#136 Morehead State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Morehead State Eagles
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #2 Ohio Valley
Many expected Morehead State to take a step backwards last year. They had lost four starters and they did need some time to come together, but by OVC play, this was a very good team. Heading into the Ohio Valley conference tournament, the Eagles won six straight games. Their NCAA Tournament dreams were thwarted by Tennessee-Martin in the semifinals of the conference tournament, but Coach Sean Woods took his team to the CBI and made the most of the opportunity. After cruising past Siena, Duquesne and Ohio, Morehead State was in the CBI Finals. They won the first game of the best of three series at home against Nevada, but lost the next two in Reno, including a thrilling 85-82 overtime loss in the decisive game three. Now it is time to build off of that success.
2015-16 Record: 23-14, 11-5
2015-16 Postseason: CBI
Coach: Sean Woods
Coach Record: 75-63 at Morehead State, 125-143 overall
Who’s Out:
The unexpected loss of 6-3 guard Corban Collins will make things a little bit tougher though. Collins led the team with 11.0 points per game and was an extremely efficient and effective outside shooter. Brent Arrington, the lone returning starter on the 2015-2016 squad, is also gone. During his senior season he averaged 10.2 points, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals. Jared Ravenscraft, Anthony Elechi and Lyonell Gaines also graduated. Elechi is the biggest loss of the bunch. The 6-8, 235 pound forward was the team’s most dangerous interior scorer. The loss of Gaines leaves some major questions in the frontcourt.
Who’s In:
In an effort to help bolster the frontcourt, Coach Woods picked up three forwards from the junior college ranks. At 6-9 and 210 pounds, Keion Alexander is the biggest of the bunch. He is not going to score much, but Alexander is a tough rebounder and a capable shot blocker. Soufiyane Diakite is an undersized power forward, but Morehead State has had success with undersized power forwards in the past. Diakite’s versatility will make him tough to defend and he is a very strong rebounder, even against bigger opponents. Demetrius Levarity is taller than Diakite, but he is more of a big wing than a power forward. Levarity can score in bunches and knock down some outside shots and it will be interesting to see if Morehead State develops enough interior talent so Levarity can spend some time on the wing and cause a defensive mismatch. The lone newcomers in the backcourt are freshmen guards Dijmon Henson and Jordan Walker. Both will likely spend at least one year learning behind the returning talent, but with Collins’ departure, there are minutes to be had if either is ready for them.
Who to Watch:
Xavier Moon and Miguel Dicent are the best shooters on the team and could emerge as the team’s top two scorers. Moon was lethal from long range during his junior season, knocking down 41.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. He was tied with Arrington for second on the team with 10.2 points per game. Moon will need to be more aggressive attacking the basket and turn into a leader, but that should be easier for him to do without Collins and Arrington around. Dicent was just a part-time starter during his sophomore season and averaged 7.4 points per game. If Moon does turn into the team’s top scoring threat, expect Dicent to play a role similar to Moon last year as the dangerous shooter. The problem with those two starting on the wings is the team’s size. Moon is 6-2 and Dicent is 6-3. Neither is strong on the glass and that could be a concern. The point guard position will fall to Malik Maitland. By the end of his freshman campaign, Maitland was a starter and seeing a lot more minutes. He was also quite productive. In the loss to Nevada in the decisive CBI Finals game, he tied season highs with 12 points and nine assists.
Final Projection:
The frontcourt will build around DeJuan Marrero. He averaged 8.2 points and a team high 7.2 rebounds in 2015-2016 and was a huge reason why Morehead State was the best rebounding team in the OVC. Finding somebody to play beside Marrero is the bigger concern. Despite his toughness, Marrero is only 6-6 and not really somebody who would ideally play at the five spot. Lamontray Harris has a little more height, but lacks size. Ronnye Beamond is another undersized forward who played a few minutes here and there last season. Perhaps the most intriguing option is Ty’Quan Bitting. He barely played during his junior year, but at 6-9 and 220 pounds, he is the big body this team needs. And he has shown some potential during his time at Charleston Southern and Angelina College even though he failed to impress during his first year with the Eagles. And it is the frontcourt that could keep Morehead State out of the OVC title hunt. Marrero is a fine piece to build around, but he needs help from somewhere. Like last year, this team will likely lack star power, but they do have depth and all of the pieces they should need to have another 20 win season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Malik Maitland, Sophomore, Guard, 5.4 points per game
Miguel Dicent, Junior, Guard, 7.4 points per game
Xavier Moon, Senior, Guard, 10.2 points per game
DeJuan Marrero, Senior, Forward, 8.2 points per game
Keion Alexander, Junior, Center, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.5 (163rd in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.0 (101, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.9 (187, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.8 (189, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (286, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.3 (104, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.5 (180, 9)
Rebound Margin: 5.0 (43, 1)
Assists Per Game: 14.4 (98, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.5 (160, 6)