#130 Marshall Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Marshall Thundering Herd
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #130
Conference Rank: #4 Conference USA
Coach Dan D’Antoni put together a fine second season at Marshall. Following an 11 win campaign in 2014-2015, the Thundering Herd boosted their win total to 17 last season. More importantly, Marshall went 12-6 in CUSA play, which was good enough to tie for third in the conference. With four starters returning, Marshall hopes to take another step forward in 2016-2017. Jon Elmore took over the team after becoming eligible in December following a transfer from VMI. In 25 games, he averaged 15.2 points and a team high 5.8 assists. Elmore emerged as a great floor leader and a solid three-point shooter.
2015-16 Record: 17-16, 12-6
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Dan D’Antoni
Coach Record: 28-37 at Marshall, 28-37 overall
Who’s Out:
The one starter lost is a big one. James Kelly led the Thundering Herd with 20.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He was a capable outside shooter and a dominating force in the paint. Kelly is a massive loss and his offensive versatility and presence on the glass will not be easily replaced. Justin Edmonds, Ajdin Penava, Aleksandar Dozic and Brett Bowling saw a few quality minutes here and there, but none of them averaged over ten minutes per game. So basically Marshall simply needs to replace their best player and the hope is the returning players can all step up and help fill the void.
Who’s In:
The newcomers will not be asked to do too much this season. The frontcourt could use the depth provided by Christian Thieneman, Jannson Williams and Phil Bledsoe. Williams is a player in the mold of Kelly; someone who can battle in the paint, but also step back and knock down outside shots. Bledsoe is a versatile 6-6 forward who can attack the basket. Once his outside shot starts coming around, he will be a very dangerous scorer for Marshall. The backcourt adds point guard Ky’re Allison and Ot Elmore, a graduate transfer from Texas- Rio Grande Valley.
Who to Watch:
Stevie Browning, Austin Loop and Ryan Taylor will join Jon Elmore in the starting lineup again in 2016-2017. Browning had a very good debut season with the Thundering Herd after spending some time at the Division II level. He averaged 12.8 points, 3.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds and will only get better with that year of DI experience under his belt. Loop is the best shooter on a team that is full of shooters. The 6-4 senior had another great season shooting the basketball and knocked down 39.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Loop is not much more than a shooter, but he does it very well. Taylor, a 6-5 senior, will have to do a lot of the work in the paint now that Kelly is gone. Despite being just 6-5, Taylor is a beast on the glass. Last year he averaged 6.6 rebounds per game and the year before that, when Kelly was not on the squad, he averaged 8.6 rebounds. Taylor also added 14.2 points per game during the 2015-2016 campaign. He will do the tough work, but Taylor will put up some big numbers too. 
Final Projection:
Marshall needs a big body in the paint and the hope is Terrence Thompson will be ready to step into a larger role after averaging 11.3 minutes per game as a sophomore last season. Last year was Thompson getting his feet wet after spending one year at the junior college level. He may not develop into a great scorer, but he should at least be able to defend and hit the glass effectively. C.J. Burks and Aleksa Nikolic will add most of the depth on the perimeter. Burks was the team’s sixth man last year and could play that same role this year. He is a dangerous scorer from everywhere on the floor and can spark the offense with his outside shooting or by attacking the basket. He is a valuable weapon to have on the bench. Nikolic played in just two games last year before an injury ended his season. Back in 2014-2015, the 6-5 wing started 25 games. He is a great passer and should compete for a starting job. With players like Nikolic coming back, this is a pretty deep and talented Marshall team. They should be able to take the next step and reach a postseason tournament of some sort. With Conference USA seemingly wide open this year, do not be surprised to see the Thundering Herd heading towards March with a shot at a conference title either.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Jon Elmore, Junior, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Stevie Browning, Senior, Guard, 12.8 points per game
Austin Loop, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Ryan Taylor, Senior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
Terrence Thompson, Junior, Forward, 3.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 86.0 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 84.9 (343, 14)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.6 (48, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 46.7 (321, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 10.1 (8, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.7 (225, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.3 (193, 8)
Rebound Margin: -3.3 (286, 12)
Assists Per Game: 16.8 (14, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (194, 8)