#109 Fresno State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Fresno State Bulldogs
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #109
Conference Rank: #5 Mountain West
Fresno State was having a very good season in 2015-2016, but they saved the best for last. Following a tough overtime loss at Nevada in mid-February, the Bulldogs reeled off six wins in a row to end the regular season. But they were not done yet. Coach Rodney Terry’s team went to the Mountain West tournament and reeled off three wins in three days against UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Once there, Fresno State competed well against Utah, but fell 80-69. Now there is some rebuilding to do. Gone are four of the team’s top five scorers and now Fresno State must find some new faces who can help this team compete in the tough Mountain West.
2015-16 Record: 25-10, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Rodney Terry
Coach Record: 85-83 at Fresno State, 85-83 overall
Who’s Out:
The biggest loss is Marvelle Harris, who averaged 20.7 points per game during his senior season. Harris added 4.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game as well. His scoring alone will be difficult enough to replace, but losing everything else and his leadership will be a big blow to Fresno State. Torren Jones, Julien Lewis and Cezar Guerrero all averaged at least 8.1 points per game. Jones led the team with 7.9 rebounds per game and Guerrero was one of the more efficient shooters on the team. Lionel Ellison is transferring as well. He could have been one of the primary ball handlers this season.
Who’s In:
There is a big group of newcomers and many of them will have to play important roles on this team. There are three transfers who have an edge in the experience department. Jacob Holland, a 6-4 shooting guard, joins from the junior college ranks and he could play an important role off of the bench if his outside shot is falling. Jaron Hopkins played two seasons at Colorado before sitting out with the Bulldogs in 2015-2016. Hopkins started 17 games as a sophomore, but the big 6-6 guard did not get too many opportunities to show just how good of a scorer he can be. Outside shooting is not his greatest asset, but Hopkins would give the Bulldogs a lot of size on the perimeter if he is starting at the shooting guard or point guard spots. Deshon Taylor will be in the mix in the backcourt as well after averaging 7.6 points per game with Kansas City as a freshman two years ago. The freshmen class is led by William McDowell-White. The 6-5 Australian guard turned down some bigger programs to come to Fresno and he could be the starting point guard from day one. His brother, walk-on Darryl McDowell-White will have a tougher time finding minutes right away. Johnny McWilliams is another player who could make a splash in the backcourt if his outside shot is falling. The frontcourt adds Lazaro Rojas, Bryson Williams and redshirt freshman Nate Grimes. Rojas is an interesting prospect and a big body who can shoot the ball. He is raw, but the potential is there. Grimes is the more likely candidate to step into a bigger role right away. The 6-8, 210 pound Las Vegas product has been around for a year and should be ready to play an important role in the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt does have some returning talent though so players like Rojas and Grimes will not have to be stars right away. Karachi Edo is the big man in the paint that Fresno State will work through. As a junior last season he averaged 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Edo is a very efficient scorer and it is not easy to stop him from putting the ball in the basket once he gets it in the paint. Senior Cullen Russo figures to join Edo in the starting lineup after averaging 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. Russo is a tough rebounder, but he can also step outside and knock down a few jumpers. At 6-9 and 225 pounds, that makes him very tough to defend, especially when Edo is sitting in the paint and deserving of a double team. Small forward Paul Watson should be starting too. He averaged 7.7 points per game and added 3.2 rebounds. More importantly, Watson is a very good outside shooter and this team needs to find a couple players who can consistently knock down three-pointers. Terrell Carter, a 6-10 center, will again add depth in the paint.
Final Projection:
Jahmel Taylor and Sam Bittner will have to battle it out with the newcomers for roles as shooters on this team. Without Harris and Guerrero, Fresno State has very little left when it comes to outside shooters and they will need more than just Watson to make outside shots if they have any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament again. With so many new faces though, that is a longshot. This team does have talent and three senior leaders in the frontcourt, but there will be some growing pains for a while. By March though, this could be a very dangerous team.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
William McDowell-White, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jaron Hopkins, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Paul Watson, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game
Cullen Russo, Senior, Forward, 7.8 points per game
Karachi Edo, Senior, Forward, 10.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.1 (125th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.7 (147, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.6 (197, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (98, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (247, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.3 (180, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.4 (187, 6)
Rebound Margin: 0.5 (172, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (174, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.8 (28, 1)