Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
If you have not been keeping track at home, A- shame on you, B- you will notice that the Marshall Thundering Herd are the first mid-major in my rankings which means I project them to be the 37th mid-major in the country. They have the potential to be a major sleeper in Conference USA.
MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD
Last Season: T-5th, 9-7 in CUSA, 21-12 overall
Predicted CUSA Finish: 5th
Projected Depth Chart
C: Nigel Spikes (Jr)/Yous Mbao (So)
F: J.P. Kambola (So)/Robert Goff (Jr)/Eladio Espinosa (Jr)/Dennis Tinnon (Jr)/Jamir Hanner (Fr)
G/F: Justin Coleman (So)/Dago Pena (Sr)
G: DeAndre Kane (So)/Shaquille Johnson (Sr)/Devince Boykins (Fr)
PG: Damier Pitts (Sr)/Chris Martin (Fr)
Gone: PF-Tirell Baines, F-Johnny Thomas, C-Orlando Allen, G-Johnny Higgins (transfer), C-Aundra Williams (transfer-Valdosta State)
The best thing Marshall has looking ahead to this season is their talented backcourt. Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane combined to average more than 31 points, 8 assists, and 8 boards per game last season. Pitts continued to add to his stellar career with the Herd while Kane earned Conference USA Freshman of the Years honors. A lot will be asked of that duo and if they can improve upon their less than stellar three-point percentages from a year ago, it will certainly help the team as a whole.
Many Marshall fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of wing Justin Coleman who sat out last season due to academic reasons. Combined with Pitts and Kane, Coleman will provide second year head coach Tom Herrion with another scorer on the wing capable of averaging double figures on a nightly basis.
There is also solid depth on the wing with seniors Shaquille Johnson and Dego Pena in the fold. Both players spent part of last season in the starting five. Freshman Davince Boykins will likely be the odd man out in the rotation. Chris Martin (no, not Coldplay’s lead singer) could see minutes at the point although Pitts and Kane are both capable of running the show.
The frontcourt lacks the experience of the backcourt as they lose three seniors and deal with the transfer of another big. Starting center Nigel Spikes will certainly have an increased role and need to become a more dominant presence inside. Like Coleman, 6-9 J.P Kambola sat out last season due to academic reasons but should provide a boost and compete for a starting spot.
USF transfer Eladio Espinosa is back after missing all but ten games last season due to injury and is the only other frontcourt returner for the Herd. Herrion also landed a pair of top-20 JUCO transfers in Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon. They will compete for minutes along with 7-2 Marquette transfer Yous Mbao and freshman Jamir Hanner (if he qualifies academically.)
Herrion must incorporate a bunch of new faces with a talented returning core. If the pieces all blend together, Marshall could be a Conference USA sleeper.
Player to Watch: Justin Coleman
The former Louisville commit was a consensus top 50 recruit in the Class of 2010. When he failed to qualify academically for the Cards, he ended up at Marshall but still had to sit last season while he figured out his school situation. It is rare for a middle tier C-USA school to land a player with Coleman’s ability and potential. How quickly he is able to make an impact for the Herd could be the difference between them once again finishing in the middle of the conference pack or possibly competing with Memphis for the league title.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/25 at Cincinnati
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraka Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks