#121 Northwestern State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Northwestern State Demons
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #121
Conference Rank: #2 Southland
Northwestern State headed into the 2015-2016 campaign with high expectations. They were coming off of a season in which they led the nation in scoring and had two of the best scorers in the country returning in Zeek Woodley and Jalan West. In 2014-2015, those two combined to averaged 42.2 points per game. But West got hurt in the first game of the year and the Demons’ season went south in a hurry. The offense was lost without West and the defense was as bad as usual. The result was just eight wins, of which only five were against Division I opponents. West received a medical redshirt and is back for another go at his senior season and that is why Northwestern State was able to put their high expectations on hold for a year. On top of his 20.0 points per game, West averaged 7.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals in 2014-2015. He will team up with Woodley for one more year after Woodley was forced to go it alone last year, averaging 22.2 points.
2015-16 Record: 8-20, 5-13
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Mike McConathy
Coach Record: 267-260 at Northwestern State, 267-260 overall
Who’s Out:
Ta’Jon Welcome and Matt Killian are the most significant departures from last year’s team. Welcome started 16 games, but never emerged as a major scoring threat. And on Northwestern State, if you are not scoring, you are not playing too much. Still, Welcome was a big 6-4 guard and his size was important for the Demons even if it did not result in much help on the glass. Killian was one of the few forwards on the roster and earned a handful of starts during his senior season. He too was not much of a scoring threat, but Northwestern State did need him on the floor at times to provide a larger presence at the power forward position. Little used Levi Yancy, Daniel Hazelwood and Will Poole are the other losses.
Who’s In:
With West joining five returning players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game in 2015-2016, Coach Mike McConathy will not have to get too much production out of his newcomers. However, there is some size in this class and there is always room for big, athletic forwards on a team that gets up and down the floor as quickly as Northwestern State. Jordan Bell and Tanner Hamilton, at 6-8 and 6-9 respectively, fit that mold. Both can run the floor and both can shoot the ball from long range. Colby Koontz, a redshirt freshman, could also suit up for the Demons this season if his concussion issues are behind him. Koontz is more of a traditional big man who can help out on the glass. The backcourt adds Josh Boyd, Jacob Guest, Tyree Thompson and Texas Tech transfer Stan Mays. There could be a few minutes to go around for any guard who can knock down shots, but do not expect a big impact from the backcourt newcomers until next year.
Who to Watch:
There are a couple ways of looking at last year’s dismal campaign. On one hand, Northwestern State could be seen as a two player team and when West and Woodley are not around, this is not a good team. On the hand, that was supposed to be the year NSU made some serious noise in the Southland and competed for an NCAA berth. So when things started going bad, they gave up. If that is the case, at least some of the younger players were able to step up, occasionally, and gain some valuable experience. Two years ago West and Woodley were the only players who were threats to score. Last year, players like Sabri Thompson, Devonte Hall and Ishmael Lane turned into double digit scorers as well. Thompson averaged 12.6 points per game and the 6-3 guard was right on par with Woodley when it came to three-point shooting. Hall took over the point guard duties and performed well, averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 assists. Lane emerged as the lone big man and Northwestern State looked his way on offense. He averaged 11.5 points and a team high 5.6 rebounds.
Final Projection:
Of course Northwestern State wants to work through West and Woodley, but last season showed that there could be other options on this team. Thompson can knock down shots and Hall can at least be a very productive secondary ball handler. Lane can score in the paint if Northwestern can wait long enough for him to get down the floor. If all goes well, the opposition will have more to worry about than West and Woodley and that should scare everybody in the Southland. West and Woodley alone are scary enough. With depth coming from Tra’von Joseph, Reginald Kissoonlal and Bailey Walker, not to mention the newcomers, Coach McConathy has the bodies and the weapons to get this team back to being the best scoring offense in the country. And with Stephen F. Austin taking a step back, this is the year for Northwestern State to make a serious run towards the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Jalan West, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Devonte Hall, Junior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
Zeek Woodley, Senior, Guard, 22.2 points per game
Sabri Thompson, Senior, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Ishmael Lane, Sophomore, Center, 12.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.4 (35th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 86.2 (344, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.6 (85, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 48.4 (339, 11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.4 (134, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.8 (124, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 76.6 (10, 1)
Rebound Margin: -6.5 (332, 11)
Assists Per Game: 15.5 (48, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.5 (316, 5)