C-USA deep dive for the 2020-21 season

1. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
PG: Kenny Cooper (Lipscomb)
SG: Taveion Hollingsworth
SF: Josh Anderson
PF: Carson Williams
C: Charles Bassey

Bench: Jordan Rawls, Luke Frampton (Davidson), Dayvion McKnight, Kylen Milton, Isaiah Cozart, Kevin Osawe

Additions: Kenny Cooper (Lipscomb), Luke Frampton (Davidson), Kylen Milton, Dayvion McKnight

Departures Jared Savage, Cam Justice

The Hilltoppers aren’t only the best team in this conference, but one of the top mid-major teams in general. The Hilltoppers return a fair amount of production from last season. Some may have forgotten how good Charles Bassey truly is. Bassey, a former top-10 recruit had a tremendous freshmen season, then he subsequently entered the NBA draft before withdrawing. Bassey’s sophomore season came to a screeching halt in a non-conference win against Arkansas as he tore his ACL. If Bassey can revert to his pre-injury form as he should, he may be the POTY in the conference. Another top candidate for that award is Taveion Hollingsworth, the senior guard. Hollingsworth had 16.6 PPG this past season shooting, 47% from-the-field. The lone issue in Hollingsworth’s offensive game is his shooting, just posting a below-average 30% clip last season. There’s reason to believe that can improve based on his fantastic 84% free throw percentage. Now looking at the point guard spot is a transfer from Lipscomb, Kenny Cooper. Last year Cooper had his waiver denied multiple times and didn’t play last season. Cooper is the definition of a do-it-all player he’s a stout defender, great passer, and can shoot Cooper, looks to be in for a monster season. Josh Anderson is one of the unsung heroes of this team with his defensive instincts and athleticism. There’s so much to this team I haven’t even mentioned Carson Williams yet, someone who averaged double-figures last season. Rick Stansbury has done an awesome job building this team, and now it’s time for it to play out.

2. North Texas Mean Green
PG: Javion Hamlet
SG: Mardrez McBride
SF: James Reese
PF: Thomas Bell
C: Zach Simmons

Bench: Larry Wise, Mykell Robinson, Terence Lewis II, Rubin Jones

Additions: Rubin Jones, Mardrez McBride

Departures: Umoja Gibson (Oklahoma), Deng Geu

The Mean Green has one of the top mid-major players in the nation this season with Javion Hamlet. Coming in from JUCO last season, Hamlet had 14.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.7 APG while shooting a 49/41/87 clip about as close as you can get to the illustrious 50/40/90 without getting to the actual number. Hamlet will lead the Mean Green this season to hopes of making the Big Dance for the first time since 2010. Did Grant McCasland find another diamond in the rough with Mardrez McBride? I think so. McBride, another JUCO product had 14.4 PPG last season while shooting an astonishingly high 52% from-three. Replacing Umoja Gibson will be tough, but McBride is oozing with talent. Another sneaky addition showed out for the Mean Green last season in the form of Buffalo transfer James Reese. The former MAC player shot 44% from-the-field, 36% from three during his RS sophomore season.
The big-man Zach Simmons is one of the more under-the-radar players in the conference this season. Simmons’s value comes to his top-notch efficiency shooting 63% from-the-field for the Mean Green last season. Coach McCasland has a squad on his hands this season.

3. UAB Blazers
PG: Michael Ertel (UL-Monroe)
SG: Tyreek Scott-Grayson
SF: Tavin Lovan
PF: Kassim Nicholson
C: Trey Jemison (Clemson)

Bench: Jalen Benjamin, Koby Jeffries, Tony Toney, Quan Jackson, Simeon Kirkland, Terrell Ard Jr, Tobias Rotegard, Rongie Gordon Jr

Additions: Michael Ertel (UL-Monroe), Trey Jemison (Clemson), Terrell Ard Jr, Tobias Rotegard, Rongie Gordon Jr

Departures: Will Butler, Makhtar Gueye

The Blazers made a home run hire when they brought Andy Kennedy in from the ESPN booth. Kennedy spent twelve seasons as the head-man at Ole Miss and had a successful tenure but it ended roughly. Looking forward to this season, Coach Kennedy has done well in the transfer market. Michael Ertel was the leading scorer for UL-Monroe last season then opted to grad transfer to UAB. Ertel was a tremendous shooter for two of his three-season in the Sun Belt but took a sizeable step-back to a pedestrian 33% from-three compared to 43% the previous season. Tyreek Scott-Grayson has tremendous upside with 10 PPG, 4.7 RPG this past season shooting 42% from-the-field, 35% from-three in his second collegiate season. The leading scorer off of last season’s team Tavin Lovan is back after an astounding sophomore season. Lovan is a bit of an enigma, he’s a talented scorer but shot 53% overall but just 27% from-three. Having a trio of Ertel, Scott-Grayson, Lovan leads to a very promising season. Trey Jemison a 7-footer coming in from Clemson looks to have a good season dropping down a few levels. Andy Kennedy has a talented squad in his first season back coaching.

