell will likely start at the 5, each of whom are beasts on the boards. Croswell has the most potential from a development perspective and led the nation in offensive rebounding rate in 2018-19, posting an insane 18.1% clip. Twice Croswell grabbed 10+ offensive rebounds in a game last season, a staggering stat for any level of basketball. Kimbrough is a better shot blocker than Croswell, but neither stood up to post-ups well last season. Freshman Brandon Stone will compete for playing time in the frontcourt as well; he'll add shooting and can play the 4 alongside either Croswell or Kimbrough thanks to his ability to stretch the floor. His handles are also quite good for a 6'11" guy. WKU grad transfer Moustapha Diagne, Howard's most recent signee, will also see plenty of run up front - he has a burgeoning face-up game to go along with his traditional back-to-the-basket play. He'll add size and rebounding to a roster in need.
La Salle was pretty good defensively last season, paced by a backcourt that applied heavy pressure to opposing ball handlers. The Explorers pressed at the 33rd highest rate in the country last season and allowed the quickest average possession length in the conference, a testament to their goal of speeding up their opponent. Unfortunately, once teams broke through the pressure and perimeter shell, resistance was lacking near the rim. Expect more of the same this season with Howard's seemingly endless supply of wings and similar big man personnel.
Bottom Line: It's hard to see La Salle improving much in conference this year with so many teams around it improving. But, the Explorers should be able to avoid another 0-10 start to the season and have a bright future under the former Villanova assistant.


1(HORIZON). Wright St.
Key Returners: Loudon Love, Cole Gentry, Billy Wampler
Key Losses: Mark Hughes, Parker Ernsthausen, Alan Vest
Key Newcomers: Jordan Ash, Aleksandar Dozic, Trey Calvin
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... roster.png" alt="wright state roster.png" />

Outlook: Last season, everybody and their mother could see that Wright State and Northern Kentucky were on a collision course in the Horizon. Both were pegged to finish first and second in some order by most preseason prognosticators, and as the season played out, the Norse and the Raiders made those predictions look prophetic. After splitting the regular season series, it was only fitting that the Horizon's top-2 squads would inevitably square off in the conference tournament title game.
The build up would end in bitter despair for the Raiders - the Norse won the rubber match, punching their ticket to the Big Dance, while simultaneously relegating Scott Nagy and his pesky bunch to the NIT.
The Raiders now seek vengeance, a quest they'll embark on without two of their top rotational cogs, Mark Hughes and Parker Ernsthausen. Hughes and Ernsthausen accounted for two of the Horizon League's five member All-Defensive Team, so Nagy's first order of business will be identifying their replacements.
To replace Hughes, Nagy has two viable options to call upon. First on the list is Northwestern import Jordan Ash, a defensive bulldog who brings Big Ten pedigree to the watered down Horizon. Incumbent Jaylon Hall is also back in the mix, who missed all but one game last year with a shoulder injury. Hall's offensive skill set and fluidity are enticing, and he's spent one more year in Nagy's system, which should give him an edge over Ash in the battle for the starting nod. Both will get their fair share of burn in the backcourt, but another injury to the fragile Ash could place a heavy workload on to Hall's lap.
As far as Ernsthausen goes, Nagy can utilize a by-committee approach to replenish his production. Last season, Nagy effectively used two different front line combinations: 1) a twin tower approach with Loudon Love and Ernsthausen; 2) a perimeter-oriented lineup with Love and Billy Wampler at the 4.
Wampler is the key ingredient for Wright State's balance on both sides of the ball (fun fact alert: Wright State finished 122nd overall in offensive and defensive efficiency last year, per kenpom.com). Wampler's bodybuilder physique enables him to tussle with bigger bodies down low on defense, while his complete scoring package makes him a mismatch at the 4 offensively. As the advanced on / off numbers from hooplens.com illuminate, the Raiders were actually better defensively with this smaller lineup construction last season:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... on+off.png" alt="wright state frontline on off.png" />

Collectively, Wampler and Love look like they could out bench any frontcourt in the league, and with the return of high-flying Skyelar Potter pinching down on the boards from the perimeter, most possessions will be 'one and done' for opposing offenses.
6'9 Marist grad transfer Aleksandar Dozic is another intriguing asset, an exceptional passer and versatile scorer who can create a variety of mismatches offensively - but, as Nagy detailed earlier this summer, he still has work to do on the other side of the ball:
"He's probably more polished offensively than Parker and I think he will score better, but he's not as good defensively and needs to get much better on that end."
Nagy's been surprised by the development of redshirt freshman Grant Basile, another skilled forward who redshirted last season after an ankle injury put his college career on pause. Like Dozic, Basile's offensive tool kit allows him to step away from the paint, so inserting him at the 4 will provide Love acres of space inside to operate.
Acting as the superglue at point guard will be Cole Gentry, a veteran floor general who connects all the dots. Gentry is Mr. Reliable as the primary ball handler in the backcourt, responsible for conducting the offense and scoring opportunistically when the moment strikes. Had it not been for a mini shooting slump last year, his efficiency numbers would've been off the charts good, but anything he provides from a shooting / scoring perspective is gravy. Gentry's most precious trait is on-floor leadership, as he'll once again be an extension of Nagy on the floor at all times.
Bottom Line: The biggest change from last year to this season is the sturdy bench Nagy will have at his disposal, as he discussed earlier this summer in an interview with the Dayton Daily News:
"We've never had depth like this since I've been here. We had good players before, but we had to rely pretty much on seven guys. Now we've got a lot of good players and we're going to have some really good players on our team who just don't see a lot of time on the floor. Those are decisions we'll have to make."
Along with rising sophomore James Mann and sharpshooting freshman Trey Calvin, Nagy could go as many as 10-deep, a refreshing extension from the 7 to 8-man rotations he leaned on last year. With Northern Kentucky in the midst of a transition phase, and few other worthy adversaries posing a legitimate threat, the Raiders are my pick to win the league outright after sharing the conference crown with the Norse last season.

1(BIG SKY). Weber State
Key Returners: Jerrick Harding, Cody John, Israel Barnes, Caleb Nero, Dima Zdor, Michal Kozak, Donatas Kupsas
Key Losses: Brekkott Chapman, Zach Braxton, Ricky Nelson
Key Newcomers: Boubacar Diakite (JUCO), Tim Fuller (Redshirt), Austin Galuppo, Judah Jordan, KJ Cunningham
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="weber state roster 19-20.PNG" />

*** Editor's Note: Pitt transfer Khameron Davis was granted a waiver on 10/22 to be immediately eligible. This further solidifies Weber's outlook as the top team in the Big Sky heading into the season. ***
Outlook: Weber State has been a Big Sky powerhouse under Randy Rahe the past 13 seasons. In that time span, Rahe has led the Wildcats to three NCAA Tournaments and racked up a conference record of 165-63 (.723). Last year, however, was a disappointment for the Purple Cats, notching "only" an 11-9 league mark and tying for 4th in the Big Sky standings. Rated 123rd heading into the year by KenPom, the Cats finished a paltry 224th, only the second time in Rahe's tenure the program has finished outside of the top 200. With a senior-led backcourt returning in 2019-20, including likely Big Sky Player of the Year Jerrick Harding, Weber State looks certain for a bounceback and the favorites to capture the conference crown.
The 2018-19 Cats were Rahe's fastest squad in his 13-year tenure, ranking 37th in tempo nationally and leading the Big Sky. Offense was the main driver to this tempo mark, as Weber had the 18th quickest average possession length in the land. The Cats ranked 12th per Synergy in percentage of plays finished in transition and 24th per Hoop-Math in percentage of initial FGA in transition. By all indications, Rahe fully intends to repeat this uptempo style in 2019-20, meaning Weber should be one of the more exciting teams to watch in mid-majordom this season. When in the halfcourt, Weber is primarily a pick-n-pop or pick-n-roll team with either Harding or fellow guard Cody John handling the rock. Rahe almost always has good outside shooting teams and this year's squad should see plenty of looks with the playmaking ability of its guards.
Harding is a two-time 1st Team All-Big Sky selection and a two-time top five finisher in usage in conference play. The 6'1" guard can flat out score from anywhere on the floor, and he does it efficiently, turning in a scorching conference split of .551 / .368 / .893 (2P / 3P / FT) last season. Whether in iso or off ball screens, Harding wreaks havoc on opposing defenders and demands double teams when barreling to the hoop. He'll likely lead the conference in scoring this season and should hold the school's all-time scoring mark when all is said and done.
Cody John, an Honorable Mention All-Big Sky honoree last season, is Harding's right-hand-man in the backcourt. Like Harding, John turned in an impressive conference shooting clip of .541 / .365 / .787 last season and will give Weber the best one-two guard punch in the league this year. John benefits from Harding's penetration ability - 80% of his made threes were assisted last season - but the senior guard can also create his own shot and opportunities for others.
One of the many reasons to like Weber this year is its unique combination of senior leadership / experience and up-and-coming youth. Rahe has four key players this year making the juicy freshman-to-sophomore leap and another entering his junior season. Israel Barnes and Caleb Nero are the two sophomores on the perimeter, each capable of earning starter's minutes in 2019-20. Barnes knocked down 39% of his Big Sky three-point attempts last year and is due for a step-up in usage without the production left behind by Brekkott Chapman. Nero is a capable scorer from all three levels of the floor. The sophomore duo will have PT competition from three freshmen in wing Austin Galuppo and combo guards Judah Jordan and KJ Cunningham. Galuppo is the one to watch of this group, a borderline 3-star recruit who shoots lights-out from distance and finishes above the rim. Jordan is a fairly highly regarded recruit from the DMV, a hard-nosed guard who can score and make plays for others. He'll see plenty of opportunity when Harding and John depart in 2020-21. Cunningham, a DI-ready guard out of Texas, will provide the Cats with even more backcourt depth.
Rahe's returning frontcourt pieces have much to live up to with both Chapman and Zach Braxton's graduations. Sophomore big man Dima Zdor appears to be the "next man up" at the center spot, proving to be a solid shot blocker and rebounder during his floor time last year. Stretchy 4-men Michal Kozak and Donatas Kupsas will each fight for starts alongside Zdor - Kozak likely has an edge here with his superior interior finishing ability.
Look for both Tim Fuller, a redshirt freshman, and Babacour Diakite to push (and likely overtake) Kozak and Kupsas for minutes. Fuller signed with Weber in 2015 and graduated HS in 2016, electing to complete an LDS mission trip before officially starting his collegiate basketball career. His age and experience will be invaluable to Weber's young frontcourt and word is he's been strong in practice during his redshirt year and this past offseason. Diakite, a 4-star recruit coming out of HS, signed with St. John's initially and redshirted in 2017-18. Last season, Diakite enjoyed a successful year in the JUCO ranks before tearing his ACL in February. The athletic forward should be ready for the start of 2019-20 and figures to be a weapon defensively and in Rahe's pick-n-pop attack.
Rahe usually has strong defenses at Weber, defenses that hinge on one philosophy: TAKE AWAY THE THREE-BALL. Since 2012-13, Weber has ranked 1st, 1st, 14th, 7th, 1st, 18th, and 17th in the country in 3PA rate. This heavy perimeter pressure is designed to limit outside looks and force ball handlers into the teeth of the defense where (usually) a capable shot blocker awaits. Zdor will have this role this season, one that he should be able to fill effectively. Rahe has a deep and athletic backcourt to chase opponents off the three-point line this season; expect the Cats to be a top three defense in the Big Sky once again.
Bottom Line: The losses of Chapman and Braxton are significant, but Weber should be in good hands with Harding and John leading the way. Rahe is deep at nearly every position and has the best returning scorer in the conference. Weber is not the unanimous favorite in the Big Sky as I expected them to be, according to preseason media polls, but rest assured, this team is capable of taking the league title by more than 2 games.

