#62 Louisiana Tech Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #62
Conference Rank: #1 C-USA

Louisiana Tech Team Page#62 Louisiana Tech Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Louisiana Tech Basketball Tickets

Louisiana Tech finished last season in a four way tie atop the Conference USA standings with a 13-3 record. The non-conference slate was not tough enough for this team to reach the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference tournament though. And they ran into a very hot Tulsa squad in the final and had to settle for the NIT. The Bulldogs may have been disappointed with the NIT, but they did make a decent run, beating Iona and Georgia before falling to Florida State in the quarterfinals. Either way, a 29 win season is a great thing to build off of and Coach Michael White is doing just that.

2013-14 Record: 29-8, 13-3
2013-14 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Michael White
Coach Record: 74-31 at Louisiana Tech, 74-31 overall

Who’s Out:
There are quite a few pieces to that puzzle gone now and Louisiana Tech has to do some reloading. In true Bulldog fashion, Chris Anderson was a big man who could shoot the ball. He turned into a pretty good scorer in the paint as well and ended up ranking second on the team with 11.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Big guards Jaron Johnson and Coradrius Johnson were also part of the regular rotation. Those two were tough to defend due to their size and certainly helped on the glass. Guard Kenyon McNeail was easily the best shooter on a team full of shooters. He knocked down 88 three-pointers on the year and connected on 40.4 percent of his attempts. Isaiah Massey, Gilbert Talbot and Stojan Gjuroski did not see much action last season, yet all three could have had a bigger impact in 2014-2015 had they returned to Ruston.

Who’s In:
Despite some significant losses, Coach White does return four of his eight players who averaged over 20 minutes per game. The rest of the minutes will have to come from a big group of nine newcomers who are eligible to suit up for the Bulldogs this season. Junior college transfers Merrill Holden and Qiydar Davis bring some much needed experience to the frontcourt. Holden is a traditional bruiser, while Davis is a tough wing who can attack the basket. Erik McCree is another experienced option. The Murray State transfer spent one season coming off of the bench for the Racers and, being a big guy that can shoot, is a nice fit for Louisiana Tech. Perhaps the most intriguing newcomer is 7-0 center Joniah White. He needs to polish his game and add some weight and strength, but White could be a dominating force in the paint sooner or later. For now he can at least play some defense. Redshirt freshman Leo Edwards and incoming freshmen Jacobi Boykins and Branden Sheppard will add even more options at the forward spots. Xavier Stapleton and Dayon Griffin will both have to see some decent minutes on the perimeter backing up the returning talent.

Who to Watch:
And the returning talent is impressive enough to lead this team to the NCAA Tournament. Point guard Kenneth Smith is one of the best floor leaders and defenders in the nation. Smith, the only player to average over 30 minutes per game in 2013-2014, averaged 7.7 assists per game during his junior season. He only committed 2.4 turnovers and that assist-to-turnover ratio ranked in the top ten in the country. He also ranked in the top ten with 2.5 steals per contest. Smith is a consistent enough shooter to keep the opposition honest and that opens up space for him to operate. Smith’s quickness opens up space for the rest of the scorers on the team too and Alex Hamilton is often the beneficiary. Hamilton, a 6-4 junior, led the team with 14.5 points per game. Much of that scoring comes from attacking the basket and Hamilton could be even more effective and productive if he can gain consistency on his jumper. Not long ago it was Raheem Appleby who was the star of this team, but he took a backseat to Hamilton in the scoring department last season. Like Hamilton, Appleby could stand to be more consistent with his outside shot, but he sure can score in bunches. The returning frontcourt option for Coach White is senior Michale Kyser. Last year he led the team with 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. He averaged just 7.0 points per game and this team will need to find an interior scorer so players like Hamilton and Appleby can get to the basket easier.

Final Projection:
Louisiana Tech has four great pieces to build around, but their success will depend heavily on the play of the rest of the team. The options are nice, but they are also untested. This team may not be able to go eight or nine deep again, at least early in the year, and Coach White needs to find the pieces that fit best around his four returning stars. If he does, this group will find themselves back atop the conference standings with another good shot at making the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Kenneth Smith, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Raheem Appleby, Senior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Alex Hamilton, Junior, Guard, 14.5 points per game
Merrill Holden, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season
Michale Kyser, Senior, Forward, 7.0 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.0 (12th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.5 (77, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.3 (119, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.5 (77, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.7 (48, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (223, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.9 (239, 6)
Rebound Margin: 2.6 (102, 5)
Assists Per Game: 15.7 (16, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.5 (96, 1)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#63 Raheem Appleby


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