4. UTEP Miners
PG: Souley Boum
SG: Jamal Bienemy (Oklahoma)
SF: Kristian Sjolund (Georgia Tech)
PF: Bryson Williams
C: Eric Vila

Bench: Adam Hess, Keonte Kennedy, Efe Odigie, Tydus Verhoevem, Emmanuel White, Ze’Rik Onyema, Vuk Vulikic,

Additions: Jamal Bienemy (Oklahoma), Kristian Sjolund (Georgia Tech), Ze’Rik Onyema, Vuk Vulikic,

Departures: Kaden Archie, Nigel Hawkins (Stephen F Austin)

Rodney Terry has his best team since becoming the Miners coach back in 2018. Souley Boum the lead guard this season in his first season for UTEP after transferring in from San Francisco. Boum regressed heavily as a shooter, but I don’t think it’s indicative of his talent level due to his tremendous 87% from-the-line. Boum’s a phenomenal athlete who’s oozing with potential. The star of this Miners team is Bryson Williams. The former Fresno State Bulldog, Williams became a star in C-USA very fast. Williams put up a gaudy stat-line of 17.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and shot a superb 49.9% along with 35% from three. There’s a bit of old-school to Williams game with his focus on mid-range shots. One of the sneakiest transfers in the nation is former Oklahoma guard Jamal Bienemy he isn’t much of a scorer but a tremendous athlete and one of the top defenders in the conference this season.

5. Marshall Thundering Herd
PG: Jarrod West
SG: Andrew Taylor
SF: Taevion Kinsey
PF: Mikel Beyers
C: Iran Bennett

Bench: Jannson Williams, Jeremy Dillon, Marko Sarenac, Goran Miladinovic, David Early, Obianna Anochili-Killen, Darius George

Additions: David Early


The three guarantees in life? Death, Taxes, and Dan D’Antoni led teams being one of the 8 quickest teams in-terms of adjusted tempo. In all of D’Antoni’s seasons at Marshall, his worst team ranking in adjusted tempo is 8th and mostly sat in the top five, similar to his brother Mike, who famously led the mid-2000’s Suns with the 7-seconds or less offense, and by the way, Dan was an assistant to his brother on those teams. We have this season Thundering Herd led by Taevion Kinsey, a guy who’s a ferocious athlete, who put up 16.4 PPG as a sophomore but struggles shooting to a ring of just 26% from three, and 66% from the line. Alongside Kinsey, we have Jarrod West, a player who took a massive rise as a junior and tested the NBA waters. West unlike, Kinsey is one of the better shooters in the conference shooting 36% from three last year on a high-volume. West also made the C-USA all-defensive team last season, due to his 2.0 steals-per-game. While you hear about West and Kinsey, don’t sleep on sophomore Andrew Taylor, he’s a guy tailormade to play for Coach D’Antoni. Taylor had 10.3 PPG while shooting 34% from three, but he has a high ceiling as a shooter, hauled in 4.6 rebounds-per-game, and is a very solid defender. The trio of Kinsey, West, Taylor along with solid role guys like George, Bennett, Beyers, Williams could make for a fun season for the Thundering Herd, like usual.

6. UTSA Roadrunners
PG: Jhivvan Jackson
SG: Keaton Wallace
SF: Cedrick Alley Jr (Houston)
PF: Luka Barisic
C: Jacob Germany

Bench: Eric Parrish, A.J. Ford, Erik Czumbel, Adrian Rodriguez, Jaja Sanni, Lachlan Bofinger, Jordan Ivy-Curry

Additions: Jaja Sanni, Lachlan Bofinger, Jordan Ivy-Curry, Cedrick Alley Jr (Houston)

Departures: Byron Frohnen, Atem Bior

Boy oh boy, Is Jhivvan Jackson a treat to watch or what? Jackson was 2nd behind Markus Howard in scoring last season in the country, averaging 26.8 PPG. Jackson shot 35% from three and 85% from the charity stripe, where Jackson picks up a lot of points due to his innate ability to get to the line. Jhivvan Jackson is set to be the points king in College Hoops this season. As Jackson took an up-turn, Keaton Wallace took a noticeable drop in production. Wallace still had 18.2 PPG, but his shooting percentages all dropped from 42% to 39% overall, 38% to 35% from three, 85% to 80% from the line. Wallace has the talent to overturn some of the efficiency struggles this past season. Jackson and Wallace are one of the better back-court duos in the nation. A key transfer addition is former Houston forward, Cedrick Alley Jr. While Alley in his three-season for Kelvin Sampson didn’t prove to be a scorer but is a versatile defender which is a dire need for UTSA. After a disappointing 13-win season for the Roadrunners, 2020-21 could be different.