3(MAC). Miami OH (3rd in East)
Key Returners: Nike Sibande, Dalonte Brown, Bam Bowman, Mekhi Lairy
Key Losses: Darrian Ringo, Jalen Adaway
Key Newcomers: Javin Etzler, Josh Brewer, Dae Dae Grant
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... .05+PM.png" alt="Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.54.05 PM.png" />

Outlook: Those who are oblivious to the advanced analytics world of college basketball were likely blind to the fact that Miami OH actually got better last season. The problem is the Redhawks weren't the only team in the MAC on an upward trajectory, as the intra-conference competition was as cutthroat as it's ever been. Miami OH got lost amongst the mid-tier shuffle last year, but the Redhawks could be on the verge of breaking through in a critical third season of the Jack Owens era.
The first order of business is addressing the departure of Darrian Ringo, the Redhawks' offensive table setter and defensive stopper. Without Ringo spraying the ball around offensively, 'Miami OH' might look more like 'Miami ISO' this season. Per Synergy, the Redhawks' offense ended with an isolation possession 12% of the time last year, a rate that graded out as the 11th highest clip in the country, more than double the national average. Without Ringo, the offense could look even more iso-centric with a 'my turn, your turn' dynamic between reigning All-MAC 3rd Teamer Nike Sibande and junior wing Dalonte Brown.
All you have to do is look at Sibande and Brown's relatively low career assist rates to get a sense for how they're wired, which is to score, score and score some more.
Sibande and Brown aren't shy when it comes to letting it fly from downtown, even though neither is renowned as a precise long range marksman. Both are career 33% 3-point shooters, which becomes slightly problematic at such a high volume (Sibande and Brown launched a whopping 373 triples combined last season). For the exception of John Groce and his trigger-happy Zips, the Redhawks jacked more threes than any other team in the MAC, but only connected on 32% of those attempts during conference play.
The no-brainer fill-in for Ringo at the point is rising sophomore Mekhi Lairy, who wasted no time proving he can run with the big boys last year. Lairy got an unexpected opportunity to start against Evansville on December 30th (the only game all year that Brown didn't start) and took full advantage, pacing the Redhawks with 14 points and 4 assists in a tightly contested home win. Despite his itty-bitty build (5'8 150 pounds), the step up in competition didn't deter Lairy one bit and he was rewarded with All-Freshman honors at season's end. Local Indiana residents are well-versed with Lairy's resume, a former Mr. Basketball runner-up who was a human highlight reel at Evansville Bosse High School, where he finished his career with 2,237 points (the 18th most in Indiana high school history).
Precious Ayah, Myja White, and Milos Jovic are promising role players, but I'd like to see Owens give local freshman product Javin Etlzer a crack. At 6'8, 200 pounds armed with a wet outside jumper, Etzler shapes up to be a tailor-made fit next to the Redhawks' interior enforcer Bam Bowman in the frontcourt. Etzler's got some bounce in his step and could be lethal in pick-n-pops with Lairy, Sibande and sharpshooter Isaiah Coleman-Lands, who returns to the fold after taking a medical redshirt last year.
Bottom Line: I'm a firm believer that Jack Owens has this ship steered in the right direction. He was masterful in getting a young team to gel two years ago in his first season at the helm when Sibande and Brown were freshmen, and while last season's win-loss record didn't reflect any improvement, a 50-spot climb in kenpom.com's overall rankings is a telltale sign. The MAC as a whole was the strongest it's been in nearly two decades last year, so failing to consider the external landscape around the league when evaluating Owens' performance would be short-sighted.
I'm excited to see what Lairy can do as the offensive catalyst, but his defensive impact pales in comparison to Ringo's vice grip. Still, he's an electric playmaker and should open up easy, open looks for Sibande and Brown off-the-ball, while Big Bam resumes his interior gatekeeper role inside. Behind Buffalo and Bowling Green, it's a game of musical chairs in what I'm defining as 'Tier 2', but I think the Owens' effect gives the Redhawks a slight edge over the others - it's too bad the regional conference division alignment slots them into the hyper-competitive East.

2(COLONIAL). Northeastern
Key Returners: Jordan Roland, Tomas Murphy, Bolden Brace, Jason Strong, Myles Franklin, Maxime Boursiquot
Key Losses: Vasa Pusica, Shawn Occeus, Donnell Gresham, Anthony Green, Jeremy Miller
Key Newcomers: Greg Eboigbodin (Illinois), Guilien Smith (Dartmouth), Connor Braun, Vito Cubrilo, Tyson Walker, Quirin Emanga
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="northeastern roster pic 19-20.PNG" />

Outlook: Northeastern battled through a variety of injuries last season and rode a 15-2 run down the stretch to capture the CAA auto-bid and the school's second NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. Legendary head coach Bill Coen once again proved he is one of the elite mid-major coaches in the country, keeping the Huskies atop the league standings despite the health issues. Coen is known for adapting his style to his personnel, shifting the makeup of his lineups and goals offensively to fit his talent. In 2015, the Huskies ran offense through big man Scott Eatherton, more or less ignoring the three-ball. The past four seasons, Northeastern has employed a 4-out, gunning halfcourt attack, one that should continue in 2019-20.
Bill Coen's motion offense is one of the purest spectacles in college basketball. Every player on the floor is in constant motion: passing, screening, and cutting in an effort to free-up an open look (often from the perimeter).
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... test+1.gif" alt="While the ball screen is set, the baseline guard clears, allowing space for the roll. Tomas Murphy (33) meanwhile flairs to the wing to freeze his defender at the elbow." />

While the ball screen is set, the baseline guard clears, allowing space for the roll. Tomas Murphy (33) meanwhile flairs to the wing to freeze his defender at the elbow.
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... test+2.gif" alt="Bolden Brace (20) sets a ball screen and then catches off the pop while the weak-side guard sets a backscreen for Jordan Roland (12), occupying the defense. A ball fake and patience by Brace leads to an open layup on the block." />

Bolden Brace (20) sets a ball screen and then catches off the pop while the weak-side guard sets a backscreen for Jordan Roland (12), occupying the defense. A ball fake and patience by Brace leads to an open layup on the block.
This year's Huskies are a guard-heavy team with multiple forwards who can stretch the floor, so the three-point shot will once again be the central focus of the offense. The past four years, Northeastern has ranked within the top 30 nationally in 3PA rate and Coen's squads are often within the top 50 nationally in assist rate. To boot, this team doesn't just shoot threes - it makes them. Last year, the Huskies ranked 18th in 3P%, which fueled their 5th ranked eFG%. With three guys returning who shot over 40% from deep in 2018-19, Northeastern should be just as deadly from deep this season.
Defensively, Northeastern's goal also revolves around the three-point line. The Huskies are consistently one of the best teams in the nation at disallowing three-point attempts, a good strategy in a conference that tends to take a lot of threes. This focus on the perimeter combined with Northeastern's lack of size last year resulted in the Huskies' giving up easy looks in the paint. Still, Coen's emphasis on stopping "3" instead of "2" contributed to Northeastern's #1 conference defensive rank, and (as always) his team was extremely good on the defensive glass (yet another sign of superior coaching). Despite the loss of Shawn Occeus, among other perimeter stoppers, Northeastern's defense should remain stout in 2019-20, especially in the CAA world.
One of the main reasons Northeastern has seemed to fly under the radar the past few years is its non-reliance on "star power". Vasa Pusica was clearly the Huskies' best player in 2018-19, but he was by no means a dominant scorer and received plenty of help from his supporting cast on a nightly basis. Coen's style is very much "team over individual", which can lead to many underrating just how good this squad is capable of being. Jordan Roland will be the "alpha" this season, the lone returning All-Conference performer and returning leading scorer. Roland exceled in his first season after coming over from George Washington, taking on a starting role and providing three-point shooting on the wing. The 6'1" senior is one of the best shooters in the country, hitting 40.2% of his 246 three-point attempts and shooting 54.8% from 2 and 90% from the foul line in 2018-19. He'll pitch in with the ball handling effort this season, but will mostly function as a spot-up shooting threat.
Roland, like Pusica last year, will have plenty of help in the backcourt this season. Wings Bolden Brace and Maxime Boursiquot return to add more shooting, while Dartmouth transfer Guilien Smith and freshmen Vito Cubrilo and Tyson Walker aim to support ball handling duties. Returners Myles Franklin and Shaquille Waters likely resume wing reserve roles off the bench. Brace knocked down 41.3% of his three-point attempts last year, ranked 3rd on the team in assists, and 1st in rebounds. He'll be one of Coen's most important players in 2019-20 as he enters his final collegiate season. Boursiquot returns after missing 2018-19 with a hip injury. He started 31 games as a sophomore and adds versatility on both ends of the floor. If Coen feels his frontcourt isn't up to the task, Brace and/or Boursiquot could see minutes at the "4" in Northeastern's spread attack.
If Roland doesn't assume ball-handling duties, Smith likely earns some starts at the point. The Dartmouth transfer has been marred by injuries the past two seasons, but he started every game for the Big Green as a sophomore in 2016-17, averaging 12.0 PPG / 3.5 RPG / 1.8 APG. Cubrilo or Walker could also earn big-time minutes in the backcourt in their first years in Boston. Cubrilo is a big point guard out of Croatia reminiscent of Pusica; he's highly skilled and has already proven the ability to run an offense. Walker, a 3-star recruit in some places, has a ridiculous handle and quick hands on defense. His combination speed and shooting will work well in the confines of Coen's offense and word is he's being tabbed to be the early season starter at the point position.
Coen adds some beef up front this season with Illinois transfer Greg Egboidbodin. He's really the only frontcourt player on the roster who qualifies as a pure paint-bound big man, which will add nice contrast to a roster of mostly perimeter players. Defensively, Egboidbodin will help sure-up the rim protection, an area of weakness for the Huskies the past several years. Junior forward Tomas Murphy will start at either the 4 or 5 in what will hopefully finally be his breakout season. Murphy was a highly regarded recruit coming to Northeastern a few seasons ago but has yet to realize his full potential, some of which is due to nagging injury trouble. Murphy is a skilled forward who can score in the post or from outside the arc; his usage should increase this season as he assumes a larger offensive role.
Redshirt sophomore Jason Strong and freshman Connor Braun round out the official frontcourt rotation, but freshman Quirin Emanga has the size to earn minutes at the 4 as well. Strong is mostly a spot-up, stretch 4 type of forward offensively, offering little in the rebounding and post defense departments in his limited action. Braun could contribute immediately with his ability to put the ball on the floor and score on the block. From a size perspective alone, we should expect to see Braun in at least a rotational role off the pine. Emanga can play the 2, 3, or 4 with his 7-foot wingspan and projects as a defensive nightmare for opposing ball handlers. His offense is still developing, but he should be able to make a key impact on defense on day one.
Bottom Line: Charleston might be the favorite in the CAA this season, but it would be foolish to write-off Coen's ability to coach the Huskies to another Colonial championship and NCAA Tourney auto-bid. Northeastern will once again be one of the better mid-majors in the country, a well-disciplined, well-coached team capable of taking down Power 6 opponents in the non-conference slate and postseason play.


2(SUN BELT). South Alabama
Key Returners: Trhae Mitchell, Josh Ayayi, Herb McGee, John Pettway
Key Losses: Rodrick Sikes, Kory Holden, RJ Kelly
Key Newcomers: Andre Fox (High Point), Don Coleman (Cal), Chad Lott (Howard), Josh Ayeni (St. Bonaventure), Tyreke Locure, KK Curry
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... roster.JPG" alt="south bama roster.JPG" />

Outlook: Richie Riley's first season in Mobile wasn't much to brag about: 17-17 overall (two non-D1 wins), 8-10 in the Sun Belt, played a grand total of two (2) top 100 teams as part of one of the country's softest non-conference schedules. But last year was always a transition year, by design. Riley had three transfers sitting out for the year, loading up for a 2019-20 run at the Sun Belt title. Riley has become something of a mid-major Mussleman or Hoiberg in the way he works the transfer portal (two more will be sitting this year), and his talent accumulation has led to arguably the best roster in the Sun Belt. But the question of whether he can build a cohesive unit will plague the Jaguars until he's proven it can work.
That concern stems from the surplus of scorers Riley has assembled. It's a good problem to have, to be sure, but balancing the shot distribution between at least five players who will demand the ball will be an issue. Wings Don Coleman and Andre Fox were the clear offensive alphas at their prior stops, but they join a team that already has one of those in big man Josh Ajayi, a thick post player who overwhelms opponents with his strength and persistence. Grad transfer Chad Lott was technically the second or third banana at Howard, but that team only had three bananas, so he used a large share of possessions himself. And veteran Trhae Mitchell excelled in a much bigger role last season, seeing his usage incrase by almost 150% (14.9 to 22.9 - 25.7 in Sun Belt play). To put it all in one compact graphic:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +usage.JPG" alt="South Bama usage.JPG" />

I'm not a rocket scientist, but I'm pretty sure a combined five-man usage rate of 127.2% does not work, mathematically. And that doesn't even include returning guard Herb McGee, a double-digit scorer himself who may object to becoming invisible. Riley's chief responsibility will be getting all of these egos to coexist and accept more niche roles for the betterment of the team. Mitchell is probably the most likely to cede possessions, especially considering that he's been already proven to be a highly effective role player with limited touches.
Riley's system will aid this endeavor, as he runs a pro style spread pick-and-roll attack that can rotate ball-handlers and feed the hungriest mouths when necessary. He'll also probably crank the pace to maximize the number of possessions the Jaguars have, as he did in his second year at Nicholls State (12th nationally in adjusted tempo, per KenPom). Ayayi will have a new, nearly-identically-named running mate up front in St. Bonaventure import Josh Ayeni, which is sure to confuse me constantly (and maybe opponents, too). Riley will utilize both bigs as roll men and as cutters/finishers playing off the driving guards.
Riley will also need to convince all of those scorers to play defense, which is a sneaky-big challenge, as well. He's been all over the place with his man vs. zone usage in his three years as a head coach (last year at South Alabama, prior two years at Nicholls State):
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +zones.JPG" alt="richie riley zones.JPG" />

I think 2017-18 is the best representation of his ideal style (once he had gotten more of his own players in the fold), and with the level of athletes he has now, man-to-man makes sense. That would also help the Jaguars' dismal defensive rebounding, which ranked 306th in the country and ninth in the conference last year. Plus, Mitchell is one of the best and most versatile defenders in all of mid-majordom, so Riley already has a clear stopper on the roster. Freshman KK Curry has plenty of potential on this end, also.
Bottom Line: It's hard to take issue with the talent here - if you want to pick South Alabama as the Sun Belt favorite on that alone, I will have no qualms. But I am concerned enough about the roster fit and shot selection to hesitate from placing the Jaguars atop the league standings (Coleman, in particular, is someone we razzed a lot for his decision-making on an admittedly horrendous Cal team). Consider USA a high-ceiling team with some real chemistry/defensive question marks.


