#82 UC Irvine Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

UC Irvine Anteaters

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #82
Conference Rank: #1 Big West

UC Irvine Team Page#82 UC Irvine Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy UC Irvine Basketball Tickets

UC Irvine finally made the NCAA Tournament. They have been the best team in the Big West before, but never were able to win the conference tournament and reach the NCAAs. That changed last year when the Anteaters were healthy at the right time and knocked off Hawaii in the Big West tournament final. While just getting to that point is nice, UC Irvine matched up very nicely against Louisville and took them down to the final possession in their 57-55 NCAA Tournament loss. Having Mamadou Ndiaye down the stretch was huge for the Anteaters. The 7-6 center missed most of last season, but returned in late February to provide a massive presence in the paint. On the year, Ndiaye averaged 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in his 15 appearances. With his size, Ndiaye is a difference maker for a team that prides itself on defense. Whether he is actually blocking a shot or not, Ndiaye alters what the opposition can do offensively.

2014-15 Record: 21-13, 11-5
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Russell Turner
Coach Record: 90-80 at UC Irvine, 90-80 overall

Who’s Out:
Will Davis II led the Anteaters in rebounding the last three seasons and also led the team in scoring during his senior season. Davis, who finished his senior season averaging 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, was a consistent and rugged big man who always worked hard in the paint. The loss of 6-10 center John Ryan leaves a few questions about the depth in the frontcourt. He averaged 5.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks during his senior season. Travis Souza was often overlooked on last year’s team, but the sharpshooter connected on an impressive 46.2 percent of his 145 three-point attempts.

Who’s In:
Even though eight players return who averaged at least ten minutes per game last season, Coach Russell Turner wants to go deeper than that in order to keep up the defensive intensity. The best opportunity for major minutes, and a starting job, is at power forward. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Galloway is a physical forward who at least has a year sitting on the sidelines to learn the system. He may not be a major scoring threat from day one, but Galloway will help keep the Anteaters competitive on the glass. Small forward Brandon Smith has the opportunity to crack the regular rotation as well. Smith was a nice pickup for the Anteaters and he has the size and length to be a tough matchup on the wing in the Big West. Guards Spencer Rivers, Max Hazzard, Darrian Traylor and Haitham Chehabi will have a tougher time cracking the regular rotation due to the talent and experience in front of them. Hazzard could be the point guard of the future and Traylor has the toughness to play the style of defense Coach Turner demands, but that may not be enough to see the court in 2015-2016.

Who to Watch:
The backcourt will once again revolve around Alex Young and Luke Nelson. Young will start at the point again after averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 assists during his junior campaign. He is a superb floor leader and also spearheads the defensive effort on the perimeter. Nelson is another experienced upperclassman. He ended up leading the team with 4.0 assists per game and added 10.5 points. However, Nelson’s outside shooting slipped during his sophomore season when he shot just 30.3 percent from long range and 35.7 percent overall. Two years ago the Englishman shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc and 41.2 percent from the floor. Without Souza, UC Irvine will need Nelson to get back to his more efficient shooting from 2013-2014. Jaron Martin and Aaron Wright will again provide most of the depth at the guard spots. Both are solid options to replace Souza’s shooting. Martin knocked down 48.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and Wright showed promise in the shooting department despite not taking too many shots. Haroldas Saprykinas may be the best pure shooter on the team, but the sophomore still lacks the overall game to play too many minutes. But it is Dominique Dunning who will likely step into Souza’s starting spot. The 6-4 senior has the potential to be a big time scorer and will at least help out on the glass. He only played 15.6 minutes per game last year and really didn’t look to score very much, but he still averaged 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Final Projection:
UC Irvine has been dangerous because of their size, but in order to keep the frontcourt productive, Mike Best and Ioannis Dimakopoulos will need more production. With Ndiaye’s injury issues and the fact that he is rarely going to play more than 20 to 25 minutes per game, both Best and Dimakopoulos will play key roles. Best averaged fewer than a dozen minutes per game last season, but the 6-10 senior is a decent interior scorer who has the experience to step into a starting role. Dimakopoulos, a 7-2 center, played even less in 2014-2015, but the big man from Patra, Greece is a tough matchup since he can knock down three-pointers. Best will compete with the newcomers for the starting job at power forward, while Dimakopoulos will have to eat up as many minutes as possible at the five spot when Ndiaye is not on the floor. With the experience in the backcourt and the big potential in the frontcourt, Irvine will be the favorite to win the Big West this season. If they can stay healthy in March, they will get another shot at pulling off an upset in the NCAA Tournament too.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Alex Young, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Luke Nelson, Junior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Dominique Dunning, Senior, Guard, 4.2 points per game
Jonathan Galloway, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Mamadou Ndiaye, Junior, Center, 10.5 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 67.5 (169th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.1 (60, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.1 (59, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.4 (27, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.4 (174, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.9 (27, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.4 (205, 6)
Rebound Margin: 1.6 (121, 2)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (67, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (85, 3)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#64 Mamadou Ndiaye


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