#140 Jacksonville State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #140
Conference Rank: #2 Ohio Valley
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Coach Ray Harper wasted little time turning around Jacksonville State. There were some ups and downs during the regular season and the Gamecocks went just 9-7 in Ohio Valley play, but by March this was a very dangerous team. And they proved it in Nashville during the conference tournament. The Gamecocks knocked off top seed Belmont in a big upset during the semifinals and then beat Tennessee-Martin in the final to reach their first ever NCAA Tournament. For a team that many expected to finish last in the conference, that is a great season. JSU even managed to hang around against Louisville in the first round of the tournament and lost 78-63.
2016-17 Record: 20-15, 9-7
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ray Harper
Coach Record: 20-15 at Jacksonville State, 463-137 overall
Who’s Out:
There is quite a bit of turnover for this year, but it is not a bad thing once compared to who is coming in. But five total non-seniors are off the roster, including three who played last season. Andre Statam, Derrick Green and Deshawn Jones all will look to play elsewhere this season. Statam is the only player who averaged more than ten minutes per game though. The 6-6 wing averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds. The more significant departures are Greg Tucker and Erik Durham. Tucker ranked second on the team with 11.3 points and was an offensive menace that would consistently knock down three-pointers and use his quickness to attack the basket. Durham was one of the more underrated shooters around. He connected on 48.4 percent of his 155 three-point attempts during his senior season.
Who’s In:
Coach Harper has brought in five junior college transfers, including four guards that have Division I experience. PJ Bruce was a top 150 recruit coming out of high school and played his freshman campaign at Oregon State where he averaged 4.4 points and 1.4 assists per game. He had some great outings late in that season though. Last year the 6-3 point guard was at Northwest Florida State College where he averaged 7.4 points and 2.3 assists. Maurice Dunlap, who spent some time at Mississippi State, will compete for minutes at the point as well. Jamall Gregory played sparingly as a freshman at South Carolina, but showed what he could do last season at Chipola College. He is a tough 6-3 guard that can be a very good player at this level. Marlon Hunter started a handful of games while at Western Kentucky as a freshman and is another tough guard who can score attacking the basket. Jason Burnell and Cam Martin, the lone incoming freshmen, will look to add depth to the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Burnell will immediately find a spot in the frontcourt rotation behind returning starters Christian Cunningham and Norbertas Giga. Cunningham, a 6-7 junior, is a beast on the defensive end. He averaged 8.1 points and 1.7 blocks in 2016-2017. Offensively, Cunningham is extremely efficient. He shot 61.3 percent from the floor and nearly doubled his scoring average to 8.2 points during his sophomore season. If JSU needs Cunningham to be more of a force on offense, he can do it. Giga will handle much of the scoring in the paint though. He is a versatile seven-footer who can score inside and step outside and knock down an occasional three-pointer. Giga also averaged 8.1 rebounds per game. Jacara Cross is another big body who will provide depth in the paint. He showed promise as a freshman and will compete with Burnell for minutes off the bench.
Final Projection:
Malcolm Drumwright is the lone returning starter on the perimeter and that is where Jacksonville State needs to rebuild. Drumwright led the team with 12.5 points and 3.9 assists and is the only proven shooting threat on the roster. Sophomores Tyrik Edwards and Ashton Spears should improve with a year of experience under their belt, but they will be pushed by all of the talented newcomers on the perimeter. If those newcomers pan out, this will be a very dangerous Jacksonville State team. Coach Harper has been successful where he has been and it was a surprise that the success happened so quickly. Now he has had a little time to get his system in place and a few more of his players on the roster so the expectations continue to grow.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT/V16
Projected Starting Five:
PJ Bruce, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Malcolm Drumwright, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Jamall Gregory, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Christian Cunningham, Junior, Forward, 8.2 points per game
Norbertas Giga, Senior, Center, 11.0 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.5 (257th in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.9 (65, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.9 (92, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.7 (69, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.4 (169, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.7 (61, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.4 (127, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.7 (67, 4)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (129, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.6 (240, 8)