All statistics in the Stat Box are from the 2013-14 season. While this preview is for both games, only statistics of SEMO’s first opponent are listed
Last year, when SEMO was picked to win the west, head coach Dickey Nutt warned all of us that his team might not be ready to take that step.
This year, though, Nutt is singing a bit of a different tune. His team isn’t picked atop the division, but he’s convinced his team is ready to do the one thing they haven’t done well over the past few seasons: Play defense. Last year was a bit of a turning point in that department, as the Redhawks finished in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency for the first time in three seasons.
In fact, one of the players he says has improved the most in that department? The Redhawks sharpshooter, Jarekious Bradley. Sadly, a thigh injury is keeping Bradley at home, meaning SEMO’s season will start against without their best player.
It appears the same can be said for Loyola-Marymount. Evan Payne, coming off a sensational freshman year, didn’t play in LMU’s exhibition, and isn’t listed as the likely starter in the team’s game notes. He started 25 games last year, averaged 15.5 points a contest — he’s not coming off the bench unless he’s injured, or suspended. Sadly — I can’t confirm either at this time.
The Redhawks still have a lot of firepower without Bradley. Nino Johnson continues SEMO’s recent tradition of outstanding frontcourt play, Antonius Cleveland showed flashes of being a great player as a freshman, scoring in double-figures in five of the Redhawks final six games last year, and Josh Langford had a solid half-season, becoming eligible in December. (UPDATE: Langford will sit out both these games. He’s suspended for a violation of team rules last semester)
SEMO isn’t without significant losses. Johnson was paired last season with Tyler Stone inside — whose 19.3 points and 9.5 rebounds a game will be hard to replace. They also lost their point guard in Lucas Nutt — who took a lot of criticism, but led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. Nutt will be replaced by Houston transfer J.J. Thompson, who’s eligible this season — and made 40 starts over 59 games with the Cougars.
LMU is undergoing significant change this year. They’ve got a new coach in Mike Dunlap, the former head coach of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats. Unlike a lot of teams after coaching changes, the Lions weren’t ravaged by transfers, and bring back a lot of experience from a 13-win team. That team forced turnovers — but did little else defensively.
Game two for the Redhawks is against another team from the west coast — San Diego, who have my favorite nickname in college sports.
Toreros. Seriously. How can you not smile while you’re saying it. Toreros. Toreros.
Sadly, a thigh injury is keeping Bradley at home, meaning SEMO’s season will start against without their best player.
The Toreros is a team that lives on the perimeter. Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson both shot better than 41% from three-point range last year. Dee is on pace to easily shatter the school’s all-time scoring record, and the 5’7 Anderson is as sharp passing as he is shooting, setting the single season assist record for San Diego last year.
It’s a really good backcourt.
The team also took an offseason trip to Italy, so there already a step up in the practice department.
SEMO scoring 100 points, which they averaged in their two exhibition games, has happened so often over the past few seasons, it’s almost boring. Okay, so it’ll never gets boring, but the last few years have shown scoring points alone won’t get SEMO to where their fans think their talent to take them. They need defense over the long-term, so maybe it’s not a completely bad thing to not have their top scorer for two games. This team needs to find new ways to win — if they want to win consistently over a 28+ game season.