4(MVC). Drake
Key Returners: Tremell Murphy, Noah Thomas, DJ Wilkins, Anthony Murphy, Liam Robbins, Garrett Sturtz,
Key Losses: Nick McGlynn, Brady Ellingson, Nick Norton
Key Newcomers: Roman Penn (Siena), Brady Ernst (Florida Gulf Coast), Joseph Yesufu, Nate Ferguson, Issa Samake, Okay Djamgouz
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="drake roster pic 19-20.PNG" />

Outlook: What a season it was for first-year head coach Darian DeVries. After being picked to finish near dead-last in the Valley, Drake split the regular season title with Loyola and DeVries earned some well-deserved hardware as the league's Coach of the Year. DeVries spent 18 years as an assistant at Creighton under Dana Altman and Greg McDermott before taking over for Nico Medved at Drake, presumably honing his head coaching craft and biding his time to release havoc on the unsuspecting MVC. The Bulldogs bring back a lot of production from that 24-10 (12-6) 2018-19 squad, but they lose MVC 1st Teamer and DPOY Nick McGlynn, All-Conference guard Brady Ellingson, and stud point guard Nick Norton, whose waiver for a 6th year of eligibility was denied this summer by the all-powerful NCAA. DeVries brings in some talent via the transfer wire and high school ranks to help make up for the colossal departures and fight for a second straight Valley title.
Drake plays one of the more uptempo styles in the Valley, taking advantage of its wealth of wing athletes and ball handlers to catch opponents backpedaling on the run. In the halfcourt, DeVries' squad was one of the best at moving the ball and playing a team-focused style - players constantly pass, cut, and screen away in Drake's motion offense. The pick-n-roll is also a staple of Drake's offensive attack, often ran with Noah Thomas, DJ Wilkins, and the departed Nick Norton last season. Each of these guards were capable of using a ball screen and pulling up from deep, hitting the roll man diving to the hoop, or penetrating and kicking to open shooters. The Bulldogs were one of the better overall shooting teams in the nation last year, a result of actual shooting ability but also taking clean, open looks. DeVries had a relative lack of frontcourt depth in 2018-19, so he often ran a 4-out style of offense with Tremell Murphy earning most of the minutes at the "4" spot. Expect a similar look in 2019-20.
Murphy is arguably the most important player on the roster with his ability to affect the game in nearly every facet. He's a versatile player on both ends of the floor at 6'6", able to work from the post or handle the ball on the perimeter on offense, and guard multiple positions and grab rebounds on the defensive end. He'll need to step up in a major way to make up for the McGlynn departure, a big man who, like Murphy, impacted the game in a multitude of ways.
Tremell's twin brother, Anthony Murphy, likely moves into the starting lineup full-time this season after seeing five starts in 2018-19. Like his bro, Anthony is an athletic wing, but he's more of a perimeter-oriented player than paint-focused Tremell. Very few teams in the MVC have one let alone two athletes of the Murphys' caliber on their roster.
Junior Noah Thomas and sophomore DJ Wilkins will round out the starting backcourt. Thomas took over point guard duties when Norton went down with injury 12 games into the season. He struggled with turnovers and his shot in 2018-19, but was capable working out of the pick-n-roll. Perhaps another year under his belt will help his consistency. If not, Siena transfer Roman Penn appears poised to step in and take over PG responsibilities. Penn started 19 games for the Saints as a freshman in 2017-18, turning in a productive year in which he proved to be a capable shooter, driver, and facilitator. Defensively, Penn can be a menace to opposing ball handlers and force steals in bunches. Wilkins' spot in the starting five won't be challenged coming off a freshman campaign in which he earned a spot on the Valley's All-Freshman squad. The sophomore guard acts as a secondary ball handler on offense, thrives in transition, and knocks down open shots (despite a funky, high-arcing shot). He should be one of the better guards in the MVC this season, assuming all is well with his ankle, which he broke in March of last season.
Rounding out the backcourt rotation will be walk-on Garrett Sturtz, who stepped up big-time when injuries piled up, pure shooting JUCO transfer Jonah Jackson, and freshmen point guards Joe Yesufu and Okay Djamgouz. Sturtz was solid on both ends of the floor - as solid as any walk-on could be - but he may see his minutes cut from last season with the arrival of Penn and Yesufu. Yesufu, a 3-star recruit out of Chicago, looks ready to play immediately in the Valley; he possesses great speed and athleticism which should make him a terror in transition. Yesufu's explosion will also allow him to rise up in the lane and finish above bigger defenders. Djamgouz is a tall PG at 6'5" and a reclass from 2020. He may be a useful collegiate player in a year or two, but it's unlikely he makes a huge splash in year one.
McGlynn's departure left Drake's frontcourt mighty thin so DeVries went to the recruiting trail to aid his lone returning forwards, Liam Robbins and Antonio Pilipovic. Robbins is a massive 7-footer who rebounds and blocks shots at a high level while Pilipovic is more of a stretch 4. Florida Gulf Coast transfer Brady Ernst and freshmen Nate Ferguson and Issa Samake will provide support up front. Ernst, formerly of Iowa State as well, rebounded well last season for FGCU and should eat 10-20 minutes per game in the frontcourt. Ferguson has potential to be one of the better players on the team down the road; he's a good leaper, skilled in the post, and can handle it on the perimeter. He may not start in 2018-19, but he should be able to carve out some minutes and get acclimated to D1 ball. Samake is an athletic post player with some face-up skills; his addition gives DeVries even more athleticism at the 4 position along with the brothers Murphy.
Like last year, expect Drake to play straight man-to-man nearly all the time and emphasize taking away the three-ball. McGlynn was the Bulldogs' best defender, but Robbins should be able to provide solid resistance in the paint while athletes like Murphy and Wilkins bother perimeter shooters.
Bottom Line: Drake is on the shortlist of teams that can challenge for a Valley title in 2019-20. DeVries will look to show his first season was no fluke, as he returns a strong corps of athletes / playmakers and adds some promising newcomers to the fold.
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Missouri State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:11 pm

1(MVC). Missouri State
Key Returners: Keandre Cook, Tulio Da Silva, Kabir Mohammed, Jared Ridder
Key Losses: Jarred Dixon, Josh Webster, Ryan Kreklow, Obediah Church, Szymon Wojcik
Key Newcomers: Lamont West (West Virginia), Josh Hall (Nevada), Tyrik Dixon (Middle Tennessee), Isiaih Mosley, Tyem Freeman, Ja'Monta Black, Ford Cooper, Gaige Prim (JUCO)
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... pic+v2.PNG" alt="mo state roster pic v2.PNG" />

Outlook: If there was ever any doubt about the Dana Ford hire, it is completely gone now. Picked to finish 8th in the Missouri Valley last preseason, Missouri State finished T-3rd in Ford's first year after coming over from Tennessee State. This season, the Bears are the preseason MVC favorite with hands-down the most talented roster in the conference, one that is largely made up of transfers. Missouri State hasn't won a Valley regular season title since Cuonzo Martin roamed the sidelines in 2011 and hasn't punched a ticket to the Big Dance since 1999 under Steve Alford. With an embarrassing amount of talent this year, Ford's squad is in prime position to end both those droughts in 2019-20.
Ford's offense centers on the pick-n-roll, where his athletic guards can work off ball screens and feed open shooters on the wings or dump to an active, rolling big man. Like all Valley teams, the Bears play at a slow tempo and emphasize ball protection. MO State was one of the better squads in the conference last year at earning trips to the foul line and second chance opportunities via the offensive glass. Despite all the talent flowing in from the transfer wire, the Bears have a hole at the point guard position with the departure of Josh Webster. Middle Tennessee transfer Tyrik Dixon will likely see some starts there, but freshman Ford Cooper Jr. could run the offense as well. Then there's three-point shooting, suddenly a concern with the losses of Jarred Dixon and Ryan Kreklow. Guys like Keandre Cook, Jared Ridder, Lamont West, Josh Hall, and Isiaih Mosely can all pitch in to this cause, but none are as prolific as the two departures.
Cook, a 3rd Team All-MVC and All-Newcomer member last season, is the best and highest-volume returning shooter on the roster. He was one of the two main beneficiaries of Ford's ball screen offense last year and promises to take on a much higher usage role in 2019-20. The former JUCO transfer can play multiple spots on both ends of the floor and should be one of the better players in the Valley in his last collegiate season. He'll be supported by a cadre of options, with Dixon, Hall, Mosley, Cooper, and freshmen Tyem Freeman and Ja'monta Black all in play for minutes.
Dixon started nearly every game for two very good MTSU squads in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and is the most experienced point guard on the roster. Hall is a versatile wing from Nevada who earned several starts before being pushed out by Eric Musselman's insane transfer haul a year ago. Hall will aid in scoring, shooting, defending, and rebounding for the Bears. Mosley and Freeman are two of the top prospects in Missouri (shots fired at Mizzou for losing out on these guys). Mosley is ranked as a 4-star wing by ESPN and has a strong, smooth style to his game. He's not overly athletic, but he's effective in spite of that - likewise, his shooting form is pretty gross, but it goes in fairly often. Freeman tore his ACL in December, so likely won't be 100% ready by the time season starts. The 3/4 star wing is very athletic and long and is a good redshirt candidate on a stacked roster in 2019-20. Black, a high school teammate of Mosley, is a quick and athletic combo guard who likely gets buried behind the rest of the MO State talent. Cooper is a borderline top 100 recruit in the class of 2020; he may not be a 20+ minute contributor in year one, but he should develop into a quality collegiate point guard over his MO State career.
Ford has a ton of depth in the backcourt and on the wing, but his frontcourt is even more impressive. 2018-19 First Team All-MVC member and Newcomer of the Year Tulio Da Silva returns for his final collegiate season after dominating the Valley coming off two decent years at South Florida. Da Silva ranked in the MVC top five in both OR% and DR% and racked up the lion's share of the Bears' "stocks" (steals and blocks) last season. He even started expanding his range out past the three-point arc, and he is an excellent roll man in MO State's preferred PnR sets - either as a pick-n-pop threat or barreling to the hoop:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... a+dunk.gif" alt="tulio da silva dunk.gif" />

Da Silva's combination of size and mobility is unmatched among big men in the Missouri Valley.
He'll team up with Lamont West, a West Virginia grad transfer who should compete with Da Silva for Player of the Year honors. West was a regular starter for the Mountaineers and led them in scoring in 2018-19. He stretches the floor on offense and started attacking the rim much more during his junior season. The deadly duo will be backed up by senior Kabir Mohammed, sophomore Darian Scott, and JUCO transfer Gaige Prim. Mohammed is a major rebounder despite standing just 6'5". He scored in double figures six times last year and is one of the Bears' better frontcourt defenders. Prim is ranked as the #2 JUCO recruit in the country after averaging 20.7 PPG and 11.5 RPG last year and earning First Team All-American honors while playing for powerhouse (and JUCO Final Four qualifier) South Plains. Many considered Prim to be the best JUCO big man in the country last season, and he played in one the best JUCO conferences in the land. A traditional post player, Prim will be a nice complement to the mobile Da Silva and/or West.
Sophomore Jared Ridder is MSU's "breakout watch" player this season. The 6'8" forward can play on the wing or at the 4 and many tagged him to be a future pro when he came out of HS (#1 prospect in Missouri - again, way to go Mizzou). Ridder sat out the first nine games of the season in 2018-19 while waiting to become eligible but settled in nicely in conference play, shooting 39.2% from deep in the Valley and playing solid defense. Ford has plenty of lineup options at his disposal, but a three-man frontcourt of Da Silva / West / Ridder will be incredibly deadly on both ends of the floor.
Defense was MO State's strong suit last year, ranking 2nd in the Valley per KenPom and leading the league in TO rate and Block rate. The Bears gave up way too many threes in 2018-19, but their opponents also shot 40.3% from downtown (2nd highest percentage in the country), so there's certainly an element of luck to MSU's struggles defending the arc last year. Expect that number to regress as Ford acquires more length and experience on the perimeter. With the amount of athletes and switchable pieces he brings in off the transfer wire, the Bears should once again be one of the better defensive teams in the MVC.
Bottom Line: On paper, Missouri State is clearly the most talented team in the Valley. Ford appears to have what it takes to coach at a high level, but meshing a significant amount of new faces (and possibly egos) is a challenge for any coach. Unseating two-time champ Loyola will not be an easy task, but the Bears have the goods to get it done. An end to the 20-year Tourney drought would be a welcome event to the Springfield faithful.
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Middle Tennessee State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:12 pm

10(CUSA). Middle Tennessee
Key Returners: Antonio Green, Donovan Sims, Reggie Scurry, Jayce Johnson, Anthony Crump (injury)
Key Losses: Karl Gamble, James Hawthorne, Junior Farquhar (transfer)
Key Newcomers: CJ Jones (Arkansas), Tyson Jackson, Jo'Vontae Millner (JUCO), Eli Lawrence, Tyler Millin
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... roster.JPG" alt="middle tenn roster.JPG" />

