"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

Saturday, October 23, 2021

New Hampshire Preview, 2021-22

New Hampshire Wildcats

November 12, 7:30 pm, Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Bill Herrion (434-444 overall, 197-275 at New Hampshire)

3-Year NET Rank Average: 276.0

3-Year kenpom Average: 287.0

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 244

Jayden Martinez is a do-everything mismatch for the Wildcats

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Blondeau Tchoukuiengo (6'2" So), SG Nick Johnson (6'4" So), SF Josh Hopkins (6'5" Sr), PF Nick Guadarrama (6'5" Sr), C Jayden Martinez (6'7" Sr)

COVID made scheduling difficult in the America East last year, but Bill Herrion's squad managed a winning record for the first time since 2017. That came in large part because of their potent front court duo of Nick Guadarrama (14.0 ppg/6.4 rpg) and Jayden Martinez (13.6/8.5). Not only are they a load up front, but both have the ability to step out and hit from deep. The Wildcats were expected to be a dark horse competitor in the America East and delivered in the regular season, finishing third after going 9-6 in league play, but bowed out to UMass-Lowell in their opening conference tourney game.

Joining Guadarrama and Martinez in returning are a pair of freshmen starters becoming sophomores in Blondeau Tchoukuiengo and Nick Johnson as well as Qon Murphy, meaning the entire starting lineup at the end of the season is back. They also get a boost in the return of Josh Hopkins, who started every game he played as a sophomore and junior before missing time last year. He's joined by transfer Sloan Seymour, a 6'9" shooter that struggled to get minutes at George Washington in the A-10 but should be able to slide right into this lineup. This team has star power up front, experience at every position, and depth on the bench.

Offensively, the Wildcats want to play slow. Take the air out of the ball and work for the best shot. Herrion's teams typically shoot a ton of threes, but last year they were more balanced, likely because of the two guys on the inside. That said, everyone on this team can step out and hit a three, including the two bigs. On the defensive end, they cut down passing lanes and absolutely own the glass. It wouldn't be a stretch to argue New Hampshire is one of the best pound-for-pound defensive rebounding teams in the country as they have been top-10 in limiting offensive rebounds 6 of the past 7 seasons and were still #31 in the lone season they didn't finish that high. They want to force one-on-one matchups and limit second chance attempts.

With the entire starting lineup and five of the top-six scorers back, this looks like a team that should compete for their league title. But due to COVID, Hopkins is far from the only America East player to return for a fifth playing season. Vermont and Stony Brook will likely battle for the top of the league again, but the Wildcats should still be finishing in the top-half of the league and putting up a respectable season. I expect they'll put up a feisty effort at Fiserv due to their depth and experience, but the gap in size and athleticism will likely be too much to overcome.

Marquette Connection: There were warning signs early on in the 2013-14 season that it might not be as successful as Buzz Williams' previous teams. When Bill Herrion's New Hampshire team came to town, that was on full display. After an encouraging 20-5 run to open things, the Wildcats clawed their way back, cutting the deficit to 7 at the half and getting within 4 with just under a minute to play on a Jordan Bronner three. Ultimately, Jamil Wilson iced the game at the line and Marquette held on for a too-close-for-comfort 58-53 victory. Bronner will be back on the court this year, though as an assistant for Herrion's current team. Hopefully Marquette fans won't be sweating quite as profusely in the final minute.

No comments: