So far, most of my 2011-12 previews have been positive…a lot of teams at the bottom of the conference have good reasons to look ahead to the coming years.
I don’t have the same positive things to say about the Colonels.
Eastern Kentucky took a step back this year, finishing 6th in the conference before becoming 1st round upset victims in the newly formatted OVC Tournament to SEMO. Now, they graduate 4 seniors, including 3 of their 4 top scorers (and unquestionably best players) from this season.
If they are going to make a run next season, it will undoubtedly come on the shoulders of rising junior guard Joshua Jones. The team’s best ball handler, Jones only committed 54 turnover in almost 900 minutes of play, but only dished out 56 assists. Who will join him in the backcourt is anyone’s guess. Willie Cruz had a decent sophomore season coming off the bench, but does not fit into coach Jeff Neubauer‘s 3-point shooting offense. (Cruz shot only 5 3-pointers all year) Rising junior Jeff Allgood played in all 31 games for the Colonels last year, but only played 10 minutes a game, averaging 3 points a contest. Allgood did have a great assist to turnover ratio (27-15) in the short time he played. Another rising junior, Jaron Jones, played in 28 games last season off the bench but scored even fewer points (2.5 a game) and also doesn’t fit into Neubauer’s 3-point mentality. Devin McDonald is another option, who started 6 game last year for the Colonels, but also fails to boast any impressive stat lines.
If you’re hoping for a stronger looking frontcourt, you’re about to be disappointed. 6’9″ senior Jeff Johnson (are there enough J’s on the Colonels roster?) does return. Johnson is a surprising 3-point threat, but wasn’t an adequate rebounder this year (just 3.4 a game) and spent much of the season in foul trouble. And who else will end up in the frontcourt? See the list of guards in the last paragraph? And how unimpressive all of them were? This list is worse. Deverin Muff played in 14 games, mostly clean-up work, last season. Taylor Filipek played in 28 games, and scored 32 points total, off of 20% shooting. And that’s it. That’s the entire list of experienced Colonels forwards.
As a team, the 3-point kings of the OVC were less so this past season, a stat epitomized in the 7-of-28 performance in their 1st round tournament loss to SEMO. EKU finished 3rd in 3-point shooting last season, hitting 38-percent from behind the arc. Once again they led the conference in 3-point attempts. Their defense did improve from a season ago, finishing 3rd behind only Murray and Morehead in scoring defense.
This season was supposed to be a last hurrah for a group of talented seniors. Instead, it was a sub .500 team whose season ended early. Next season, their season may end even earlier. There aren’t many, if any coaches, on the hot seat going into next season, but Neubauer may soon top that list. It’s going to be a rebuilding season (or seasons) in Richmond, as this is a team that could easily slide out of the OVC tournament.