#121 San Francisco Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

San Francisco Dons
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #121
Conference Rank: #4 West Coast
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The San Francisco Dons were one of the youngest teams in the country, but still managed to record a 20-win season before losing in the first round of the CBI. This feat is even more impressive when you consider that this was Kyle Smith’s first year as the USF coach. Smith capped off his six seasons at Columbia with a CIT championship and brought the Lions a great deal of success in the Ivy League. USF was an extremely deep team in Coach Smith’s first season, as ten players averaged over 12 minutes per game and nine of those players return. This wealth of experienced players will make USF a dangerous team that could win 12 or 13 conference games. Led by their great defense, the Dons should establish themselves as a very strong mid major team.
2016-17 Record: 20-13, 10-8
2016-17 Postseason: CBI
Coach: Kyle Smith
Coach Record:  20-12 at San Francisco, 121-95 overall
Who’s Out:
Senior Ronnie Boyce provided instant offense off the bench and was the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game despite only playing 18.8 minutes per game. The 6-3 guard was a streaky shooter and struggled with his efficiency, shooting just 28.6% from three, but often kept the Dons in games with his periodic scoring bursts. Boyce scored over 20 points in eight games, but he also had many disappointing scoring outputs. Boyce is the only rotation member who is not returning and the Dons will need someone to step up to fill his off the bench scoring role. Chance Anderson and Marquill Smith played sparingly last season and both players will transfer. Anderson is a 6-7 PF and only appeared in 22 games as a freshman. Smith was a 6-4 sophomore wing and could not crack the rotation in his two seasons with the Dons.
Who’s In:
USF has four new players entering the program, but there are not many minutes available. The two newcomers who could potentially earn the available minutes are freshman guards Souley Boum and Jamaree Bouyea. Boum is a 6-3 guard with deep three-point range while Bouyea is a crafty point guard who can score in a variety of ways. One of these guards could establish themselves in the rotation, but it is more likely that a proven, returning player steps into a larger role. Freshman stretch four Taavi Jurkatamm is more of a long-term piece and has good size (6-9) for his position. Jurkatamm’s skill set is intriguing and he will provide depth behind more experienced frontcourt players. Erik Poulsen is a 6-11 junior college transfer who should also provide frontcourt depth as a sophomore.
Who to Watch:
USF returns five perimeter players who can all shoot from long range and put the ball on the floor. Chase Foster is the lone senior on the team and happens to be the leading returning scorer. Foster averaged 10.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game and was an exceptional three-point shooter. He hit 50 three pointers at a 40% clip. Charles Minlend is a 6-4 wing and had an excellent freshman season averaging 10 points per game. Minlend is one of USF’s many three point threats since he shot 37% from beyond the arc. Both Minlend and Foster could be in line for more minutes and more offensive responsibility since they are the team’s best scorers. Jordan Ratinho is the team’s best shooter and actually led the conference in three-point shooting percentage during the regular season at 44%. He also made 55 threes, which was the most on the team. At 6-5, Ratinho can play all three guard positions and his versatility makes him a very important piece. Even if Ratinho does not break into the starting lineup, he will play significant minutes. He actually led USF in minutes last season at 24.6 per game and is so valuable for the Dons. USF will split the point guard position between two juniors, Frankie Ferrari and Mladen Djordjevic. Since USF runs the Princeton offense, Ferrari and Djordjevic do not have the ball in their hands nearly as much as most point guards and are utilized more for their shooting ability. Ferrari shot 39.4% from deep while Djordjevic shot 35.3%. Ferrari ended the season on a high note and should earn more minutes as the lead guard.
The Dons rotated four different players between the power forward and center positions and all four players are returning for the 2017-18 season. Juniors Matt McCarthy and Nate Renfro started at the center and power forward, respectively. McCarthy is most comfortable with his back to the basket and is the team’s best rebounder and interior scorer. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. Renfro is a lanky and athletic forward who is known for his defensive ability. He is a dreadful shooter since he shot 40.7% from the free throw line, but his length allows him to contribute on the glass and get into passing lanes. Renfro averaged 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Both players struggled to connect from long range, as McCarthy shot 24.1% and Renfro shot 15.8%. The only frontcourt player who could consistently stretch the defense was Remu Raitenen. Raitenen is a sophomore stretch four who made 27 threes on 32.1% shooting during his freshman season. Expect Raitenen to shoot a higher percentage this season because many freshman shooters struggle with their efficiency and take a year or two to adjust to the college level. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game. Seven-foot center Jimbo Lull played quality minutes off the bench and gave the Dons some size up front. Lull averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game. The freshman center flashed a nice shooting stroke with his 72.7% free throw percentage and could become an interesting player if he can extend the range on his jump shot. All four players are important pieces for USF and they should benefit from an additional year of experience.
Final Projection:
The Dons run the Princeton offense which makes them very difficult to guard, but they lack a player who can break down the defense to get his own shot. This was Ronnie Boyce’s main contribution to the team and there are no clear candidates to replace him. To compensate for this loss, Charles Minlend and Chase Foster could take on more minutes and larger roles in the offense. USF distributed playing time relatively equally in their rotation since no player averaged over 25 minutes per game, but Minlend and Foster may have to play more minutes to ensure that there is enough offense on the court. The Dons also lack a quality distributor since no player averaged over 2.5 assists per game. While this can be partly attributed to the Princeton offense and the allocation of playing time, it may indicate that USF lacks quality offensive players. It is a chicken and egg situation, are the scoring and assist numbers low because they run the Princeton offense, or do they run the offense because they don’t have enough offensive firepower?
Remu Raitenen is the X-factor for USF. Raitenen, like most freshman, struggled with his three-point efficiency, but is the best shooter in the frontcourt. If Raitenen can improve his shooting, he will create more spacing on offense which will give the Dons another three-point threat and makes the offense significantly more potent. With so many rotation players returning, USF should make a run in the CBI or CIT and should aim for 25 wins which seems very realistic. While USF does not have the talent to usurp Gonzaga and St. Mary’s at the top of the conference, they will have enough talent to give them a scare and potentially pull off an upset. The Dons look poised for a very successful 17-18 campaign.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT/V16
Projected Starting Five:
Frankie Ferrari, Junior, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Charles Minlend, Sophomore, Guard, 10.0 points per game
Chase Foster, Senior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Nate Renfro, Junior, Forward, 5.2 points per game
Matt McCarthy, Junior, Center, 6.8 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.6 (214th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.3 (57, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (140, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.2 (89, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.1 (43, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35 (170, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 63.6 (340, 9)
Rebound Margin: .7 (161, 5)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (210, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (130, 7)