The Delta State Statesmen are coming off a 19-10 season in which they reached the conference championship game before falling to Montevallo 72-60. DSU still failed to reach the NCAA regionals despite this strong finish, since they had not performed well in non-conference play. This year, coach Steve Rives welcomes a host of new players along with three returning starters and three other players from last year’s team. They’ll face big expectations as the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the GSC West.
Last year’s DSU squad looked unbeatable at times, winning 9 of 11 at one point in the conference season. Most of their edge, however, came from one source. They had a huge 13% advantage in shooting, one which no other team even came close to matching. They were so much more athletic than most other teams in the conference that they were able to make up for deficiencies in other areas.
|Four Keys||Four Keys|
Delta State’s deficiencies in 2004-05 were turnovers and free-throw shooting. As athletic as they may have been, this was not a fundamentally sound team. They shot below average at the line and fouled their opponents too much, resulting in a slight one percent advantage for their opponents. Turnovers were the bigger problem, though, since DSU didn’t force enough of them while turning it over too much themselves. Solid play in those categories would have made the Statesmen a much more dangerous team.
Individual stats for last season (explanation):
Delta State had seven players averaging 20 or more minutes per game last year, and four of those will return this year. All four were above average players, and two could be considered “very good,” those being guard Marlon McCoy and forward Jeremy Richardson. McCoy and Richardson are two of the conference’s eight best returning players according to PER. Both did a good job creating shots for themselves and were used extensively in the offense, with each having a usage rate over 18 (highest on the team).
Forwards Sandrell Spann and Colby Harris will return, presumably to play large roles. Jartes Keys and Karl Nickerson will also return. Keys played very little, so it’s tough to say much about him, but Nickerson played enough to seriously hurt the team. His poor shooting (and thus a high 2.8 brick index) significantly hurt the team when he was on the floor.
Assuming a normal amount of improvement, this is already going to be a dangerous team, but Coach Rives recruited some very good new talent to add to the mix. Senior center Jasper Johnson and junior guard Turmaine Rice look to be the most immediately helpful to the Statesmen. Johnson averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game in his career at D-I Southern Miss, so he will enter the GSC as one of the league’s best low post players. Rice will look to improve upon consecutive Louisiana State JC Player of the Year awards and a 20-plus point per game scoring average.
DSU will also add 6’8″ center Victor Brown, a transfer from New Orleans, and Travis DeGroot, a 6’4″ point guard from D-I Georgia State. With all of this incoming talent and the existing solid players, I’m not having a hard time agreeing with the coaches poll on this one. DSU looks stacked, although I think the GSC will be competitive enough for them to have some struggles on the road. They will have to improve their fundamentals if they want another shot at a title.