Despite some tough losses during the conference season, the Eagles made their stamp on the college basketball landscape last season, winning their 2nd NCAA Tournament game in 3 years. But a preview of next season must start by discussing the elephant in the room: what does this team do now that Kenneth Faried is gone?
Last season, the Eagles were the best defensive team in the OVC, allowing the fewest points per possession of any team. And Faried was a huge part of that, creating a lot of one-and-done’s by averaging close to double the rebounds of any other player in the conference, while also leading the OVC in blocks while playing close to 35 minutes a game. But there’s no one on the bench, or any recruits, that we can expect to see near that production from this next season. Incoming JUCO transfer Khalai Owens, and rising Freshman Drew Kelly and Dionte Ferguson are likely to battle for minutes in the post, but none are very experienced players. It’s one thing to lose a star, but to have no replacement at all?
And then there’s the guards. Demonte Harper and Sam Goodman are graduating, but the cupboard isn’t quite as bare in the frontcourt. Rising juniors Ty Proffitt and Terrance Hill will likely be the team leaders next season, with rising sophomore Lamont Austin likely seeing increased minutes, maybe even a starting role.
Am I suggesting a UT-Martin like fall from the top. (If you remember, the Skyhawks went from 1st to worse after Lester Hudson graduated) It’s possible, but if the Eagles solid 7-man recruiting class can make a quick impact, it could soften the blow. Angelo Warner, a 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, will likely see a lot of minutes on an otherwise underexperienced team as a freshman, as could forward Will Bailey.
For the first time in a few years, the dreaded “Death Valley” road swing might not be so bad, with neither EKU or Morehead State looking like contenders. Morehead has a fair amount of talent, but no experience to speak of, and absolutely no one to fill the shoes left by the graduation of Kenneth Faried. It’s good they’ve made splash in the NCAA last season, because if may be a few years before they are able to make another.