Charleston men’s basketball preview: Cougars seek another step forward
It was a year of adjustment for Charleston men’s basketball, but also a key step forward.
Under a new coach and with many new faces on the roster, the Cougars were competitive throughout their final season, but a bit inconsistent. An exciting attack and good habits were countered by chemistry and gel issues potentially related to all the turnover within the program.
— Charleston Basketball (@CofCBasketball) September 9, 2022
With year one jitters hopefully shaken off, perhaps C of C could make a deep run in 2022-23 that could bring him some epic times, up to and including, his second appearance. in the NCAA Tournament since the turn of the century.
What to watch out for with Charleston men’s basketball this season? Below is a preview of what the Cougars will bring to the table, as FloHoops showcases every team in the league.
Review of the 2021 season
The Pat Kelsey era got off to a good start, with the former coach of Winthrop, who took the Eagles to three NCAA tournaments in nine years, finished with a 17-15 record. The success came despite the program returning almost no players from the 2020-21 squad, which was led by former coach Earl Grant, who left to take over as head coach at Boston College.
Kelsey immediately instituted the blistering pace of play that helped Winthrop reach great heights during his time there, with the Cougars scoring at least 80 points in 15 games and at least 90 in four.
Yet there were many growing pains in the new system. Charleston scored (78.2) points and allowed 76.4, the most points per game in the CAA last season, using more of an all-or-nothing style, rather than the fast but controlled team that Kelsey designed at Winthrop.
It was yet another encouraging first year in a new era of coaching and should have an established C of C for a potential breakthrough year.
Bucknell’s graduate transfer and forward John Meeks (14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds per game) has adapted well to his new league and earned a spot on the All-CAA Second Team, while the Division III transfer Dimitrius Underwood was unfazed by the competitive jump, doubling down on both All-CAA Third Team and All-Defensive Team with a record 2.1 steals per game.
On the pitch: If you compare the Charleston game footage between 2020-21 and 2021-22, the two teams you’ll see look almost unrecognizable. It’s not just because Grant’s departure and Kelsey’s hiring led to a mass exodus of players, but also because the two coaches have as big a difference in offensive styles as can be.
— Charleston Basketball (@CofCBasketball) August 21, 2022
Grant’s teams were methodical and chose to find the open shot on something quick, averaging 63.5 possessions per game in the 2020-21 season – one of the lowest totals of all teams nationwide – while having a 3-point philosophy that worked to the advantage of the Cougars as elite deep threats (38.2 percent, 11th in the nation).
Within the first year of Kelsey’s offense, however, things changed dramatically.
C of C are averaging 10 more possessions (73.5, the second most per game of any team in the country) over the previous year and have taken 36.9% of their shots from the rim, an 8.1% jump from a year earlier, according to college basketball analytics site Hoop Math.
Of course, the faster pace also meant more mistakes. The Cougars turned it over or had a blocked shot on a whopping 33.6% of possessions, but Charleston were also elite on the glass to counter that, averaging 40.3 boards per game to rank higher. four rebounds ahead of the rest of CAA.
The Cougars’ defense was a little sloppy at times and very, very foul-prone (20.6 per game, fourth in America), but the best teams from Kelsey to Winthrop did well in creating turnovers and at least preventing opponents to catch his electric. offences. Expect some growth on the defensive end with that in mind.
Reyne Smith, G, Soph., Ulverstone, Australia (12.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 92.9% free throw percentage)
Charleston needed a hit in their backcourt, after All-CAA guard Zep Jasper was traded to Auburn, becoming a starter for what was the No. 1 team in the nation last season at one point. , and he got it thanks to an impressive Aussie.
Smith was dynamite as a rookie in Kelsey’s fast offense, landing the starting two-guard role early in the season and defining himself a feared sniper role in the process. His 90 triples a year ago led the CAA and were the most hits in a single season by a freshman in school history.
His stellar year became even more impressive when you consider that in Charleston’s last three decades of basketball, only former NBA draft picks Andrew Goudelock and Grant Riller had more points in first grade than Smith’s 386.
His near-automatic charity strip percentage also ranked fifth in the nation and tops among freshmen, with the move to the United States clearly not phasing the 6-foot-2 guard.
However, Smith didn’t take many shots other than 3-pointers, while his poor assist totals (1.4 per game) for his position made him somewhat predictable, but simultaneously difficult to stop, his first year.
That might be a bit of a concern with Underwood and Brenden Tucker leaving the guard rotation, potentially leaving Smith to take on more responsibility for creating offense, but no one can deny he’ll be a feared presence around the 3-point arc. for years to come in the CAA.
Jaylon Scott, G, Gr., Allen, Texas (19.2 points, 11.5 rebounds at NAIA Bethel College)
Grabbing an effective two-way player from the transfer gate who played below DI level worked well for Kelsey, as Underwood proved to be a key part of Charleston’s product on the floor.
So why not start over?
— Charleston Basketball (@CofCBasketball) September 2, 2022
Scott was a monster for four years at the NAIA level, being named Conference Player of the Year twice and Defensive Player of the Year three times at Bethel College in Kansas and a 2022 NAIA National Player of the Year finalist. .
The 6-foot-5 guard was also a threat while guarding the ball, averaging 2.6 steals per game, while having four games of five or more steals, proving to be an elite ball hawk who should fit right into the Cougars rotation right away. .
The only burning question, as always seems to be the case with transfers like Scott, is how quickly can he adapt to the sudden leap in quality?
While the NAIA undoubtedly produces great players who become contributors within and beyond the Division I tier, not every stud who chooses to advance to this tier is successful.
Considering that Scott’s talent isn’t just a flash in the pan and that he’s been kept for a while now as a two-time NAIA first-team All-American, that gives him an edge going forward. adapt to the tempo of Charleston and the talent of the Division I game immediately.
Game to watch: Charleston Vs. Delaware, January 7
Every CAA team will want a piece of the Blue Hens this year, yes. They are the defending conference tournament champions and are sure to have a target on their backs all season long with redshirt junior Jameer Nelson Jr. – the son of the former Saint Joseph star and the NBA of the same name – which runs the show at point guard.
But the Delaware and Charleston games were TV staples during the 2021 campaign, and it’s reasonable to assume that both teams have improved further in the offseason.
UD got the better of C of C in a wild 67-66 victory in the first meeting in Charleston, but the Cougars’ 99-96 victory in the rematch later in the year in Newark was arguably still better, while Delaware almost came back from a 20-point deficit in the second half. The teams combined for a ridiculous 73 points in the final 10 minutes.
Delaware haven’t faced a closer opponent in two meetings all season, and with the Blue Hens looking to become a rising middle power under coach Martin Ingelsby, the first meeting of two this season could get spicy. .