Note: Dishman will miss the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the team's foreign trip to Costa Rica in August.
Outlook: Through no fault of its own, Middle Tennessee was forced into a hard reboot of the program last year after longtime coach Kermit Davis departed to Mississippi and the roster suffered heavy graduation losses. The administration turned to rising coaching star Nick McDevitt to rebuild in Murfreesboro, and the Blue Raiders showed positive signs in his debut campaign despite ranking 344th nationally in minutes continuity.
McDevitt had spent nearly his entire life in Asheville (grew up just north of the city, played at UNC-A, coached there immediately after graduation), so he may still be getting settled, but his talent accumulation has been impressive already. Redshirt senior Reggie Scurry performed well after coming over from Missouri State and recovering from a bizarre battle with cryotherapy, and newly-eligible CJ Jones from Arkansas has star potential in the C-USA. Plus, McDevitt has Dayton transfer Jordan Davis sitting out this year, who could be an all-conference level player the second he steps on the court as a redshirt sophomore. Unfortunately, EKU transfer DeAndre Dishman sustained a season-ending knee injury during the team's foreign tour in the offseason, and Scurry will miss the first 11 games of the year as part of his NCAA eligibility waiver.
Middle Tennessee struggled against a brutal non-conference slate last year, going 3-10 (1-10 against Division I competition), and without Scurry, the early part of the year could be rough again this year. Still, it's hard to fault them for scuffling against a murderers' row that featured teams like Virginia, Butler, Belmont, Lipscomb, Murray St., Rhode Island, and Kermit's Mississippi squad. The Raiders did claw to 8-10 in Conference USA, though, and added depth and talent should accelerate the improvement this year.
The '18-19 team was heavily reliant on UT-Rio Grande Valley transfer Antonio Green and sophomore Donovan Sims to create shots via the pick-and-roll and Scurry in the post, and while they managed acceptable production, the complementary pieces really struggled. Sophomore Jayce Johnson (not to be confused with this Jayce Johnson) was one of the least efficient players in the country, and he may lose time to Jones, a pure shooter, and redshirt freshman Anthony Crump, who started seven games before missing most of the year with a knee injury.
Scurry will start once he's eligible, with freshman Tyson Jackson, a product of Hargrave Military Academy, a strong candidate to join him up front. Jackson possesses significant upside and would form a physically intimidating duo. Having depth on the roster - JUCO transfer Jo'Vontae Millner, freshmen Tyler Millin and Eli Lawrence - will allow McDevitt to apply more pressure defensively, as well, which is his preferred style. Like at UNC-Asheville, he ran a bunch of zone, but the best McDevitt defenses will trap and get easy points going the other way.
Bottom Line: The post-Kermit rebuild should take another step forward this year, anchored by the backcourt trio of Sims, Green, and Jones. The Blue Raiders' offense dragged their efficiency down last year, especially due to severe turnover issues, but many of the primary culprits have left Murfreesboro or will be relegated to smaller roles. If the defense can force more turnovers and the addition of Jones adds real potency from the perimeter, Middle Tennessee will be a tough out this year with McDevitt at the helm.
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Kennesaw State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:12 pm

8(ASUN). Kennesaw St.
Key Returners: Tyler Hooker, Danny Lewis, Bryson Lockley, Antonio Spencer, Ugo Obineke
Key Losses: Kyle Clarke, Bobby Parker (transfer), Isaac Mbuyamba, Kosta Jankovic
Key Newcomers: Terrell Burden, Armani Harris, Glenn Robinson II (JUCO)
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... roster.JPG" alt="Kennesaw roster.JPG" />

Lineup:
Outlook: Al Skinner's "coast into retirement" gig ended before the season did, with the veteran coach announcing his resignation on February 21st (effective at the end of the year). Kennesaw State exhibited a clear downward trajectory over his last two seasons, and it was time for both parties to move on. Enter Amir Abdur-Rahim, a longtime Billy Kennedy assistant at Texas A&M and Murray State, widely hailed as an ace recruiter, especially in the state of Georgia (he spent this past season as Tom Crean's lead recruiter at UGA).
Abdur-Rahim's first and most pressing issue will be rescuing a floundering offense from the darkness of the stone age. Skinner had some terrific years at Boston College, but he will never be mistaken for an offensive innovator; his complete disregard for the wisdom of basketball analytics was almost admirable in its absolute defiance. Kennesaw ranked last in the entire country in 3PA rate last year, attempting only 22.6% of its field goals from beyond the arc, which was a full 4.6% lower than the 352nd-ranked team. Instead, Skinner's flex offense took a staggering 50% of its shots - that's half of them - from the inefficient midrange area, the highest such rate in the country by a colossal margin, per Hoop-Math. That's how you end up with an offensive profile in Synergy that looks this bleak:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... ergy+O.JPG" alt="kennesaw Synergy O.JPG" />

The Owls do have a few intriguing pieces with whom Abdur-Rahim can bring the offense into the 21st century, though. Lead guard Tyler Hooker is a prolific scorer and capable creator for others, while rising sophomore Danny Lewis flashed a perimeter shooting stroke on the limited attempts he was able to hoist up before being harshly reprimanded by Skinner. His younger brother, Jamie Lewis, started his career at Wake Forest and will add more scoring punch when eligible in December. Bryson Lockley is an active paint presence on the glass, though shooting 34% from two-point range while standing 6'8, 218 pounds is an impressive feat in its futility. All three returning starters will benefit from a more prudent shot distribution, hopefully resulting in increased efficiency.
Due to Abdur-Rahim's constant proximity to Kennedy (nine years on his staff, played for him at Southeastern Louisiana), it stands to reason he'll look to play similarly. Despite his ignominious end in College Station, Kennedy was (and still is) a solid coach, showing flexibility in his approach on both ends to tailor it to his roster. The most consistent trends, year over year, were on the defensive end, where he stresses defending the paint and not allowing easy drives to the rim. The Owls will mix in man and zone, both of which will often concede open perimeter jumpers in favor of controlling the paint. Rising sophomore Antonio Spencer could be a "Tyler Davis Lite" in the ASUN; the 6'9 center is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker, though his offensive game is incredibly raw.
Speaking of raw, the rest of the rotation minutes will be taken by inexperienced freshman and sophomores. Ugo Obineke saw the most minutes of that group last year, and Abdur-Rahim will surely want to see what he has in freshmen Terrell Burden, a potential successor for Hooker at PG, and Armani Harris, a versatile 6'6 wing. JUCO transfer Glenn Robinson II, the team's only upperclassman aside from Hooker and Locksley, probably leaps the little-used sophomore trio for minutes, as well.
Bottom Line: Undoing the terrible offensive habits instilled by Skinner's regime will be a process, but Abdur-Rahim's recruiting prowess is already showing itself: he's secured three in-state prospects in the 2020 class, including two top 200 overall prospects. This year will be a transitionary period, but the future looks bright with Abdur-Rahim gobbling up talent.
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Evansville

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:13 pm

8(MVC). Evansville
Key Returners: KJ Riley, Shamar Givance, John Hall, Evan Kuhlman, Noah Frederking, Jawaun Newton
Key Losses: Marty Hill, Dainius Chatkevicius, Shea Feehan
Key Newcomers: Sam Cunliffe (Kansas), Art Labinowicz (Coastal Carolina), DeAndre Williams (Redshirt), Marcus Henderson, Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander, Peace Ilegomah (Pittsburgh)
Lineup:
<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/cont ... +19-20.PNG" alt="evansville roster pic 19-20.PNG" />

Outlook: The Aces struggled in Walter McCarty's first year at the helm. After turning in some quality non-conference efforts against Xavier (lost by 6), Texas Southern (won by 22), Ball State (won by 12) and Murray State (lost by 2), among others, Evansville crashed and burned in Valley play, finishing dead last in the league by two games. Winning on the road was a real issue for the Aces, going just 2-14 in away and neutral contests compared to a respectable 9-7 at home. The rough season isn't all that surprising considering the coaching change and implementation of a brand-new system, plus losing DeAndre Williams prior to the start of the year due to academic ineligibility didn't help matters. Evansville should be an improved team in 2019-20. The Aces bring back a significant chunk of minutes and add Williams plus several other impact newcomers.
Williams' eligibility is enormous for Evansville's MVC title contention chances. The 6'9" forward tore up international competition during the school's trip to Europe this summer, establishing himself as the Aces' best player and go-to scorer on offense. McCarty has nothing but praise for Williams, a versatile player he thinks can handle the ball and guard 5s on the other end. Though he's relatively unknown in the mid-major college basketball world at the moment, rest assured Williams will make his mark on the MVC - he's arguably the best kept secret in the league.
McCarty completely changed Evansville's style when he came to town to replace Marty Simmons, who had led the Aces since 2007-08. Like most former NBA players turned CBB coaches nowadays, McCarty teaches the pace-and-space offensive philosophy. His Aces were the MVC's fastest team in 2019-20 and most prolific three-point shooters. Evansville often played with four or five guys on the floor at one time who could shoot the three, a lineup makeup that resulted in tons of space but little offensive rebounding (3rd worst OR% in the country). Isolation plays, hand-offs, and pick-n-pops were staples in Evansville's half-court attack last year, an attack that focused heavily on dribble drive and kick-outs to open shooters.
Defensively, the Aces focused on taking away the three-ball, often by ways of a matchup zone. McCarty implemented some full court pressure, something that might increase in 2019-20 given his personnel and preference for playing uptempo, but mostly Evansville was satisfied with getting back and setting up in the half-court. Fouling was a problem last year, as the Aces sent more opponents to the line than any other Valley squad, and resistance at the rim was little. Williams should help on this end, especially with his ability to guard three or four positions, but frontcourt size will continue to be a weakness for the Aces this season.
Ball-handling duties will primarily reside with KJ Riley, a 6'5" point guard who ranked 9th in the MVC in usage in 2018-19. Riley is all drive all the time, shooting just 15.3% from downtown on 59 career attempts and leading the Valley two straight years in FT rate. Word on the street is Kansas transfer Sam Cunliffe will also share some of the ball-handling load. Cunliffe is still largely a mystery after transferring from Arizona State after ten games and then from Kansas after being banished to the bench. He is clearly talented and came to college as a 4-star recruit, but he's yet to prove anything at this level. He should be a staple in McCarty's starting five all year and very few players in the MVC can match his athleticism.
Coastal Carolina transfer Art Labinowicz will also start in the backcourt this season. He's a flamethrower from deep who can also take it to the rack. In 2017-18, Labinowicz was one of the Chanticleers' best scorers. Sophomores Shamar Givance and Jawaun Newton and junior Noah Frederking will earn the lion's share of the backup backcourt minutes. Givance turned in a pretty good freshman year, ranking 2nd in the Valley in assist rate and hitting outside shots. Newton mostly struggled last year from an efficiency standpoint and may cede some playing time this year to the incoming freshman and transfers. Frederking will serve a key role as an outside shooter off the pine.
Freshmen Marcus Henderson and Thomasi Gilgeous-Alexander will push the aforementioned backcourt role players for minutes. Henderson can play either guard spot with his handling and shooting prowess. Gilgeous-Alexander, brother of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is a long and lanky ball handler with gobs of potential to develop into a star player in the Valley.
As said before, Evansville's frontcourt is thin, even with the addition of Williams. John Hall and Evan Kuhlman, the two other returning bigs, are mostly stretch options on offense, which is great for spacing but detrimental to rebounding and interior defense. Given the roster composition, McCarty may go with a good share of small-ball lineups and increase his matchup zone looks frequency. Pitt transfer Peace Ilegomah will be eligible for at least one semester, which could be huge for Evansville's interior defensive issues.
Bottom Line: Evansville hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999 under Jim Crews, but the school's basketball program is clearly in good hands with McCarty. Even if the X's and O's take a while to develop, McCarty's ability to bring in talent is unmatched in program history. Guys like Cunliffe, Williams, and Gilgeous-Alexander likely wouldn't have given Evansville the time of day without McCarty, a former Kentucky player and Rick Pitino assistant, roaming the sidelines. The MVC is a much better league this season, so making a giant move up the standings will prove to be difficult. However, the Aces have one of the more athletic teams in the conference, so a top five finish and return to MVC competitiveness is certainly possible.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Belmont

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:22 pm

1(OVC). Belmont
Key Returners: Nick Muszynski, Grayson Murphy, Caleb Hollander, Nick Hopkins, Michael Benkert, Seth Adelsperger
Key Losses: Dylan Windler, Kevin McClain
Key Newcomers: Tyler Scanlon (Boston), EJ Bellinger, Ben Sheppard, Michael Shanks, Mitch Listau (Redshirt)

Lineup:

Outlook: The Committee finally showed the mid-majors some love last season, giving Belmont a much-deserved at-large bid after the Bruins tied for the OVC regular season title. Belmont’s 49th place KenPom finish was Rick Byrd’s second highest in the KP era and his squad’s tournament appearance was the 7th in Byrd’s storied career. Byrd opted to hang up his clipboard this offseason after 33 years at the helm of the Bruins and 38 head coaching years overall; he was one of the best offensive minds in college basketball history and will be sorely missed. Most teams flounder after losing a good coach, let alone a Hall of Fame caliber one, but Belmont will be in good hands this season under the instruction of Casey Alexander, who spent the past six seasons building Lipscomb into one of the best mid-majors in the country. Alexander was a Byrd assistant at Belmont from 1995 – 2011 and maintained his mentor’s style of play when leading the Stetson and Lipscomb programs. He inherits a ridiculously deep roster that should be the hands-down favorite to win the OVC even with the departure of all-time mid-major great Dylan Windler.

The Bruins’ potent offense won’t miss a beat under Alexander after ranking 18th in the country under Byrd last season. Like Byrd, Alexander looks to push the issue in transition and set up open looks and driving lanes with drag screens and trail threes. Lipscomb was the nation’s 12th fastest team last season (Belmont 34th) and Alexander should bring that scorching pace a few blocks over to Belmont in 2019-20. Look for Belmont to take advantage of sleeping defenses off opponent scores, where Byrd / Alexander squads have especially thrived in the transition world:

The guard who made that pass above, Grayson Murphy, is one of the many reasons to be excited about Belmont’s outlook this season. Murphy turned in a dynamite redshirt freshman year, ranking 4th in the OVC in assist rate and 3rd in eFG%. His floor vision should only improve as a sophomore, and he averaged a double-double (points and assists) during the team’s summer trip to Portugal in August. Murphy’s poise is well beyond his years and he makes good decisions shooting the ball in addition to his passing looks – in 2018-19, over 50% of Murphy’s shot attempts came near the rim and he connected on 62.2% of them (per Hoop-Math).

Redshirt sophomore Nick Muszynski was the recipient of that pass above and he looks every bit the next great Belmont player. The reigning OVC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-OVC member finished 4th in the league in O-rating, 1st in block rate, 12th in assist rate, and 2nd in eFG% last season, proving to be equally deadly and impactful on both ends of the floor. Alexander’s Lipscomb squad ranked 5th in the country last season in plays finished via post-up, which means Muszynski is in line to get all the touches he can handle on the block – Fran Fraschilla agrees:

Fran Fraschilla

@franfraschilla
Last year, @LipscombMBB scored on “post pins” (the @KUHoops seal move) at ridiculous clip of 1.52 points per possession, according to @hoopvision68. @BelmontMBB 6-11 soph center, @n_muszynski44, about to have field day with new coach, Casey Alexander’s offense.

