(Updated, June 8th) On the morning of January 11th, it looked like the Governors were the team to beat come this past March. The Govs were 6-0, with wins over conference co-favorite Morehead State and at the home of the defending champs (and heated rival) Murray State, and pushed Memphis to OT in a 2-point loss earlier in the season. But then, things began to slowly unravel for Dave Loos and his team, as Peay lost back-to-back games to Tennessee Tech and State, and at Morehead State before the month of January ended. And then on February 5th, Murray State returned the favor, beating the Governors in Clarksville on their way to their 2nd straight regular-season title. The Govs fell to the 3-seed by March, and would fall to the tournament champion Eagles in the semi-finals.
It sounds like a “what could have been” type of season. Until you look at their roster, and realize only one senior, their 5th highest scorer, is leaving.
That one senior, Caleb Brown, was the team’s primary ball handler, leading the team in assists while averaging 8.8 points a game. That role could have gone to Tyrone Caldwell, but he is one of 2 players transfering from the Govs. Marcel Williams is also heading out of Clarksville this year.
Tyshawn Edmonson could see a move to point, but I’d be surprised. Edmonson, a 42% shooter (37% from 3-range) enters his senior year as the top returning scorer in the OVC, 2nd last season only to Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried. He was also tied for 4th in the league in steals, with fellow Govs guard Josh Terry. (Caleb Brown was 5th)
Inside, rising junior Josh Frailey has proven to be one of the strongest forwards in the conference, finishing 4th in both rebounding and shooting percentage in the OVC last season. Forward Anthony Campbell will return this season, after an ACL tear caused him to miss most of last season, providing yet another scoring threat for the Governors. You’ll also see increased minutes this year from Will Triggs, who averaged over 6 points a game his freshman season.
Last year saw a swing of sorts from the usually defensively minded team Loos coaches to one of the most effective offensive teams in the OVC. The Govs averaged over 73 points a game, second only to the Golden Eagles last season, and led the league in assists. Their defense didn’t drop as a result; The Govs ranked 3rd in field goal defense and led the league in 3-point field goal defense. They were one of the top rebounding teams in the conference, and led the league in blocked shots and steals.
But it’s hard to blame inexperience for a team that was full of juniors last season. Sure, they’ll be more experienced this year, but it’s not like this team lacked upperclassmen when they struggled last season. On paper, this is one of the better teams returning in 2011-12, but this is a team that buckled when the pressure was on. Was it youth? Was it the players? That’s the question they’ll answer this next season as the Govs fight for the title in what I predict will be a crowded OVC race.