#143 Cal State Northridge Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Cal State Northridge Matadors
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #143
Conference Rank: #4 Big West
Despite having a very young team and a plethora of issues surrounding the program, which resulted in postseason ineligibility, Cal State Northridge had some promising moments during the 2015-2016 campaign. Coach Reggie Theus is just 36-62 during his three years with the Matadors, but this should be the year where CSUN can make a serious run at a Big West title. The talent is certainly there but, as usual, the bigger question is whether or not everybody will stay suited up for this team and make it through the entire season. Kendall Smith missed the first semester last season after transferring in from UNLV, but he made an immediate splash once eligible. After coming in off of the bench for his first game, the 6-3 guard started the last 20 games of the year, averaging a team high 15.3 points and adding 3.0 assists per game. Aaron Parks missed a large chunk of the 2015-2016 too, in his case due to violation of team rules and university policy. But once he was eligible, Parks turned into the team’s second leading scorer and proved to be a very potent backcourt mate for Smith.
2015-16 Record: 10-20, 5-11
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Reggie Theus
Coach Record: 36-62 at Cal State Northridge, 77-85 overall
Who’s Out:
By senior day, CSUN had just one senior left on the team. Tre Hale-Edmerson started all 30 games during his senior season, averaging 8.4 points and a team high 3.1 assists. He was also a decent shooter on a team that desperately lacked outside shooting threats. Landon Drew and Olalekan Ajayi were off the team by the end of the year for various reasons. Drew saw his playing time dwindle and he averaged just 3.7 points and 1.7 assists in 15 outings. Ajayi was a regular starter, but not a scoring threat.
Who’s In:
The list of newcomers consists of five transfers, four of which come from the Division I ranks. Perhaps the best of the bunch is Darin Johnson. The 6-5 wing spent two seasons at Washington where he was an occasionally used substitute. He can score in bunches and has the size to be a strong rebounder in the Big West. The rest of the transfers have even more size. Reggie Theus Jr. joins his father’s squad after spending two years barely playing at South Carolina. Fellow forward Rakim Lubin has a big 6-8, 257 pound frame and spent one season at Connecticut before transferring to CSUN. He played in 24 games for the Huskies in 2014-2015, but did not see many minutes. Still, he is a big time talent for the Big West. Center Dylan Johns played some important minutes as a freshman at Texas A&M back in 2013-2014, but saw his playing time decrease as a sophomore. At 6-11 and 240 pounds, Johns can at least make a big splash on the defensive end. The final newcomer is another big man, 6-8, 252 pound Blair Orr, who spent one season at the University of Winnipeg. Coach Theus again has a lot of talent coming in, but history has taught us that something will go awry and all of the talent will not turn into production.
Who to Watch:
The difference this year is that even if one or two of the newcomers do not pan out or live up to their expectations, CSUN still returns enough talent to be a decent team in the Big West. On top of Smith and Parks, Michael Warren, Tavrio Dawson and Jason Richardson all started at least a dozen games in 2015-2016. Warren is a solid all-around scorer and was a regular starter during his sophomore season. Warren deserves to start and is a very efficient scorer for a guard, but he could be the guy that comes in off of the bench and provides a spark. Unlike some of the other guards on the team, Warren can manufacture points by attacking the basket or spark the offense by knocking down three-pointers. Richardson is not much of a shooter, but he can handle the ball and will only get better during his sophomore season. Jerron Wilbut will see some time off of the bench in the backcourt too, especially when his shot is falling. Dawson is the main frontcourt player returning. He only started a dozen games, but averaged 9.9 points and a team high 5.5 rebounds.
Final Projection:
Coach Theus has a lot of very talented pieces to work with. This team can play big and they can play small. There are a slew of slashers who can attack the basket and more than enough size and strength to compete with the taller teams in the Big West. If it all comes together, CSUN can compete for a Big West title. One area this group needs to work on is their outside shooting. Smith, Warren and Wilbut are capable options, but Johnson could make all of the difference in that department. Losing a glue guy like Hale-Edmerson hurts, but the frontcourt reloads with all of the somewhat experienced newcomers. That group may not be as good of interior passers as Hale-Edmerson, yet they will block more shots and grab more rebounds. As long as the off-court issues stay off the court and Coach Theus can keep this group together, CSUN will have something to say about the Big West title race.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Kendall Smith, Senior, Guard, 15.3 points per game
Aaron Parks, Senior, Guard, 13.3 points per game
Darin Johnson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Tavrion Dawson, Junior, Forward, 9.9 points per game
Dylan Johns, Junior, Center, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.4 (212th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 75.4 (262, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.2 (208, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.0 (207, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.2 (343, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 29.6 (334, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.7 (109, 1)
Rebound Margin: -2.1 (255, 8)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (119, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.0 (295, 8)