Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

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Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Sun Oct 01, 2017 7:11 pm

With official practices underway, I thought I'd go ahead and start my annual series of posts previewing each Horizon League team. This year, I'm going from last year's standings, last to first, except I'll save Detroit for last, and we're starting with the newbie, IUPUI.

IUPUI
2016-17:
14-18 overall
7-9 Summit (7th place)
RPI: 218
KenPom: 198

Returns
51.6% of minutes
46.6% of points
62.7% rebounds

So, who is this awkwardly named lady the Horizon so precipitously adopted into the family?

In 1969, as the Titans were a nationally-ranked power led by All-American Spencer Haywood, Purdue University and Indiana University decided to merge a number of programs, mainly graduate programs, being offered in Indianapolis under a single administration. The unoriginal name they gave to their new school was the clunky Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the school has been saddled with the Ooo-Eee-Poo-Eee moniker ever since. The undergraduate campus was opened in 1971, and the schools of Public Affairs, Liberal Arts, Science, and Engineering and Technology opened in 1972.

IUPUI began sponsoring sports in 1972, starting with men’s basketball. The team began play a few months after the Titans trounced second-ranked Marquette 70-49 in Calihan Hall, ending the second longest regular season winning streak in NCAA history. The IUPUI team, originally known as the “Metros,” won just 1 game in their inaugural season. It would be a decade before the Metros had a winning season, going 14-12 in 1981, a season in which future NBAer Joe Kopicki led the Titans. Women’s sports began in 1975. The Jaguars joined the NAIA in 1978, as Detroit was ranked in the Top 20 nationally behind John Long and Terry Tyler. IUPUI made a couple of NAIA national tournament appearances in the late 1980s, and joined the NCAA Division II in 1993, as Tony Tolbert was winning First Team All-MCC honors in consecutive seasons. Today, IUPUI sponsors 7 men’s sports and 9 women’s sports. (Political insert: Does it strike anyone else as odd that under Title IX women, who as a whole are demonstrably less-interested in athletic competition than men, have a greater variety of intercollegiate athletic opportunities than men at almost every NCAA institution?)

In 1994 IUPUI hired Ron Hunter, an assistant at Milwaukee, as Head Men’s Basketball Coach, launching the Golden Age of Jaguar hoops. The Jags won 22 games in Hunter’s second season, behind three-time D-II All-American Carlos Knox.

Under Hunter, IUPUI moved up to D-I in the fall of 1998, a year in which the Titans embarked on a season that would end in an MCC title and a second consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament, where we beat UCLA. The Jags hit .500 in D-I for the first time in the 2002 season (the Titans played in the NIT), and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time the following season after winning the Mid-Continent (nee Summit) Conference tournament. There they lost badly to Kentucky. Despite 10 consecutive seasons at .500 or better under Hunter, including a regular season Mid-Con title in 2006 and 26 and 25 wins in 2008 and 2010, respectively, the Jags failed to make the NCAA tournament again. The 2006 and 2008 teams featured IUPUI’s greatest player, George Hill, an AP All America Honorable Mention and the 26th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft.

Hunter left to take the head coaching job at Georgia State after the 2011 season, and IUPUI has not had a winning season since his departure. Under Todd Howard, the Jags suffered through back-to-back 6-26 seasons in 2013 and 2014. Under Jason Gardner, Howard's successor, IUPUI has improved each season, but not by a lot, and were just 14-18 last year. For most of their history the Jags played home games in the IUPUI Gymnasium, built in 1982 and seating just 1215 at full capacity. By playing a few games at alternate venues they were able to average as many as 1547 fans per game in 2006. They left the Gymnasium, sometimes called “The Jungle,” behind in 2014 to play at the spiffy 6800-capacity Farmers Coliseum, a very good facility that, like too many Horizon arenas, will feature scores of empty seats. The Jags averaged 1057 in attendance in 2016 and 1054 in 2017.

Welcome to the Horizon family, IUPUI, where everyone stays until they can go.

As for this year, I don’t expect IUPUI to end its sub-.500 streak in its first season in the Horizon. The Jags lose their three best players and top scorers: Darrell Combs (16.8 ppg; also their top assist man); Matt O’Leary (13.9 ppg; also their top rebounder); and Kellon Thomas (9.5 ppg, second on the team in assists).

Five returning rotation players are led by senior guard Ron Patterson, a transfer from Syracuse. Patterson (9.3 ppg, .397 from three) started the Jags’ first 10 games last season, but was more effective, and actually increased his minutes, as a 6th man for the remainder of the season. Junior TJ Henderson (5.9 ppg) was another good three-point shooter (40.0%) off the bench, and will probably take over the point this season. Junior DJ McCall (4.8 ppg) is a 6-6 wing who will see action at the 2 and 3 slots (yes, their starting back court will likely be T.J. and D.J. (But do they play “Convoy” when T.J. gets hot?). Also looking for PT at guard will be sophomore Nick Rogers, a transfer from Toledo. Rogers didn’t do much for the Rockets in his only season there, but he did appear in 31 of the Rockets’ 32 games, and that suggests the Toledo staff saw something in him. The Jags are high on freshman guard Jaylen Minnet, who averaged 25.8 points per game at Terre Haute HS, and turned down his hometown team, Indiana State, to play in Indy.

In the front court the Jags will be hoping for major contributions from Maurice Kirby, a graduate transfer from Loyola. Kirby started 26 games last year for the Ramblers, but that stat is a bit misleading—he never played more than 16 minutes in a game and averaged just 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds. The top returning front court players are 6-6 senior Aaron Brennan (8.4 points, 3.5 rebounds) and 6-7 junior Evan Hall (7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds), a hard worker in the paint. There’s little depth, which should leave some pt for redshirt freshman Elyjah Goss.

If IUPUI gets serious about sports, there’s no reason they can’t become a solid Horizon program, at least the equal to Milwaukee and UIC. Like those two, they’re the third option in their hometown, behind an NBA club and a P6 team. But they have a good facility to play in and, while there’s lots of competition, they’re located smack dab in the middle of some of the best recruiting territory in the nation. With well over 20,000 undergrads enrolled, they ought to be able to roust up a few hundred students a game if they put an exciting, winning team out there (only about 10% of students live on campus, however). The University has a number of very good grad programs, some money to work with, and--as you’d expect from those enrollment numbers--a rapidly growing alumni base whose earliest members are just hitting peak giving years. So far, however, they haven’t really shown they want it. Let’s hope changing that was a condition of, and a reason for, joining the Horizon.

Probably Starters
PG: T.J. Henderson, 6-0 Jr. (5.9 ppg, 1.6 apg, 40% from three)
SG: D.J. McCall, 6-6 Jr. (4.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
SF: Aaron Brennan, 6-6 Jr. (8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 50.2% FG)
PF: Evan Hall, 6-7 Jr. (7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 58.9% FG)
C: Maurice Kirby, 6-9 Gr. (1.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg w/ Loyola)

Key Reserves
G: Ron Patterson, 6-2 Sr. (9.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 39.7% from three)
G: Nick Rogers, 6-1 Soph. (2.2 ppg at Toledo in 2016)
G: Jaylen Minnet, 6-1 Fr.
F: Elyjah Goss, 6-7 RS Fr.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby MooseGuy1 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:29 pm

Sure is good to have this preview feature back. And, truly, madly, deeply, I can't tell you how excited I am to have the IUPII Whatevers in the Horizon League...uh, because current technology cannot measure so miniscule a level of excitement. Indeed, the HL is settling closer to the horizon than ever before. Still, good info from the Commish.

To answer a question posed by our esteemed analyst:

Political insert: Does it strike anyone else as odd that under Title IX women, who as a whole are demonstrably less-interested in athletic competition than men, have a greater variety of intercollegiate athletic opportunities than men at almost every NCAA institution?


There are only a few sports that the general public follows. Therefore, all things being equal, women tend to look better in athletic attire than men do. I love volleyball.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby NC Titan » Sun Oct 01, 2017 8:56 pm

The unoriginal name they gave to their new school was the clunky Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the school has been saddled with the Ooo-Eee-Poo-Eee moniker ever since.


Hey, we changed our name. They can change theirs. It's difficult to think that there would be the same uproar over losing that name.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby R.B.J1 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:37 pm

MooseGuy1 wrote:Sure is good to have this preview feature back. And, truly, madly, deeply, I can't tell you how excited I am to have the IUPII Whatevers in the Horizon League...uh, because current technology cannot measure so miniscule a level of excitement. Indeed, the HL is settling closer to the horizon than ever before. Still, good info from the Commish.

To answer a question posed by our esteemed analyst:

Political insert: Does it strike anyone else as odd that under Title IX women, who as a whole are demonstrably less-interested in athletic competition than men, have a greater variety of intercollegiate athletic opportunities than men at almost every NCAA institution?


There are only a few sports that the general public follows. Therefore, all things being equal, women tend to look better in athletic attire than men do. I love volleyball.


A few years ago I was an employee of the University of Michigan, all employees are eligible for free tickets to athletic events...except football and mens basketball. Those two are the only sports I was interested in.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby R.B.J1 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:39 pm

Commissioner wrote:With official practices underway, I thought I'd go ahead and start my annual series of posts previewing each Horizon League team. This year, I'm going from last year's standings, last to first, except I'll save Detroit for last, and we're starting with the newbie, IUPUI.

