#73 Louisiana Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #73
Conference Rank: #1 Sun Belt

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Louisiana had some ups and downs during the regular season, but the Ragin’ Cajuns got hot at the end of the year and made a great run in the Sun Belt Tournament, culminating with a thrilling overtime victory over top seeded Georgia State. Coach Bob Marlin’s squad earned a 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and were a popular upset pick to beat #3 Creighton. The Ragin’ Cajuns made a good go at Cinderella, but ended up losing 76-66 to the Bluejays. The NCAA hopes now are on the shoulders of Shawn Long. The 6-9 junior is coming off an amazing season in which he averaged 18.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

2013-14 Record: 23-12, 11-7
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bob Marlin
Coach Record: 66-63 at Louisiana, 291-194 overall

Who’s Out:
Elfrid Payton garnered much of the attention during Louisiana’s run to the tournament, and rightfully so. He averaged 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and 6.0 rebounds. Payton left early for the NBA and was drafted tenth overall. That is a massive loss for a program like Louisiana, but this team is not going to go away that easily. But there are other departures too. Elridge Moore started 27 contests and the 6-5 forward was a great glue guy even though he was rarely a threat to score. Bryant Mbamalu was a key scorer once he came back from an injury in late December. By the middle of February, Mbamalu was on a roll. In the last ten games of the year heading into the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 17.5 points per game. Kevin Brown saw his minutes decrease down the stretch, but he still averaged over 20 minutes and 5.5 points per game.  

Who’s In:
Coach Marlin adds four transfers to help supplement his losses. In his lone season at the junior college level, Jay Wright averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals at Casper College. He will immediately help replace Payton, if such a thing is possible. Tiremone Williams will add depth on the perimeter. The final junior college transfer is Devonta Walker. The 6-7, 220 pound forward should be able to step right into the starting lineup beside Long. He is a fine interior scorer and a great rebounder. Brian Williams, a senior transfer from Oklahoma State, started 26 games for the Cowboys in 2013-2014. The 6-5 small forward averaged 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds. Williams showed a lot of promise after a very, very successful freshman campaign. He scored 20 or more points four times during that season, but a wrist injury the following season slowed his progress. The three freshmen, Johnathan Stove, Scott Plaisance and Bryce Washington, will be overshadowed by the more experienced newcomers, but they are a talented group. Minutes will be tough to come by for now, yet depth is always nice.

Who to Watch:
Outside of Long, the returners will not be given starting jobs. Xavian Rimmer, Steven Wronkoski, and Kasey Shepherd all have significant experience. Rimmer, a 6-2 senior, ranked fourth on the team with 8.8 points per game and knocked down 43.2 percent of his attempts from long range. Wronkoski brings more size to the wing and the 6-5 junior is a decent scorer when his outside shot is falling. Shepherd missed the final two months of the year with an injury and had some great games back in November and December. He will compete with Wright for the starting point guard spot. The only other returning player in the frontcourt is J.J. Davenport. The 6-6, 325 pound center can eat up a lot of space in the paint and is a pretty good interior scorer when the rest of the team waits for him to get up and down the floor.

Final Projection:
Obviously losing Payton will change how this team operates. There is a lot of talent on this team though and they should be able to compete with Georgia State for a Sun Belt title. Just like they did last March, the Ragin’ Cajuns could be playing their best basketball in February and March. As long as Wright and Shepherd are able to handle the point and get the ball to Long in the paint, the offense will still be the most potent and efficient offense in the Sun Belt.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Jay Wright, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Xavian Rimmer, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Brian Williams, Senior, Forward, 6.2 points per game at Oklahoma State
Devonta Walker, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Shawn Long, Junior, Forward, 18.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.0 (14th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 75.2 (294, 9)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.5 (58, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.6 (224, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (99, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (72, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.1 (260, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.4 (64, 2)
Assists Per Game: 13.5 (104, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (271, 7)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#30 Shawn Long


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