#84 UC Irvine Men's Basketball 2019-2020 Preview

UC Irvine Anteaters
2019-2020 Overall Rank: #84
Conference Rank: #1 Big West
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UC Irvine has finished in the top two in the Big West each of the last six seasons, but last year was their program making campaign. The Anteaters went 15-1 in conference play and won their first ever NCAA Tournament game by upsetting Kansas State in the First Round. Even with a few departures, Coach Russell Turner’s stifling defensive play will again make UC Irvine the favorite to win the conference title.
2018-19 Record: 31-6, 15-1
2018-19 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Russell Turner
Coach Record: 188-128 at UC Irvine, 188-128 overall
Key Departed Players:
Max Hazzard, Guard, 12.5 ppg
Robert Cartwright, Guard, 7.1 ppg
Jonathan Galloway, Forward, 6.9 ppg
Elston Jones, Forward, 5.8 ppg
Darrian Traylor, Guard, 1.8 ppg
Spencer Rivers, Guard, 1.3 ppg
Key Returning Players:
Evan Leonard, Senior, Guard, 11.3 ppg
Eyassu Worku, Senior, Guard, 7.0 ppg
Collin Welp, Sophomore, Forward, 8.6 ppg
Tommy Rutherford, Senior, Forward, 6.7 ppg
Brad Greene, Senior, Center, DNP
JC Butler, Sophomore, Forward, 1.4 ppg
John Edgar, Junior, Forward, 6.4 ppg
Key New Players:
Devin Cole, RS Freshman, Guard
Aiden Krause, RS Freshman, Guard
Jeron Artest, Freshman, Guard
Austin Johnson, Freshman, Forward
Emmauel Tshimanga, Freshman, Center
Isiah Lee, Freshman, Guard
Justin Hohn, Freshman, Guard
Dean Keeler, Freshman, Forward
The return of the senior backcourt duo of Evan Leonard and Eyassu Worku provides the Anteaters with a great foundation. Leonard is a very efficient outside shooter and can score by getting to the basket as well. After averaging 11.3 points per game in 2018-2019, Leonard should emerge as the team’s top scoring threat this year. Worku is not a huge scoring threat, but the point guard will set up his teammates and work hard on the defensive end of the floor. The only starter back in the frontcourt is Tommy Rutherford, who will be asked to pick up some of the rebounding left behind with the departure of Jonathan Galloway and Elston Jones, but there are plenty of other proven frontcourt players. John Edgar, a 6-5 junior, started 11 games and averaged 6.4 points and 3.0 rebounds, while Collin Welp was third on the team in scoring with 8.6 points despite coming off the bench. Welp, a 6-9 sophomore, added 4.3 rebounds and is the big man who can stretch the defense. Brad Greene also returns after redshirting last season. Coach Turner will likely need some production and depth from his many freshmen and he should be able to get it from Jeron Artest, Justin Hohn, Austin Johnson, Isaiah Lee and Emmanuel Tshimanga.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.3 (178th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.6 (21, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (90, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.2 (4, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.8 (265, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (99, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.2 (193, 4)
Rebound Margin: 7.0 (9, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (208, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (81, 4)