#108 Eastern Washington Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Eastern Washington Eagles

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #108
Conference Rank: #1 Big Sky

Eastern Washington Team Page#108 Eastern Washington Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Eastern Washington Basketball Tickets

High scoring Eastern Washington was one of the most entertaining teams in all of college basketball last season. The Eagles made some noise in nonconference play by beating Indiana and cruised through the Big Sky with a 14-4 record. EWU was a popular upset pick to knock off fourth seeded Georgetown, but fell short 84-74. This year’s team will be quite a bit different, but the Eagles and Coach Jim Hayford could get another crack at the NCAA Tournament this season.

2014-15 Record: 26-9, 14-4
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jim Hayford
Coach Record: 66-63 at Eastern Washington, 66-63 overall

Who’s Out:
Tyler Harvey was the best scorer in the country, averaging 23.1 points per game. He knocked down 4.0 three-pointers per game, which was also a national best. Harvey ended up leaving school a year early and was drafted 51st overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. Replacing a player like that is not easy for a program like Eastern Washington. Drew Brandon was the other superstar for the Eagles. He dished out 4.7 assists per game and was the catalyst of the offense and the defense. On top of his superb passing, Brandon averaged 9.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Ognjen Miljkovic is transferring after averaging 9.7 points and 3.1 rebounds and starting 33 games. And another starter, Parker Kelly, graduated. He averaged 7.7 points per game during his senior season. That is a lot of production to attempt to replace. And a few reserves who did not see much playing time, Frederik Jorg, Garrett Moon and Daniel Hill, will not be suiting up for Eagles this year either.

Who’s In:
The list of newcomers is a long one and the three eligible players with some experience will be asked to contribute quite a bit this year. Austin McBroom is the most experienced of the bunch. The graduate transfer from Saint Louis averaged 6.7 points per game with the Billikens in 2014-2015 and will fit right in with EWU as a superb outside shooter. Julian Harrell spent some time at Penn and City College of San Francisco before landing in Cheney, Washington. Harrell is a big, athletic guard who can play multiple positions. Having a 6-5 guard added to the roster is very important for a team that lost a lot of perimeter size. Enrico Nuno, a 6-8, 250 pound transfer from Diablo Valley College will add some experience to the frontcourt. Freshman Jesse Hunt, a 6-7 forward, should have time to develop his game. The freshmen in the backcourt however will have the potential to earn minutes. Cody Benzel and Bear Henderson redshirted last year. Benzel is a good shooter and Henderson is one to watch for the future. He is a big 6-6 guard with plenty of talent. Will Ferris, Grant Gibb and Michael Wearne are all incoming freshmen guards. Wearne, a 6-2 point guard, could play a big role as a freshman and will almost certainly play a big role down the line.

Who to Watch:
Venky Jois and Bogdan Bliznyuk will be the new leaders for the Eagles. Jois, a 6-8 senior, is one of the most versatile players around. Last year he averaged 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals. At 6-8 and 230 pounds, Jois is a tough matchup for any defender. Last season he recorded eight double-doubles, including five in a row in late February and early March. Not often is a player expected to get a triple-double, but Jois certainly can dish out enough passes or block enough shots to make it happen. Bliznyuk, a 6-6 sophomore, came on strong at the end of his freshman campaign. Once he cracked the regular rotation, Bliznyuk scored in double digits 15 times in the last 21 games of the season. On the season, he averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds. Jois and Bliznyuk will team up to form one of the best frontcourts in the mid-major level.

Final Projection:
Now Eastern Washington needs to find some backcourt players to fill in around Jois and Bliznyuk. Felix Von Hofe, a 6-5 wing, is a very dangerous shooter. He connected on 41.2 percent of his three-point attempts and can score quite a few points when his shot is falling. He will get more opportunities now. Sir Washington will be in a similar situation. The 6-3 sophomore averaged nearly ten minutes per game and will at least be a solid defender. Eastern Washington may have lost four starters, but they had talent sitting down the bench and even more coming into the program. If everything comes together, EWU will be making their third NCAA Tournament appearance and their second in a row.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Austin McBroom, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Sir Washington, Sophomore, Guard, 2.6 points per game
Felix Von Hofe, Junior, Forward, 5.1 points per game
Bogdan Bliznyuk, Sophomore, Forward, 8.7 points per game
Venky Jois, Senior, Forward, 16.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 80.6 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.9 (329, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.8 (21, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.0 (281, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.8 (5, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.0 (8, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.6 (56, 5)
Rebound Margin: -0.1 (193, 5)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (145, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.7 (32, 2)


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