IUPUI
2016-17:
14-18 overall
7-9 Summit (7th place)
RPI: 218
KenPom: 198

Returns
51.6% of minutes
46.6% of points
62.7% rebounds

So, who is this awkwardly named lady the Horizon so precipitously adopted into the family?

In 1969, as the Titans were a nationally-ranked power led by All-American Spencer Haywood, Purdue University and Indiana University decided to merge a number of programs, mainly graduate programs, being offered in Indianapolis under a single administration. The unoriginal name they gave to their new school was the clunky Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the school has been saddled with the Ooo-Eee-Poo-Eee moniker ever since. The undergraduate campus was opened in 1971, and the schools of Public Affairs, Liberal Arts, Science, and Engineering and Technology opened in 1972.

IUPUI began sponsoring sports in 1972, starting with men’s basketball. The team began play a few months after the Titans trounced second-ranked Marquette 70-49 in Calihan Hall, ending the second longest regular season winning streak in NCAA history. The IUPUI team, originally known as the “Metros,” won just 1 game in their inaugural season. It would be a decade before the Metros had a winning season, going 14-12 in 1981, a season in which future NBAer Joe Kopicki led the Titans. Women’s sports began in 1975. The Jaguars joined the NAIA in 1978, as Detroit was ranked in the Top 20 nationally behind John Long and Terry Tyler. IUPUI made a couple of NAIA national tournament appearances in the late 1980s, and joined the NCAA Division II in 1993, as Tony Tolbert was winning First Team All-MCC honors in consecutive seasons. Today, IUPUI sponsors 7 men’s sports and 9 women’s sports. (Political insert: Does it strike anyone else as odd that under Title IX women, who as a whole are demonstrably less-interested in athletic competition than men, have a greater variety of intercollegiate athletic opportunities than men at almost every NCAA institution?)

In 1994 IUPUI hired Ron Hunter, an assistant at Milwaukee, as Head Men’s Basketball Coach, launching the Golden Age of Jaguar hoops. The Jags won 22 games in Hunter’s second season, behind three-time D-II All-American Carlos Knox.

Under Hunter, IUPUI moved up to D-I in the fall of 1998, a year in which the Titans embarked on a season that would end in an MCC title and a second consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament, where we beat UCLA. The Jags hit .500 in D-I for the first time in the 2002 season (the Titans played in the NIT), and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time the following season after winning the Mid-Continent (nee Summit) Conference tournament. There they lost badly to Kentucky. Despite 10 consecutive seasons at .500 or better under Hunter, including a regular season Mid-Con title in 2006 and 26 and 25 wins in 2008 and 2010, respectively, the Jags failed to make the NCAA tournament again. The 2006 and 2008 teams featured IUPUI’s greatest player, George Hill, an AP All America Honorable Mention and the 26th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft.

Hunter left to take the head coaching job at Georgia State after the 2011 season, and IUPUI has not had a winning season since his departure. Under Todd Howard, the Jags suffered through back-to-back 6-26 seasons in 2013 and 2014. Under Jason Gardner, Howard's successor, IUPUI has improved each season, but not by a lot, and were just 14-18 last year. For most of their history the Jags played home games in the IUPUI Gymnasium, built in 1982 and seating just 1215 at full capacity. By playing a few games at alternate venues they were able to average as many as 1547 fans per game in 2006. They left the Gymnasium, sometimes called “The Jungle,” behind in 2014 to play at the spiffy 6800-capacity Farmers Coliseum, a very good facility that, like too many Horizon arenas, will feature scores of empty seats. The Jags averaged 1057 in attendance in 2016 and 1054 in 2017.

Welcome to the Horizon family, IUPUI, where everyone stays until they can go.

As for this year, I don’t expect IUPUI to end its sub-.500 streak in its first season in the Horizon. The Jags lose their three best players and top scorers: Darrell Combs (16.8 ppg; also their top assist man); Matt O’Leary (13.9 ppg; also their top rebounder); and Kellon Thomas (9.5 ppg, second on the team in assists).

Five returning rotation players are led by senior guard Ron Patterson, a transfer from Syracuse. Patterson (9.3 ppg, .397 from three) started the Jags’ first 10 games last season, but was more effective, and actually increased his minutes, as a 6th man for the remainder of the season. Junior TJ Henderson (5.9 ppg) was another good three-point shooter (40.0%) off the bench, and will probably take over the point this season. Junior DJ McCall (4.8 ppg) is a 6-6 wing who will see action at the 2 and 3 slots (yes, their starting back court will likely be T.J. and D.J. (But do they play “Convoy” when T.J. gets hot?). Also looking for PT at guard will be sophomore Nick Rogers, a transfer from Toledo. Rogers didn’t do much for the Rockets in his only season there, but he did appear in 31 of the Rockets’ 32 games, and that suggests the Toledo staff saw something in him. The Jags are high on freshman guard Jaylen Minnet, who averaged 25.8 points per game at Terre Haute HS, and turned down his hometown team, Indiana State, to play in Indy.

In the front court the Jags will be hoping for major contributions from Maurice Kirby, a graduate transfer from Loyola. Kirby started 26 games last year for the Ramblers, but that stat is a bit misleading—he never played more than 16 minutes in a game and averaged just 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds. The top returning front court players are 6-6 senior Aaron Brennan (8.4 points, 3.5 rebounds) and 6-7 junior Evan Hall (7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds), a hard worker in the paint. There’s little depth, which should leave some pt for redshirt freshman Elyjah Goss.

If IUPUI gets serious about sports, there’s no reason they can’t become a solid Horizon program, at least the equal to Milwaukee and UIC. Like those two, they’re the third option in their hometown, behind an NBA club and a P6 team. But they have a good facility to play in and, while there’s lots of competition, they’re located smack dab in the middle of some of the best recruiting territory in the nation. With well over 20,000 undergrads enrolled, they ought to be able to roust up a few hundred students a game if they put an exciting, winning team out there (only about 10% of students live on campus, however). The University has a number of very good grad programs, some money to work with, and--as you’d expect from those enrollment numbers--a rapidly growing alumni base whose earliest members are just hitting peak giving years. So far, however, they haven’t really shown they want it. Let’s hope changing that was a condition of, and a reason for, joining the Horizon.

Probably Starters
PG: T.J. Henderson, 6-0 Jr. (5.9 ppg, 1.6 apg, 40% from three)
SG: D.J. McCall, 6-6 Jr. (4.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
SF: Aaron Brennan, 6-6 Jr. (8.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 50.2% FG)
PF: Evan Hall, 6-7 Jr. (7.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 58.9% FG)
C: Maurice Kirby, 6-9 Gr. (1.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg w/ Loyola)

Key Reserves
G: Ron Patterson, 6-2 Sr. (9.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 39.7% from three)
G: Nick Rogers, 6-1 Soph. (2.2 ppg at Toledo in 2016)
G: Jaylen Minnet, 6-1 Fr.
F: Elyjah Goss, 6-7 RS Fr.



Thanks for the preview, its hard to believe how far the program has dipped since 1969. How low can we go? :(
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby dennycrane » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:12 am

Actually R.B., we were OK until 1981 as far as scheduling was concerned as well as the general stature of the program. We rose as high as 12th nationally in 1977 and that was our final ranking that year. Then however it was thought to be a good idea to join a conference in 1981 even if some of the members were suspect. Our buddies Loyola and Xavier came along with us as we joined Oklahoma City, who wanted to phase out of NCAA ball and later did that, Oral Roberts, a relatively young university also from Oklahoma, Evansville, the classic small college champion from the mid '60s, and someone named Butler. St Louis also joined at some point; I didn't research that particular event's date.
Now, instead of playing Notre Dame and Marquette twice a year along with Big Ten opponents fairly regularly, the dumbing down of the schedule and the program had begun. Combined with generally weak coaching, we stumbled through the 80s with only one winning record, 16-12 in 1986, I think. Things worsened again in 1994 when pretty much the entire MidContinent Conference came calling and U of D said sure, come on in. And here we are in 2017, where pre-season rankings put the Horizon at low major status for the coming year.
How low can we go (?), you ask (rhetorically). Division 2 isn't far off by the looks of things.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby NC Titan » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:51 am

In the 1970s we stayed out of conferences because each conference got a single NCAA bid. Win or stay home. (That's one reason the NIT actually had stature back then, because a lot of really good second-place and third-place teams went to the NIT because they couldn't go to the NCAA.) UofD decided to stay independent because we had a better chance getting an NCAA bid at that point. Then the rules changed and conferences could send multiple teams to the tournament, but in the post-Vitale/Gaines years we didn't have the standing to get into the newly forming conferences, and we didn't have the bucks for it either.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby MooseGuy1 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:16 pm

dennycrane wrote:Actually R.B., we were OK until 1981 as far as scheduling was concerned as well as the general stature of the program. We rose as high as 12th nationally in 1977 and that was our final ranking that year. Then however it was thought to be a good idea to join a conference in 1981 even if some of the members were suspect. Our buddies Loyola and Xavier came along with us as we joined Oklahoma City, who wanted to phase out of NCAA ball and later did that, Oral Roberts, a relatively young university also from Oklahoma, Evansville, the classic small college champion from the mid '60s, and someone named Butler. St Louis also joined at some point; I didn't research that particular event's date.
Now, instead of playing Notre Dame and Marquette twice a year along with Big Ten opponents fairly regularly, the dumbing down of the schedule and the program had begun. Combined with generally weak coaching, we stumbled through the 80s with only one winning record, 16-12 in 1986, I think. Things worsened again in 1994 when pretty much the entire MidContinent Conference came calling and U of D said sure, come on in. And here we are in 2017, where pre-season rankings put the Horizon at low major status for the coming year.
How low can we go (?), you ask (rhetorically). Division 2 isn't far off by the looks of things.