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Muszynski scored 1.12 PPP last season on post-ups, good for the 96th percentile in the nation (per Synergy) and proved he could take it to anyone in college basketball. Below, Muszynski takes it to All-Big Ten Defensive Team member Bruno Fernando:

Of course, we shouldn’t expect Belmont to quite be the 18th best offense in the country again this season. The Bruins scored a whopping 1.18 PPP when Windler was on the floor versus just 1.00 PPP without him, so while the returning talent is tantalizing, replacing a foundational piece like Windler is nearly impossible:


Byrd usually kept a short rotation over the past several years, but Alexander has been known to play eight to ten guys frequently. This Belmont roster is one of the deepest the program has ever had, so expect to see plenty of fresh bodies taking turns on the court in 2019-20. Redshirt sophomore Caleb Hollander and Boston grad transfer Tyler Scanlon will compete for the starting 4 spot alongside Muszynski. Hollander was a regular starter last season before succumbing to injury; he’s a versatile forward who can shoot, score, and rebound, and he led the Bruins in scoring during their Portugal trip in August. Scanlon is a do-everything forward who led the Terriers in assists last year from the frontcourt. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t need to score 20 PPG to have a significant impact on the floor. A career .447/.382/.766 shooter, Scanlon can stretch the floor as well as anybody in the OVC this season. Regardless of who ends up starting, both Hollander and Scanlon will see major minutes. Seth Adelsperger will be the primary backup at the 5 after turning in a solid junior season of consistent block scoring and boarding.

Alexander has plenty of shooting in the backcourt to mix with his talented front line and floor general. Nick Hopkins is a career 38.9% outside shooter on 275 3PA, Michael Benkert started Belmont’s final four games in 2018-19, logged 40 minutes against Maryland and shot 35.4% from deep, and Adam Kunkel and Tate Pierson can both provide spot minutes on the wing. Freshmen EJ Bellinger and Ben Sheppard are promising newcomers who can both light it up from the outside as well. Bellinger, a St. Louis native, projects as a scary defensive wing with his versatility and athleticism. Sheppard has the size to play multiple spots and the shooting to excel in the transition offense. Another freshman, Michael Shanks, will look to sneak into the rotation with his ability to shoot and play the 3 or 4, though minutes will be hard to come by. Redshirt freshman Mitch Listau is yet another shooter who was one of the top guards in Wisconsin coming out of high school in 2018.

Defensively, Alexander’s Lipscomb squad fared much better than Byrd’s Belmont team last season. The Bisons forced turnovers and sped teams up, the latter of which Byrd’s teams always try to do without the results of the former. Belmont has always been good at taking away the three-point line and playing strong transition defense, two trends that should continue under Alexander. Individually, there’s no excellent perimeter defenders on this squad (perhaps Bellinger can be soon), but Muszynski gives the Bruins enough paint support to be a good OVC defensive unit in 2019-20.

Bottom Line: It’s weird to think Belmont may actually have a chance to be better in 2019-20 than the at-large 27-6 (16-2) 2018-19 squad. The Windler and Kevin McClain losses are huge, but this team is so deep and experienced that there’s reason to believe a repeat at-large bid is in the cards. In the Ohio Valley world, no team should be able to stand in Belmont’s way. The transition from Byrd to Alexander should be a smooth one and the Bruins should once again be one of the best mid-majors in the land.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Jacksonville State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:23 pm

3(OVC). Jacksonville State
Key Returners: Ty Hudson, De'Torrion Ware, Jacara Cross, Derek St. Hilaire, Maros Zeliznak
Key Losses: Jason Burnell, Jamall Gregory, Marlon Hunter, Detrick Mostella, Christian Cunningham, Maurice Dunlap
Key Newcomers: Elias Harden (Xavier), Kayne Henry (JUCO), Derrick Cook (JUCO), Martin Roub (JUCO), Marek Welsch, Juwan Perdue, Cam Jones (Redshirt)

Lineup:
Jax state roster 20.PNG
Outlook: Jacksonville State quietly turned in its best season in program history and was one of the best mid-majors in the land in 2018-19. The success of Belmont and Murray State overshadowed the Gamecocks' banner year, a year in which they notched a 15-3 OVC record. JSU was a team full of high-level athletes, built to wear down opposing teams with physicality and athleticism. Perhaps the most impressive (and frustrating) stat last season was the fact JSU swept Belmont and Murray State during the OVC regular season (3-0) but fell to lesser opponents such as EKU and UT Martin. A two-point loss to the Racers in the OVC Tourney held the Cocks back from a potential Big Dance bid. Head coach Ray Harper has been a godsend to the school since taking over in 2016-17. JSU has had three straight 20+ win seasons under Harper's tutelage, a feat its accomplished only one other time since joining DI in 1994-95.

The Cocks lose a ton of production from last season's squad, which ranked 3rd in the nation in experience, but that's par for the course for the program under Harper. Impact transfers from the DI and JUCO ranks pour into JSU every year, as Harper focuses bringing in more mature newcomers than sifting through the high school landscape. This year, JSU adds three impact JUCO transfers and a Xavier transfer to go along with two freshman recruits.

Kayne Henry, Martin Roub, and Derrick Cook represent Harper's three-man JUCO recruiting class, each capable of playing big-time minutes for the Cocks in 2019-20. Henry, the #76 JUCO prospect in the country, seems poised to be the most impactful of the three; he's a London native who spent the last two years at well-known JUCO Northwest Florida State. Henry is an athletic wing who fits the preferred JSU mold perfectly and will provide menacing defense, shooting, and rim attacking. His length and two-way potential will make him a scary force in the OVC this season. Roub, the #80 JUCO prospect, is a low block threat who possesses good touch around the basket and the ability to shoot the three. Like Henry, Roub will have an opportunity to earn starting minutes right away, especially in JSU's relatively thin frontcourt. Cook, a former Northeastern Husky, is a combo guard who can create his own shot or shots for others via dribble drive.

JSU was a poor shooting team last year and as a result relied heavily on the offensive glass to score points. The Cocks ranked 3rd in the country in percentage of points scored via 2PFG versus 343rd via 3PFG - only one player last season shot over 33.6% from deep and he graduated this offseason. Harper adds a little shooting to this year's roster, but JSU will still largely be reliant on physicality, transition, and offensive rebounding to put points on the board in 2019-20. Senior forward Jacara Cross will be asked to step up into a more featured role in the post and help maintain the Cocks' strong rebounding prowess. Defensively, Cross has put up impressive block rates in limited minutes and should serve as a decent rim protector. Sophomore Maros Zeliznak will also occupy time up front after receiving limited minutes last season.

Aside from offensive rebounding, JSU will look to turn steals on the defensive end into points on the other. The Cocks ranked 16th in the nation last year in percentage of initial FGA 0-10 seconds following a steal (per Hoop-Math), taking advantage of suffocating perimeter defense. With a stable of athletes on the 2019-20 roster, JSU will have the horses to once again be a tenacious defense after ranking #1 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the OVC last season per KenPom. Harper will apply a little fullcourt pressure and play almost exclusively man in the halfcourt.

The aforementioned Henry will be a major part of the JSU defense, as will senior Ty Hudson, sophomore De'Torrion Ware, and freshman Juwan Perdue. Hudson enjoyed a great first season at JSU after coming over from Clemson and seized the PG reins. His size at that position (6'1" 200 lbs.) makes him a formidable on-ball defender and his ability to score off the drive or from deep makes him one of the more versatile scorers on the JSU squad. Ware is another athletic wing who never met a shot he didn't like. In limited minutes, Ware let it fly, posting an insane 38.6% shot rate (percentage of team's shots taken while on the floor). For context, that would have ranked 6th in the country had he qualified from a minutes-perspective. Harper likely uses Ware as an instant-offense threat off the bench this season; he connected on 14/33 (42.4%) shots from deep in OVC play in 2018-19. Perdue will see time at the 3 and 4 in his rookie season; he's very athletic and has long arms to make him a versatile defender.

JSU's greatest hope for shooting competence in 2019-20 is Elias Harden, a Xavier transfer who received an eligibility waiver this offseason to play right away. Harden, originally a 4-star recruit coming out of HS, should be a big-time OVC scorer after shooting well for the Musketeers in about 10 MPG. Supporting Harden in the backcourt will be combo guard Derek St. Hilaire, freshman Marek Welsch, and redshirt freshman Cam Jones. St. Hilaire may take a step back in PT this year after struggling with ball security in 2018-19. Welsch and Jones are both point guards who could carve out roles behind Hudson. Both lead guards generate steals on the defensive end and both have the speed to turn those steals into buckets on the other end.

Bottom Line: JSU has been a consistent top four finisher in the OVC under Ray Harper, and there's no reason to expect that to change despite the loss of several key players. Harper will once again have arguably the most athletic and physical team in the conference, which should help make up for so-so offense. While the Cocks are likely a tier below Belmont and Murray State, they still have a fighting chance to crash the Big Dance in 2020.
Last edited by JoeD on Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Peay

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:24 pm

4(OVC). Austin Peay
Key Returners: Terry Taylor, Antwuan Butler
Key Losses: Chris Porter-Bunton, Steve Harris, Jabari McGhee, Zach Glotta, Jarrett Givens, Dayton Gumm, Isaiah Hart
Key Newcomers: Reginald Gee (Alabama State), Jordyn Adams, Devon McCain, Alec Woodard, Sam DeVault, Pavle Durisic, Carlos Paez, Sita Conteh (JUCO), Eli Abaev (Redshirt), Evan Hinson (South Carolina)

Lineup:
Austin Peay roster 20.PNG
Outlook: Matt Figger has been fantastic at the helm in his two years in Clarksville, amassing an OVC record of 25-11 and two top-4 league finishes. Last year's Austin Peay squad was the program's best in the KenPom era since 2000-01, led by a senior-laden starting five and a burgeoning superstar in Terry Taylor. Taylor is back this season to chase an OVC Player of the Year award, but the Govs lose a ton of bodies from last year's 22-11 (13-5) squad, including four senior starters. Figger will need to develop his enormous bunch of newcomers quickly in order to compete near the top of the conference in 2019-20.

Taylor is an absolute stud and made our Top 100 player list this offseason after ranking 4th in the OVC in scoring last year and 3rd in rebounding. His efficiency numbers are off the charts in his first two seasons given his age and high usage. KenPom's player comparisons even show that there's never really been anyone quite like Taylor - the pic below shows player comparisons; very few players in the country have zero guys in the KenPom era with over "900" similarity score (see Jim's article explaining more):

Taylor is unstoppable in this league, able to score from anywhere at anytime and play all five positions on the floor. Austin Peay has limited size once again this year, so Taylor will see plenty of minutes at the "5" in Figger's spread-out offense, a position he's more than capable of playing on both ends. The Govs' offense runs through Taylor, particularly on the block or on the wing; last season, APSU finished 25th in the country in percentage of possessions ended via post-up and 12th via offensive rebound put-back, both numbers fueled by Taylor's efforts.

Taylor scored 1.148 PPP on post-ups last year (96th percentile per Synergy) and shot just under 35% from deep with his high-arcing lefty stroke.

Aside from playing through the post, Figger likes to get up-and-down and run in the open floor. The Govs were a top 60 national offense last season and thrived on the run. That proficiency may be hard to repeat in 2019-20 even with Taylor's return - the APSU roster is littered with uncertainty and inexperience. Antwuan Butler appears to be in line for the starting point guard role after starting APSU's final three games last year. He didn't shoot very well but is a capable facilitator and ball handler.

Everyone else in the backcourt is brand new. Alabama State grad transfer Reggie Gee will likely start at the 2-guard after being a 3-year starter for the Hornets and earning a spot on the All-SWAC 2nd Team. He's a strong, physical guard who gets to the FT line at a high rate and has a career 38.1% 3P clip (378 attempts). Freshmen Jordyn Adams and Devon McCain, high school teammates in Texas, will also vie for starting wing duties. Adams is a 3-star recruit with good size and shooting chops who could grow to be a good perimeter defender. McCain was the 4A Player of the Year in Texas and is also a very physical guard with defensive potential. Freshman Alec Woodard will add shooting to the backcourt this season while Venezuelan newcomer Carlos Paez appears to be a contributor as a ball handler in the next year or two.

The Govs were one of the smallest teams in the land last season and will be again this year. 7-footer Matheus Silveira barely saw the floor in 2018-19 and it's unclear if he'll have a larger role this season. He can add value as a rim protector defensively but doesn't jive well with Figger's preferred offensive style. The four frontcourt newcomers, Eli Abaev (redshirted last year), Sam DeVault (FR), Pavle Durisic (FR), and Sita Conteh (JUCO) all have the requisite talent to carve out playing time this season, but none are "traditional" big men. Abaev, a 3/4 tweener, averaged 17.0 PPG and 15.3 PPG this summer representing the USA in the European Maccabi Games; he's skilled in the paint and has a nose for the ball when it bounces off the glass. DeVault and Durisic both have the size to play the 4 or 5 and shooting ability to space the floor. Durisic in particular is a guy to keep an eye on - his shot is pure, and he can beat slower forwards off the dribble at 6'10". Conteh is extremely versatile and athletic; he'll provide value on both ends of the floor at multiple positions. South Carolina transfer Evan Hinson will add some muscle to the front line and has received heaping praise this offseason from Figger. The former football player is a bowling ball at 6'4" 240 lbs.

