"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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Long Island Preview, 2022-23

Long Island Sharks

November 17, 2022, Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Rod Strickland (0-0)

Three-Year NET Average: 247.7

Three-Year kenpom Average: 257.7

Projected 2022-23 T-Rank: 347

Projected Starters: PG Tre Wood (6'1" RS Sr), SG Jacob Johnson (6'5" Jr), SF Quion Burns (6'5" So), PF Jake Cook (6'8" Jr), C Cheikh Ndiaye (6'8" Sr)

Tre Wood leads a new-look LIU squad
Photo from LIU Athletics

By seemingly any measure, Long Island had a successful 2021-22 season. After a rocky (but brutally scheduled) start, the Sharks went 12-6 in NEC play, their best conference record under Derek Kellogg, leading to their first overall winning record since 2018. Individually, Ty Flowers and Eral Penn were both named first team all-conference. The third-place league finish was a great foundation for a team that was set to return four starters and their top two reserves. They would've been one of the league favorites as it looked like Kellogg was even weathering the transfer market. Then in late June, LIU shockingly fired Derek Kellogg. Three of those four starters and one of the key reserves transferred, which means they lost their top five scorers. Rod Strickland took over the program, leaving his position with G League Ignite, but as a coach taking over in July, the transfer market was already picked over, leaving the Sharks with one of the most dismal looking rosters in Division I.

On paper, Maurice Commander should step in as one of the leaders of this team. However, he sat out the 2021-22 season. Whether it was because of a back injury or the death of his father, it's unclear how ready he will be to be a major contributor, but he's the only Shark that has averaged double-digit points in Division I. Tre Wood is the leading returning scorer, but he was a low-usage, low-efficiency player who was more a role-player than anything else. Jacob Johnson transfers in from UMKC, where he earned starting minutes but is another unlikely scoring option as he was the Roos' seventh option. Quion Burns is the returning reserve but (common refrain) was another player that was rarely a scoring threat, only hitting double-digits once against a D3 program. Freshman big CJ Delancy has athletic upside but is very raw, while fellow big man Amadou Fall is a journeyman at his third D1 program while also spending time at a JUCO along the way. Andre Washington, Noble Crawford, and Cheikh N'Diaye are the most likely bench contributors.

This team's strategy is hard to forecast. Strickland was the Director of Basketball Operations for John Calipari at Kentucky and later an assistant for the ill-fated Orlando Antigua era at South Florida, but he hasn't done much on his own outside of Ignite. Under Kellogg, LIU played at a blazing pace while playing an efficient defensive style that prioritized chasing teams off the line and drawing drivers into their shot blockers. But virtually that entire roster is gone and with such a talent deficient roster, it's hard to know what will be successful for the Sharks. It seems likely they'll try to slow the pace to keep games close and likely use zone to make up for the talent gap, at least until Strickland can rebuild the roster.

Looking at this roster, then looking at the lack of coaching experience, the lack of scoring, and the void of talent, the T-Rank projection of #347 might be considered rather optimistic. Granted, that's a woeful number, but it's just hard to believe there will be 15 teams worse than this one in Division I. Had Kellogg returned with his team, LIU might've had a case for being a top-200 team and NEC contender. This is not that. They will almost certainly be positively awful and anything other than a thorough drubbing in Marquette's favor would have to be considered a huge disappointment.

What We've Learned: LIU has only played one official game, getting drubbed 89-48 at Utah. Maurice Commander hasn't suited up yet for the Sharks and it's not yet known if he'll be back for Thursday. We've removed him from the starting lineup. The Sharks posted a miserable 34.7 eFG% and were battered on the glass on both ends. Strickland made two changes to the starting lineup in a game against D3 Mount St. Vincent. He still seems to be figuring out the rotation, so don't be surprised to see some changes on Thursday. The early line has this at -23.5 in favor of Marquette, and while Cracked Sidewalks isn't a gambling site, that number seems to be factoring in LIU being a top-275 team each of the past 5 years under Derek Kellogg and the roster he left behind rather than the train wreck this team looks to be now. Utah blew past their -25 spread and Marquette will be in position to do the same, particularly with the bad taste of squandering a lead late at Purdue in their mouths.

Marquette Connection: Older Marquette fans should be forgiven if they shudder when they hear Rod Strickland's name. In 1986, Rick Majerus managed to defeat a Strickland-led DePaul team at the MECCA, escaping with a 70-65 win. That was the last time Marquette would defeat Strickland, who proceeded to lead DePaul to five straight wins over Marquette.

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