"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Southern Preview

Southern Jaguars
December 28, fiserv.forum

Coach: Sean Woods (0-0 at Southern, 127-150 overall)
3-Year RPI Average: 277.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 293.7
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 350
Projected Starters: PG Eddie Reese (6'1" Sr), SG Cam Horton (6'1" So), SF Aaron Ray (6'3" Sr), PF Bryan Assie (6'7" Jr), C Hassan Hussein (6'9" Sr)

According to T-Rank, Southern is the worst team on the schedule & one of only two sub-300 teams Marquette will face this year. Southern lost a lot; their leading scorer & rebounder graduated, their third leading scorer transferred, & 4 other players graduated. Reese is the only returning player that averaged over 16 mpg. This is a roster of mostly backups & JUCO players.

If there is any reason for optimism at Southern, it is Sean Woods. This is his second tour through the SWAC, having taken Mississippi Valley State from 7 wins in his 2009 debut season to a 17-1 conference record & NCAA berth in 2012. Woods followed that up with four successful seasons at Morehead State in which his team was top-half of the league each year & made the CBI twice (including losing the championship-deciding game in overtime in 2016). The next season, Woods was accused of assaulting two of his players & resigned. After a season as an assistant at Stetson, Woods is back in a head chair. While his character may have some question marks, his coaching results do not. He improved win totals every year at MVSU & had 15+ wins every year at Morehead State. Since his arrival at Southern, he moved quickly to secure commitments from productive JUCO players like Horton, Assie, Osa Wilson, & Miles Gibson. Woods also added grad transfer Hassan Hussein from Florida International.

It's hard to know what to expect from this year's Southern team. Woods loved to press the pace for years, but had his most successful season at Morehead State with a slow-down system. One thing that his teams always do is crash the glass hard on both ends, & with three JUCO additions that averaged 5.9+ rpg as well as big-body Hussein, that will likely be Woods' calling card again. Defensively, Woods stresses turnovers. His Morehead State teams were top-50 in steal percentage all four years he was there. The downside to that is their physical style leads to a lot of fouls. Expect a very physical game from Southern.

It's hard to know how good this mishmash of players will be, but Marquette is the far more talented & experienced team. If Southern finds success, it likely will be later in the season once they get into conference play & the players have had time to come together. This should be a comfortable win for Marquette.

Marquette Connection: This isn't Sean Woods' first road trip to play Marquette. He brought his Mississippi Valley State team here on December 21, 2010. Jae Crowder led Marquette with 22 points in a 102-77 rout of the Delta Devils. At the time, it dropped MVSU to 1-10 on the season, but from there Woods turned the season & his coaching career around. His team went 12-6 in conference play and finished the season 13-19. The next year he brought MVSU to the NCAA Tournament.

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