The size issue will lead to similar interior defense issues this season. While the Govs were #1 in the OVC in TO rate, they were repeatedly gashed on the boards and in the paint. Figger implemented some 2-3 zone (19% of possessions, 87th highest rate nationally) to combat the paint problems, but APSU largely struggled in those looks. The Govs' full-court pressure, however, was very successful.

Bottom Line: After Terry Taylor, APSU's lineup configurations and season outlook is complete guesswork. Figger appears to be a competent coach, perhaps capable of molding this group into a conference contender, but there are too many unknowns to say with any certainty.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Morehead

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:30 pm

5. Morehead State
Key Returners: Jordan Walker, De'Von Cooper, James Baker, Djimon Henson, Malik Riddle
Key Losses: AJ Hicks, Lamontray Harris, Malek Green, Ja'Cori Wilson
Key Newcomers: Justin Thomas (Northern Illinois), LJ Bryan (JUCO), Jaden Stanley-Williams (JUCO), Ta'Lon Cooper, Tyzhaun Claude, Julius Dixon, Tada Stricklen (Redshirt)

Lineup:

Outlook: Morehead State was the "best of the worst" in the OVC last season, finishing 5th in the league despite landing five games back of the 4th place Governors and notching just an 8-10 conference record. Head coach Preston Spradlin has yet to make any real headway at Morehead after taking over the program from Sean Woods back in 2016-17. His Eagles finished 36 spots below their 2018-19 preseason KenPom ranking, a spot that was given to them in large part due to ranking 12th in the nation in minutes continuity. Spradlin brings back an All-OVC performer and adds some promising talent via the JUCO and HS ranks, but MSU won't be threatening for an OVC title in 2019-20.

MSU was an extremely balanced team offensively last season from a play-type perspective. The Eagles ranked right around the national average in nearly every play-type from spot-ups to post-ups and everything in between. Spradlin's offense did have some key characteristics, however - MSU was one of the shortest teams in the country last year and thus liked to spread the floor offensively with four or five players on the court at a time who could drive and/or shoot. Ball screens were used frequently to unleash the scoring potential of returner Jordan Walker and others, and down / away screens were set to free-up shooters behind the arc. Spradlin adds some size with his incoming class, but MSU will be on the shorter side once again in 2019-20 and will likely apply a similar offensive style.

Walker will be the undisputed go-to scorer offensively this year with MSU's two other highest used players, Lamontray Harris and AJ Hicks, graduating this offseason. The 6'0" senior was excellent last season, earning a spot on the All-OVC First Team and proving to be one of the league's best outside shooters. With Hicks's departure, Walker may slide over and assume more of the ball handling duties this year, although Northern Illinois transfer Justin Thomas looks capable of sliding into the starting lineup immediately. Thomas played alongside another bigtime scorer at his previous stop (NIU's Eugene German), and he should be comfortable deferring to the high-scoring Walker. Depth will come from redshirt freshman Tada Stricklen or combo guard Ta'Lon Cooper, though both are best served being complementary options. Expect Walker to flirt with 20 PPG this season as he's made the focal point of the Eagle attack and is run off scores of ball screens.

De'Von Cooper and Djimon Henson project to be two of Walker's main backcourt cohorts this season. Cooper improved his three-point shooting from 28.7% as a freshman to 35.4% last year and started all 31 games for the Eagles in 2018-19. Henson's shooting percentage went the opposite way, tanking after a productive 2017-18 season. Cooper is a lock to start all year, while Henson will likely resume a support role as an off-the-bench piece or spot starter. Sophomore Malik Riddle could be in line for a major uptick in minutes after an efficient shooting year inside the arc and a brutal shooting year outside the arc. His 81.8% FT clip suggests perhaps his microscopically low 3P% was simply a victim of small sample size.

Spradlin will have two typical MSU forwards earning major minutes at the 4 and 5 spots this season in James Baker and Jaden Stanley-Williams. Neither is a true post player but both guys are long and have the mobility and skill to beat slower defenders off the bounce. Baker shot 44.2% from three in OVC play last year (6th in conference) and ranked 3rd in the league in block rate, though his resistance against bigger post-men on the block left much to be desired. Stanley-Williams was a strong rebounder in JUCO and should aid in that realm in the DI ranks - the Eagles were the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the conference last season and severely need help in that area.

Morehead was consistently pounded on the interior last season, giving up countless offensive rebounds and post-up scores. Help is on the way in that department with the addition of JUCO transfer LJ Bryan, a sizable center standing 6'9" and weighing in at 250 lbs. Bryan should bolster MSU's rebounding on both ends of the floor and give them a daunting presence in the paint on defense - he won't necessarily block a ton of shots, but his size will allow him to push opposing post players off the block. Freshman Tyzhaun Clyde should also be a factor in the frontcourt rotation. An older freshman thanks to a post-grad year, Clyde is a long post player who projects as an able shot blocker. Fellow freshman Julius Dixon could also see minutes at the 4, but he's more suited on the wing as a "3-and-D" specialist.

Bottom Line: Morehead's outlook for 2019-20 is pretty similar to last year. The Eagles will have a deep and talented backcourt and will be capable of beating up on the lesser OVC teams in conference play. Size and interior depth will continue to hurt their chances for an auto-bid and keep them a couple notches below the teams in the top tier.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Martin

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:31 pm

6. Tennessee Martin
Key Returners: Quintin Dove, Craig Randall, Derek Hawthorne
Key Losses: Preston Parks, Kevin Little, Fatodd Lewis, Minfeke Sanoe, DelFincko Bogan, Jailen Gill, Parrish Hewitt
Key Newcomers: Parker Stewart (Pittsburgh), Jordan Pierce (JUCO), Miles Thomas (JUCO), Steve Wooten Jr. (JUCO), Trenten Williams (JUCO), Ja'Darius Harris, Eman Sertovic, Isaac Aguiar, Eric Rustin, Hannes Polla (Oklahoma)

Lineup:
ut martin updated roster.PNG
Outlook: The Skyhawks finished among the 6-12 foursome in the OVC last year, plagued by poor defense in spite of immense experience and strong offense. Head coach Anthony Stewart enjoyed a good first season after taking over for Heath Schroyer in 2016-17 but since then has gone 22-40 (11-25) over the past two years. Stewart brings back three starters from the 2018-19 squad and adds major talent from the transfer wire, hoping to lead UT Martin back into the upper tier of the OVC.

UT Martin was the 5th best offensive team in the OVC last season, sparked by offensive rebounding and individual playmaking in the backcourt. But, Stewart's Skyhawks were pitiful on the other end, ranking 344th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. UTM couldn't stop anyone last year, allowing the 3rd highest eFG% in the country, endless open three-point looks, and far too many second chance opportunities. All three of those aspects make sense when realizing UTM played the 46th most zone in the country last year, but the Skyhawks actually fared pretty well when lined up in their 2-3 matchup look. When Stewart went man, however, the shit hit the fan - UTM allowed 0.952 PPP when in man-to-man, which ranked in the bottom 5% of the country. The Skyhawks should be a more athletic team in 2019-20 and add much-needed size, which certainly factored into their poor defensive play.

Stewart brings back a key cornerstone in the frontcourt in Quintin Dove, a 6'8" senior who will see run at the 4 and 5 spot this season. Dove was a 2nd Team All-OVC member last season and ranked 4th in the conference in OR% and eFG%. His ability to step outside the three-point line and finish in the post made him hard to stop, and he exploded in UTM's final game of the season, pouring in 35 points and grabbing 8 boards against the hard-nosed Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Dove was one of the most efficient players in the OVC in 2018-19 and will continue to be a team leader in 2019-20.

UTM has a few options to pair with Dove up front depending on if Stewart prefers to play small-ball or double-down with size. If he chooses the latter, JUCO transfer Jordan Pierce or freshmen Eric Rustin and Isaac Aguiar could see run at the 5-spot alongside Dove. Pierce, who started his collegiate career at Dayton, is the most experienced and is a traditional back-to-the-basket post player. His immense size will be key on the glass and he'll take up space as an anchor defensively. Rustin is ridiculously long and projects as a shot blocker, while Aguiar is more of a stretch big capable of reigning fire from deep. Oklahoma transfer Hannes Polla also appears to be getting a waiver to be immediately eligible. He'll space the floor from the frontcourt and add another dynamic layer to what could be a potent offense.

If Stewart opts to go small, look for JUCO imports Miles Thomas and Steve Wooten to see substantial time at the 4. Thomas, a borderline top 100 JUCO recruit, is a superb athlete and versatile scorer from all over the floor. He'll be a significant impact player for the Skyhawks this season. Wooten is also a good athlete and has major range from outside the arc. His strong rebounding ability will allow him to occupy the power forward slot despite his 6'6" frame.

UTM's most important player this season will be Craig Randall, a Memphis / Duquesne transfer who became eligible late last year. Randall's impact on the lineup was profound - before he suited up, the Skyhawks sat at 6-13 (1-7), then proceeded to go 6-6 with Randall, 6-4 when he started. Hoop Lens on/off stats paint a similar picture for the 12 games in which Randall was eligible:
randall ut martin impact.PNG
The 6'4" wing will be counted on to provide ball handling, shooting, and playmaking. With no experienced point guards on the roster, Randall may have to step up and assume more on-ball duties.

Senior guard Derek Hawthorne and Pitt transfer Parker Stewart will line up next to Randall in UTM's backcourt. Hawthorne is a solid offensive player who shot 41.2% from deep in OVC play. Stewart is the coach's son and comes to UTM after starting 20 games for the 0-18 Pitt Panthers two seasons ago. Like Hawthorne, Stewart is a knockdown outside shooter, ranking 9th in the ACC his freshman year with a 42.5% clip in conference play, and dad plans to play him at point guard.

Three newcomers will provide depth in the backcourt. JUCO transfer Trenten Williams is the only pure point guard on the roster; he would allow Stewart to play more off the ball, and he will compete for starts because of that fact. He's a scary athlete who makes the rim rock at just 6'3". He may miss the season with lingering knee issues, though. Ja'Darius Harris is a talented combo guard who brings scoring by way of outside shooting and dribble-drive. Freshman Eman Sertovic will serve as a shooting specialist on the perimeter.

Bottom Line: UTM has a wide array of possible outcomes this season with a possible NCOY in Stewart and so many new additions and the return of two All-Conference level players. Coach Stewart will need to turnaround his squad's two-year losing trend; perhaps major roster turnover can serve as a fresh new start.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Eastern Illinois

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:32 pm

7. Eastern Illinois
Key Returners: Josiah Wallace, Mack Smith, Shareef Smith, Rade Kukobat, JaQualis Matlock, Kashawn Charles, Braxton Shaw
Key Losses: Ben Harvey, Cam Burrell, Aboubacar Diallo, Lucas Jones
Key Newcomers: Jordan Skipper-Brown (JUCO), Marvin Johnson (JUCO), Deang Deang (JUCO), George Dixon (JUCO)

Lineup:
EIU updated roster.PNG
Outlook: Jay Spoonhour has done a remarkable job at maintaining a consistent level of mediocrity at the helm of Eastern Illinois. The Panthers have never finished worse than 6-10 in OVC play nor better than 9-7 in his seven-year head coaching tenure. Last year was a down season for the conference outside of the top four squads - teams 5-12 were hot garbage most of the year, helping EIU finish in 6th despite a paltry 7-11 league mark. The Panthers had their moments, beating Bradley on the road and Austin Peay in Charleston; but they also had some trash efforts, losing by 44 to UPFW and by 8 to… Chicago… State. In true Spoonhour fashion, he brings in zero freshmen in the 2019 class, opting instead to go through the JUCO ranks to find fresh bodies. EIU is set to be one of the oldest teams in the country this season with just one sophomore (a walk-on) on the roster; with five starters returning and the addition of some major JUCO talent, the Panthers might actually be able to finally crack the OVC's top four in 2019-20.

Losing Aboubacar Diallo to injury ended up being a turning point in EIU's 2018-19 conference season. The Panthers started league play 6-3 with the prolific shot swatter healthy, but then sputtered to a 1-8 finish as Diallo's playing time became more sporadic. EIU doesn't have a defensive presence quite like Diallo this season, whose 11.9% block rate would've been among the nation's elite had he qualified from a minutes standpoint. Returning bigs Rade Kukobat and JaQualis Matlock are both so-so shot blockers but offer much more in the realm of scoring than Diallo did. Last year's EIU squad was Spoonhour's worst defensively, as the Panthers were consistently scorched from behind the arc (345th in 3P% D, 11th in the OVC in 3PA rate allowed). Spoonhour continued implementing his full-court press in an effort to force turnovers, one area in which EIU has been good over the past few seasons. With so many upperclassmen and a more continuous roster, perimeter defense will hopefully improve for the Panthers this year; the interior is somewhat concerning though without Diallo.

Offensively, EIU is largely a jump-shot reliant team, rarely, if ever, getting the ball to the rim last season. Spoonhour's style is disciplined and predicated on ball movement and freeing playmaking guards off screens. The Panthers finished possessions off screens at the 6th highest rate in the country last season, largely driven by the play of Josiah Wallace and Mack Smith. Both players were excellent offensively but prone to forcing tough shots in the middle of the arc, as most jump-shot reliant teams are wont to do. Wallace was a 1st Team All-OVC performer last year after coming over from the JUCO ranks. He was efficient in a high usage role offensively, shot well from deep and frequently converted tough mid-range looks. His playmaking and ability to create his own shot are vital to EIU's success this season. Smith started every games as a sophomore last year and primarily contributed as an outside shooting threat. He's a career 37.3% on 354 3PA.

Shareef Smith will resume the point guard duties this year after turning in a so-so junior campaign. He facilitated well and ranked 6th in the OVC in assist rate, but he struggled with turnover issues throughout the season. Smith led the Panthers in FT rate last year, one of the few guys on the roster who prefers to attack the rim versus settle for jumpers. He'll have to fend off JUCO transfer Deang Deang for starting PG honors. Deang, a 6'4" lead guard with a funky shot, is the #62 JUCO prospect in the land per jucorecruiting.com.

Spoonhour has three viable options in the backcourt outside of the aforementioned presumed starters and Deang. Marvin Johnson, the #25 JUCO prospect in the country (jucorecruiting.com), comes in as a long, athlete on the wing with the ability to get his own shot. Like Shareef Smith, Johnson is mostly a slasher, able to knife through the lane and get to the cup at will. He'll contend for minutes immediately. Kashawn Charles returns to provide shooting from the perimeter; he knocked down 42.6% of his three-point attempts last season.

Kukobat and Matlock likely start the year as Spoonhour's preferred tandem in the frontcourt. Both bigs can step out and shoot a little and Matlock is arguably the best defender on the squad. JUCO transfers Jordan Skipper-Brown and George Dixon will compete with senior Braxton Shaw for backup minutes. Skipper-Brown is a high-level athlete who dunks everything, Dixon led the JUCO ranks in offensive rebounding last year despite standing 6'5" and being listed on the EIU roster as a "guard", and Shaw is a versatile wing who missed most of last season due to injury.

Bottom Line: On paper, EIU has the talent and experience to finish in the OVC top four this season. Given Spoonhour's track record, it's hard to put a lot of confidence in that actually coming to fruition. Wallace is one of the best players in the league and Spoonhour has depth at every position; if he can't win this year, perhaps it's time to find a new head coach in Charleston.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Tennessee State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:32 pm

8. Tennessee State
Key Returners: Michael Littlejohn, Emmanuel Egbuta
Key Losses: Kamar McKnight, Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey, Stokley Chaffee, Armani Chaney, Dave Morris, Tripp Davis, Daijon Henderson
Key Newcomers: Wesley Harris (West Virginia), Jy'lan Washington (Louisiana Tech), Ben Kone (Oregon State), Carlos Marshall Jr. (JUCO), Jon Brown (JUCO), Mason Green (JUCO), Shakem Johnson (JUCO), Ravel Moody (JUCO), Mark Freeman, Amorey Womack

Lineup:
Tenn State roster 20.PNG
Outlook: The hype surrounding Penny Collins's hire at Tennessee State last year didn't translate into wins as the Tigers floundered to a 9-21 (6-12) mark and notched just one Division I win outside of OVC play (against Coppin State). Collins is somewhat of a Nashville legend after starting at point guard and leading Belmont to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006, and he has significant coaching experience despite being only 35 years old. He inherited a team that just didn't fit well together on the floor, and like this year went through major personnel turnover with several players graduating and transferring after Dana Ford left. All signs point to Collins being a good hire for TSU - perhaps in year two with more of "his guys" in the system and an influx of some serious talent from the transfer wire, the Tigers can compete for a top four finish in the OVC.

TSU brings back just two key returners from last year's squad as SEVEN players hit the transfer portal and two more graduated. Michael Littlejohn and Emmanuel Egbuta are the two key returners, each of whom were regular starters on the 2018-19 team. Littlejohn mostly played off the ball last season, serving primarily as a spot-up threat from behind the arc. He'll likely maintain his starting gig this season and be a key factor in Collins's up-and-down attack. Egbuta will be one of TSU's primary big men in the middle after ranking in the top ten in the OVC in rebounding rate on both sides of the ball last season. Like several other Tigers, Egbuta had a tendency to get into foul trouble early and often, committing 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes in 2018-19. Sending opponents to the FT line was a MAJOR issue for the Tigers last season; they ranked dead last in the country in FT rate allowed and four guys on the team committed over 6 fouls per 40 minutes (two over 7 and one almost 9(!)).

The Tigers have a wealth of athleticism this season all across the floor, so defense must be a focal point in order for them to win ball games. Last year, TSU allowed the 8th shortest APL in the country and forced turnovers at the 3rd highest rate in the OVC. Collins is keen on taking away the three-ball in favor of funneling ball handlers to the rim - this season, hopefully TSU's bigs can control their fouling better when challenging opponents at the bucket. With his slew of athletes, expect Collins to run a significant amount of fullcourt press looks - TSU was 76th in the country in press frequency in 2018-19. Last year, TSU also played a lot of zone, usually an extended 3-2 or 1-3-1 variety. When in zone, the Tigers allowed just 0.871 PPP (73rd percentile in the country) versus 0.93 PPP in man (11th percentile in the country).

Offensively, TSU's shot selection was usually pretty good, but the Tigers had a tendency to over-rely on isolation situations. TSU ranked in the bottom 20 in the country in assist rate and ranked 339th in the country in turnover rate. Ball security, lack of ball movement, and overall poor shooting led to poor offense even with Collins's focus on ramping up the tempo. The Tigers did well at attacking the rim and getting to the foul line, but it oftentimes wasn't enough to overcome their other weaknesses on this end. With so many new faces on this year's squad (3 DI transfers, 5 JUCO transfers, 2 FR), it's hard to imagine TSU improving dramatically on this end. Like last year, the Tigers have an abundance of talent - perhaps even the most raw talent in the OVC - but it may be too much to ask of Collins to get this group to jell over the course of a season.

Collins brings in three transfers from the DI ranks who all figure to make immediate impacts. Wesley Harris, who was kicked off the team at West Virginia, is the "crown jewel" of Collins's 2019 incoming class. Harris is extremely talented, a guy who can shoot and score at will on offense and defend multiple positions on the other end. If he stays out of trouble, Harris could compete for the OVC POY award. His impact to this year's TSU team cannot be understated - he was a regular starter at WVU and played against stiff Big 12 competition for almost two years. Jy'lan Washington will challenge for a starting gig in the TSU frontcourt after coming over from Louisiana Tech a year ago. Washington started 12 games for the Bulldogs in 2017-18, proving to be an effective finisher on the block and capable of stretching the floor. He could pair well with the more paint-bound Egbuta on the frontline. Oregon State transfer Ben Kone will add depth to Collins's frontcourt. He never really got off the ground at OSU but had his moments in limited playing time. At minimum, he'll add rebounding and defense at the PF position.

From the JUCO ranks comes wings Carlos Marshall Jr. and Ravel Moody and forwards Jon Brown, Mason Green, and Shakem Johnson. All five of these guys could see major playing time for the Tigers this season and, along with Harris, give Collins the most athletic team in the OVC. Marshall played at Southwest Tennessee CC with Littlejohn and comes to TSU as a big guard who can create his own shot off the dribble. Moody, a borderline top 100 JUCO recruit, is a high-level athlete who can start the break, shoot, handle the ball, and lock down multiple spots defensively. At 6'6" both Marshall and Moody figure to cause matchup issues in the OVC. Up front, Brown, Green, and Johnson will compete for minutes in what should be a crowded frontcourt rotation. Brown, who started his collegiate career at Georgia Tech, can play out on the wing as well as the 4 - his greatest value is on the defensive end. Green, a former Mercer Bear, has long arms that give him sky high shot blocking potential. He'll add rebounding and should be able to contain ball handlers in the PnR with his mobility. Johnson, the #54 JUCO recruit in the nation, will earn the lion's share of minutes out of the three newcomers. He can jump out of the building and projects as a dangerous roll man in the PnR.

Freshmen guards Mark Freeman and Amorey Womack are the only two "true point guards" on the roster and will compete for the starting PG gig along with redshirt freshman Monty Johal. Freeman is a 3-star recruit who seems poised to step in right away and command the offense; he's very quick and stays low to the ground, making it nearly impossible to rip the ball away from him. He'll rack up plenty of steals and add shooting and passing. Womack, a guard out of Webster Groves in St. Louis, MO, has a quick handle and the athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker in the open floor. Johal, a big-time scorer in HS, played just four games last season before going down with an injury; he's one of the better shooters on the squad.

Bottom Line: From a pure talent perspective, the case could be made for the Tigers to be a top four OVC team in the preseason. Uncertainty abounds relating to how well Collins can make this roster mesh, but if he does, TSU is a dark horse to sneak into the upper echelon of the OVC standings.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Eastern Kentucky

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:33 pm

9. Eastern Kentucky
Key Returners: Jomaru Brown, Tre King, Kelvin Robinson, Lachlan Anderson, JacQuess Hobbs, Houston King, Peyton Broughton
Key Losses: Nick Mayo, Dujuanta Weaver, Jordan Oakley
Key Newcomers: Darius Hicks (NC State), Ty Taylor II (UNC Wilmington), Russhard Cruickshank (JUCO), Curt Lewis, Tariq Balogun, Michael Moreno

Lineup:
EKU roster 20.PNG
Outlook: A.W. Hamilton had an up-and-down season in his first year at the helm of EKU, as his young Colonels struggled to adjust to his breakneck pace. Hamilton, a Kevin Keatts disciple from powerhouse high school Hargrave Military Academy, brought with him to Richmond an offense hellbent on scoring in transition and a defense focused on fullcourt pressure and turning opponents over. Nick Mayo, one of the more decorated Colonels in program history, was EKU's lone senior last year, so Hamilton has plenty of returning talent to improve upon the mistakes of 2018-19 even with the transfers of Dujuanta Weaver and Jordan Oakley.

EKU's philosophy on offense is run, run, run. The Colonels were the 2nd fastest overall team in the country last season and had the 7th shortest average possession length on offense. EKU attempts to catch opponents sleeping off scores, ranking 9th in initial FGA 0-10 seconds following an opponent score versus 159th in initial FGA 0-10 seconds following a defensive rebound. When not running, the Colonels ran offense through Mayo on the block or high post. The Colonels scored 1.11 PPP when Mayo was on the floor last season but just 0.99 PPP when he sat, a worrisome split for the 2019-20 squad. With Mayo's graduation, offensive focus will shift to the backcourt where sophomore Jomaru Brown will look to assume the alpha role. Brown was the 5th highest used player in the OVC as a freshman and improved his shooting splits as the season progressed; he's a versatile scorer and shot creator and equally intimidating defender, ranking 2nd in the conference in steal rate last year.

Mayo was EKU's only legitimate post threat last year, so Hamilton's offense will likely be of the 4-out variety and focus more on outside shooting. Sophomore Tre King and NC State transfer Darius Hicks are the only true post players on the roster and each will battle for playing time at the 5-spot. Lachlan Anderson is more of a floor spacer at the power forward position - all three players have posted strong rebounding rates during their career. Freshman Tariq Balogun is raw offensively but holds value as a shot blocker and mobile big in the open floor; Hamilton could find use for him in his up-and-down attack.

EKU's backcourt is stuffed with talent. Along with Brown, Kelvin Robinson, JacQuess Hobbs, Peyton Broughton, and Houston King return after playing major minutes in 2018-19. Robinson occupies the lion's share of the point guard responsibilities. He prefers to attack the rim (48.3% of his FGA were near the rim last year) and do damage from the mid-range area. Hobbs was hampered by injury last season but contributed as a pesky defender and ball handler when healthy. King and Broughton are both knockdown outside shooters - King in particular was a sharpshooter, hitting 44.7% of his OVC 3PA.

Hamilton's newcomer class will push the incumbent backcourt for minutes immediately. Ty Taylor II, a UNCW transfer, is a combo guard who can shoot and handle the rock; he started nearly every game for the Seahawks two seasons ago before seeing his playing time chopped last year. Russhard Cruickshank has an awesome name and an awesome outside shot - the lefty shooter has quick hands and feet, perfect for Hamilton's style. Curt Lewis is the newcomer to watch this season. He's a BIG point guard at 6'5" 220 lbs. and averaged 32 PPG and 17 RPG in high school. Lewis is super athletic and strong, able to bully smaller guards in the post or blow-by bigger defenders on the perimeter. Michael Moreno, a 6'7" freshman wing, also figures to make an immediate impact with his ability to score at a high level inside and out. Late signee Jordan Reeves-Young will bolster the perimeter defense.

EKU's offense was largely inefficient last season, hurt primarily by poor shooting, but its defensive was actually pretty effective. Hamilton's squad pressed at the 6th highest rate in the country and allowed just 0.797 PPP when applying fullcourt pressure, which ranked in the 73rd percentile in the nation (per Synergy). The Colonels notched the 15th highest steal rate in the country and should once again be a nightmare to handle the ball against in 2019-20 with their depth of athletic guards and wings. Interior defense, particularly at the rim, will still be an issue unless Tre King of Balogun can develop into a legit defensive stopper.

Bottom Line: Despite losing Mayo, the school's all-time leading scorer, EKU might actually improve in 2019-20. Hamilton has a deep squad, returns six key players from a season ago, and adds one of the best recruiting classes in the OVC. We still may see the Colonels on the wrong end of a couple blow-outs, but this should be a team that competes for a top five or six OVC finish and capable of throwing a few knockout punches.
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Ohio Valley Conference: SIU Edwardsville

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:34 pm

10. SIU Edwardsville
Key Returners: Tyrese Williford, Brandon Jackson, Cameron Williams, Anselm Uzuegbunem, Treavon Martin, Justin Benton
Key Losses: David McFarland, Daniel Kinchen, Jaylen McCoy, Christian Ellis
Key Newcomers: Kenyon Duling (JUCO), Mike Adewunmi (JUCO), Iziah James (JUCO), Lamar Wright, Shamar Wright, Zeke Moore (Tulsa)

Lineup:
SIUE roster 20.PNG
Outlook: SIUE has yet achieve a winning DI season since joining the big leagues in 2008-09. Former head coach Jon Harris failed to lift the program to OVC contention in his four years, limping to a 15-53 conference record in a mid-to-bottom tier mid-major league. Brian Barone is the new sheriff in town, an SIUE assistant the past two years and former assistant under Brian Wardle at Green Bay. He'll be tasked with improving a program that's never known success, having finished in the top 300 of KenPom's overall ranking just twice in 11 seasons.

Barone is liable to switch things up offensively from his predecessor, but the Cougars figure to be a team that will once again rely on transition, dribble drives, and trips to the foul line to score points. SIUE was one of the worst outside shooting teams in 2018-19 and had zero players shoot over 33% from beyond the arc. Expect to see plenty of offense ran through the capable hands of point guard Tyrese Williford, particularly via pick-n-roll action. Williford is a scoring lead guard who ranked 4th in the OVC in FT rate and usage last season; he can be an effective playmaker but must improve on dismal outside shooting (26% from 3) and turnover (24.1% TO rate) issues. SIUE will look to Williford to be the senior leader and pace the team.

Help is on the way in the shooting department with the return of Justin Benton and additions of JUCO transfer Iziah James and Tulsa transfer Zeke Moore. Benton redshirted last season but started most of 2017-18, notching a 48.1% 3P clip on 52 attempts. He'll serve as a dangerous spot-up threat and will be able to pitch in with the ball handling effort offensively. James and Moore will compete with Benton and sophomore Cam Williams for a starting role next to Williford. James is a borderline top 100 JUCO recruit out of Indian Hills CC and also spent time with Cal Poly back in 2017-18; he shot 40%+ from deep at both previous stops. SIUE will also be Moore's third collegiate stop after previously playing for SLU and Tulsa. Moore started 4 games for the Golden Hurricanes last year and earned major minutes for the Billikens in 2016-17. Cam Williams showed signs of improvement from behind the arc throughout OVC play, converting 36.5% of his 3PA in conference. He'll be counted on to be a reliable secondary scorer next to Williford and must improve his sometimes-lackluster defensive performance of last season.

The Cougars will once again be one of the smaller teams in the country, likely starting two 6'7" guys at the 4 and 5. Brandon Jackson is SIUE's primary post-up threat and is a good finisher and paint defender despite his undersized frame. He started experimenting with a three-point shot in 2018-19, which can hopefully continue to develop and add more spacing to the Cougar attack. Anselm Uzuegbunem and Elochukwu Eke, the two likely starting-5 candidates, won't provide much production offensively but are assets on the glass and defensively on the block. 6'8" sophomore Traevon Martin will also see time up front either off the pine or in the starting lineup after a so-so freshman year.

Barone adds a ton of athleticism to his wing corps, which should help improve the Cougars' dreadful defense of last season. SIUE was lit up from everywhere on the floor, allowing the 8th highest eFG% in the country. Harris mixed in some fullcourt and halfcourt zone looks, but nothing seemed to keep opponents from routinely burning the Cougars on the defensive end. JUCO imports Kenyon Duling and Mike Adewunmi and freshmen twins Lamar and Shamar Wright (sons of Lorenzen Wright) all come to Edwardsville with promising strength and athleticism to contribute to the defensive effort. Duling is a big guard who can bully smaller defenders into the lane. Adewunmi is very versatile on the offensive end with his ability to shoot and play above the rim. Shamar Wright could be one of the better scorers on the squad with his shooting chops, while Lamar Wright looks to be a future defensive stopper with his length.

Bottom Line: All reports on Barone seem to imply he's a great hire for a struggling Division I program just looking to become competitive. He comes from a coaching family (Dad coached at Creighton, Texas A&M, and in the NBA with the Grizzlies) and has served under Tom Crean (Indiana - also played for him at Marquette) and Porter Moser (Illinois State) in addition to Brian Wardle. Barone may not make SIUE an OVC contender overnight but look for steady improvement from the Cougars over the next couple years.
Last edited by JoeD on Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ohio Valley Conference: SEMO

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:35 pm

11. Southeast Missouri State
Key Returners: Skyler Hogan, Isaiah Gable, Sage Tolbert, Nygal Russell, Alex Caldwell
Key Losses: Ledarrius Brewer, Gabe McGlothan, Jonathan Dalton, Mark Laros
Key Newcomers: Quatarrius Wilson (McNeese State), Chris Harris (JUCO), Darrious Agnew (JUCO), DQ Nicholas, Jordan Love (Redshirt)

Lineup:
SEMO roster 20.PNG
Outlook: Rick Ray strung together two decent years in a row down in Cape Girardeau, but his team quickly fell back into the OVC basement in 2018-19. The Redhawks missed the OVC postseason tournament, finishing in 11th place and 5-13 overall. Youth was certainly a factor in SEMO's poor season, as the Redhawks struggled to compete on either end of the floor. Ray loses arguably his best two players from a year ago in Ledarrius Brewer and Gabe McGlothan to transfer and PG Jonathan Dalton to graduation. While SEMO will be a much older team than last year, it'll still face an uphill climb out of the conference cellar.

While SEMO was objectively terrible on the offensive end last season, it did do one thing well: three-point shooting. The Redhawks relied on the deep ball to score points and notched the 66th best clip (36.6%) from behind the arc in the country in 2018-19. Transition was also a major avenue through which SEMO scored, as Ray had at his disposal a deep backcourt corps compared to a generally thin and undersized frontline. This year's SEMO squad should follow suit in emphasizing shooting the three-ball and capitalizing on transition opportunities. Ray's group played at the 4th fastest rate on offense in the OVC last year.

In contrast to its offense, the Redhawks looked to slow opposing teams down on the defensive end, allowing the longest average possession length in the conference on this end of the floor. SEMO was vulnerable in the paint and on the glass but was able to apply pressure on the perimeter and out past the timeline with its bevy of guards. One scary part about SEMO's defensive stats last year was its opponents' three-point percentage - the Redhawks allowed opponents to shoot just 32.3% from deep (63rd nationally) despite giving up a very high rate of shots from the outside. This was almost certainly luck, as Ray's previous SEMO teams ranked 312th, 282nd, and 169th in defensive 3P% over the past three seasons. Even with the three-point defense, the Redhawks ranked 11th in the OVC in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Brewer's exodus means SEMO will need to find consistent production in the backcourt, on which it will rely heavily to score points. Skyler Hogan returns as the team's leading scorer after flirting with the transfer portal this offseason. He shot the ball very well in the non-conference portion of last season but tanked once OVC play rolled around. This year, Hogan will be counted on to provide more on offense than just shooting. He'll likely line up next to Nygal Russell and Alex Caldwell in the starting five in 2019-20. Russell is a combo guard who will need to improve on lackluster shooting and ball handling as he assumes more minutes in his sophomore year. Caldwell will take over point guard duties from the departed Dalton; unlike Russell, Caldwell shot the ball well from deep last season and had a manageable turnover rate.

Both Russell and Caldwell will be pushed for playing time from freshman DQ Nicholas, JUCO import Chris Harris, and redshirt freshman Jordan Love. Nicholas is a quick PG who should thrive in SEMO's uptempo system, while Love can play either guard spot with his length, athleticism, and handling skills. Harris is a big guard who can overpower smaller defenders with his strength; he began his collegiate career at DII Missouri S&T where he led his team in scoring. Oscar Kao and Khalil Cuffee will have opportunities to carve out more playing time this year as well - both guards shot extremely well from behind the arc (Kao 65%; Cuffee 47.1%) in limited minutes last year.

Ray's frontcourt will remain limited on bodies with junior Isaiah Gable and sophomore Sage Tolbert being the only two key returners. Gable is a money stretch-4 who took 119 3P last season versus just 54 2P; he's a good bet to start because of his floor spacing abilities, but he offers little in the realm of rebounding or defense. Tolbert is more active on the glass and can hold his own on the block against OVC bigs. The incumbent starters will be challenged by McNeese State transfer Quatarrius Wilson and JUCO transfer Darrious Agnew for minutes in 2019-20. Wilson likely wins a starting gig after averaging a double-double in 2017-18 and earning a spot on the Southland's 3rd Team All-Conference. He brings much needed size, rebounding, and shot blocking to SEMO. Agnew is a tough rebounder best suited for the 4-spot. His quickness and ball skills allow him to beat his defender off the dribble and he's strong enough to score on the block. Both newcomers should see plenty of run this season.

Bottom Line: SEMO will likely hang around the bottom four of the OVC once again in 2019-20. Ray would've had a competitive squad had Brewer and McGlothan opted to stay, but instead he's left with a roster with no proven go-to scorer. Defensively, SEMO should be improved with the additions of Wilson and Agnew, but it's hard to see the Redhawks repeating that 3P% D and rising too high up the conference ranks. SEMO hasn't made the Big Dance since 2000 and is likely several years away from ending that streak.
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Ohio Valley Conference: Tennessee Tech

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:36 pm

12. Tennessee Tech
Key Returners: Jr. Clay, Hunter Vick, Jared Sherfield, Garrett Golday
Key Losses: Courtney Alexander, Micaiah Henry, Corey Tillery, Malik Martin, Johnnie Vassar
Key Newcomers: Darius Allen (Baylor), Amadou Sylla (JUCO), Larry Kuimi (JUCO), Tujautae Williams, Dane Quest, Keishawn Davidson, Caden Mills (Redshirt), Reece Wilkinson (Redshirt)

Lineup:
Tenn Tech roster 20.PNG
Outlook: Tennessee Tech waved goodbye to Steve Payne this offseason after eight seasons at the helm. Payne enjoyed moderate success as head coach at TTU, finishing under .500 only three times in OVC play, but last year's 8-23 (4-14) debacle was enough to send him packing. With his departure comes John Pelphrey, the former head coach of South Alabama (2002 - 2007) and Arkansas (2007 - 2011) and most recently an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and Avery Johnson at Alabama. Pelphrey inherits a very young Golden Eagles team highlighted by four returning sophomores. Pelphrey may bring TTU back into OVC relevance in the near future, but it'll be tough to do so in year one.

It's uncertain what type of offensive style Pelphrey will bring to Cookeville, but whatever he implements it's near certain to be an improvement on last year. TTU was the 9th worst offense in the land last year, per KenPom, a result of putrid shooting inside the arc and from the free throw line and piss poor ball handling. Pelphrey ramped up the tempo at Arkansas, implementing more of a basket attack focus, while his South Alabama teams tended to play in the halfcourt and bomb away from deep. No matter the underlying principles, TTU's offense is sure to go through Jr. Clay in 2019-20.

Clay was the lone bright spot on TTU's squad last season, ranking 2nd in the OVC in usage and earning spots on the All-Conference 2nd Team and All-Newcomer Team. Clay will have the ball in his hands every possession, running point and dictating the offense. In 2019-20, Clay ranked 2nd in the league in assist rate while shooting 39.8% from outside the arc. His turnover rate will need to improve, and he tended to get out of control at times, but he's near unstoppable off the bounce and can score in a multitude of ways. Defensively, Clay is a menace on the ball, ranking 5th in the OVC in steal rate. In year two, look for Clay's game to mature with a season under his belt.

Clay will be joined by a trio of sophomores in Hunter Vick, Jared Sherfield, and Garrett Golday. Vick was the Eagles' other stud guard last season, shooting 40.8% from outside the arc and ranking 6th in the OVC in minutes played. Like Clay, Vick struggled finding the bottom of the net inside the arc, but he's due for an efficiency boost in year two. Sherfield will compete for starts on the wing this season after coming on strong at the tail end of last year. In TTU's final four games, Sherfield averaged 16 PPG and 5.8 RPG, a promising sign of good things to come in 2019-20. Golday is the lone returning frontcourt player for the Eagles; he didn't have much an impact when he played last season, but he has a high motor and can score from the outside or on the block. Cade Crosland, a seldom-used guard last season who figures to assume a similar role in 2019-29, is TTU's fifth and final returner.

Pelphrey will need major production from his newcomers for TTU to be competitive in the OVC this season. Darius Allen, a Baylor transfer, figures to have the biggest impact of Pelphrey's plethora of newbies. Allen started the first game of the season for Baylor last year and then saw his playing time dwindle. He'll be a key two-way player on the wing, serving as a potential lock-down defender and versatile scorer. Allen will be joined on the wing by freshmen Tujautae Williams, Dane Quest, and Caden Mills. Williams, a Chicago product, is a long, athletic wing with good handles and floor vision. His shooting and versatility will make him a key rotation player in year one. Quest is a sizable guard at 6'6" but he's likely behind Williams on the depth chart. Mills redshirted last year due to injury; he was a high scorer in high school and will function as a shooting specialist.

One of Amadou Sylla, Larry Kuimi, and Reece Wilkinson will have to step into a starting spot immediately. Sylla, a JUCO transfer and Mali native, is an active shot blocker and rebounder who runs the floor well. Kuimi, another potential shot blocking threat, is long but still a bit raw for major minutes. Wilkinson, a big center at 6'9" 270 lbs., returns after sitting out last year with a knee injury; he's a true post who will be counted on for major minutes. None of these three big men inspire much confidence, but Pelphrey has no choice but to put them on the floor.

TTU's final newcomer is Keishawn Davidson, a former MTSU commit and point guard. Davidson is talented, but he'll likely be buried behind Clay and Vick this season.

TTU's defense was actually pretty sound last year, ranking 4th in the OVC per KenPom. The Eagles forced turnovers and denied the three, pressuring ball handlers with their young, athletic backcourt. TTU was weak, however, in transition where it allowed the most opportunities in the country. This led to TTU allowing the shortest average possession length on defense, not usually a sign of a great defensive squad. Pelphrey teams have historically forced turnovers and taken away the three in the past, so expect those two principles to carry on from 2018-19.

Bottom Line: The TTU athletic department made a smart hire in Pelphrey, an experienced coach who can rebuild the program in short order. The Eagles have talent in the backcourt but are much too thin everywhere else and still very young. TTU likely stays in the OVC basement in 2019-20.
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