Southern Miss men’s basketball coach Doc Sadler said Tuesday, with more than half the Golden Eagles’ preseason practices behind them, that the team will be faster and will shoot well this year.
He also said the Eagles will be small and will be hurt by a lack of depth.
Throw in the lingering effects of NCAA sanctions and a schedule that includes the likes of Michigan, Florida State, Mississippi State, Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee (twice) and Old Dominion, and you get a number of question marks.
“I like this group,” said Sadler, now in his fourth season at Southern Miss. “Our speed is going to be better. Rebounding is definitely going to be a concern.”
Top returners are 6-foot-2 junior guard Cortez Edwards, who was second on the team in scoring last season with 11.0 points per game, 6-7 junior forward Eddie Davis III (6.9 ppt) and 6-1 guard Kevin Holland (4.7 ppg). Tim Rowe, a 6-11 sophomore forward who averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in eight games last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury, also is back.
Top newcomers include 6-4 sharpshooting junior guard Dominic Magee and former Oklahoma State point guard Tyree Griffin.
“We’re a little bit ahead because our foreign trip (to the Bahamas) allowed us to have 10 extra days of practice,” Sadler said. “They got a chance to get some minutes with teammates and the coaching staff.
“Now we’re in that grind, we have 14 more days of practice, with a Sunday scrimmage.”
Last season, the Golden Eagles went 9-22 overall and 6-12 in Conference USA. They were 8-6 at home, 1-12 in away games and 0-4 on neutral sites.
This season’s lineup will include one post player, Rowe or Davis, and four smaller, quicker ones, all of whom should be able to handle the basketball.
“That will get the ball moving,” Sadler said. “I do think it’s really going to help our scoring.”
But the lack of big players will hurt on the defensive end. Southern Miss will rely on a man-to-man defense, with “some zone, some gimmick stuff like a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two,” Sadler said.
The players are optimistic about the season.
“Talent-wise, we’re better,” Holland said. “We have a lot more athletes, more experience, more confidence. That’s a big difference.”
Edwards said playing three games in August in the trip to the Bahamas helped the team mesh.
“It helped speed up the process,” he said. “We’ll have to make adjustments but I think we’ve got good chemistry.”
The Golden Eagles will host Southern University at New Orleans on Nov. 10 for an exhibition game and start regular season at Michigan on Nov. 16.