As part of our Ridiculously Early 2013-14 previews, we look at how much production each team is losing, and how challenging it will be to replace.
After a horrible November, many people wrote off Jay Spoonhour‘s squad. But the first year Panthers head coach was able to bring his team around in time to surprise a lot of teams in the closing weeks, and earn an OVC Tournament spot.
It was a year of trial and error, with players coming in-an-out of the starting lineup all year long. But as the year went on, the team’s offense improved, the defense remained solid, and Eastern Illinois was able to control tempo, keeping the Panthers in a lot of programs.
And to Spoonhour’s credit, not only did he do it with players he didn’t recruit: he did it with a very young team.
|[Stats Per Game]||Points||Rebounds||Steals|
|Total Production Lost||16.9||7.4||2.5|
First, to address the “starters returning” line, Spoonhour used enough different lineups it was hard to come up with just five starters from this past year. So depending on how you look at it, EIU has either three or four returning next year, with two graduating.
With Sherman Blanford and Josh Piper among those returning, the frontcourt is solid. Blanford was the more consistent scorer late in the year, but the Panthers could easily use more points from both. The backcourt is really where the Panthers losses will be felt. Austin Akers and Taylor Jones weren’t great scorers, but were both capable defenders, and Akers was one of the best ball control point guards in the league.
There’s not a lot of production being lost, but there wasn’t much to begin with, at least offensively. If they can find a solid pair of guards for the backcourt, there’s good reason to think this team could be even better in Spoonhour’s second year at the helm.