#106 UC Irvine Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

UC Irvine Anteaters

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #106
Conference Rank: #2 Big West

UC Irvine Team Page#106 UC Irvine Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy UC Irvine Basketball Tickets

UC Irvine was cruising along nicely until they ran into the apparent juggernaut that was Cal Poly, who had a date with the NCAA Tournament despite a losing record overall and in conference play. Prior to losing to Poly in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, Irvine had won 10 of their previous 11 games. That included two victories over the Mustangs. The loss forced the regular season Big West champions to head to the NIT, where they lost to SMU in the first round. But with four starters returning, Coach Russell Turner and company hope to make amends in 2014-2015. With a stifling defense and an efficient offense, there is no reason for this team to falter. The Anteaters share the ball amazingly well and ranked third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and fourth in total blocked shots.

2013-14 Record: 23-12, 13-3
2013-14 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Russell Turner
Coach Record: 69-67 at UC Irvine, 69-67 overall

Who’s Out:
The only significant loss is Chris McNealy. The guard averaged 11.0 points per game, tied for second on the team, and knocked down 35.9 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. But McNealy was not just a shooter, he used his 6-4 frame to attack the basket effectively.

Who’s In:
With just one loss, neither power forward Jonathan Galloway or combo guard Haroldas Saprykinas will be asked to contribute much in 2014-2015. The Anteaters return nine players who averaged over ten minute per game, so there is not much room for minutes. Of course, either could play their way into the rotation. It just will not be easy.

Who to Watch:
Mamadou Ndiaye turned into one of the most interesting and impactful players of the 2013-2014 campaign. The 7-6 center averaged 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks as a freshman. He even played 21.0 minutes per game, which is extremely rare for a player who stands 7-6 and even more rare for a 7-6 freshman. Will Davis II will join Ndiaye in the starting frontcourt after averaging 11.0 points and a team high 6.4 rebounds. Davis is a quality shot blocker of his own, but is the more traditional interior scorer too. Most teams in the Big West have absolutely no answer for such a big, tough frontcourt. The starting backcourt is not too shabby either. Point guard Alex Young spearheaded the efficient offensive attack, dishing out 4.6 assists per game, while committing just 2.0 turnovers. Young is developing a decent jump shot that forces the opposition to stay honest. Luke Nelson led the team in scoring as a freshman with 11.8 points per game and the expectations are getting much bigger. Nelson is the Anteaters most prolific outside shooter, but he could stand to attack the basket more aggressively on occasion, especially now that McNealy is not around to do it. McNealy’s old starting spot could go to a number of players. Aaron Wright, Dominique Dunning and Travis Souza all bring something different to the table.

Final Projection:
This team is built around their size and shot blocking ability in the frontcourt. And just because Ndiaye is taking a rest, it does not mean everything changes. John Ryan is a big 6-10, 248 pound senior who can block some shots and grab some rebounds. Mike Best is also 6-10 and the roster includes 7-2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos as well, although he barely played as a freshman. No matter what, this team has at least one massive presence in the paint. UC Irvine is poised for their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, but something always seems to get in the way. This year it probably will not be Cal Poly again.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Alex Young, Junior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Luke Nelson, Sophomore, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Travis Souza, Senior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Will Davis II, Senior, Forward, 11.0 points per game
Mamadou Ndiaye, Sophomore, Center, 8.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 70.5 (193rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.7 (38, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.0 (38, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 37.4 (3, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.6 (232, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.4 (124, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 64.1 (330, 9)
Rebound Margin: 4.1 (49, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.6 (19, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (215, 7)


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