This is all so true by dennycrane...and depressing. Oh, I hope we never go D-2.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby ptctitan » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:35 am

I see the situation differently. How high can we fly if we all pull together to rebuild the program? IUPUI is not the problem. They beat Eastern last year by about the same margin that Eastern beat us.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby dennycrane » Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:12 pm

pct, with all due respect, because of a win at Wisconsin - Milwaukee last February, our team avoided a historically bad season in '16 -'17. Yet, we defeated Oakland by 5 points during the same season, a team who defeated Clemson in the NIT by 5 points and Georgia of the SEC by 7 points in December 2016. Comparative scores can be rather meaningless. Would you agree?
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby ptctitan » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:38 pm

dennycrane wrote:pct, with all due respect, because of a win at Wisconsin - Milwaukee last February, our team avoided a historically bad season in '16 -'17. Yet, we defeated Oakland by 5 points during the same season, a team who defeated Clemson in the NIT by 5 points and Georgia of the SEC by 7 points in December 2016. Comparative scores can be rather meaningless. Would you agree?


That's not the reason I cited those results. Last year, we were much worse than IUPUI. It's a step down for them to join us. Yes, we find ourselves near the bottom of a large hole that we began digging in 1981. We can get out of this hole only by looking up and trying to climb out - not by continuing to look at the bottom and complaining about the many bad decisions that put us in this predicament. It takes all of us to change our focus. We must set aside the frustration and fear over repeating past mistakes and risk more failure in trying to change the direction of men's basketball.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:43 pm

Milwaukee

2016-17
11-24 Overall
4-14 Horizon (10th place)
RPI: 256
KenPom: 259

Returns
75.7% of minutes
74.4% of scoring
83.1% of rebounding

I began last year’s Panther preview by noting, “I have this little thing going with Milwaukee fans. Each year, I write up a Milwaukee preview. Panther fans excoriate me for not giving their team enough respect. Each year, I end up right. It’s typically my best prediction.” Last year Milwaukee fans and I got in synch: we both thought the Panthers would be really bad, and they were.

The Panthers then had another tough off-season, with their promising young coach, LaVal Jordan, leaving town for his alma mater, Butler. Jordan’s two best recruits, Caleb Nero and Clarkston’s Dylan Alderson, then asked to be released from their commitments. Nonetheless, this year, I’m actually kinda bullish on Milwaukee. If you want a dark horse—not to win the league, but finish in the upper division—Milwaukee’s a pretty good choice.

This is not because of the Panthers’ little run to the Horizon League Tournament final. Before that, remember, the Panthers had lost their last nine regular season games. So what’s my thinking?

First, I think overall Milwaukee was a bit better last year than their record indicated. For example, while they finished last in the league, in RPI they were 8th, and within 10 spots nationally of passing Youngstown and UIC. They had three overtime losses, and a couple other very close ones (by 2 to Ohio, by 3 to Wright State, for example). (Of course, you could argue they also had some lucky wins—two in OT, a 1 point win over Cleveland State, 2 points over Valpo in the conference tournament).

Second, despite losing recruits Alderson and Nero, Milwaukee kept everyone else—there were no transfers out except for forward Zac Saddler, who was redshirted last year as a freshman. Graduation claimed no one of importance to last year’s team except 3 point specialist Cody Wichmann. But Wichmann was pretty one-dimensional and while he did yeoman’s service for last year’s outmanned squad, it’s not a big loss going forward. So there’s not much in reinforcements, but not much lost either. Meanwhile, last year’s team featured 11 freshmen and sophomores, and I expect at least a few of these guys should show considerable improvement.

The best thing for Milwaukee last year was the emergence of guard Brock Stull, more or less from nowhere, to become one of the league’s best players. Stull finished the year in the top 15 in the league in scoring, rebounding, assists, 3 point shooting, and free throw shooting. He’ll anchor the team this year playing both the two and three slots.

At the point, Milwaukee returns sophomore August Haas, who was third in the league in assists during conference play. Haas needs to improve his shooting (barely 30% from three, under 38% overall), but he doesn’t turn it over much and runs the offense competently. He’s a good candidate to improve this year.

Milwaukee is thin in the front line but its core players are pretty good. After two years of very little production, 6-9 forward Brett Prahl emerged last year as a competent if unexceptional big man. For the season he averaged 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks. But Prahl finished especially strong, averaging 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks over the season’s final 7 games. Prahl is a good finisher when he gets the ball in the block, a career 65% shooter (a league-best 66% last year) from the floor. In a league where good big men are always at a premium, Milwaukee has more certainty in the middle than many teams in the conference.

Joining Prahl is sophomore Bryce Nze (pronounced N-ZEE). Like Prahl, Nze isn’t a big scorer, but he’s hard to stop when he gets to the basket, shooting 65.8% last year. For the season he averaged 5.1 rebounds, but averaged 6 per game from late January through the end of the season. Nze’s minutes were limited by perpetual foul trouble last year, but if he can get that under control he could become a real force in the Horizon this year.

For the final starting spot, Milwaukee may try 6-8 juco transfer Vance Johnson, who averaged 13.6 points and 9 rebounds last year in the juco ranks. Otherwise they’ll go with a three guard lineup featuring junior Jeremiah Bell (7.1 ppg) or sophomore Jeremy Johnson (5.8 ppg). Indeed, they’ll play three guards a lot, because there’s almost no depth up front after Prahl, Nze, and Vance Johnson. It's for that very reason that I expect they'll start the three guards--so that there is some big man on the bench. Other guards who will see time are sophomore Bryce Barnes and freshman Carson Newsome. Newsome is a big (6-5) shooting guard who might help some on the size front, and has the potential to be an immediate impact player in the Horizon. Barnes is a three point shooter—45% last year.

Don’t get me wrong—the smart money pencils Milwaukee in for a second division finish. My guess is that they finish a couple games below .500. After all, this is basically the cast that finished last a year ago. A lack of depth up front could be a problem, especially since they’re not a particularly good three point shooting team—Stull and Barnes are the only real threats from deep. On the other hand, there is some talent here, some guys should improve, and Detroit, CSU, YSU, Green Bay, Wright State, and IUPUI are a rather motley lot this year. Even UIC, which most folks seem to predict to finish third, is hardly a juggernaut, having finished 17-19 a year ago. So if you want to pick a surprise team to finish 3rd or 4th in the Horizon this year, you could do a lot worse than Milwaukee. That said, I'm not putting them that high.

Probable Starters
PG – August Haas, 6-1 Soph. (5.0 ppg, 3.8 apg)
SG – Jeremy Johnson, 6-3 RS Soph. (5.8 ppg)
SG/SF – Brock Stull, 6-4 RS Jr. (13.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 39.9% 3Pt FG)
F – Bryce Nze, 6-7 Soph. (6.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 65.8% FG)
F/C – Brett Prahl, 6-9 RS Sr. (7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 66.4% FG)

Key Reserves
G – Jeremiah Bell, 6-1 Jr. (7.1 ppg)
G – Bryce Barnes, 5-11 Soph. (4.0 ppg, 45.2% 3PtFG)
G – Carson Newsome, 6-5 Fr.
F – Vance Johnson, 6-8 Jr. (13.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 60.2% FG at Northeast (Neb.) CC).
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby ptctitan » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:52 am

Commissioner - I notice that you did not discuss the new Milwaukee coach in your preview. Do you know if he intends to play the same system as Coach Jordan?
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:45 am

ptctitan wrote:Commissioner - I notice that you did not discuss the new Milwaukee coach in your preview. Do you know if he intends to play the same system as Coach Jordan?

I didn't see that Jordan had much of a distinct "system" (such as Linc Darner's "RP-40" at Green Bay, the "Chaos" defense UDM used in the latter part of the year, or the up-tempo style I expect at YSU under their new coach). I do expect Baldwin to be a similar coach to Jordan--relatively slow tempo, emphasis on defense and reducing turnovers. Those were things Jordan seemed to stress, and they've been a big part of Northwestern's success, with Baldwin on the staff, the last couple seasons.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:12 am

Cleveland State

2016-17
9-22 Overall
5-13 Horizon (T8th place)
RPI: 260
KenPom: 242

Returns
63.0% of minutes
52.8% of points
63.2% of rebounds

Cleveland State suffered through a second straight 9 win season last year, forcing Gary Waters, the Vikings all-time winningest coach, into retirement after 11 seasons at the helm. Waters was a casualty of that new phenomenon, the mid-major transfer up, which in recent years cost him players to Michigan State, Providence, Wichita State, and Louisville.

The new top man is Dennis Felton, who returns to the head coach ranks after four seasons as an assistant or front office man in the NBA and three as an assistant at Tulsa. Felton’s career path is not that uncommon in the tough profession of coaching, and indeed closely mirrors that of the man he replaced, Waters. Felton played college ball at Howard, and worked his way up through the coaching ranks. After several successful seasons as an assistant to Rick Barnes at Providence and Clemson, Felton was tagged for his first head coaching job at a mid-major, Western Kentucky, at age 34.