7. Charlotte 49ers
PG: Jahmir Young
SG: Jordan Shepard
SF: Jhery Matos (Dayton)
PF: Milos Supica
C: Aly Khalifa

Bench: Caleb Byrd, Jackson Threadgill, Caleb Stone-Carrawell, Anzec Rissetto, Brice Williams, Luka Vasic, Jared Garcia

Additions: Caleb Byrd, Jackson Threadgill, Aly Khalifa

Departures: Drew Edwards, Amidou Bamba

Ron Sanchez is a decipal of Virginia HC, Tony Bennett. During Sanchez’s 12-year-tenure as an assistant for Coach Bennett, both at Washington State and Virginia, he was a lead assistant for teams that made the 2nd-weekend of the NCAA Tournament three times. Sanchez has carried over similar styles to Charlotte. The 49ers and ranked 307th in adjusted tempo and 84th in defensive efficiency, slowly getting to that Tony Bennett style. Led by star sophomore Jahmir Young will be a huge player in this conference for a long-time. Young had 12.5 PPG as a freshman while shooting 37% from three, along with playing fantastic defense. Young is a sneaky pick for conference POTY this season. Former Oklahoma guard Jordan Shepard led the 49ers in scoring last season at a 14.5% clip. Shepard is a subpar shooter at just 29% from three but can score inside and from the mid-range making up a 45% field goal percentage. The 49ers also hold the claim for the number one recruiting class for C-USA this season, led by Aly Khalifa, Jared Garcia, Jackson Threadgill, Caleb Byrd. I think Khalifa will play a massive role due to his 6’10 260 LBS frame making him significantly the biggest on this Charlotte team. The defense could carry this team this season.

8. Old Dominion Monarchs
PG: Malik Curry
SG: A.J. Oliver II
SF: Xavier Green
PF: Kalu Ezikpe
C: Austin Trice (Portland State)

Bench: Joseph Reece, Marquis Godwin, Mehki Long (Rhode Island), Brady O’Connell, Alfis Pilavios, John Shanu II

Additions: Austin Trice, Brady O’Connell, John Shanu II

Departures: Jason Wade (Injury), Aaron Carver

For Jeff Jones’s team, it was a down season following a season in which they notched a tournament bid before getting the lights knocked out by Carsen Edwards. This season for various reasons has tossed obstacles, but outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, inside the ODU program starting guard Jason Wade suffered a season-ending-injury earlier in November. The Monarchs struggled heavily on offense last season posting an a-effective field-goal percentage of 45% ranking, 337th. Xavier Green and Malik Curry is a solid one-two punch to have for a team. Green had 12 PPG last season but took a big-step back shooting wise last season from 40% to 32% from three. As a freshman, Malik Curry led the team in scoring with 13.4-a-game. Curry looks to be a bit more efficient and shoots better than his 29% clip from three, but there’s immense upside there. With Kalu Ezikpe, you have one of the top post-defenders in the conference but has to straighten out his offensive ability. A key transfer addition is Austin Trice, who went to Portland State last season and sat-out but played a bench-role for the Kansas State team that lost to UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament two-seasons-ago. A.J. Oliver II, who came over from Clemson, also averaged double-figures last season and once again play a big-role for Jeff Jones. There’s a chance for a bounce-back this season for Old Dominion.

9. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
PG: Amorie Archibald
SG: Kalob Ledoux
SF: JaColby Pemberton
PF: Kenneth Lofton Jr
C: Andrew Gordon

Bench: Isaiah Crawford, Jace Bass, Coby Williams, Thailand Elder, Stacey Thomas, Exavian Christian, Xavier Armstead, Kenny Hunter

Additions: Kenny Hunter, Jace Bass, Thailand Elder, Kenneth Lofton Jr

Departures: DaQuan Bracey, Derric Jean, Mubarak Muhammad, Oliver Powell

Following a 22-win season, the Bulldogs take a massive step-back with the losses of Bracey, Jean, Muhammad, who all started every game. Now being led by Amorie Archibald, who is a talented scorer, who had 11.3 PPG while shooting 38% from-three, also is possibly poised to be an All-Conference player. Kalob Ledoux started his career with two seasons at McNeese State before going to Louisiana Tech and posting 11.5 PPG and shot 36% from three. Having a big-two of Ledoux and Archibald is an underrated first two-scorers. Adding a guy like Jace Bass, a JUCO transfer who had 21.6 PPG for Long Beach CC in 2019-20 is a solid-get and should be a contributor. A transfer addition from a year ago, Andrew Gordon is a 6’10 big that defends at a high-level and should start this season. Key freshmen such as Lofton, Elder, Hunter are all players to keep an eye for Coach Eric Konkol this season. It’ll be a rebuilding season for the Bulldogs.

10. Florida International Golden Panthers
PG: Antonio Daye Jr
SG: Cameron Corcoran
SF: Eric Lovett
PF: Anthony Mason Jr
C: Dimon Carrigan

Bench: Tevin Brewer, Radshad Davis (UT-Arlington), DJ Mitchell, Isaiah Banks, Dante Wilcox, Petar Krivokapic

Additions: Seede Keita (St John’s), Radshad Davis (UT-Arlington), Anthony Mason Jr, Petar Krivokapic

Departures: Devon Andrews, Osasumwen Osaghae, Trejon Jacob

The Golden Panthers coming off a 19-win season has to find a way to supplement the losses of the top-two contributors from last season with Andrews and Osaghae. The ones tasked with the replacement of those two is Daye, Lovett, Corcoran, Carrigan. The leading returning scorer is Daye, who posted a stat line of 10.6/3.1/4.6 as a sophomore but shot 41% from the field and 33% from three. Daye is a well-above-average athlete and facilitator but has to improve as a shooter. With Eric Lovett Jr, you have one of the more underrated players in the conference, as Lovett had 8.5 PPG and shot a solid 36% from three. Another tremendous shooter is Corcoran, who spent one season playing for Little-Rock before coming over to FIU. Possibly the most significant player both physically and in terms of replacing Osaghae is Dimon Carrigan, the former JUCO player. Carrigan is an elite defender but doesn’t offer much on offense yet. Radshad Davis coming in from UT-Arlington is a versatile player that will play a large bench role. FIU will no-doubt regress but has some players due to breakout.

11. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
PG: Dontrell Shuler (Charleston Southern)
SG: Jalen Jordan (St Francis NY)
SF: Jordan Davis (Dayton)
PF: DeAndre Dishman (Eastern Kentucky)
C: Tyson Jackson

Bench: Donovan Sims, Eli Lawrence, Jayce Johnson, Elias King, Tyler Millin, Jared Jones

Additions: Dontrell Shuler (Charleston Southern), Jalen Jordan (St Francis NY), Jordan Davis (Dayton), DeAndre Dishman (Eastern Kentucky)

Departures: C.J. Jones, Antonio Green, Reggie Scurry

Coach McDevitt is coming off of a season in which the Blue Raiders won just 8 games. It’s already going to look different this season since star guard C.J. Jones decided to go pro. It’s a transfer laden team for MTSU this season, adding some big transfers. Dontrell Shuler is a talented score first guard coming in from Charleston Southern this season, after posting 17.9 PPG as a sophomore for the Buccaneers. Adding Jalen Jordan is massive, a guy who shot 41% in the NEC in 2018-19 and is poised for a monster season. The third biggest transfer is Jordan Davis, who spent two seasons playing for Dayton, and started for Anthony Grant. Davis was a superb shooter as a freshman, posting a 39% clip, but dropped to 32% as a sophomore. Davis should play a massive role for Nick McDevitt this season. Dishman missed all of 2019-20 with injury but is back and ready to go after having to sit two seasons the first being due to transferring. The Blue Raiders are a tough team to place, I’m probably too low, but we’ll have to see.

