"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

Friday, October 22, 2021

SIU-Edwardsville Preview, 2021-22

SIU-Edwardsville Cougars

Fiserv Forum, November 9th at 7:30 pm

Head Coach: Brian Barone (17-40)

Three-Year NET Average: 328.3

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 330.0 

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 320


SIUE will be counting on an offensive impact from transfer Shaun Doss

Photo courtesy of UAPB Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Courtney Carter (6'1" RS Jr), SG Carlos Curtis (6'2" RS Jr), SF Shaun Doss (6'5" RS Sr), PF Shamar Wright (6'7' RS So), C Lamar Wright (6'7" RS So) 

When Brian Barone took over the Cougars from Jon Harris in 2019, it was the rare case of one Marquette alum replacing another. Barone grew up in the home of a D1 head coach (his father led Creighton and Texas A&M), played for Marquette, and was on staff with Porter Moser, Tom Crean, and Brian Wardle. Despite those roots, it's been a slow start at SIUE. The Cougars went just 9-17 last year. Not only that, but the team's two leading scorers have both moved on. This team was weak on both ends, finishing sub-275 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Barone has also slowed the tempo, from a top-80 team under Harris to #172 last year.

The big name acquisition this off-season was Shaun Doss, who averaged 15.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg for Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In addition to Doss, Carlos Curtis returns to the lineup. The Cougars went 7-8 with Curtis last year and just 2-9 without him. Curtis is the type of player that can impact a game in multiple ways and allows Barone to put two point guards in the backcourt. Up front, the Wright twins, sons of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright and subjects of an ESPN documentary, may look identical but play differently. Shamar has the ability to step out and plays like a stretch four while Lamar is a back-to-the-basket big that is a shot-swatting terror on the defensive end. SIUE will also be deeper this year, as Cam Williams, Michael Matas, and Milwaukee native (and former Marquette target) Desmond Polk bring experience off the bench. JUCO transfer In addition, keep an eye on Ray'Sean Taylor, a freshman guard who is the highest ranked high school recruit in program history.

Offensively, Barone has focused on slowing down possessions, sharing the basketball, and working it inside. It is a sensible strategy as his team had seven rotation players that shot over 50% inside the arc and they got 54.4% of their points on two-point field goals. This is a team with depth inside so expect them to keep feeding the post and the guards to attack downhill. Defensively, they want to speed teams up. Interior defense is their best asset. Both Wright twins and bench big Matas are excellent shot blockers. In addition, this is a team that excels in non-steal turnovers, which means they will likely be looking to draw charges.

The season outlook for the Cougars is always bleak. They haven't had a top-300 team in kenpom since 2015 and have never finished better than #248. That said, there are things to like about Barone's team. He has depth across the backcourt and the additions of Doss and Taylor definitely are a talent upgrade. Up front, the Wrights are solid at this level and Matas gives them some legitimate depth. To open the season they likely won't put up much of a fight against a high-major roster, but don't be surprised if they punch above their weight in the OVC and finish with their best season since 2015. Top-275 seems realistic for this bunch, which would put them right in the middle of the OVC and be pretty respectable considering SIUE's history.

Marquette Connection: Whether it was Marquette playing Jon Harris' Cougars in 2016, the presence of another Marquette alum in Barone there now, or the recruitment of Milwaukee native Desmond Polk, who at one point was offered by Steve Wojciechowski, there are a ton of connections to Marquette on this team. But savvy readers will recognize the first picture in this article of Shaun Doss as the exact same picture we opened last season's first non-conference preview with. That's because Doss transferred from UAPB, who was the 2020 season opening opponent, to SIUE, the 2021 season opener. While Marquette won that game by a commanding 99-57 score, it certainly wasn't because of Doss, who went off for 27 points and 5 rebounds in his only career appearance at the Fiserv Forum. Keep an eye on him again this year as he is the most proven scorer on the Cougars roster. We'll see if playing in front of fans at the Fiserv is a bit more intimidating for Doss than the empty arena was a year ago.

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