Thursday, October 18, 2012

Marshall Basketball: Three Burning Questions

Marshall enters the college basketball season with a considerable amount of buzz. Multiple preseason publications predicted the Herd to finish second in Conference USA behind perennial power Memphis. Yesterday Marshall received one vote in USA Today’s preseason Top 25 men’s basketball poll, voted on by 31 NCAA Division I coaches.

Despite lofty expectations the Thundering Herd enters the season with a few question marks. Here are three burning questions as Marshall prepares for the 2012-2013 season.

1) Who Starts?

Replacing a four year starter at point guard is never easy but, it’s a task Marshall faces as Damier Pitts exhausted his eligibility last season. Along with Pitts, starting small forward Shaquille Johnson also graduated as did the Herd’s leading bench player, Dago Pena.

At the point, sophomore Chris Martin and incoming freshman Kareem Canty will battle for playing time. In limited action last year, Martin averaged 4.1 minutes and 1.3 points during 18 games. Canty comes highly regarded from the prep school circuit, ESPN ranked him the 19th best point guard prospect in the class of 2012.

Looking at small forward, head coach Tom Herrion could use a big lineup and play Dennis Tinnon on the wing. If Tinnon moves off the block, fellow big men Robert Goff and Nigel Spikes will start at power forward and center, giving the Herd three starters measuring over 6-foot-8, 230 pounds.

When Marshall goes small, junior college transfers Elijah Pittman and D.D Scaver figure to get a lot of minutes. Pittman comes to Huntington from Lamar State College (TX) where he averaged 18.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game last year. Known as a sharpshooter, Scaver converted 36 percent of his three point attempts at Trinity Valley Community College (TX) in 2012.

One spot is set in stone as pre-season, all C-USA first team selection DeAndre Kane returns for his junior season. Kane lead the Herd in minutes (1156) and points per game (16.5) last season and figures to carry the scoring load this year.

2) Will we see Kelvin Amayo?

A rare mid-season transfer, Kelvin Amayo enrolled at Marshall in December after being declared academically ineligible at Towson. Information on Amayo has been hard to come by but, per Twitter and other news sources it appears that he is still enrolled. A six-foot five combo guard, Amayo would provide further depth if he becomes eligible in December.

3) Will Marshall take the next step?

It has been a steady, two year climb under coach Herrion. Marshall made its first NIT appearance since 1988 last season and earned a CIT bid the year before. Still, Thundering Herd fans are clamoring for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

For the Herd to go dancing, they must improve their conference record. Marshall had the highest RPI of any team left out of the NCAA Tournament last year, mostly because of their poor, 9-7 mark against C-USA opponents. A similar narrative played out in Herrion’s inaugural season, the Herd finished league play 9-7, only good enough for sixth place.

Marshall will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves during the out of conference schedule. The Herd squares off against Big East opponents Cincinnati and WVU in Charleston, while also playing a road game at Villanova. NCAA Tournament qualifier South Dakota State visits the Cam Henderson Center in November and is followed by NIT participant Nevada one week later. On December 22nd Marshall travels to Lexington KY for a showdown against defending national champion Kentucky. Not to be forgotten, the Herd plays at rival Ohio on January 5th.   

Marshall starts the basketball season at home on November 9th against Longwood, tipoff is scheduled for 7:30pm. 

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