#72 Evansville Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Evansville Purple Aces

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #72
Conference Rank: #4 Missouri Valley

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At 9-9, Evansville finished in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley Conference. But the team was much better than just a middle of the road squad. The Purple Aces went to the CIT and beat Fort Wayne, Eastern Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee-Martin and Northern Arizona en route to a CIT Championship. With their top seven scorers back, Evansville has higher hopes than the CIT this season. And one of those returning players is senior guard D.J. Balentine. As a junior he averaged 20.1 points and 3.2 assists per game. Once again, Balentine will take all of the big shots for Evansville and once again, he will make most of those shots.

2014-15 Record: 24-12, 9-9
2014-15 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Marty Simmons
Coach Record: 126-134 at Evansville, 225-207 overall

Who’s Out:
The only departures are Jaylon Moore and Taylor Stafford. Moore, a 6-7 forward, averaged 4.1 points per game and was a tough big man who could eat up about ten minutes per contest. Stafford saw even fewer minutes during his last season with the Purple Aces, averaging 1.7 points per game.

Who’s In:
Even though Evansville returns their top seven players, Coach Marty Simmons will be looking for some depth from their newcomers. Sergej Vucetic, a transfer from Nebraska, adds a whole lot of size to the frontcourt. At 7-1 and 238 pounds, Vucetic is a massive presence in the paint. He rarely saw the floor during his two seasons with the Cornhuskers, but he should be able to play a few minutes for the Purple Aces and help clog the paint. Willie Wiley is another experienced big man who will add depth. The 6-7 Springfield, Illinois native redshirted last season after spending some time in the junior college ranks. At Vincennes, Wiley was a stand-out player and he should be one of those players who can step into the regular rotation to give Coach Simmons a little more depth. The lone incoming freshman is Harris Brown. He was a big-time scorer in high school and one of the better players to come out of the state of Indiana in this class. At the least, Brown should provide an offensive threat off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
Duane Gibson, Adam Wing, Blake Simmons and Egidijus Mockevicius figure to join Balentine in the starting lineup. Gibson is not going to score too much, but he can handle the ball. Wing was the team’s third leading scorer at 7.5 points per game and added 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists. With a little more improvement on his outside shot, Wing could be a consistent double-digit scorer. Simmons is a big 6-5, 210 pound wing who can play at the four spot for Evansville. He is a tough matchup for opposing forwards and is tough enough to play ball on the other end of the floor too. The true forward returning to the starting lineup is Egidijus Mockevicius. The 6-10 senior averaged 12.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. He is an efficient scorer in the paint and will remain one of the best rebounders in the MVC.

Final Projection:
Mislav Brzoja and Jaylon Brown started a handful of games as sophomores last season. Brzoja, a big 6-6 guard, was a great sixth man for Evansville. He averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Starting or not, Brzoja will be on the court at the end of games. He can do a lot of things for this team. Brown is a capable point guard and will at least provide Coach Simmons with a secondary ballhandler. David Howard and Christian Benzon, both juniors, will be looking for larger roles this season as well. However, that will be difficult with the incoming players and all of the returning talent. This will be a very good Evansville team, but whether or not they can make the jump all the way up to NCAA Tournament remains to be seen. It is a long way to go from 9-9 in the MVC to the NCAA Tournament though and a trip to the NIT is the more likely result.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Duane Gibson, Junior, Guard, 5.1 points per game
Adam Wing, Senior, Guard, 7.5 points per game
D.J. Balentine, Senior, Guard, 20.1 points per game
Blake Simmons, Junior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Egidijus Mockevicius, Senior, Center, 12.5 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.9 (83rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.6 (142, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.5 (10, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.9 (172, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.3 (330, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.5 (120, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.8 (20, 2)
Rebound Margin: 1.0 (150, 5)
Assists Per Game: 15.9 (13, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (190, 5)


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