WKU has long been one of the most successful mid-majors, even before there was a term “mid-major,” but had fallen on hard times, with three straight losing seasons, before Felton was hired. It took him a couple years to turn things around, but from 2001 to 2003 the Hilltoppers won 76 games, made three consecutive NCAA tournaments, and spent a total of 8 weeks in the AP Top 25. They also picked up a win over hated rival Kentucky, then ranked 4th in the country. That kind of performance tends to get you P6 offers, and Felton left for Georgia after the 2003 season.

The Bulldogs were in disarray after the firing of Jim Harrick, who left the team on four years probation and penalized scholarships. Nonetheless, by Felton’s fourth year the Bulldogs made the NIT, winning in the post-season for the first time since Tubby Smith left in the mid-1990s. The next year, 2008, they won the SEC tournament to reach the NCAAs. But it’s a brutal profession. Winning some, and running a clean program, wasn’t enough. Felton was fired less than a year after that NCAA appearance, in mid-season, no less, with the Bulldogs at 9-11. They went 3-9 after Felton’s firing.

So now Felton has gone from a hot young coach to a 54 year old retread, and now must try to rekindle the type of mid-major magic he had nearly two decades ago at WKU. Like Waters a decade ago, he faces a rebuilding job at CSU.

Here are how first year Horizon coaches have done since the 1999 season, and how many games better or worse they were than the last season under their predecessor, from best to worst:

2007 – Brad Brownell, Wright State, 23-10 (+7.5) (made NCAA)
2004 – Paul Biancardi, Wright State, 14-14 (+4.0)
2005 – Jim Whitesell, Loyola, 13-17 (+3.5)
2008 – Brad Stevens, Butler, 30-4 (+2.0) (made NCAA)
2006 – Jerry Slocum, Youngstown State, 7-21 (+2.0)
2002 – Todd Lickliter, Butler, 26-6 (+2.0) (made NIT)
2003 – Tod Kowalczyk, Green Bay, 10-20 (+1.0)
2002 – Bruce Pearl, Milwaukee, 16-13 (+0.5)
2001 – Thad Matta, Butler, 24-8 (+0.5) (made NCAA)

2009 – Ray McCallum , Detroit, 7-23 (0.0)

2017 – Scott Nagy, Wright State, 20-12 (-0.5)
2012 – Bryce Drew, Valparaiso, 22-12 (-0.5) (made NIT)
2011 – Billy Donlon, Wright State, 19-14 (-1.5)
2011 – Howard Moore, UIC, 7-24 (-1.5)
2007 – Gary Waters, Cleveland State, 10-21 (-1.5)
2016 – Linc Darner, Green Bay, 23-13 (-2.5) (made NCAA)
2016 – Steve McClain, UIC, 5-25 (-3.0)
2006 – Rob Jeter, Milwaukee, 22-9 (-3.5) (made NCAA)
2004 - Mike Garland, Cleveland State, 4-25 (-3.5)
2017 – Matt Lotich, Valparaiso, 24-9 (-4.0) (made NIT)
2016 – John Brannen, Northern Kentucky, 9-21 (-4.0)
2011 – Brian Wardle, Green Bay, 14-18 (-6.5)
2017 – Bacari Alexander, Detroit, 8-23 (-8.0)
2012 – Porter Moser, Loyola, 7-23 (-8.5)
2017 – LaVall Jordan, Milwaukee, 11-24 (-10.0)

Here’s the summary. There have been 25 new head coaches in the Horizon since 2000. Only 9 have done better in their first season than their school did in the season immediately prior, and none have done so since Brad Stevens at Butler in 2008. Since Ray McCallum broke even in his first year, 2009, the Horizon has seen 12 first year head coaches, and all 12 have done worse than their predecessor's final season, by an average of 4 games per year.

Of course, I’ve not tried to analyze why. For example, when you’re Linc Darner, and your predecessor went 24-9 before leaving for greener pastures, it’s hard to do better. Getting the program to the NCAAs for the first time in two decades, however, can hardly be considered a poor season. On the other hand, when you’re Steve McClain, and your predecessor went 10-24, it’s hard to do much worse, but UIC did. That may be the lesson here—whether taking over good teams or bad, teams that made the post-season the year before or not, whether replacing coaches who left voluntarily or were forced out, first year coaches have found it difficult to improve immediately. So we probably shouldn’t expect too much from first year Horizon coaches Pat Baldwin (Milwaukee), Jerry Calhoun (YSU), and Felton.

Especially Felton. It’s not him, it’s the situation.

In the off-season, the Vikings lost all-conference guard Rob Edwards, who transferred to Arizona State--sort of a fitting end to the Waters' era, given how much his teams were hurt by transfers to high majors. In addition to leading the team in scoring at 16.5 ppg, Edwards was second on the squad in rebounding and assists, was the team’s best three-point shooter, and was in the top 10 in the league in steals. They also say goodbye to Demonte Flanigan, their leading rebounder and #3 scorer at 11.1 ppg, and forward Jibri Blount, another rotation player. Gavin Peppers, who was brought in last year from the juco ranks to take over the point, was an injury redshirt, and then split for Central Michigan after the season, having never played for CSU. PJ Posey, a transfer from Cal-Bakersfield, also left without ever playing a game for the Vikings.

The Vikes add four freshmen recruits: 6-9 forward Stefan Kenic, point guards Tyree Appleby and Shawn Christian, and shooting guard Deven Stover. Of the four, only Stover had any other Division 1 offers (at least per Verbal Commits), but he's a walk-on. When you’re not hired until mid-May, it’s tough to land a good class. The Vikings got one other interesting addition in grad transfer Dontel Highsmith, a former Michigan Mr. Basketball finalist from Dowagiac who had a promising collegiate start at Northern Illinois, only to succumb to a succession of injuries. He tore his ACL midway through his freshman year, tore it again just before his sophomore season, and ended up sitting out two and a half years. He played in all 32 games for the Huskies last season, but was not the player he was before the injury. It will be interesting to see if he can regain more ground this year.

All the newcomers will get a chance—Christian and Appleby because the Vikes need someone to back-up sophomore point Kasheem Thomas, Kenic because CSU is woefully short on size, and Highsmith because he’s good enough and has the senior leadership factor going for him. If neither Christian nor Appleby come through, look for senior guards Kenny Carpenter (a Detroiter) or Anthony Wright to be the back-up point, playing a bit out of position.

Felton’s squad is particularly weak up front. The roster lists just 4 forwards and centers. Senior Jamarcus Hairston (2.3 ppg) was a disappointment last year after coming in from the juco ranks, and didn’t top 7 minutes in a game after January 12. 6-6 senior Derek Sloan is another small forward who was touted out of high school but simply has been very slow to develop for CSU. Evan Clayborne, a 6-8, 240 lb. sophomore, is the only truly big body on the team. As a freshman last year, he played in 25 games, averaging 1.3 points. And then there’s the freshman Kenic.

Fortunately, Felton has some big guards: Carpenter is 6-5; Wright is 6-7, and Bobby Word, the top returning scorer at 11.1 ppg, is 6-4. Add Highsmith and another Michigander, senior Terrell Hales, into the mix and expect to see 3 and even 4 guards on the floor most of the time. Hales was a starter in 2016 but pretty much disappeared last year. He’s a defensive specialist. Unfortunately, in addition to lack of front court size, there’s very little three-point shooting. Word is supposed to be the three-point man, but hit just 32% from behind the arc last year. No other returnee equaled that number.

One other bright sign for Cleveland fans looking for a ray of hope is that the Vikings were probably better than their record last year. In the non-conference season, CSU was just 4-9, but played a non-conference schedule ranked the 34th most difficult in the country. In conference play, the Vikings were just 5-13, and seeded 9th in the conference tournament, but their average scoring margin (-1.6) was considerably better not only than last place Milwaukee, but also 8th seeded YSU (-7.6), 7th-seeded Detroit (-5.1), and #6 UIC (-4.8). The Vikings were 2-9 in games decided by two possessions or less, including 0-3 in overtime games.

So the Vikings may be a bit better than they appear. Still, it's likely to be a long season by the lake.

Probable Starters
PG – Kasheem Thomas, 6-2 Soph. (7.7 ppg, 3.3 apg)
SG – Bobby Word, 6-4 RS Sr. (11.1 ppg)
G – Kenny Carpenter, 6-5 Sr. (5.4 ppg)
F – Derek Sloan, 6-6 Sr. (3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F – Evan Clayborne, 6-8 Soph. (1.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg)

Key Reserves
G – Dontel Highsmith, 6-2 Gr. (6.9 ppg, 1.7 apg at Northern Illinois)
G – Anthony Wright, 6-7 Sr. (3.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
G – Terrell Hales, 6-4 Sr. (0.4 ppg)
F – Jamarcus Hairston, 6-8 Sr. (2.3 ppg)
Freshmen?
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:54 pm

UIC

2016-17
17-19 Overall
7-11 Horizon (6th Place)
RPI: 249
KenPom: 238

Returns
72% of minutes
79.2% of points
78.5% of rebounds

I suspect this season is the key year in Steve McClain’s efforts to build a Horizon power at UIC. The Flames have a lot of talent, and should contend for the league title, but if they don’t, we’ll might wonder if they will any time soon.

