Southern Miss

With the Middle Tennessee stunner, has Doc Sadler secured his future at Southern Miss?

Southern Miss basketball coach Doc Sadler is not a fan of Conference USA’s new scheduling format for the 2018-19 season.
Southern Miss basketball coach Doc Sadler is not a fan of Conference USA’s new scheduling format for the 2018-19 season. Special to the Sun Herald

Southern Miss basketball coach Doc Sadler wasn’t granted his usual one-year contract extension after the 2016-17 season, creating a little uncertainty about his future in Hattiesburg.

After Thursday night’s stunning 71-68 overtime upset of No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA Tournament, Sadler has to be feeling confident that he’ll be hanging around for a while.

If USM athletic director Jon Gilbert chooses not to add onto Sadler’s deal, he will have two years remaining on his contract entering next season. Due to the way Sadler’s contract is set up, Gilbert will have only five days to make a decision once the season has ended.

Gilbert has been upbeat about the job Sadler has done all season so it’s hard to see anything other than an extension coming the coach’s way. The main reason that Sadler didn’t get an extension last year was that Gilbert had been on the job for a very short time when he had to make the call.

Sadler is in his fifth year on the job and the team has seen its win total increase each season despite still dealing with NCAA sanctions brought about by the conduct of former coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff during his two-year tenure at USM from 2012-14.

Tyndall is under a 10-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA and currently serving as an assistant in the NBA G-League.

USM improved to 16-17 after Thursday’s stunning victory in the quarterfinals of the C-USA tournament in Frisco, Texas, setting up a semifinal battle with Marshall (22-10) at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.

Considering Sadler is still playing with fewer scholarship players than every Division I team that he has played this season due to NCAA sanctions, a .500 record was about as much as you could have expected.

USM has 11 scholarship players total, but just nine of those are eligible to play at the moment. Only eight of those guys are actually seeing minutes. Sadler is essentially operating with eight scholarship players and a senior walk-on in D’Angelo Richardson.

USM has two years of probation remaining and one more year of not being at full scholarships. The Golden Eagles will be down one scholarship player in 2018-19. There is a 13-scholarship limit in Division I basketball.

With the way USM has run off three consecutive wins over a solid Louisiana Tech squad, FIU and Middle Tennessee, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the program is headed in the right direction.

USM will return every player from this year’s team aside from Richardson, who is playing crucial minutes off the bench.

The Golden Eagles have gotten this far on the strength of their backcourt play.

Junior guard Cortez Edwards is quickly becoming one of the better guards in C-USA. He scored 23 points, hitting 5-of-6 3-pointers, on Thursday after scoring a career-high 29 in a 69-68 win over FIU in the first round.

Dominic Magee added 12 points and junior point guard Tyree Griffin continues to impress after scoring 11 and dishing out six assists against the Blue Raiders.

This is the same Middle Tennessee squad (24-7) that was ranked in the AP Top 25 just a week ago … the same Middle Tennessee that beat good Big Ten teams in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the last two years … the same Middle Tennessee that cruised to a regular season title with a conference mark of 16-2.

Middle Tennessee hadn’t lost a C-USA Tournament game since 2015 entering Thursday night.

You can make a strong case that Sadler’s win Thursday night was better than any that Tyndall picked up in his two-year run in Hattiesburg. Sadler has put together a solid team against all odds and he deserves the respect of the USM fanbase.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee