Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Overall Rank: #95
Conference Rank: #2 Sun Belt
2007-08: 17-15, 11-7, 3rd
2007-08 postseason: none
Middle Tennesse State returns just about everybody and brings in some talented newcomers. That will allow Coach Kermit Davis to have a deeper lineup and players like Kevin Kanaskie will not have to play over 35 minutes a game this year. With that new depth and a whole lot of experience, not to mention that both South Alabama and Western Kentucky will not be as strong as last year, this is the time for the Blue Raiders to make a run at a Sun Belt title.
Josh Sain and Uriah Hethington only played in 15 games last year before heading out of the program. The Blue Raiders survived without them most of the year anyway, so it will not be much of an issue. The transfer of Broderick Gilchrest could have a longer lasting effect on the team. Gilchrest only averaged 10.2 minutes per game as a freshman, and that number would have gone down this year, but Gilchrest could have been a major contributor in a year or two.
Middle Tennessee State is building for success this year by bringing in a few junior college transfers. Eric Allen is a great shooter and he could be starting from day one. And that is saying a lot on a team that returns five starters. Even if he does not start, Allen will be a high scoring spark off the bench. Montarrio Haddock is another junior college shooting guard. Haddock is not a pure shooter like Allen, but can score in bunches mostly around the basket. His former teammate at Brunswick Community College in North Carolina, Josh Jones, will add depth up front. At 6-9 and 240 pounds, Jones can battle in the paint; however, he also has decent ballhandling skills and can pass effectively from the lane. He might not put up huge numbers, but Jones is still improving and will provide experienced depth off the bench. Incoming freshman point guard DeMario Williams and redshirt freshman Antwaun Boyd are going to have to bide their time on the bench for at least a year.
Who to Watch:
One does not usually rank second on a team in scoring, start 26 games and start the next year on the bench. It might not happen here either, but Demetrius Green’s starting job is not safe. Neither is Nigel Johnson’s. Overall Johnson was not as prolific of a scorer as Green, but Johnson did come on strong at the end of the year and helped the team in other ways by averaging 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Their starting jobs are in jeopardy because of the addition of Allen and the return of Calvin O’Neil. O’Neil only played in part of one game last year before suffering a season ending knee injury. His toughness and 6-4 frame make him a dangerous player, but it is O’Neil’s ability to play defense that very well could earn him the starting job. Two things are for sure…Allen, Green, Johnson and O’Neil will all play plenty of minutes on the wing and Kanaskie will get them the ball. Kanaskie is a smart floor leader and a solid scorer. He is a good shooter from long range, but he will also get to the basket with ease. His assist-to-turnover ratio took a turn for the worse in 2007-2008 compared to the previous season, but with so many weapons to work with, Kanasie’s senior season should be a great one.
Two years ago Desmond Yates exploded onto the scene as a freshman. Last year he got even better and averaged 16.0 points per game. Now as an upperclassman, the 6-7 forward will become known outside of the Sun Belt. Theryn Hudson, a 6-10, 250 pound center, compliments Yates quite well. Hudson is a decent scorer under the basket and is the team’s best rebounder and shotblocker. Junior Donaries Hair and the newcomers will have to provide depth for Yates and Hudson. There are 11 upperclassmen on the roster. Sure, some of them are new faces, but there is a heck of a lot of experience on this team. If this is not the year Middle Tennessee State makes the NCAA Tournament, it may be a while.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Kevin Kanaskie, Senior, Guard, 11.7 points per game
Nigel Johnson, Senior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Calvin O’Neil, Junior, Guard, 10.0 points per game
Desmond Yates, Junior, Forward, 16.0 points per game
Theryn Hudson, Senior, Center, 9.1 points per game