Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Men's Basketball Season Preview

After a great run the last two years (no team in Texas has won more games in that time than UTA), this years team is hard to figure out. We lose four good seniors, but won 19 games with an anemic offense. A couple of junior college transfers, one P5 transfer and a redshirt could make this year's team competitive or a rebuilding one.

PG should be a strength with a two-year starter, Shaquille White-Miller, returning and the Oklahoma State transfer, Reger Dowell, ready to play, as well as forward with the Hoover-like rebounder in Brandon Edwards.

7' center Stuart Lagerson is almost guaranteed to be the key. If he can play like Jordan Reeves did the last two years, the he will bog the middle down. Then that should open up both ends of the floor. Bare minimum, I just hope he can play defense the way Reeves did.

There is a freshman, Jorge Bilbao that intrigues me. He's a 6'8" forward who averaged 30+ for the Spanish team he played for. If he can get just 1/4-1/3 of that for us, he will be a real player. He also averaged almost 14 rebounds. Another if, but if can can average seven or so, add him up with Brandon Edwards and Lagerson and we will out-rebound most teams night in and night out.

If Bilbao struggles, then it is Edwards could be on an island. Greg Gainey, a guy who can play the 2 or 3 quite well is out this year on a medical redshirt with a torn labrum. He led the team last year in FG percentage at 52.3%. He made four starts, but was behind some quality players. He averaged 6.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game. He was expected to play quite a bit. If he got more minutes, took more shots and had a similar shooting percentage, it doesn't take an imagination to figure out what could have been.

Our big question mark right now is the 2. It was a weakness last year offensively, but was made up for by Cameron Catlett's defensive game. After Catlett's graduation, Dowell may fill that role some, but the early guys are either Lonnie McClanahan or Jamel Outler. McClanahan, a juco transfer from Kilgore, was a HM AA and averaged 12.4 points a game. Outler played for us last year after transferring from Texas Tech. Two starts, averaged 6.7 points and 16.9 minutes per game, but only shot 31.6% from the field. He is only a junior this year, so he does have a lot of room for improvement. If he improve his percentage, then that would be a potential season-changer for us.

I would assume in today's college basketball, very few have any idea how their bench will perform. UTA, who doesn't know who could be the consistent starter at many positions, is certainly in that boat.

Luckily, the intangible of coaching is clearly in our favor. Not saying he is the best coach in the SBC, but there is no doubt he can hold his own

Like volleyball, I won't give my preseason predictions until the non-conference is concluded, but I will say this, top-to-bottom, this year's Sun belt will be the toughest conference lineup UTA will have played in since the mid-80's when the Billy-Tubbs-coached Lamar team and the Karl-Malone-led Louisiana Tech team were making runs in the NCAA tournament and PG named Joe Dumars was running the McNeese State offense.

I will have a better idea of what the SBC will look like come the end of December when these teams play competition. As it is now, all anyone, and I mean anyone, has to go on is what is on paper. With three new teams from two different conferences in, and four teams out from an 11-team SBC, no one really has any clue. Until then, I end with the SBC pre-season coaches poll.

1 WKU 91 points (5 1st place votes)
2 South Alabama 78 (2)
3 Arkansas State 74
4 Georgia State 73 (2)
5 UL-Lafayette 73 (1)
6 UALR 48
7 UT-Arlington 36
8 Texas State 34
9 Troy 26
10 UL-Monroe 17
Preseason Coaches Poll
(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Western Kentucky
91 (5)
2. South Alabama
78 (2)
3. Arkansas State
T-4. Georgia State
73 (2)
T-4. UL-Lafayette
73 (1)
7. UT Arlington
8. Texas State
9. Troy
10. UL-Monroe
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