Before McClain took over two years ago, the Flames had had just 1 winning season (18-16 in 2013) in six years, averaging fewer than 8 wins per year over the 5 losing seasons. McClain got right to work, and between April and August landed what may have been the best 2015 recruiting class in the Horizon. Still, his first team won just 5 games and finished with an RPI ranking of 346 out of 351 Divison I schools. But he brought in another excellent recruiting class in 2016, probably the league’s best, and last year it began to pay some dividends, as the Flames improved by 10 wins in the regular season, to 15-18, which was good enough to let them buy into the CBI postseason tournament, where they beat Stony Brook and George Washington—a 20 game winner from the A10—before falling to Coastal Carolina.

After two large recruiting classes, UIC didn’t have any graduating seniors in 2017, but McClain added one recruit anyway—UD Jesuit’s Greg Eboigboden. It was a excellent “get,” and looked even better as Eboigboden’s stock went up during the high school season. Indeed, the plan seemed perfect—Eboigboden would back up UIC’s talented center, Tai Odiase, in 2017-18, and then take over the starting job when Odiase graduated at the end of the year.

And then things started to get messy. The first news, coming less than a week after the end of the season, was that guard Michael Kolawole was transferring. A two year rotation player, Kolawole was not slated for a key role with the Flames but he did provide valuable depth at guard. Within days, he was followed out the door by little used forward Hassan Thomas, and injury plagued junior guard Lance Whitaker. After logging respectable minutes as a freshman, Thomas played in just 7 games in 2017 and McClain and crew probably urged him to move on. Whitaker was injured for much of the season, appearing in just 9 games. While he was good enough to add depth, he had already taken a medical redshirt year, and it’s again probable that if the staff didn’t encourage him to graduate and not return, they didn’t shed many tears either.

But just 8 days after the season ended, freshman forward KJ Santos announced that he would be leaving the program. This appears to have been unexpected. Santos was generally considered the star of the 2016 recruiting class and while his freshman year was a bit disappointing—7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game—most observers still considered him a high level talent for a mid-major, and noted that he was adjusting from injuries that caused him to miss his senior year in high school.

But the worst news came in mid-April, when Eboigboden asked to be released from his Letter of Intent after the UIC Assistant who was his primary recruiter, Chin Coleman, left for a position at Illinois (Eboigboden eventually ended up joining Chin in Champaign-Urbana). Finally, Kyle Guice, a 6-8 juco forward who played in all 36 games last year and hit the game winner against DePaul, left the team this summer. Thomas and Whitaker weren’t looking at much playing time, but one would have expected Santos, Kolawole, Eboigboden, and Guice to all be meaningful parts of the 2018 Flames. Suddenly McClain, who appeared to have wrapped up the 2017 recruiting year back in November with Eboigboden’s signing, was scrambling for players, and the Flames 2018 depth chart had taken a real hit.

The loss of Eboigboden puts real pressure on UIC to perform this year. Only two players are set to graduate after this season, but they are Odiase, the HL’s Defensive Player of the Year, and 6-8, 235 lb. PF/C Clint Robinson, the team’s other in-the-paint player. Without Eboigboden, there’s no obvious replacement for Odiase. When Odiase graduates after this season, UIC will lose its best defensive player, its rim protector, its top rebounder, and double-figure scorer. Even with another year of experience for its talented group of sophomores, the 2019 Odiaseless Flames may not be as good as the 2018 version. Meanwhile, the top players from McClain’s first recruiting class—sophomores Dominique Matthews and Dikembe Dixson--have each already taken a medical redshirt year, Matthews for 2016, Dixson for 2017. So both may be positioned to graduate after the 2019 season, and both would likely be in demand by P6 schools on the grad transfer market. Dixson also has enough potential that he may leave early to try his luck in the draft. In other words, even though UIC is loaded with sophomores, there’s a good chance that the talent level will be at its peak in the coming season.

While UIC improved a great deal in 2017—a nine game net improvement—they were still, in the end, just 7-11 in league play. They need a good 6 game improvement in conference play just to be contending for the regular season title. Unfortunately, as I reviewed back in my 2015-16 previews http://udtitanbasketball.freeforums.net/post/3208, teams that improve a lot in one year tend not to improve so much the next—in fact, since 2000, about two-thirds of Horizon teams that improved by more than 5 games in one year did not improve at all the next.

All that said, UIC will have the talent to compete this year. Odiase will start at center, and I won’t argue with this guy https://cbbcentral.com/2017/08/25/top-t ... on-center/, who ranks him one of the 10 best mid-major centers in the nation. At forward is Dixson, the HL Freshman of the Year in 2016. Dixson was averaging over 22 points per game last year before going down for the season with a torn ACL in the 10th game of the season. Despite his FOY recognition, Dixson was an erratic player as a freshman, when he averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. He seemed to have really improved last year, reducing his fouls and turnovers. More importantly, he made major improvements in shot selection, making the same number of field goals per game with 4 fewer shots per game. He also improved his free throw shooting substantially. The silver lining to his season-ending injury is that he played in just enough games not to lose a season of eligibility. If he’s back to 100%, he’s a definite POY contender.

Look for Odiase and Dixson to be supported by a three guard line up drawn from four sophomore guards: last year’s Horizon All-Freshman Team members Tarkus Ferguson and Dominique Matthews, plus Godwin Boahen, who averaged 9.3 points, and Marcus Ottey, who was good for 10.5 points per game. All four won a "Freshman of the Week" award last year. Boahen, Ottey, and Ferguson can all play the point, so McClain will have no trouble with getting combinations on the floor. I really like Ferguson, a do-it-all player who just got better and better as last season rolled along. There’s a ton of three point shooting here, too, with Boahen at 44%, Ottey at 38%, Matthews at 36%, and Ferguson at 34%. Dixson also can hit the three.

Robinson should back up Odiase at center, or occasionally team with him at PF to give UIC one of the bigger front lines in the Horizon. He’s a bruiser. Naradain James, a late juco transfer who chose UIC over several other suitors, including St. Bonaventure, should provide added depth at the power forward slot. He averaged over 11 points and 7 rebounds in the juco ranks. 6-8 redshirt freshman Jordan Blount will also get a chance to earn playing time.

The general consensus this year seems to be that Oakland and Northern Kentucky, last year’s regular season and tournament champs, respectively, will battle it out for the title, with UIC predicted third. That’s a realistic projection. I’m hesitant to pick UIC to beat out the Grizzlies or Norse, because I tend to play the odds, and the odds say UIC is unlikely to improve by the 5-7 games needed to do that in conference play. I’m also not a great admirer of McClain’s game-day coaching ability. On the other hand, UIC was the youngest team in all of D-I basketball last year, so they have more room to grow than most. And McClain has definitely assembled the talent to win. With the return of Dixson, perhaps we should throw projections based on such history out the window.

This is potentially an extremely good team. The Flames have the league’s best rim protector in Odiase, perhaps the league’s most exciting and dynamic player in Dixson, a bunch of guards who can drive the lane or shoot from three, balanced scoring, good free throw shooting, and size on the bench. With this much talent, the Flames should be able to show considerably better than last year’s 17-19. But that’s why this is the key year for McClain’s rebuilding efforts. Usually, you figure that a team that relies so heavily on sophomores will only get better, but I’m not sure that is going to be the case for this UIC squad. McClain isn’t going to be canned—he just got a contract extension through 2021--but If they don’t win 20 and contend this year, you’ll have to wonder if McClain can get them over the hump.

But that’s merely a cautionary note for the future. I think it’s more likely that UIC is going to be at or near the top of the Horizon for the next few seasons.

Probable Starters
G – Godwin Boahen, 5-11 Soph. (9.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.6 rpg, 44.2% 3PtFG)
G – Dominique Mathews, 6-2 RS Soph. (10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 36.1% 3PtFG)
G – Tarkus Ferguson, 6-4 Soph. (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg)
F -- Dikembe Dixson, 6-7 RS Soph. (20.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg in 10 games)
C – Tai Odiase, 6-9 Sr. (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 57.7% FG)

Key Bench Players
G – Marcus Ottey, 6-2 Soph. (10.5 ppg, 38.3% 3PtFG)
F – Naradain James, 6-7 Jr. (11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg at Garden City CC)
F/C – Clint Robinson, 6-8 Sr. (5.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby uofdmik2008 » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:48 am

Commissioner wrote:UIC

2016-17
17-19 Overall
7-11 Horizon (6th Place)
RPI: 249
KenPom: 238

Returns
72% of minutes
79.2% of points
78.5% of rebounds

I suspect this season is the key year in Steve McClain’s efforts to build a Horizon power at UIC. The Flames have a lot of talent, and should contend for the league title, but if they don’t, we’ll might wonder if they will any time soon.

Before McClain took over two years ago, the Flames had had just 1 winning season (18-16 in 2013) in six years, averaging fewer than 8 wins per year over the 5 losing seasons. McClain got right to work, and between April and August landed what may have been the best 2015 recruiting class in the Horizon. Still, his first team won just 5 games and finished with an RPI ranking of 346 out of 351 Divison I schools. But he brought in another excellent recruiting class in 2016, probably the league’s best, and last year it began to pay some dividends, as the Flames improved by 10 wins in the regular season, to 15-18, which was good enough to let them buy into the CBI postseason tournament, where they beat Stony Brook and George Washington—a 20 game winner from the A10—before falling to Coastal Carolina.

After two large recruiting classes, UIC didn’t have any graduating seniors in 2017, but McClain added one recruit anyway—UD Jesuit’s Greg Eboigboden. It was a excellent “get,” and looked even better as Eboigboden’s stock went up during the high school season. Indeed, the plan seemed perfect—Eboigboden would back up UIC’s talented center, Tai Odiase, in 2017-18, and then take over the starting job when Odiase graduated at the end of the year.

