"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, October 27, 2021

Elon Preview, 2021-22

Elon Phoenix

November 19, Charleston, SC, 6:00 or 8:00 pm

Head Coach: Mike Schrage (23-30)

3-Year NET Average: 241.3

3-Year Kenpom Average: 263.7

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 205

Hunter McIntosh rises and fires

Photo courtesy of Elon Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Darius Burford (6'0" So), SG Hunter McIntosh (6'2" Jr), SF Jerald Gillens-Butler (6'4" Sr), PF Hunter Woods (6'5" Jr), C Chuck Hannah (6'7" Sr)

The Phoenix were streaky in 2020-21, starting the season on a 3-game winning streak before dropping 8 in a row, punctuated by another 7-game winning streak that took them all the way to the first Colonial Title game appearance in program history, where they fell to Drexel. While their 10-9 record and 205 kenpom rank from a year ago won't dazzle, it represents their first winning record since 2017 and a more than 100-spot improvement in Schrage's first two years at Elon (#309 in 2019).

Elon will hope to be the Hunters and not the prey this year, specifically leading returning scorer Hunter McIntosh (15.7 ppg) and leading returning rebounder Hunter Woods (6.8 rpg). Floor general Darius Burford was an All-Freshman team member in the CAA while Chuck Hannah and sophomore Michael Graham provide a solid center rotation. The guy to keep an eye on is Jerald Gillens-Butler. The Butler transfer averaged 15.7 ppg in that 3-0 start for the Phoenix last year before an injury ended his seasons. If healthy, he will take the pressure off McIntosh and could help fuel continued improvement for Schrage's team.

Offensively, the focus is protecting the ball and taking threes. Six different players averaged over 2.0 three point attempts/game last year. They are a team that won't beat themselves. On defense, they want to slow the pace and make teams work for the shot attempt. They challenge well, cut down passing lanes, and really excel at limiting second chances for the opposing offense. This is definitely a team you would rather play early in the season, as well. Schrage's teams are 9-22 from November to January but 14-7 in February and March.

If Marquette plays Elon, that likely means they lost their Charleston Classic opener to Ole Miss. While Schrage seems to have this team on the right track, they will be doing their damage in conference play, not against high majors in November. Players like the Hunters and Gillens-Butler will allow them to hang for a bit with the big boys, but there simply isn't enough talent or length to handle 40 minutes against a West Virginia or Marquette. Once conference play starts, however, they have a legitimate shot at being a top-half CAA team and if Schrage's conference tourney record (5-2) is any indicator, they will eventually break through to the NCAAs.

Marquette Connection: Mike Schrage has had quite a bit of success against Marquette. He most recently saw Marquette as part of Chris Holtmann's staff at Butler in 2016-17, when the Bulldogs swept Marquette. Before that, he was part of Johnny Dawkins' staff at Stanford that knocked off Marquette 82-81 in overtime in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The only time Schrage was ever part of a loss to Marquette was in 2006, when he was the Director of Basketball Operations for Mike Krzyzewski and Marquette knocked off Duke in the CBE Classic Championship Game, 73-62.

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