UNC Wilmington Seahawks
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #1 CAA
Following a season in which they won 25 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in ten years, the expectations are very high for Coach Kevin Keatts and his UNC Wilmington program. But this year will be different because of those expectations. Last year the Seahawks were not expected to do much and came out of nowhere to have a superb season. Now the rest of the CAA is looking up to UNC Wilmington. With plenty of talent returning though, taking UNC Wilmington off of their perch atop the standings will not be an easy task. Chris Flemmings, a 6-5 senior, returns as the star of the team after averaging a team high16.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. He is the long, athletic and versatile player that Coach Keatts needs to run his style of play. He can shoot the ball, attack the basket and defend a variety of positions.
2015-16 Record: 25-8, 14-4
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kevin Keatts
Coach Record: 43-22 at UNC Wilmington, 43-22 overall
The lone player gone who started over half the team’s games a year ago is Craig Ponder. The 6-1 guard averaged 11.4 points per game and emerged as a versatile scoring threat. Once noted as primarily a three-point shooter, Ponder did a very good job attacking the basket during his senior season. There are a lot of losses in the frontcourt and this was not a very adept frontcourt to begin with. Dylan Sherwood and Mark Matthews were experienced seniors, but neither played all that much. Sherwood did start eight games and could stretch the defense with his outside shooting ability. The transfer of C.J. Gettys and the dismissal of Trey Gundy leaves even fewer options. Gettys, a seven-footer, had a decent junior campaign and averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.
There is not much help coming in the frontcourt either with Matt Elmore the lone forward among the four newcomers. At 6-8 and 230 pounds, Elmore has the size the Seahawks need, but it is unlikely he will be ready to play major minutes as a freshman. The newcomers on the perimeter though are another story. Incoming freshman Jaylen Fornes is a great scorer from everywhere on the floor and despite all of the experience Coach Keatts has on the perimeter, there should be some minutes for Fornes. JaQuel Richmond transfers in from Middle Tennessee where he averaged 3.4 points and 2.2 assists during his lone season with the Blue Raiders. Richmond is a point guard who can shoot and play off of the ball. Ambrose Mosley is a graduate transfer from Old Dominion. He can shoot the ball, but his defense and surprising effectiveness on the glass for a 6-2 guard will come in much more handy for this team.
Who to Watch:
There is so much talent on the perimeter that UNCW will likely run a four guard lineup. Flemmings is versatile enough to play the four spot and so is C.J. Bryce. Bryce had a very good freshman campaign and averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. He is better suited to play on the wing, at least defensively, but he is a jump shot away from a breakout year and at least has the size to play the four spot when needed. With a four guard lineup, Coach Keatts could start both Denzel Ingram and Jordon Talley. Talley is more of a pure point guard who can attack the basket and create open looks for his teammates. After averaging 8.5 points and 3.9 assists, it will be tough to keep Talley out of a full-time starting spot. Ingram is the more dynamic point guard. On top of his 3.3 assists per game, Ingram was second on the team with 12.7 points per contest and led the squad with 75 made three-pointers. With Richmond joining Talley and Ingram, UNC Wilmington can have two ball handlers on the floor at all times. That probably will not happen with players like Fornes and Mosley best suited to play the two guard spot. Surely those two will spend time at the small forward position when this team plays small, but how much they will need to depends on the development of the frontcourt.
And it is the frontcourt that could keep the Seahawks from another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Marcus Bryan figures to step into a starting spot after averaging 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds during his sophomore season. He is 6-7 and 240 pounds and that is probably big enough for the CAA. Like Bryan, Chuck Ogbodo is a solid shot blocker. At 6-9, he is the tallest player on the roster and will be asked to play more than he did last season. Ogbodo does need to learn how to defend without fouling though or his playing time will not be able to increase. Sophomore Devontae Cacok is the player who can make this team big. He is an athletic 6-7 sophomore who is brimming with potential. If he steps up his game and can average closer to 20 minutes per game instead of the 9.1 he averaged as a freshman, UNC Wilmington will have options to play bigger when necessary and drastically improve their underwhelming rebounding margin.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jordon Talley, Junior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Denzel Ingram, Senior, Guard, 12.7 points per game
C.J. Bryce, Sophomore, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Chris Flemmings, Senior, Guard, 16.2 points per game
Marcus Bryan, Junior, Forward, 4.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.4 (37th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.1 (180, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.5 (94, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (96, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (175, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.0 (207, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.3 (153, 3)
Rebound Margin: 0.8 (161, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (180, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.3 (56, 3)