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After eight seasons, and an 8-23 record this year alone, the news that Jacksonville State and men’s basketball coach James Green had “agreed to part ways,” is far from surprising. In those eight years, the Gamecocks finished with a winning record just once, qualified for the OVC Tournament just twice, and was forced to miss postseason play another year due to the school’s low Academic Progress Rate. (APR)

So, what happens now?

Recent history tells us that any coach the Gamecocks are likely to get isn’t in for an instant turnaround. Look at the struggles of Rick Ray at Southeast Missouri or Jon Harris at SIUE this year alone, and while Dana Ford put Tennessee State back in the mix this year, his first year was just a five-win season.

Harris and Ford, especially, were hired into a very similar situations: programs with bare rosters. While Ray had, argubly, more talent at Southeast Missouri, he didn’t have guys that fit his philosophy both on and off the court, leading to a rocky season full of suspensions, guys leaving the program, and a lot of losses.

But that’s not necessilary the case at JSU. Barring transfers, (which is always possible, especially with a change in coaches) the Gamecocks return their top three scorers, losing only two players to graduation. (JaQuail Townser and Jeremy Watson.)

Are the returners guys you can build a team around? Malcolm Drumwright seems like one of those guys, coming off a strong sophomore campaign that saw him lead the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and sport a healthy 1.64 assist-to-turnover ratio.

They may have a few solid ‘role players’ on the roster as well. Erik Durham was a soild three-point threat, hitting 38.8% from deep on the year, and while Greg Tucker nearly averaged 10-points a game, you could argue he needed to be more selective with his shooting, hitting just 33.5% from the field on the season.

This isn’t, at least on paper, a Dana Ford-like situation in Jacksonville.

Often, when a team fires a coach, they look for a coach with an opposing philosophy. Despite finishing 11th in defensive efficency in the conference this year, Green was a defensive-minded coach, so I’m curious if JSU will look for more of an offensive mind.

It would make sense, given the recent trend of the OVC. Over the last several years, the best teams in the conference were often offensive powers, not defensive ones. (Blame Belmont!)

Here are the numbers from the last four years:

  • 2015-16: Best offense, Belmont. (36th in KenPom) Best defense: Tennessee State. (110th)
  • 2014-15: Best offense, Murray State. (13th) Best defense: Eastern Kentucky. (141st)
  • 2013-14: Best offense, Belmont. (33rd) Best defense: Morehead State. (155th)
  • 2012-13: Best offense, Belmont. (46th) Best defense: Belmont (83rd)

That’s four straight years where the OVC’s best offense has ranked higher in KenPom ratings (often significantly so) than the best defense.

This isn’t, at least on paper, a Dana Ford-like situation in Jacksonville.

That’s not to say dominant defense can’t win. The infamous 31-2 Murray State Racers team from 2011-12 were an incredibly dominant defense. But that was pre-Belmont, and before the NCAA’s attempts over the past three years to increase scoring in college basketball. The entire sport is trending towards offenses.

This was the first season that I really started to see fan frustration with Green. Sure, there were complaints here-and-there before, but in the last weeks of the season, it seemed like public perception had really turned that Green needed to go.

Thanks in huge part to their success on the football field, Jacksonville State’s profile as an athletics school is as high as ever.

Now the question is…can they cash that in to become a two-sport threat in the Ohio Valley Conference?

 


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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