Sports writers predict upcoming basketball season

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Grant Chighizola

Year five of the Doc Sadler era for the Southern Miss men’s basketball team is perhaps the most important one yet. After a 16-18 overall record in 2017-2018, which included an upset 71-68 overtime win over Middle Tennessee State in the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament, there is some optimism heading into this season.

Key on the list is the amount of returning playmakers that the Golden Eagles return for 2018-2019. Redshirt seniors Dominic Magee, Kevin Holland and Tyree Griffin, along with true senior Cortez Edwards will form the playmaking core for the team this season.

Edwards led the team in minutes with 1,219 and also averaged a team leading 16.6 points-per-game and 217 total rebounds last season. Griffin and Magee were the only other players to average more than 10 points per game, with averages of 15.0 and 11.7 points per game, respectively. Magee was also the team leader in defensive rebounds with 186. These four veterans will need to be on the top of their respective games this season in order for Southern Miss to be competitive.

In terms of schedule, the non-conference slate is headlined by back-to-back road contests against Wichita State and Kansas State in the middle of December. Wichita State sported a 25-8 record last season, while Kansas State made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. If Southern Miss can hang with and remain competitive against either of these teams, it will serve as an indicator as to how conference play may shake up.

Overall, I think Southern Miss has the tools to match its record from last season or to finish the season with a .500 winning percentage. For that to happen, though, the team must perform better on the road and avoid a 2-11 road record like last year’s squad. Still, the experiences from last season and performance in the C-USA tournament should serve as positive motivation for this team.

Darrell Reese Jr.

The Golden Eagles were off to an up and down season to start last year, but this year could be different. The Southern Miss men’s basketball team finished their 2017-2018 campaign with a 16-18 overall record, including an 8-12 conference record. They dominated at home with an 11-3 home record, but struggled mightily on the road, going 2-11. The Golden Eagles have five returning seniors and with that, those guys can provide leadership for the rest of the team.

Redshirt senior guard Dominic Magee showed signs last year that he can be the Golden Eagles’ reliable sharpshooter. An example of this is when he for a season-high 27 points in a win over Troy last December. Overall, Magee was third on the team in scoring with 11.7 points-per-game.

Senior guard Cortez Edwards is another player that has shown growth over his years at Southern Miss. Edwards is a guy that you can rely on to give you much needed minutes and can come up with key steals. Setting a single-season school record in steals (71) while playing 1,219 minutes last season, Edwards proved that his work ethic is one that should be noticed.

Both Dominic Magee and Cortez Edwards proved that they can compete, but this season will be a test not only for them, but for the rest of the team.

An 8-12 C-USA record is not acceptable, and I believe Southern Miss Head Coach Doc Sadler understands that. Losing to Marshall twice hurt the Golden Eagles last year, but this year expect a different team dynamic on both sides. Most of the C-USA games that Southern Miss lost last season ended in blowouts.

Marshall finished 27-11 (13-5 C-USA) in 2017-2018. That record alone shows that they are one of the best teams in the conference. Another team to watch out for this season is Middle Tennessee State, who finished with a record of 25-8 (16-2 C-USA) last season. Expect them to finish were they left off this year.

However, to be successful in conference play Southern Miss has to get a dominant rim protector and sharpshooter to surround him to compete with the other C-USA teams. One true playmaker is needed as well.

Brad Crowe

Last year’s Southern Miss squad certainly made strides and improved on its 9-22 regular season record in 2016-2017, going 16-18 in 2017-18 and reaching the semifinal round of the Conference USA basketball tournament.

This year, however, and a mix of veteran and some youth could perhaps prove to be a positive for them, as they return their top six scorers from 2017, including senior Cortez Edwards, who led the Golden Eagles with averages of 16 points, six rebounds and three assists per contest in 2017-2018

Even more great guard play has arrived in the form of freshman Shakur Daniels from Ontario, Canada, a highly touted recruit who drew comparisons to NBA player Andrew Wiggins with his abilities during high school.

