#131 Evansville Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview



Evansville Purple Aces
2014-2015 Overall Rank: #131
Conference Rank: #7 Missouri Valley
Evansville struggled through a disappointing 2013-2014 campaign, finishing with a 14-19 overall record. But that was a very, very young team that got better by the end of the year. In fact, they won three in a row before falling to Wichita State in the MVC Tournament. The Purple Aces and Coach Marty Simmons should take that momentum and their new found experience and accomplish much more in 2014-2015. D.J. Balentine, a 6-2 junior, will again lead the way after averaging an impressive 22.8 points and 4.2 assists. While Balentine shot nearly 40 percent from long range, his scoring numbers are so high because of his ability to get to the charity stripe. He connected on 84.7 percent of his 255 free-throw attempts.
2013-14 Record: 14-19, 6-12
2013-14 Postseason: none
Coach: Marty Simmons
Coach Record: 102-122 at Evansville, 102-122 overall


Who’s Out:
There are no major departures from this team. Evansville returns 96.5 percent of their scoring and rebounding and 97.9 percent of their assists. Few teams in the nation can match those numbers.


Who’s In:
Coach Simmons did add a couple of junior college transfers who will make an immediate impact on this team. Willie Wiley, a 6-7 forward, will add some much needed size and rebounding prowess to the roster. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds at Vincennes University, one of the best junior colleges in the country, last season and earned All-American accolades. Guard Taylor Stafford, who comes to Evansville from Eastern Arizona College, is a big time scorer and shooter. He averaged 25 points per game last season and will at least give Evansville a great shooting option off of the bench.


Who to Watch:
The development of the starters around Balentine will be the difference between a team that hovers around .500 and a team that seriously competes for one of the top spots in the MVC. Duane Gibson showed flashes as a freshman, averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 assists. The speedy point guard will not need to score too much, although he certainly can, and setting up his teammates and keeping the turnovers down will be his most important job. Adam Wing, a 6-4 junior, often gave up his shots to Balentine. He can be a good scorer when needed, but Wing is a solid glue guy too. Blake Simmons had a great freshman campaign and averaged 9.3 points per contest. He is a good shooter from anywhere on the floor and, at 6-5 and 210 pounds, gives his father flexibility to play small with Blake at the four spot or big with him at the three. Evansville started small all of last season with Egidiju Mockevicius manning the paint. The 6-10 junior is a superb shot blocker and rebounder, but is also one of the more efficient scorers in the Missouri Valley Conference. He hit 62.7 percent of his shots from the floor and averaged 10.5 points per game. As Mockevicius develops into more and more of a scoring threat in the paint, Balentine will get more and more open looks from outside.


Final Projection:
When Coach Simmons needs to play bigger, he can call on Jaylon Moore and David Howard. Moore is a capable interior scorer, while Howard is a fine a defender who can spell Mockevicius. Jaylon Brown will once again backup Gibson at the point. However, all three of the key reserves will have to fight for minutes with the junior college transfers coming in. Despite all of the returning talent, this is still a young team. Moore is the only senior on the roster. Reaching a postseason tournament of some sort should be the realistic goal for now, with much higher hopes coming in 2015-2016.


Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Duane Gibson, Sophomore, Guard, 6.7 points per game
D.J. Balentine, Junior, Guard, 22.8 points per game
Adam Wing, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Blake Simmons, Sophomore, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Egidiju Mockevicius, Junior, Center, 10.5 points per game


By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.4 (217th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.2 (236, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.2 (61, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.6 (225, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.4 (336, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: NR
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.8 (105, 4)
Rebound Margin: -2.1 (258, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.7 (49, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (229, 9)