The preview of Conference
If you haven’t checked out Part I – go here now.
The Good: Larry Eustachy has slowly built up the Southern Miss basketball program over the last 6 years and this may be the year they break through into the top of Conference
The Not-So-Good: The team just doesn’t score. They win almost solely based on their defense, which is fine if you can control the tempo. Also, the team is sorely lacking a go-to scorer to rely on in close games. While Flowers is an excellent player, he doesn’t have the scoring ability to be counted on in crunch time. And while there is some depth on the team, the bench has not been very productive.
The Question Mark: How good can Gary Flowers be? Flowers made an impressive debut after coming over from junior college. At times, he seems to score and rebound with ease, no matter who is defending him. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions and is strong enough to battle down low. However, I’m not sure how much better he will be. I look forward to see how he responds now that people are getting to know who he is.
What Will March Bring: If there is a team that could surprise and upset
The Good: New head coach Ed Conroy will have his hands full trying to invigorate the Tulane basketball program. Last year’s returning scorer, Kris Richard, is back to lead the team. Richard is a strong shooting guard with the ability to get to the rim or to knock down mid-range jumpers consistently. He is also a good perimeter defender and has the ability to grab a good amount of rebounds. He will be joined in the backcourt by Kendall Timmons, another slasher with a great first step and the ability to finish at the rim. David Booker and Aaron Holmes return in an undersized frontcourt. Booker has good strength and can finish, he just is very consistent on both ends of the floor. Two freshmen, Kevin Brown and Jonathan Frye, will help provide the Green Wave with some much needed perimeter shooting help.
The Not-So-Good: This team can’t shoot – not from mid-range, not from long-range. Part of the problem lies with the fact that shooters weren’t able to get good looks in the old offense. I am sure Coach Conroy will find a way to spring the shooters. Rebounding is another major issue, caused by the teams largest issue – no size. Sophomore Kelth Cameron and freshman Kevin Thomas are the only players taller than 6’8, and neither of them is ready to contribute more than a couple of minutes.
The Question Mark: How does Conroy, a known coaching disciplinarian, deal with a team that played with little discipline last season? Conroy will not put up with much nonsense, even if it means sitting all of his starters. That being said, I’m hoping this group responds to him, because if they do they will become a decent team.
What Will March Bring: It’s going to be a tough first year for Conroy – most likely between 8 and 10 wins, with real improvement to start coming in 2011-12.
The Good: With the graduation of team leaders Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh, it now falls to Justin Hurtt to take over the team. Hurtt is an excellent long-range shooter and does a good job without the ball, making strong cuts to the basket and drawing contact. An excellent free-throw shooter, Hurtt will need to be more aggressive going to the basket with the ball if he is to continue getting points from the line. Defensively, he is not a great ball defender, but he does a good job anticipating missed shot and getting in position for rebounds. He does a good job filling lanes in transition, though I would like to see how he does running the break for the team. Taking over for
The Not-So-Good: Replacing Ben Uzoh is a tough task, and it will most likely be left in the hands of either sophomore Donte Medder or junior Glenn Andrews, who is returning from a medical redshirt for a knee injury. Neither has the toughness or court vision of Uzoh, though Andrews, if he is fully recovered, can grow into that type of player. Medder is a good shooter, and could provide help in the backcourt at either position.
The Question Mark: Is Hurtt capable of being the go-to player for
What Will March Bring: I’m not going to rule out the NCAA Tournament just yet, though a lot will be determined by how Idlet handles being the main man in the post now, and how the point guard competition shakes out. I’m looking at 18 wins minimum, at least 8 in Conference
The Good: While the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Elijah Milsap will be felt, Coach Mike Davis has a solid system, with good players in place, to keep UAB near the top of Conference
The Not-So-Good: The frontcourt is thin with little size behind
The Question Mark: Can one player replace Elijah Milsap? Last season, Milsap seemed to do everything for UAB – scoring, ballhandling, rebounding. It could take 3 or 4 players to replace his production, especially on the boards if
What Will March Bring: It should be an interesting season for Coach Davis, and definitely an adjustment period. They will certainly be on the bubble for a NCAA Tournament bid, probably 18 or 19 wins.
The Good: Possibly the best thing that has happened to the UCF program this season is the hiring of former Florida assistant Donnie Jones as the new Head Coach. Jones should be able to attract some very good talent to
The Not-So-Good: While there is a solid group of players, there is no one player who can rise above the rest of the team and take over when necessary. Rebounding is also an issue, with Tyler and Clanton the only consistent rebounders.
The Question Mark: How will the team adjust to Coach Jones’ new up-tempo style of play? The guard-heavy group should flourish in the new system, though I am most interested in seeing how Clanton handles the new system, as it doesn’t seem to play to his strengths. If Clanton is able to score in this system, he could be a future Conference USA Player of the Year.
What Will March Bring: This is definitely a team that will improve. A veteran group plus a new coach and system should add a few wins to last year’s total. I really think this is a 20 win team and should be in contention for a NCAA Tournament bid, though at this point I think they will fall a bit short. Look for them to be in the 2012 Tournament.
The Good: Tim Floyd is now in charge and a lot of the talent is gone, but UTEP still has the potential to be a dangerous team. Led by explosive guard Randy Culpepper, the Miners will look to run often. Culpepper is extremely quick, can find his way to the rim and finishes well for his size. He also has good range on his jumper, though his size prevents him from getting many clean looks. He isn’t much of a distributor, and he will need to improve that to even have a shot at the next level. Jeremy Williams is another explosive athlete who has the ability to get out in transition and finish strong at the hoop. He can create his own shot, can step pick and hit the 3 and chooses his shots well. He needs to tighten up his defense a bit, often leaving his man with too much room to operate. Julyan Stone is a shooting guard with point guard skills. He sees the court extremely well, makes smart passes and plays under control. He doesn’t look often to score, which should change in the Floyd offense. Defensively, he matches up well guarding the wings, and is an excellent off-ball defender. Giant Claude Britten will be counted on for defending the post and keeping opponents of the glass.
The Not-So-Good: The loss of Caracter and Moultrie will be missed on the offensive end, where Britten and Harris are not of the same skill set. Harris could eventually grow into a legit post option, but Britten is more of a space-eater. The bench is not particularly deep, and the talent has not contributed major minutes. Myron Strong and Tyler Tafoya will provide minutes in the backcourt, while Harris and two other freshmen, John Bohannon and Michael Haynes, will try to provide a spark in the frontcourt. As you can see, it’s a big drop in talent after the top 6 players.
The Question Mark: What does Tim Floyd bring to this program? Floyd has a lot of experience, at both the NBA and NCAA levels, but has been a lightning rod for controversy everywhere he goes. There is little chance that Floyd will let the story be the team instead of himself, and, unless there has been a change in Floyd’s ways, the Athletic Director should be prepared for a visit from the NCAA. However, he still knows the game well and should have his team prepared to win.
What Will March Bring: Over 20 wins, probably 2nd or 3rd in the conference, and Randy Culpepper as Conference USA Player of the Year. I wouldn’t be surprised if this group pulls off a win or two once they get to the tournament.
That wraps up our look at Conference