2008-09 Bradley Basketball Preview: #64
Overall Rank: #64
Conference Rank: #4 Missouri Valley
2007-08: 21-17, 9-9, 5th
2007-08 postseason: CBI
Coming off of a trip to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational Final, Bradley hopes to continue their success. After a poor stretch in December and into January, the Braves started to turn things around later in the season and managed to get into the CBI. Once there, the team knocked off Cincinnati, Ohio and Virginia before eventually falling to Tulsa in a three game series. Some of the faces will change, but the Braves and Coach Jim Les have the talent to reach for a better postseason tournament this time around.
Daniel Ruffin and Jeremy Crouch were the Braves top two scorers last year. The guards not only combined to average 29.9 points per game, but also tallied 9.0 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 steals. Their production, leadership and three-point shooting ability will certainly be missed, but the Braves can continue to have success without them. Matt Salley was the one big man in the middle of what was virtually a four guard lineup. Salley would rarely put up huge numbers in the scoring column, but he was the team’s top rebounder and shotblocker. Guard Tyrone Cole-Scott and forward Rashad Austin were not major contributors, but each played an important role off the bench on occasion.
Obviously there are holes to fill and a good group of newcomers will help fill the void. Chris Roberts and Dodie Dunson are the experienced options after spending some time at the junior college level. Roberts is a consistent shooter and could slide into the starting lineup right away. Dunson, who played at Iowa State as a freshman, is not nearly as consistent of a shooter, but the combo guard is very talented and just needs to pull everything together and find himself a happy home in Peoria, Illinois. Incoming freshmen Darian Norris and Eddren McCain will have some time to develop, especially if Dunson proves that he can effectively handle the ball and be a backup point guard. Taylor Brown and Anthony Thompson will be asked to help turn the frontcourt into a more productive unit. Thompson, a 6-10 redshirt freshman, has high expectations. If Thompson can emerge as a solid rebounder and defender, he could earn the starting job at power forward. That would allow the Braves to be less guard oriented than they were last year. The team will still have the shooters on the floor, but now they could get more open looks with the threat of scoring in the post. More importantly, Bradley would not get outrebounded nearly as much as they were last year. That is a lot of pressure to put on a freshman but if Thompson, who can certainly put up big numbers in the scoring column, lives up to the hype, the Braves will not just be a team who beats their opponents on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
That is not to say the Braves will not beat teams with their great perimeter play. Andrew Warren emerged as an extremely productive outside shooter and should be the team’s go-to-guy now that Crouch and Ruffin are gone. Point guard Sam Maniscalco had a great freshman campaign and even started 15 games in what was an already crowded backcourt. He is a good drive and dish point guard, but can shoot too. The shooting opportunities were not very common last year, but Maniscalco will have the chance to develop into a solid scoring point guard. The fourth guard in last year’s four guard offense was Theron Wilson. The 6-5 wing played at the four spot most of the time, but he is better suited to play the three. Wilson is a decent shooter and a great slasher and rebounder.
If Thompson and the returning big men can handle the four and five spots, Bradley will suddenly become a team that can be a force on the glass. Sam Singh, David Collins and Will Egolf did not show last year that they can handle major minutes, as they all averaged under ten per game, but the potential is there. Singh, when healthy, is a bruiser under the basket. Collins is a seven-footer who can alter shots on the defensive end and Egolf had his moments as a freshman. The backcourt will still carry the bulk of the scoring load, but the frontcourt can be better than last year. If they are not, it will be more of the same for Bradley where they will live and die by the three.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Sam Maniscalco, Sophomore, Guard, 7.7 points per game
Andrew Warren, Junior, Guard, 13.2 points per game
Theron Wilson, Senior, Forward, 11.7 points per game
Anthony Thompson, Freshman, Center, DNP last season
Sam Singh, Senior, Center, 3.0 points per game