#107 Fairfield Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


Fairfield Stags

2017-2018 Overall Rank: #107

Conference Rank: #2 MAAC

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Fairfield had another decent, but not spectacular season in 2016-2017. Coach Sydney Johnson led the Stags to their third trip to the CIT in six seasons as the head coach. Unfortunately, Fairfield has not reached any other tournament during that time. Last year the trip to the CIT again ended quickly, this time with an 88-83 loss at UMBC. This season will be extremely interesting though. There is a lot of very good talent coming into the program and four starters returning, but a few transfers have stymied expectations. The return of Tyler Nelson gives the Stags their superstar to build around. Nelson, a 6-3 senior, averaged 19.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals last season. He took 207 three-point attempts and connected on an impressive 39.1 percent of those attempts. He is one of the best pure shooters in the MAAC.
2016-17 Record: 16-15, 11-9
2016-17 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Sydney Johnson
Coach Record: 90-108 at Fairfield, 156-161 overall
Who’s Out:
The only other two players besides Nelson who averaged in double figures in the scoring column have opted to transfer. Curtis Cobb is off to Umass after averaging 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. Jerry Johnson, Jr. is headed to Chattanooga after tallying 11.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Along with Nelson, those two were the main outside shooting threats on the team. Deniz Celen, a 6-8 center, is also transferring after averaging 2.0 points and 2.1 rebounds as a freshman. He could have developed into a force in the paint. The only seniors on the roster in 2016-2017 were Amadou Sidibe and Andrew Leone. Sidibe was a starter during his senior season and averaged 8.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. Fairfield was not a good rebounding team, but Sidibe certainly helped even things out a little bit with his work on the glass.  
Who’s In:
Coach Johnson, either by choice or by force, is building his program the right way. After some of the transfers, Fairfield did not panic and pick up a bunch of transfers to help fill those gaps immediately with experienced players. Of the nine newcomers, only one is a junior college transfer and the rest are freshmen. That may not help the Stags reach an NCAA Tournament this year, but it does help the long term stability of the program. The most important newcomers this season will likely be Wassef Methnani and Ferron Flavors. Methnani, a 6-8, 208 pound forward, is a versatile player who can stretch the defense with his outside shooting. Flavors, who spent one season at the junior college level, is one of many players who will look to replace the outside shooting of Cobb and Johnson. Aidas Kavaliauskas, Alonde LeGrand, Taj Benning and Jesus Cruz add more options on the perimeter. Kavaliauskas and Benning can both handle the ball and could be key players off the bench if their shots are falling. Kevin Senghore-Peterson is another interesting option. The 6-6 forward is a little undersized to man the power forward spot, but he is tough and a solid rebounder. Omar El-Sheikh and Aziz Sultan Essa will look to add even more depth in the paint.
Who to Watch:
This is a conference where the backcourt usually wins championships. Without Cobb and Johnson, there are certainly some questions to answer. Jerome Segura, a 5-11 senior, had an up and down junior campaign. He dished out 4.1 assists per game, but the turnovers were a little high on occasion and he never emerged as a scoring threat, averaging just 5.9 points per game. He can facilitate the offense effectively, but Segura could see his minutes decrease if one of the newcomers can do the same thing and be a threat to score. Thomas Nolan and Olivier Cadieux are candidates to step into a starting job on the wing after showing some promise as freshmen. Cadieux is more of an undersized forward, but Nolan has the potential to turn into the shooting threat this team needs to compliment Nelson. There is a shooting threat in the frontcourt though in Matija Milin. The 6-9 junior started 17 games a season ago and averaged 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds. He connected on 29 three-pointers and is capable of stretching the defense. The more traditional interior presence is Jonathan Kasibabu. In less than 20 minutes per game in 2016-2017, he averaged 6.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Kasibabu is a better rebounder than his numbers would indicate and he should see his numbers boost significantly on the glass as he replaces Sidibi as the team’s top rebounder.
Final Projection:
Fairfield has just about everything they need. Segura is an experienced point guard. Nelson is a high scoring shooter and Milin and Kasibabu are a dynamic frontcourt pairing. Nolan and Cadieux may not be the most talented players on the roster, but they have some experience. As long as some of the newcomers are ready to go, this will be a very good team. Coach Johnson does not need a deep rotation and he will likely settle on eight or nine players by the time conference play rolls around. If somebody can provide frontcourt depth behind Milin and Kasibabu, while another emerges as a decent starting small forward and another as a shooter and scorer off the bench, Fairfield will be in great shape. The inexperience outside of the four key returning upperclassmen will be an issue for a while, but by March, the talent on the roster will make up for their inexperience and Fairfield will be looking for their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Jerome Segura, Senior, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Tyler Nelson, Senior, Guard, 19.5 points per game
Thomas Nolan, Sophomore, Guard, 1.9 points per game
Matija Milin, Junior, Forward, 8.3 points per game
Jonathan Kasibabu, Junior, Forward, 6.3 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.6 (190th in nation, 8th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.5 (213, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.2 (187, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.9 (183, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.5 (80, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.5 (246, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (252, 10)
Rebound Margin: -2.1 (265, 8)
Assists Per Game: 15.0 (78, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (220, 7)