November 14, 2008

Game Preview: St. Francis comes to town

The Red Flash of St. Francis come calling tonight at the USA, looking for their first win ever for new head coach Don Friday. Eleven returning letterwinners, including three starters, look to lay one on the Raiders. The new-look Red Raiders welcome them with open arms and a new outlook on basketball. Tip time is 8:00pm, and the game is TTTN and ESPN Full Court. Dish hobbyists can find it on the Ku band at AMC 16, transponder K 23.

The Red Flash
Not only is Don Friday coaching his first game ever as a collegiate head coach, he also has two first-year assistants on his staff. This may be one of the few teams we'll see where the players have more experience than the staff - St. Francis' roster is dominated by upperclassmen - in fact there are only two underclassman on the team, 6-foot-2 freshman guard Curtis Keys and 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Sorena Orandi.

Gone from last year's 8-21 team are 35 of the 67 points they scored, and only three returning players saw more than 9 minutes a game. The team leader in minutes, field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made, and free throws attempted is back - 6-foot-6 junior guard Devin Sweetney. Sweetney shot 43.4% from the field on 274 attempts, and hit .262 from the arc. He shot 121-of-145 from the stripe, good for 83.4%. Overall he averaged a team-leading 13 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in 33 minutes of playing time. He led the squad in minutes, points, and boards - and was third in assists.
Defense: Play Sweetney to drive. He shoots it from the arc, but he's not very effective at it. What he is good at is drawing contact on his shots and getting to the charity stripe. Away from the ball, Tech must block him out as he is a determined rebounder.

5-foot-10 senior guard Marquis Ford is the leading returning assist man, averaging 4.1 assists per game last season. He was also second on the team in minutes played with 32.5 per outing, and scored 9.3 points a night. Ford spends a lot of time around the arc, where 100 of his 163 shot attempts originated - and he hit 51 of them for a Voskuil-like .510 effort from downtown. Despite his high assist numbers, Ford is not much of a driver and that is reflected in his 32-of-48 performance from the stripe.
Defense: Ford has a great set shot, Tech must play him to shoot and force him to drive to get his shot. In this action Tech must look for him to pass first and only shoot off the dribble as a last resort.

5-foot-10 senior guard Cale Nelson completes the diminutive backcourt for St. Francis. Another good passer, Nelson averaged 3.6 assists last season in only 20 minutes of action per game. Nelson is not a good shot, but that doesn't keep him from trying - was was 72-for-204, .353, overall and a pedestrian 46-of-141, .326, from long range. He is a good free throw shooter, hitting 86.3% on 63-of-73 from the line.
Defense: Play Nelson to drive and force him to put up a poor shot. He is a good free throw shooter but a poor shooter from the field, and he will look for contact to try to get to the line. He will take bad shots.

The balance of the team is made up of former role players, some of whom will be looking to step up for the Red Flash. Only Mislav Jukic averaged over 2 points per game of this group, and he at 2.1. None of them played over 10 minutes a game and only Kurt Hoffman averaged 9.

Texas Tech
The 2008-09 season is upon the Raiders and head coach Pat Knight. Knight begins his first full season at the helm and is already making his mark on the team. Look for this Raider team to force the issue on offense and be focused on transitioning from defense to offense in a hurry. Newcomers Nick Okorie, Darko Cohadarevic, and Tyree Graham will see immediate key playing time and all have impressed over the summer. Okorie and Graham both motoboat all over the court, and Cohadarevic is a slick passing big man who may be easy to hear all over the arena. Robert Lewandowski is a big strong freshman, who at 6-foot-9 and a legit 250 pounds already has a Big 12 body.

Joining Okorie, Cohadarevic, and Graham on the floor a lot will be returning starters John Roberson, Mike Singletary, and Alan Voskuil. Roberson, a sophomore, averaged a team-leading 3.3 assists last year in 30 minutes a game. He scored 12.3 points per night, good for second on the team, and took 301 shots - also good for second. He led the team in three point attempts and was second in makes, and shot a very respectable .400 from the arc.

Voskuil, a senior, is the leading returning scorer at 13.1 points per game. He lit it up from long range, hitting 50% of his shots on 67-of-134 shooting. He is also the leading returning free throw shooter in terms of makes with 84, attempts with 102, and percentage at .824. Voskuil is also the second leading returning assist man at 1.4 per game.

Singletary is the third leading returning scorer at 7.3 points per game in 16 minutes a night. He shot 49% from the floor and .756 from the charity stripe.

Trevor Cook, D'walyn Roberts, Michael Prince, Rogdrick Craig, Wally Dunn, and Damir Suljagic, and Esmir Rizvic round out the squad. Roberts has really picked up his game in practice recently and may see early playing time. Cook is an athletic forward who will be able to get out at the pace new coach Pat Knight is looking for. Suljagic is steady inside but is not as fleet as many of the Raiders - he is however a serviceable defender. Prince is a real badger on defense with an underappreciated and underutilized jumper. He won't create his own shot but he can stick the wide open mid range jumper. Rizvic is sitting out the fall semester and will join the team for the spring session.

Things To Watch
  • Returning starters Roberson and Voskuil will have a new challenge - the three point line is moved back an entire twelve inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. How will this impact a terrific bomber lke Voskuil? The ladies' line stayed at 19 feet 9 inches, so some floors may have a lot of paint on them. If this line movement stretches the court, look for guys like Singletary to really benefit as he will have more room to operate with the ball.

  • If Corbin Ray doesn't dress, then he's pretty much a lock to redshirt. If he dresses but doesn't play, he's still very likely to redshirt. Ray has been nursing a bad foot most of the summer and it looks like he will take this season off. He's a big strong kid who can also shoot it from outside.

  • Cohadarevic will likely be the first big man, followed by Suljagic, then Lewandowski. It will be interesting to watch the fortunes of these three as the season progresses. Will there be room on the floor for more than one of these players at a time? Cohadarevic's game is not really like Suljagic or Lewandowski's.

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