#129 Wagner Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Wagner Seahawks
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #129
Conference Rank: #1 NEC
The expectations were not high for Wagner heading into the 2015-2016 season. Many pundits picked the Seahawks to finish near the bottom of the NEC pecking order, but Coach Bashir Mason and company had other ideas. Wagner ended up winning the regular season conference title. Their bid for an NCAA Tournament berth fell short at the hands of Fairleigh Dickinson in the conference tournament final, but the Seahawks were not done there. In the NIT, the Seahawks upset top seeded St. Bonaventure before falling at Creighton. With five players back who started at least nine games last season and renewed toughness on the defensive end and on the glass, this should be the team to beat in the NEC.
2015-16 Record: 23-11, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Bashir Mason
Coach Record: 70-54 at Wagner, 70-54 overall
Who’s Out:
Dwaun Anderson was a huge pickup for the Seahawks when they recruited him a few years back. During his senior season he averaged 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds. And while his outside shooting never really developed, Anderson was a great slasher and a very tough rebounder. The loss of Henry Brooks leaves a big hole in the frontcourt. Brooks was the big 6-8, 240 pound forward in the paint who often played with four guards around him. Brooks was never going to be a big time scorer or rebounder, but he did his defensive duties and did them quite effectively. Aaren Edmead and Japhet Kadji are not returning after spending last year in the regular rotation. Both averaged around 15 minutes per game and were relatively important pieces off of the bench. Wagner will have to find some new depth with those two gone.
Who’s In:
Some of the lost production can be replaced by a trio of experienced newcomers. AJ Sumbry will finally suit up again after spending last year redshirting as a transfer from Quinnipiac and the year prior on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. As a freshman back in 2013-2014, Sumbry did start a few games for the Bobcats, but failed to make a huge impact. A couple years older and wiser, Sumbry could emerge as a Brooks type of player. Shaq Scott is another athletic forward who can get up and down the floor and play on both ends. He spent the last two years at Monroe Community College after redshirting at Iona out of high school. The other experienced newcomer is wing Elijah Davis. In typical Wagner style, Davis is a big, tough wing who can score and help out on the glass. Davis’ versatility and quickness will make him a tough matchup in the NEC. Incoming freshmen Connor Ferrell and Jamar Brown should have some time to work on their games before being asked to contribute too much. But Ferrell can knock down shots and Brown could be the defensive stalwart in the paint that this team needs.
Who to Watch:
The NEC is often dominated by guard play and Wagner might just have the best group of guards in the conference. Michael Carey averaged 12.6 points and a team high 9.1 rebounds per game. It was because of Carey that Wagner ranked 26th in the country in rebounding margin. At times this is a small team up front, but it is a big team in the backcourt that is filled with tough guards who can rebound the ball and nobody shows that more than Carey. Romone Saunders is another big guard that can hit the glass. As a part-time starter last season, Saunders averaged 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds. He also knocked down 39.5 percent of his 114 attempts from beyond the arc. But Corey Henson is the team’s most efficient and effective shooter. He connected on 40.2 percent of his three-point attempts and led the team with 13.3 points. Henson can also handle the ball and will often run the show. However, JoJo Cooper can run the show too after leading the team with 2.9 assists per game despite making just nine starts. Cooper has proven in the past that he can score too, but he left that to others last season. If he is going to be a regular in the starting lineup, with Henson moving off of the ball in order to find more open looks, Cooper will need to find his shooting stroke again. Sophomore Devin Liggeons could turn into a key piece off of the bench after an up and down freshman campaign.
Final Projection:
This team will not want to, or more accurately cannot, play small all of the time. Carey is not a power forward. Last year Brooks and Mike Aaman started a lot together in the frontcourt with Kadji filling in some minutes off of the bench. Of those three only Aaman is back. Aaman, a 6-8 forward, is a decent interior scorer and a better rebounder than any of the departed frontcourt players, but Coach Mason needs to find some depth in the frontcourt. Greg Senat is the only other returning option, but he will be spending time with the football team this year and will miss some time with the basketball team. That means the frontcourt depth, and potentially a starting spot, will have to come from the newcomers. If they are not ready, Wagner could get off to a slow start and their tough defensive play that led to a conference title last year, could suffer.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
JoJo Cooper, Junior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Corey Henson, Junior, Guard, 13.3 points per game
Romone Saunders, Junior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Michael Carey, Senior, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Mike Aaman, Senior, Forward, 8.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.3 (246th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.0 (27, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.4 (253, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.2 (57, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.0 (276, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (255, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.3 (120, 2)
Rebound Margin: 6.7 (26, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (182, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (243, 4)