12. Florida Atlantics Owls
PG: Michael Forrest
SG: Bryan Greenlee (Minnesota)
SF: Kenan Blackshear
PF: Jaylin Ingram
C: Karlis Silinis

Bench: Nicholas Boyd, Alijah Martin, Johnell Davis, Carrington McCaskill, Dardan Kapiti, Giancarlo Rosario, Evan Winchester

Additions: Bryan Greenlee (Minnesota), Giancarlo Rosario

Departures: Cornelius Taylor, Richardson Maitre, Alexsander Zecevic

Dusty May’s team won 17-games in 2019-20, on the backs of Cornelius Taylor and Jaylin Ingram. With Taylor out of the fold, the brunt of the work will be put on junior guard Michael Forrest. With Forrest, you have a guy who shot a staggering 38% from three. Forrest could be an All-Conference guy as a junior. A transfer coming in is Bryan Greenlee from Minnesota, an athletic guard who should be solid at this level. The star of the team is Jaylin Ingram, a guy who has shown flashes of being one of the top players in the conference, but other times has looked like an above-average player. He’s great regardless, but in 10 games in 2018-19, Ingram had 18.9 PPG and shot 43% from three. Ingram has a real shot to be an All-Conference player this year. The Ex-Ole Miss big-man, Karlis Silinis should play a sizeable role due to his ability to score inside and even step-out when needed and hit three’s. Kenan Blackshear could be another breakout candidate (Brother of former VT and Florida big, Kerry Blackshear Jr.) Kenan should have the opportunity to have a solid sophomore campaign. The Owls will be bottom-dwellers in the C-USA this year.

13. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
PG: Jay Malone
SG: Tae Hardy
SF: LaDavius Draine
PF: De’Andre Pinckney
C: Tyler Stevenson

Bench: Justin Johnson, Artur Konontsuk Denijay Harris, Mark Jaakson, Jaron Pierre Jr, Javarzia Belton, Angel Smith, Jeff Armstrong, Tyler Morman

Additions: Tae Hardy, Justin Johnson, De’Andre Pinckney, Denijay Harris, Mark Jaakson, Jaron Pierre Jr, Javarzia Belton, Tyler Morman

Departures: Gabe Watson (Tulane), Leonard Harper-Baker, Hunter Dean (George Washington)

The Golden Eagles lose the top contributor from 2019-20 in Gabe Watson, who opted to leave for Tulane. Jay Ladner added a tremendous replacement for Watson in JUCO product Tae Hardy. For Pearl River CC, Hardy posted gaudy figures of 16.6 PPG along with his percentages looked like this 54/37/84 very lose to the illustrious 50/40/90. Hardy being able to shoot at a 37% clip adds a big change-of-pace from Southern Miss is one of the worst shooting teams in the country last season, ranking at a 29% clip. The leading returning scorer, Tyler Stevenson, who’s a talented inside-scorer that posted 12.8 Points per game last season along with hauling in 6.8 boards. Former conference freshman of the year, LaDavius Draine had a down season in terms of efficiency dropping nearly 10 points in field-goal percentage and 11 points in three-point percentage. If Draine can revert to his form as a sophomore, he will be one of the top players in the conference in 2020-21. One name to keep an eye on is another JUCO product De’Andre Pinckney, a player that posted stats of 16.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and get this he shot 68.4% from the field and 43% from three. Obviously JUCO to D1 hoops is a big transition, but if Pinckney could post insane stats like that, he will be a big-time player for the Golden Eagles this season. The mix of JUCO additions and key returnees, Southern Miss, should improve from last season’s 9-22 record.

14. Rice Owls
PG: Travis Evee (VMI)
SG: Chris Mullins
SF: Jake Lieppert
PF: Riley Abercrombie (Boise State)
C: Malik Ondingo

Bench: Tre Clark (Furman), Payton Moore, Cavit Ege Havsa (Utah Valley), Cameron Sheffield, Noah Hutchins, Mylyjael Poteat, Max Fiedler, Quincy Olivari

Additions: Cavit Ege Havsa (Utah Valley), Cameron Sheffield, Noah Hutchins, Mylyjael Poteat, Riley Abercrombie (Boise State), Travis Evee (VMI), Tre Clark (Furman)

Departures: Josh Parrish (San Diego), Trey Murphy (Virginia), Drew Peterson (USC), Robert Martin, Ako Adams

Scott Pera’s team lost its two leading scorer Murphy, Peterson, to the transfer portal. A massive blow to a team that won 15 games a season ago. The Owls do pick-up some reinforcements though with Travis Evee from VMI. Evee had 12.2 PPG and 44% from the field and shot 36% from three in the Southern Conference last year. Jake Lieppert is a sneaky add for this team. Lieppert posted unreal numbers of 23.7 PPG and 41% from three on 10.3 threes-per-game for D2 JUCO, PIMA CC in Tucson, Arizona. While being a D2 JUCO may make some look the other way, Lieppert is 6’4 and a legit shooter who without a doubt will be huge for Rice. The Owls are far-and-away the bottom team in this conference for 2020-21.

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