"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

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bethune-Cookman Preview

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
November 10, fiserv.forum

Coach: Ryan Ridder (16-14 record at Bethune-Cookman)
3-Year RPI Average: 308.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 311.3
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 332
Projected Starters: PG Malik Maitland (5'9" Sr), SG Houston Smith (6'4" Jr), SF Isaiah Bailey (6'6 Sr), PF Soufiyane Diakite (6'6" Sr), C Shawntrez Davis (6'9" Sr)

EDIT: Bethune-Cookman's official roster has been released. Leading rebounder Soufiyane Diakite was granted a fifth season, JucoRecruiting.com #48 Mark Gordon joins the team & will push for a starting spot, & they added grad transfer Dondre Duffus from Southeast Missouri State who likely won't play much but provides depth.

Bethune-Cookman is a NIT Tip-Off campus game. The Wildcats lost leading scorer Brandon Tabb, but return five guys that played starter minutes as well as Pope, who led all NJCAA D1 players in rebounding in 2016-17. The stars will be Bailey, Davis, & Diakite. Bailey is a do-everything forward that averaged 16.1 ppg/5.3 rpg/4.8 apg & came within 1 rebound of back-to-back triple-doubles in February. Davis posted 13 double-doubles & is a force inside. Diakite nearly averaged a double-double, posting 10.5 ppg/9.8 rpg. Armani Collins, Mark Gordon, & Cletrell Pope gives them a solid bench rotation.

Coach Ryan Ridder led the Wildcats to their first winning D1 record since 2011. They did that by playing fast. Bethune-Cookman's 76.0 average possessions per game was 3rd in D1. As a comparison, Marquette only reached 76 possessions in 4 of their 35 games last year, & one of those was in overtime. Not surprisingly for a team that is always on the attack, Bethune-Cookman makes their living at the line. Bailey, Davis, & Diakite are excellent at attacking inside & getting to the line. Defensively, Bethune-Cookman gets after their opponents. They play a high-pressure style that limits good looks and works to create turnovers.

Looking at the T-Rank projections for other NIT Tip-Off opponents it's easy to feel disappointed by Bethune-Cookman. For instance, Kansas will play T-Rank #125 Louisiana-Lafayette & #138 Vermont. While the Wildcats will likely be a Quadrant 4 game, they also are a strong contender to win their league. This isn't as bad as #332 ranked team initially projected.

Bethune-Cookman brings back nearly everyone to a team that shared the regular season conference title. They will likely finish with a solid record & have a good chance to be playing games after the MEAC Tournament is done. They did also have their highest RPI & kenpom rankings (288 in both) in the past 3 years & if someone can replace Tabb's scoring, they should be in the mix at the top of the league.

Marquette Connection: The Wildcats have only played Marquette once before. It was an 89-53 victory for Kevin O'Neill's team in December of 1991. That season marked the beginning of O'Neill's turnaround at Marquette, & while the Warriors did not enter postseason play that year, they would go on to a pair of 20-win seasons with NCAA appearances both years.

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