#109 Middle Tennessee Men's Basketball Preview

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

Overall Rank: #109
Conference Rank: #2 Sun Belt

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2010-11: 16-16, 10-6
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: Kermit Davis (154-126 at Middle Tennessee State, 224-176 overall)

Middle Tennessee State had 11 players who averaged at least ten minutes per game last year. Five of those players are gone, but Coach Kermit Davis has a superb group of newcomers headed to Murfreesboro who will make this team better in 2011-2012 than they were a year ago. All the new faces may take a little time to come together, but this will be a very dangerous team by the time Sun Belt conference games start. And by March this could easily be the best team in the league.

Who’s Out:
But in the meantime the Blue Raiders will have to find a new identity now that leading scorer and point guard James Washington III is gone. He was the only player on Coach Davis’ deep bench that played over 30 minutes per game and he led the squad with 14.0 points, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest. Just as big as the numbers was the leadership Washington III provided. The backcourt also loses Rod Emanuel who was a quality guard off the bench who could handle the ball and help out on the glass. The big loss in the frontcourt is Trevor Ottley. The part-time starter was not much of a scorer, but he was the Blue Raiders best rebounder and shot blocker. The frontcourt depth will take a hit with the departure of Kyle Hunt and Trevor Charles as well.

Who’s In:
This group needs to address two issues…depth in the paint and a new starting point guard. It does both and then some. LaRon Dendy, a transfer from Iowa State who spent two years at the junior college ranks, averaged 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Cyclones two years ago. The 6-9 center is ready to step into a starting role for MT. Torin Walker saw very limited playing time for Oklahoma State during the 2009-2010 campaign, but he should fit into the regular rotation up front. Incoming freshman Jacquez Rozier will likely need some time to develop his game and he will be given the time. The backcourt gets a load of experienced talent too. Junior college transfers Bruce Massey and Raymond Citron will battle it out for the starting point guard spot. Massey is more of a true point guard who plays shut down defense, while Citron is a better shooter. Either way, the offense should find a leader. Incoming freshman point guard Julian Edmonson will likely learn behind Massey and Citron for a couple of years. Marcos Knight is yet another junior college transfer who can make a big impact this season. The shooting guard is a superb all-around scorer and a great rebounder for a 6-2 guard. He will not stay out of the starting lineup for long even if more experienced players begin the season there. Logan Nelson, who redshirted last season, will add even more depth to an already deep team.

Who to Watch:
It really does not matter who earns the starting jobs. Coach Davis will run at least ten deep again this year. James Gallman should play an important role as the team’s best returning long range shooter. He averaged 7.5 points per game as a sophomore and, at the least, can provide a nice spark off of the bench. However, if any of the newcomers have trouble finding their shot, Gallman will need to be in the game more often. Jason Jones will be tougher to remove from a starting gig. The 6-6 wing is a great slasher who averaged 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. At 6-6 he can be a matchup nightmare at the three spot. Jimmy Oden is an experienced and tough guard and Kerry Hammonds is full of potential after a decent freshman campaign.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt does return a couple players. J.T. Sulton was the best interior scorer on the team last season, averaging 9.3 points per game. He can even step outside and hit the mid-range jumper with consistency and that will be a huge asset to the team this year assuming Dendy can emerge as a quality interior scorer. Shawn Jones did not play too much last season as a freshman, but he is developing into a solid all-around forward and his depth will be needed. Coach Davis has a ton of options in the frontcourt and on the perimeter. Figuring out exactly what works may take some time. Eleven players started at least two games last year and that may be the case again this season. However, the key will be finding a leader at the point. If that happens, the rest of the pieces will work themselves out and MT can run 11 or 12 guys and keep everybody fresh.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Bruce Massey, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
James Gallman, Junior, Guard, 7.5 points per game
Jason Jones, Junior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
J.T. Sulton, Junior, Forward, 9.3 points per game
LaRon Dendy, Senior, Center, DNP last season

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