"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

Monday, September 18, 2023

Southern Preview, 2023-24

Southern Jaguars

November 28, 2023 at Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Kevin Johnson (65-100 overall, 0-0 at Southern)

Three-Year NET Average: 257.7

Three-Year kenpom Average: 267.7

Projected 2023-24 T-Rank: 347

Projected Starters: PG Tidjiane Dioumassi (6'5" Jr), SG Brandon Davis (6'1" Sr), SF Derrick Tezeno (6'5" Jr), PF Jaylen Reynolds (6'7" Sr), Festus Ndumanya (6'7" Sr)

Kevin Johnson is back as a head coach 18 years after leaving Centenary

Photo from SWAC.com

After a to-be-expected rough 4-9 non-conference slate, Southern started 8-1 in SWAC play. From there, they feel apart, finishing 3-7 over their last 10 and missing the NCAA Tournament. Head Coach Sean Woods was fired and their top-5 scorers all departed as well. Kevin Johnson takes over after 4 years as an assistant at Tulane and 18 years removed from his last head coaching job at Centenary.

Johnson's roster looks like a patchwork quilt. The only true point guard on the roster is Tidjiane Dioumassi, a JUCO transfer that averaged 10.3 ppg/5.0 apg for Lee College last year. He's joined in the back court by Brandon Davis and Derrick Tezeno, transfers from Texas State and Stephen F Austin respectively. Both were low-efficiency role-players at their previous stops and will hope to benefit in dropping down to a lower level. Up front, Jaylen Reynolds and Festus Ndumanya are the leading returning scorers for the Jaguars, though both averaged fewer than 15 mpg and will be taking big steps up in responsibility. Off the bench, expect to see Dre'Shawn Allen, a fifth year returning guard, and Tai'Reon Joseph, last seen at Radford two years ago spelling the back court while freshman Brentay Noel will be the most likely front court sub.

So what can we expect from Southern? It's hard to say. Johnson's best teams at Centenary tended to slow the pace and relied on threes and their ability to both get to and convert at the free throw line. Defensively, their strength was creating turnovers and chasing teams off the three-point line. Expect an active bunch that tries to get into passing lanes and disrupts the perimeter. Woods played a higher tempo, but his teams had similar defensive tendencies so don't be surprised to see that continue.

Last year, Arizona and Creighton played in the final in Maui. Both lost their first games back on the mainland. San Diego State and Arkansas played the Maui consolation game and both were trailing in buy games in the final minutes. It's tough rebounding from the long trip, and Marquette playing Southern in their first game post-Maui doesn't look like an accident. There's no sugar-coating it, this roster is terrible and Marquette should win this game very comfortably. Even if they show up flat, this is a game they should win by double-digits. Maybe by conference play the Jaguars will get it together, but T-Rank has them as the 10th best team in the 12-team SWAC and that is probably overestimating their ability. Quite simply, this is a game tailor-made to be the "get it together" game as the only contest in a 9 day stretch after Maui and before going to Madison. If you're going to have one absolute roll-over cupcake on the schedule, this is the spot to have it and this looks like the perfect team to batter into oblivion.

Marquette Connection: While this will be Kevin Johnson's first trip to Milwaukee with Southern, he did bring his Centenary team to the Bradley Center in the 2000-01 season for the Blue & Gold Classic. Led by Cordell Henry, Marquette raced out to an 18-0 lead before the Gentlemen scored their first point. Johnson's team did narrow the gap to just 30-28 early in the second half, but Henry scored the next 9 points in the game and Marquette cruised from there to a 66-47 victory. Tom Crean's team went on to defeat Cal State Northridge for the title the following night.

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