And then things started to get messy. The first news, coming less than a week after the end of the season, was that guard Michael Kolawole was transferring. A two year rotation player, Kolawole was not slated for a key role with the Flames but he did provide valuable depth at guard. Within days, he was followed out the door by little used forward Hassan Thomas, and injury plagued junior guard Lance Whitaker. After logging respectable minutes as a freshman, Thomas played in just 7 games in 2017 and McClain and crew probably urged him to move on. Whitaker was injured for much of the season, appearing in just 9 games. While he was good enough to add depth, he had already taken a medical redshirt year, and it’s again probable that if the staff didn’t encourage him to graduate and not return, they didn’t shed many tears either.

But just 8 days after the season ended, freshman forward KJ Santos announced that he would be leaving the program. This appears to have been unexpected. Santos was generally considered the star of the 2016 recruiting class and while his freshman year was a bit disappointing—7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game—most observers still considered him a high level talent for a mid-major, and noted that he was adjusting from injuries that caused him to miss his senior year in high school.

But the worst news came in mid-April, when Eboigboden asked to be released from his Letter of Intent after the UIC Assistant who was his primary recruiter, Chin Coleman, left for a position at Illinois (Eboigboden eventually ended up joining Chin in Champaign-Urbana). Finally, Kyle Guice, a 6-8 juco forward who played in all 36 games last year and hit the game winner against DePaul, left the team this summer. Thomas and Whitaker weren’t looking at much playing time, but one would have expected Santos, Kolawole, Eboigboden, and Guice to all be meaningful parts of the 2018 Flames. Suddenly McClain, who appeared to have wrapped up the 2017 recruiting year back in November with Eboigboden’s signing, was scrambling for players, and the Flames 2018 depth chart had taken a real hit.

The loss of Eboigboden puts real pressure on UIC to perform this year. Only two players are set to graduate after this season, but they are Odiase, the HL’s Defensive Player of the Year, and 6-8, 235 lb. PF/C Clint Robinson, the team’s other in-the-paint player. Without Eboigboden, there’s no obvious replacement for Odiase. When Odiase graduates after this season, UIC will lose its best defensive player, its rim protector, its top rebounder, and double-figure scorer. Even with another year of experience for its talented group of sophomores, the 2019 Odiaseless Flames may not be as good as the 2018 version. Meanwhile, the top players from McClain’s first recruiting class—sophomores Dominique Matthews and Dikembe Dixson--have each already taken a medical redshirt year, Matthews for 2016, Dixson for 2017. So both may be positioned to graduate after the 2019 season, and both would likely be in demand by P6 schools on the grad transfer market. Dixson also has enough potential that he may leave early to try his luck in the draft. In other words, even though UIC is loaded with sophomores, there’s a good chance that the talent level will be at its peak in the coming season.

While UIC improved a great deal in 2017—a nine game net improvement—they were still, in the end, just 7-11 in league play. They need a good 6 game improvement in conference play just to be contending for the regular season title. Unfortunately, as I reviewed back in my 2015-16 previews http://udtitanbasketball.freeforums.net/post/3208, teams that improve a lot in one year tend not to improve so much the next—in fact, since 2000, about two-thirds of Horizon teams that improved by more than 5 games in one year did not improve at all the next.

All that said, UIC will have the talent to compete this year. Odiase will start at center, and I won’t argue with this guy https://cbbcentral.com/2017/08/25/top-t ... on-center/, who ranks him one of the 10 best mid-major centers in the nation. At forward is Dixson, the HL Freshman of the Year in 2016. Dixson was averaging over 22 points per game last year before going down for the season with a torn ACL in the 10th game of the season. Despite his FOY recognition, Dixson was an erratic player as a freshman, when he averaged 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. He seemed to have really improved last year, reducing his fouls and turnovers. More importantly, he made major improvements in shot selection, making the same number of field goals per game with 4 fewer shots per game. He also improved his free throw shooting substantially. The silver lining to his season-ending injury is that he played in just enough games not to lose a season of eligibility. If he’s back to 100%, he’s a definite POY contender.

Look for Odiase and Dixson to be supported by a three guard line up drawn from four sophomore guards: last year’s Horizon All-Freshman Team members Tarkus Ferguson and Dominique Matthews, plus Godwin Boahen, who averaged 9.3 points, and Marcus Ottey, who was good for 10.5 points per game. All four won a "Freshman of the Week" award last year. Boahen, Ottey, and Ferguson can all play the point, so McClain will have no trouble with getting combinations on the floor. I really like Ferguson, a do-it-all player who just got better and better as last season rolled along. There’s a ton of three point shooting here, too, with Boahen at 44%, Ottey at 38%, Matthews at 36%, and Ferguson at 34%. Dixson also can hit the three.

Robinson should back up Odiase at center, or occasionally team with him at PF to give UIC one of the bigger front lines in the Horizon. He’s a bruiser. Naradain James, a late juco transfer who chose UIC over several other suitors, including St. Bonaventure, should provide added depth at the power forward slot. He averaged over 11 points and 7 rebounds in the juco ranks. 6-8 redshirt freshman Jordan Blount will also get a chance to earn playing time.

The general consensus this year seems to be that Oakland and Northern Kentucky, last year’s regular season and tournament champs, respectively, will battle it out for the title, with UIC predicted third. That’s a realistic projection. I’m hesitant to pick UIC to beat out the Grizzlies or Norse, because I tend to play the odds, and the odds say UIC is unlikely to improve by the 5-7 games needed to do that in conference play. I’m also not a great admirer of McClain’s game-day coaching ability. On the other hand, UIC was the youngest team in all of D-I basketball last year, so they have more room to grow than most. And McClain has definitely assembled the talent to win. With the return of Dixson, perhaps we should throw projections based on such history out the window.

This is potentially an extremely good team. The Flames have the league’s best rim protector in Odiase, perhaps the league’s most exciting and dynamic player in Dixson, a bunch of guards who can drive the lane or shoot from three, balanced scoring, good free throw shooting, and size on the bench. With this much talent, the Flames should be able to show considerably better than last year’s 17-19. But that’s why this is the key year for McClain’s rebuilding efforts. Usually, you figure that a team that relies so heavily on sophomores will only get better, but I’m not sure that is going to be the case for this UIC squad. McClain isn’t going to be canned—he just got a contract extension through 2021--but If they don’t win 20 and contend this year, you’ll have to wonder if McClain can get them over the hump.

But that’s merely a cautionary note for the future. I think it’s more likely that UIC is going to be at or near the top of the Horizon for the next few seasons.

Probable Starters
G – Godwin Boahen, 5-11 Soph. (9.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.6 rpg, 44.2% 3PtFG)
G – Dominique Mathews, 6-2 RS Soph. (10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 36.1% 3PtFG)
G – Tarkus Ferguson, 6-4 Soph. (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg)
F -- Dikembe Dixson, 6-7 RS Soph. (20.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg in 10 games)
C – Tai Odiase, 6-9 Sr. (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 57.7% FG)

Key Bench Players
G – Marcus Ottey, 6-2 Soph. (10.5 ppg, 38.3% 3PtFG)
F – Naradain James, 6-7 Jr. (11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg at Garden City CC)
F/C – Clint Robinson, 6-8 Sr. (5.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)


It seems that there will be a few good teams at the top of the league this year, I just hope a team that can move past the first round in the NCAA wins the tourney, hopefully its us 8-)
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:33 am

Youngstown State

2016-17
13-21 Overall
5-13 Horizon (T 8th Place)
RPI: 251
KenPom: 282

Returns
53.6% of minutes
62.4% of points
56.8% of rebounds

The Jerry Slocum era has come to an end after 12 years at YSU. During that time, the Penguins had two winning seasons (16-15 in 2012, and 18-16 in 2013), an overall winning percentage of .380, and a conference winning percentage of just .306.

Slocum had been a highly successful small college coach but had never worked or played for a D1 team and was already 53 years old when YSU hired him before the 2005-06 season. In the four years before Slocum was hired, YSU had won just 27 games total. Slocum was able to up the talent level at least somewhat at YSU, recruiting players such as Kendrick Perry and Damian Eargle, and win a few more games. His winning seasons in 2012 and 2013 were the first back-to-back winning seasons for YSU since 1985.

But basketball has never been taken very seriously at YSU, a I-AA football power. This is indicated not only by the fact that the Penguins stuck with Slocum despite his rather modest W-L record, but by the fact that Slocum was typically paid about two-thirds of the next lowest paid coach in the conference (an honor that usually went to whomever was coaching at Green Bay). But the hiring of Jerrod Calhoun, a relatively hot young coach, to replace Slocum may indicate that YSU is ready to get serious about basketball, and that would be good news indeed for the Horizon.

Calhoun, 35, comes to YSU from D-II Fairmont (WV) State, where his final team went 34-3 and was national runner-up. In his 5 years at Fairmont, the team made 4 NCAA appearances and won at least 20 games every year. Before that he was an assistant on Walsh College’s 2005 NAIA champions, and for Bob Huggins at West Virginia for several years. Calhoun is a perfect fit for YSU. He grew up in Cleveland and played for Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State. (Before the Penguins snatched him up, he was considered a favorite to replace Gary Waters at his alma mater.) He has been recruiting the mining and manufacturing towns of eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia for over a decade, and Fairmont State is more or less a smaller college version of YSU.

