#81 UT Arlington Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


UT Arlington Mavericks


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #81

Conference Rank: #1 Sun Belt

UT Arlington Logo
Coach Scott Cross has done a great job at UT Arlington and last season the Mavericks won the Sun Belt regular season title with a 14-4 record. The Mavericks were upset in the conference tournament by Texas State in the semifinals and had to settle for a trip to the NIT, but they made the most of that opportunity. UTA dropped 105 points on BYU in the first round and then beat Akron before finally falling to CSU Bakersfield in the quarterfinals. Three starters are gone, but the Mavericks return two of the best players in the Sun Belt and will again be the team to beat in the conference.
2016-17 Record: 27-9, 14-4
2016-17 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Scott Cross
Coach Record: 204-148 at UT Arlington, 204-148 overall
Who’s Out:
Losing three starters does hurt though. Drew Charles and Jalen Jones were both experienced senior guards. Charles averaged 8.4 points per game and was the most consistent and prolific three-point shooter on the team. Jones was second on the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game. He too could make some three-pointers, but Jones was also dangerous closer to the basket. Jorge Bilbao was a consistent scorer in the paint during his senior season, making 53.9 percent of his attempts from the floor. The 6-8 forward averaged 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds. Faith Pope added some frontcourt depth during his senior season, averaging 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in less than 12 minutes per game.
Who’s In:
Coach Cross has quite a few players returning who should be ready to step into bigger roles, but there will be room for the five eligible newcomers to make an impact too. Junior college transfer Davion Turner is one of three new players who will look to add options to the frontcourt. Turner spent last season at Hill College in Texas and proved to be a capable rebounder and a dynamic scorer. He can shoot the ball very well for a 6-9 forward and has the athleticism to play on the wing. Freshmen Tim Holland and Nils Huizenga will look to add depth for now. Holland is another talented scorer, while Huizenga can do more of the dirty work in the paint. Freshmen David Azore and Pedro Castro are the newcomers on the perimeter. Both are big guards who can score in a variety of ways. If they are making shots, either could find a spot in the regular rotation.
Who to Watch:
Forward Kevin Hervey and point guard Erick Neal are the clear leaders of this group, but the development of the rest of the team will make the difference between a good season and a great season. Hervey, a 6-9 senior, is the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year after averaging 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds last season. He also added 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals. Hervey can battle in the paint, but he is also a very prolific outside shooter. Seniors Julian Harris and Link Kabadyundi and sophomore Erkam Kiris are the only other returning forwards and centers on the roster and none of them averaged over ten minutes per game last season. Harris is the most proven option, but he is only 6-5. Kabadyundi is a 7-1 center who likely will have to spend more time roaming the paint this season. Neal will lead the backcourt after averaging 10.6 points and an impressive 6.6 assists per game as a junior in 2016-2017. He makes everybody on the team better and would be a candidate for conference player of the year if it were not for Hervey standing in the way. Neal is a good shooter and can score, which he will do plenty of this year, but he also needs to help usher in some of the new scorers. Kaelon Wilson is an experienced senior who has starting experience. He averaged 8.8 points last season, but did struggle with his outside shot. Nathan Hawkins struggled shooting the ball too, but he will play a bigger role this season, whether it is in the starting lineup or as a potential scoring threat off the bench.
Final Projection:
Both Wilson and Hawkins could be on a short leash if the freshmen can knock down shots. Coach Cross does need to find somebody who can help replace the shooting production lost with Charles. There are certainly options though whether it comes from the experienced seniors or the promising freshmen. If Turner can do the dirty work in the paint and help create space for Hervey and the shooters, this will again be a very good UT Arlington squad. This is the year for a run to the NCAA Tournament. The newcomers are a solid group, but this is a senior heavy team and it will take a lot of time to get over the loss of Hervey and Neal following the 2017-2018 season. It will be easier to stomach with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Erick Neal, Senior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Kaelon Wilson, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Nathan Hawkins, Senior, Guard, 3.8 points per game
Kevin Hervey, Senior, Forward, 17.1 points per game
Davion Turner, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.3 (60th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.9 (113, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.1 (83, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.2 (43, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.6 (72, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.7 (241, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.1 (257, 5)
Rebound Margin: 3.4 (74, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.8 (39, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (179, 7)