Monday, October 27, 2014

UNCG Preview: Time to Make a Move

For the next two weeks, the bloggers from Scanning the SoCon will preview their team, one each day. Today, DashSpartan at previews the Spartans.

UNCG will start the 2014-2015 season with a roster in transition. For the second straight season the  Spartans were hit with the news that their best returning player was turning pro. Last year, Trevis Simpson left a year early. This year all-conference forward Kyle Cain left school to start his pro career. Guard Jordan Potts, forward Tyrone Outlaw and reigning rookie of the year Tevon Saddler all announced this spring they would be looking for new places to play. Potts (Bethune-Cookman) and Outlaw (JUCO/Lee College) found landing spots. Saddler flirted with a couple of programs (mainly Butler and Temple) but decided he wanted to come back and play for Wes Miller in Greensboro. That was big news for a roster that was looking to be a little thin at the guard position. Now with Saddler back, a manageable schedule and formidable (though mostly untested) front line the Spartans are looking to make a move in the new look SoCon.

The Spartans (14-18, 7-9 SoCon) are returning 3 of their top 4 scorers from last season. In addition to Saddler (12.5 ppg), junior forward Kayel Locke (11.6 ppg & 4.4 rpg) and senior sharpshooter Nicholas Paulos (8.5 ppg & 69 made 3's last season) will be back on the court. Paulos has shown the ability to get very hot from behind the arc. Last season he went 9-9 in a home game against Davidson. During his sophomore season he went 10-12 from three point range at Chattanooga (including making 6 straight on 6 consecutive possessions). Locke started 31 games and scored in double figures in 21 of those games. He is an above average rebounder for his size and is good at getting to the line. His shot selection can be "sketchy" at times though. Coach Miller will also be looking for continued growth from Sophomore big man RJ White. White really came to life during the last few weeks of 2013-2014 season when he averaged scoring 14.6 points in trips to Davidson, Wofford and the SoCon tournament. In a league that really doesn't have a dominant post player, the Spartans would love to see White take that next big step forward in development.

The new guys at UNCG are being led by junior transfer Ben Dickinson (F 6'9" 230 lbs/Alexandria, VA). Dickinson transferred in from Loyola Marymount after transferring there from Binghamton. He averaged 13.5 ppg & 6.1 rpg while earning all-America East Rookie honors at Binghamton. There seems to have been some internal team issues this past season at LMU that caused Dickinson to look for a new school. Based on some tweets from his old high school coach, Dickinson has received a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play right away. Also new to the team is JUCO transfer Nik Brown (G 6'3" 200 lbs/Washington, DC). Brown started his career with Longwood (9.7 ppg & 3.6 APG with 17 starts) before moving on to Brunswick CC. He seemed destined to play at UNCW until Buzz Petereson was let go. Brown had some turnover issues at Longwood and comes to a team that already has plenty of those issues to go around. He will need to cut down on the turnovers to really have a productive season at UNCG.

CJ Coleman (G 6'3" 180 lbs/Indianapolis, IN), Lloyd Burgess (C 6'11" 270/Durham, NC), Marvin Smith (G/F 6'6" 190 lbs/Richmond, VA) and Garrett Collins (G 6'5" 185 lbs/Asheville, NC) are the new freshmen for UNCG. Coleman appears to be the one in position to see the most playing time. However, he missed most of his senior season with a foot injury and still appears to be coping with some of the effects from it. Burgess has a huge frame and wingspan. However, with the depth that the Spartans have at his position it may be another year before he sees some serious court time.  Smith is an athletic wing that calls up memories of recent UNCG wings Tyrone Outlaw and Trevis Simpson. Collins has the look of a younger version of Nicholas Paulos. It may take a season in the weight room before he appears on the court for UNCG though.

The biggest change from seasons past for UNCG is the schedule. Gone are the days of playing the entire ACC at the Greensboro Coliseum and getting their heads beat in. The schedule does offer a home contest against North Carolina and a road trip to Bloomington to play the Hoosiers. However, mixed in are games against local schools like Elon, UNCW, ECU, High Point and Presbyterian. Add in three non-D1 games plus a trip to Eastern Michigan to play in a tournament that features mid major schools (Longwood, Youngstown State and EMU) and you find a schedule that looks to give the Spartans a favorable chance at finally get back above 0.500 this season.

All-in-all this feels a lot like a 16-17 win season and a top 6 SoCon finish. This team is very thin and fragile in the backcourt. During the preseason scrimmage, CJ Coleman and Nik Brown didn't even dress out. If that happens in the regular season, UNCG will be playing a combination of freshmen, sophomores and walk-ons at guard. That is not a recipe for winning. However, the strength for UNCG will be the size that it can run out at their opponents. In a league the features very little in the way of returning stars at the forward and center positions, that could be enough to grind out quite a few wins.

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