Southern Miss’ non-conference schedule features a few really tough challenges this time around, with road games versus SMU, Wichita State and Kansas State, but Doc Sadler and his team may have an opportunity to make up a lot of ground in conference play.

I believe a strong showing in their home performances at Reed Green Coliseum could lift the Golden Eagles into the top half of the conference standings with an overall winning record. My prediction is that they finish with at least 18 regular season victories and an opportunity to compete in the NIT Basketball Tournament in March. 

Andrew Abadie

Southern Miss basketball looks to be a contender for the C-USA crown this season. The Golden Eagles return its top five leading scorers from last season, most notably seniors Tyree Griffin, Dominic Magee and Cortez Edwards.

The biggest weakness for Southern Miss last year, besides still feeling the remnants of sanctions, was a lack of height.  While Eddie Davis transferred to Hartford, 6-foot-11 redshirt junior Tim Rowe returns.

In addition, 6-foot-9 redshirt junior Boban Jacdonmi and 6-foot-7 freshman Tyler Stevenson will hope to be the fix to the height problem. Having Rowe, Jacdonmi and Stevenson on the roster will add depth to the position and hopefully be the answer to the mismatches the Golden Eagles had to deal with last season.

For the non-conference schedule this season, the team has a nice balance of should be wins and challenging games, most notably against Elite Eight team Kansas State, NCAA tournament qualifier Wichita State and SMU. In conference play, the biggest concern will be how the new schedule format affects the team. After the first seven weeks of conference play are over, team’s will be broken up into groups based on the initial conference standings. Each group will be divided based on seeding, which could potentially hurt Southern Miss, as they had a slow 2-4 start in conference play last year.  

One perk is that Middle Tennessee’s head coach from last season, Kermit Davis, accepted the same position at Ole Miss. While the traditional conference powerhouse may have a down year under a new head coach, they will still be competitive.

Reigning conference champs Marshall will return the conference’s leading scorer, while Old Dominion, Western Kentucky and UAB should also have competitive teams. Southern Miss’ tournament win over Middle Tennessee last year was a true indicator as to how talented the team is. With so many talented veterans, there is no reason the that this team will not have its first non-vacated winning season since 2011-2012. Anything short of that would certainly be a letdown year.

Jalen Dogan

Southern Miss looks to have a successful season this year, as the clock is ticking and it is almost time for the season to tip off. The Golden Eagles went 16-18 (8-12 in C-USA) during the 2017-2018 season and look to get over the hump this year. The 16-18 record may scream mediocrity, but the Golden Eagles’ season could have had a completely different outcome, as six of those losses were decided by ten points or less. Southern Miss, led by head coach Doc Sadler, definitely showed signs of being better than portrayed.

A lack of experience should not be a factor was the Eagles have five seniors, three of whom are redshirts, and five more juniors, four of whom are redshirts. Senior guards Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin look to lead the crew again this year, as they embraced leadership roles last season. Edwards’ 71 steals set a new single-season school record, as well as his 1,219 minutes played. Edwards also led the squad in PPG with 16.6 and sported a 49.8 shooting percentage. Edwards had ten separate games in which he scored 20 points or more, and was named to the C-USA All-Tournament Team.

Griffin looks to continue his role as both scorer and distributor. Last season, he had 27 double-digit games in terms of scoring and simultaneously managed to collect 201 assists. That assist count ranked second in program history behind Dallas Dale’s 222 assists in 1991-1992. This year, Griffin and Edwards will be key leaders for the Golden Eagles.

My prediction for the Golden Eagles is a 20-plus win season. As I alluded to earlier, quite a few of the team’s losses last year were fairly close. This year, I believe that experience along with Sadler’s coaching will allow the Golden Eagles to close out close games. I believe they will be over .500 and ultimately stand top three in the conference. Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and WKU look to get even better, as they all come off strong seasons, but I believe the Golden Eagles have what it takes to match up with the rest of the conference Overall, this season looks very promising for Southern Miss and Conference USA basketball.