As another sign that the new YSU administration of Jim Tressel cares, Calhoun signed a contract with a reported base salary of $200,000, more than 40 percent above what Slocum was paid. That still leaves him as probably the second lowest paid coach in the conference after IUPUI’s Jason Gardner,* but for the first time since it joined the league, YSU is at least paying a reasonably competitive salary.

Calhoun hit the recruiting trail aggressively after his hiring, bringing in a slew of jucos and freshmen. Understandably, given that he had to start in late spring, many of these are players he had signed or was recruiting at Fairmont. While Fairmont recruits were probably better than most D-II recruits, that would suggest that they are still marginal D-I players. But there is some talent in the bunch, and if nothing else the program has a feeling of energy and movement lacking under Slocum.

Plus, Slocum did not leave the cupboard completely bare. In fact, Calhoun inherits a two-time all-conference guard, Flint native Cameron Morse. Morse is a good all-around player who can score by the bushel. Indeed, he led the Horizon in scoring during conference play last year. He had three 40-point and 3 more thirty-point games last year, and should become YSU’s all-time leading scorer before this season is out. Also back is Francisco Santiago, a two-year starter at the point and the league’s #2 last year in assists and assist/turnover ratio. Sophomore wing Braun Hartfield entered the starting lineup midway through last season and averaged 12 points and 5.8 rebounds over the last half of the year. Braun liked playing the Titans—he had a season-high 19 points in the first game and followed that with an 18 point, 10 rebound double-double in the second. A fourth returning rotation player is 6-7 junior Devin Haygood, out of Ypsilanti.

While those 4 should all have major roles this year, after that it’s hard to tell who will fill out the starting lineup and the rotation. Haygood is the tallest returning player, but he’s a slender 185 pounds and will need help underneath. Calhoun signed a trio of big jucos who will get a chance. The tallest is Alex Wilbourn, a 7-0, 205 pounder from San Diego City College, where he averaged a bit under 9 points and 5 rebounds. There is also 6-8, 225 lb. Noe Anabir, who also averaged just under 9 points and 5 rebounds at Mesa (Az.) Community College. The third is Tyree Robinson, who at 6-5, 220 lacked the size for high majors but, like Jaleel Hogan, may be a force in the HL. He’s the best of the bench of the bunch, and averaged 12.8 points and 7 rebounds at Odessa (Tx) CC, one of the nation’s elite juco programs. Robinson originally signed with New Mexico State, but was released after coach Paul Weir left the Aggies for in-state rival New Mexico. Weir wanted to take Robinson with him to the Mountain West but NMSU blocked the move.

Calhoun also signed a trio of pretty good looking freshman forwards. Naz Bohannon, at 6-6, 230 lbs., is, like Robinson, in the physical mode of Jaleel Hogan and Northern Kentucky’s Carson Williams (Williams was second to Corey Allen in last year’s Freshman of the Year balloting). Though he didn’t have high major offers, Bohannon was a first-team All State selection in Ohio and could be a very effective HL forward. The second is Jacob Brown, a 6-9 forward from North Carolina. Yet a third freshman big is Michael Akuchie, a 6-8 forward from Florida who had several offers from low major programs.

Depth at guard is expected to come from sophomore Jeremiah Ferguson and freshman Garrett Covington. The 6-5 Covington is said to be a good defensive player. Ferguson played about 100 minutes scattered over 23 games last year. Unless one of those two really comes through, that lack of depth may hurt. But if a couple of the transfer/freshman forwards come through, Calhoun may increase back court depth by using Hartfield as the backup 2-guard rather than starting him at small forward, with Morse playing the point when Santiago needs a blow.

One thing all of Calhoun’s recruits have in common is a history of winning, something that Calhoun has said he emphasizes. Whatever combinations Calhoun comes up, he has vowed to play a fast paced offense in which everyone has the green light to shoot. YSU’s schedule is geared to a fast start—if they can get past Kent State on a neutral floor in the season opener, a 5-0 start would be a real probability. However, they play their last five non-conference games on the road, and once conference play begins, I don’t really expect the Penguins to break out of the middle of the pack—somewhere between 4th and 8th, and probably 6th or 7th. But it should be an exciting year, and there’s no denying that there is more optimism in Youngstown than there has been in a long time.

Probable Starters
PG – Francisco Santiago, 6-1 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.6 apg, 37.2% 3Pt FG).
SG – Cameron Morse, 6-3 Sr. (22.9 ppg, 3.1 apg).
SF – Braun Hartfield, 6-6 Soph. (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
F – Devin Haygood, 6-7 Jr. (6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 58.7% FG)
F – Tyree Robinson, 6-5 Jr. (12.8 ppg, 7 rpg at Odessa JC)

Key Reserves
G – Jeremiah Ferguson, 6-2 Soph (1.3 ppg)
G – Garrett Covington, 6-5 Fr.
F – Naz Bohannon, 6-6 Fr.
F – Noe Anabir, 6-8 Jr. (8.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg at Mesa JC)
F – Michael Akuchie, 6-8 Fr.
F – Jacob Brown, 6-9 Fr.
C – Alex Wilborn, 7-0 Jr. (8.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg at San Diego City College)


*Gardner was at a reported base of $150,000 for this coming season, the last on his contract, but in late August IUPUI extended his deal by two years. They may or may not have given him a decent raise to make his salary commensurate with other Horizon salaries—it’s probably safe to say he’s still at or near the bottom in his new conference. Northern Kentucky’s John Brannen reportedly was paid $190,000 last season, but received a new contract after winning the Horizon tournament and I would presume got a raise putting him well above Calhoun’s deal. The next lowest after Gardner and Calhoun is probably Green Bay’s Linc Darner, at a reported $230,000 last year, or possibly Brannen. It’s interesting that the last two Horizon tournament champs are two of the lowest paid coaches in the league.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Sat Oct 14, 2017 12:30 am

Wright State

2016-17
Overall: 20-12
Horizon: 11-7 (5th Place)
RPI: 115
Ken Pom: 168

Returns
53.2% of Minutes
44.1% of Points
62.0% or Rebounding

Over the last decade plus, Wright State has been one of the sturdier programs in the Horizon. In the 11 seasons since Brad Brownell arrived as Head Coach for the 2006-07 season, the Raiders have had 8 seasons with at least 20 wins, and another with 19. Yet they don’t have a lot to show for it. They haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since Brownell’s first year at the helm, and haven’t even made an NIT appearance, settling for nothing more than a CBI appearance in 2013 and a CIT bid in 2014. Nor have they won a Horizon regular season title since Brownell’s first season.

Last year the powers that be decided that winning 19-22 games almost every year, but never rising to the top, just wasn’t good enough. Steadily falling attendance (from an average of 5864 in 2007, Brownell’s first year, to 4355 in 2016, didn’t help. So Billy Donlon was canned after a 22-13 season, and Scott Nagy, who had turned South Dakota State into a Summit League power, with 4 NCAA appearances in 5 years, was brought in to take the Raiders to the next level. The end result was a classic Wright State season-a 20-12 record, a 5th place conference finish, and an early exit from the Conference Tournament. Well, maybe not a classic Wright State season—historically, those 19 and 20 game winners of Brownell and Donlon had always advanced at least a round or two in the Conference Tourney. But it’s probably unfair to rip on Nagy, who brought an exciting style of play to the Nutter Center and whose team performed about as expected in conference – of 19 preseason predictions I logged, both their average and median pick was to finish… 5th.

This season won’t be easier. But given that Wright State is rarely really bad, or perhaps because the bottom two-thirds of the Horizon really is a mash up, nobody Is picking the Raiders to fall far. The early consensus (Athlon, NBC Sports, the Horizon League Poll) has the Raiders finishing 5th; Lindy’s puts them 4th and Street & Smith, which has some bizarre selections, has them 7th.

The Raiders have two problems, and they are not small ones. Well, the first one is, in a way. The Raiders are really small. With Ryan Custer, a 6-7, 235 lb. forward who had a promising freshman year, in a wheel chair after a diving accident this summer, WSU has just one player taller than 6-4 or weighing more than 200 pounds who has ever played a college game, and he began his career as a walk-on. That’s redshirt junior center Parker Ernsthausen, who averaged 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds off the bench last year. At 6-11, Ernsthausen is certainly tall, but has been very slow to develop, and was not notably improving in the latter part of last season, either. Over the final 9 games of the year, he averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds. (A p.s.—I actually root for Ernsthausen—he seems like one of the nicest, most earnest young men toiling away in the Horizon).

Nagy’s hope for some size and muscle is the massive redshirt freshman Loudon Love. Love stands 6-9 and is listed at 275 pounds, down from over 300 pounds when he showed up on campus last fall. Love is potentially a dominant league center, but it’s hard to know. At Geneva High School in Illinois, Love was a 4th team all-state selection in basketball as a junior, averaging 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. A two-sport athlete, he had a number of offers to play football, including one from Illinois, and the presumption that he would play football probably put a damper on his basketball recruitment. Then, in his senior year, literally as time expired in the last game of the football season, Loudon injured his left knee. The injury caused him to miss the entire basketball season. Most of his recruiting offers dried up and he fell off the radar. Nagy, still at South Dakota State, kept his basketball offer open and got Love’s commitment. Love then followed him to WSU. So Love may be something of a steal for Nagy—the kind of kid who, but for unfortunate timing, would have fielded multiple offers from A10 and AAC-type schools. On the other hand, even if that’s the case, it may be asking too much to expect major contributions this year—after all, Love has not played a game that counts in over 2 and a half years.

Even if Love comes through, other than Ernsthausen the only other forward or center on the roster is 6-7, 205 lb. freshman James Manns, whose other offers were from low majors. I don't expect Manns to play a lot, but like Cole Long on last year's Titans, he will probably get some opportunities, simply because there’s nobody else.

WSU also starts the season unsettled at the point. Last year Nagy planned to turn the point over to shooting guard Mark Alstork to start the season, but Alstork was just too erratic. The duties thus fell to another shooting guard, Justin Mitchell. Mitchell was erratic, too—not until late January did his total assists surpass his total turnovers—but he settled into the position as the year went on and ended up with a solid 1.4/1 assist/turnover ratio in conference play while averaging 4.7 assists per game in conference—second best in the league.

WSU again opens this without a true point guard, meaning Justin Mitchell will again play the point, unless freshman Tyler Mitchell steps up. The freshman just might—he was rated the #2 point guard in Ohio last year by one recruiting source. But he’s also rated only a two-star recruit and his only other offers were from Furman and Maryland-Baltimore County. Color me a skeptic. Nagy did pick up a point guard transfer, too—5-10 Cole Gentry, who originally signed with Nagy at South Dakota State. But Gentry didn’t decide to follow Nagy to Dayton until after the fall semester, which means he won’t be eligible until mid-December, when this fall semester ends.

The plan appears to be for Gentry to take over the point once he becomes eligible. Though Nagy seems quite excited about him (and I assume he's a much better judge of talent than I am), I still don’t think it’s clear that he’s up to it. As a redshirt freshman, he started 4 games last season for SD State, but after averaging over 25 minutes per game in the season’s first 5 games, he played a total of just 27 minutes in the next two, and then just 10 total minutes in the next 8 games before deciding to transfer. So SD State seemed to find him wanting. Further, the mid-season transfer thing is hard. Though you’ve been practicing with the team, everybody else on both sides of the court has played 12-15 games before you become eligible. They’re in mid-season rhythm in a way the transferee is not, and I think it shows up in little things—knowing which way your teammate is going to break, timing the back door cut pass, communicating on defense, as well as overall sharpness. These things are particularly important at the point. Gentry also redshirted in the 2015-16 season, meaning that by the time he is eligible in December, he’ll have been 32 months with very little game time. So we’ll see.

Junior Mark Hughes is another option at the point. He’s been a rotation player the past two season, but he doesn’t score and it’s probably a bad sign if his minutes increase beyond last year’s 18 per game.

Justin Mitchell, meanwhile, emerged as a fine all-around player last year. Importantly on a team with so little height, Mitchell may be the best rebounding guard in the nation. Last year he averaged 8.3 rebounds per game (8.9 in conference play) and reached double figures in rebounding 11 times, including games with 16 and 15 boards. Though he made himself into a pretty competent floor general, it would probably be beneficial to him and the team if WSU could move him off the point. But that requires Gentry (or someone else) to step up.

The Raiders have another good guard in senior Grant Benzinger, one of the best pure shooters in the conference. Like Justin Mitchell, Benzinger is also a pretty good rebounder. Wright State is also touting redshirt freshman Everett Winchester, another big shooting guard. A three or even 4 guard lineup will likely be the norm.

Horizon fans have gotten used to Wright State being competitive year-in and year-out, and I have great respect for Nagy’s coaching ability. But with so little height, short on depth, and with the point position unsettled and the lead contenders being a freshman, a mid-year transfer, and a wing playing out-of-position, it’s hard to see the Raiders breaking out of the middle of the pack. With their shooting guards, if Ernsthausen takes a step forward and Love if a force, and if Gentry handles the point well, they would be a very tough team by the time the Horizon season opens. All of those things could happen. But I suspect a collapse into the bottom of third of the league is at least as likely than a march into the top third.

Finally, regardless of how WSU does this year, a little salute to Coach Nagy and the team, who have kept the injured Ryan Custer on the roster and on scholarship.

Probable Starters
PG – Cole Gentry, 5-10 RS Soph (eligible in December) (3.3 ppg, 1.9 apg in 10 games at SDSU)
SG – Grant Benzinger, 6-3 Sr. (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 41.9% 3PtFG, 85% FT)
PG/W – Justin Mitchell, 6-4 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.0 apg)
PF – Loudon Love, 6-9 RS Fr.
C – Parker Ernsthausen, 6-11 RS Jr. (5.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 65.5% FG)

Key Reserves
PG – Mark Hughes, 6-4 Jr. (3.2 ppg, 1.5 apg)
PG – Tyler Mitchell, 6-0 Fr.
SG – Everett Winchester, 6-6 RS Fr.
F – James Manns, 6-7 Fr.
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Re: Commish's 2017-18 Horizon Previews

Postby Commissioner » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:46 pm

Northern Kentucky

2016-17
Overall: 24-11
Horizon: 12-6 (T 3rd Place; Won Conference Tournament)
RPI: 87
Ken Pom: 138

Returns
76.0% of Minutes
80.4% of Points
83.6% or Rebounding

Well, that didn’t take long. In its second season in the Horizon, and its first season of NCAA Tournament eligibility after the move up from D-II, Northern Kentucky won 10 of its last 11 games, won the HL tournament, and earned a berth in the NCAAs. There they gave Kentucky a battle before finally succumbing, 79-70. And as you can see from the “Return” numbers above, they’ve got just about everything coming back, more than anyone else in the league, including UIC and Oakland, which both return almost every piece from last year's teams.

The only big loss for NKU is guard Cole Murray, a three point sharpshooter (career 41%) and Titan killer (16.5 ppg, shooting 50% from behind the arc in 4 games) who graduated. As Murray heads out, the Norse add 7-0 freshman Chris Vogt, a 3-star recruit who is Kentucky’s all-time high school leader in blocks and chose NKU over 14 other offers, including several from MVC and American Athletic Conference schools.

The Norse were the 291st youngest team in the country last year, so they’re a pretty good bet to get better despite not adding a lot of new faces. The key to the show is 6-8, 265 lb. junior Drew McDonald, a first-team All-Conference selection who can score inside (52% on 2-point field goal attempts) or outside (38% from outside the arc), and was also 4th in the league in rebounding. Vogt’s arrival may allow McDonald to play more at his natural power forward position rather than center, but he’s a handful wherever he is listed. The Horizon League Poll--traditionally the most accurate preseason poll--selected McDonald as the Conference's Player of the Year.

McDonald is ably supported up front by Carson Williams and Jordan Garnett. Williams, a 6-5, 235 lb. All-Freshman team selection last year, is one of those guys who, had he another 3 inches, would probably be in the SEC or Big 10. As it is, he’s a Jaleel Hogan type, vertically undersized but extremely strong and a powerful finisher in the paint. The senior Garnett, also 6-5, is a tough defender who usually will draw the opposition’s top scoring threat. He’s also a decent three-point shooter who picks his spots carefully. Jeff Garrett, a redshirt junior who followed Coach John Brannen to NKU from Alabama, is a very capable back-up and started 13 games last season.

Running the offense is senior Lavone Holland, who averaged 14.5 points while finishing third in the league in assists last season. Holland appears to be a consensus pre-season second team all-conference pick. As for the shooting guard to replace Murray, Coach Brannen has a couple good options. One is sophomore Mason Faulkner, a prolific (35.9 ppg) high school scorer who took some time to settle in last year but averaged 9.9 points over the final 22 games of the year, including a 29 point outburst against our Titans. Faulkner isn’t afraid to shoot the three but does most of his damage on drives. Like Carson Williams, he was a 2016 finalist for Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball Award.

Alternatively, Brannen could go with Jalen Tate, younger brother of Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate and son of former Ohio State star Jermaine Tate. The young Tater started NKU’s first 8 games last season, but suffered a season ending hand injury early in that 8th game. The silver lining is that it gave him an injury redshirt year, so he’ll enter the season as a redshirt freshman. Sophomore Dantez Walton also saw considerable playing time as a freshman and lends added depth at the 2 and 3 slots.

About the only weakness on this team is lack of depth at point, where the team suffers when Holland sits down. But Holland is durable, playing 31 minutes per game last season. When he sits, look for Faulkner to man the point. Otherwise, what’s not to like? The team has size in McDonald and potentially a lot more in Vogt, plus the powerful Williams. They’re a good three point shooting team and should be again despite the loss of Murray. They’ve got a fine young coach, and good depth everywhere but at that point position. The Norse should be in the thick of this year’s Horizon race.

Probable Starters
PG – Lavone Holland II, 6-1 Sr (14.5 ppg, 4.1 apg, 36.6% 3PtFG)
SG – Jalen Tate, 6-5 RS Fr. (4.6 ppg in 7+ games)
SF – Jordan Garnett, 6-5 Sr. (4.8 ppg 3.3 rpg, 41.9% 3Pt FG)
PF – Carson Williams, 6-5 Soph. (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 60.2% FG)
C – Drew McDonald, 6-8 Jr. (16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 38.4% 3PtFG)

Key Reserves
G – Mason Faulkner, 6-1 Soph. (7.4 ppg, 2.1 apg)
SG – Dantez Walton, 6-5 Soph (3.9 ppg)
F – Jeff Garrett, 6-6 RS Jr. (3.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
C – Chris Vogt, 7-0 Fr.
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