Southern Miss had its best season in four years under head coach Doc Sadler. The 16-18 record is the best mark with seven conference wins this past season which is also an improvement. Not to mention that the team only had nine players on scholarship to compete such the remarkable feats.
Last season, Southern Miss barely made the conference tournament with just nine wins. This year Southern Miss pulled two wins over Florida International and basketball powerhouse Middle Tennessee.
Southern Miss held on to beat FIU 69-68 and upset the No.1 seeded regular season champions, Middle Tennessee, 71-68 that created a media frenzy. After the win Sadler said in a press conference:
“It has been a long four years, but as I’ve been telling the guys, when you get to this situation… the support has been unbelievable and you know it’s just around the corner. As champions do, they made some plays down the stretch, but I told the team that day that the best team is in our locker room. There are a lot of people who believe in you, but you have to start believing you are the best basketball team. They beat a heck of a basketball team; a team that a lot of people picked to at least go to the sweet 16, but we have a heck of a basketball team. I’m so proud of these guys. We could have dropped our head going into that overtime, but we didn’t. So proud of them. We beat a heck of a basketball team.”
The Golden Eagles then lost in the semifinals to eventual tournament champions Marshall 85-75. Despite the score, Southern Miss faced a 20-point deficit but cut it to six points with two minutes left in the game. In the tournament, junior Cortez Edwards averaged 27.3 points per game in the tournament.
Although many fans have not been satisfied with head coach Doc Sadler, he has certainly been the key component in essentially having to rebuild the program from scratch after dealing with NCAA sanctions. Along with improving his record every season, the key to his success has been his ability to find transfers.
Oklahoma State transfer Tyree Griffin and Grand Canyon State transfer Dominic Magee were immediate impacts this past season. Griffin averaged 15 points and Magee averaged 11 points per game with each also bringing another dynamic to the defense. The duo and Edwards complimented each other well and became the focal points of the offense.
Other than D’Angelo Richardson Richardson Southern Miss returns its entire roster with several other new additions. The main issue for the Golden Eagles has been lack of size which could have been the difference in keeping Southern Miss from having a winning season.
If Sadler’s trend can stay true, then the team may have found their answer. Leonard Harper-Baker is a 6’5 transfer from Moberly Area Community College and 6’9 transfer Boban Jacdonmi are potential answers for the big man problem.
Sadler has been given a one-year contract extension which makes his contract good until 2021. The extension came right after the conference tournament and shows Athletic Director Jon Gilberts’ confidence in his coach.
With a stable coaching staff, the return of an experienced team, an influx of new talent, and now being able to have 12 players on scholarship team is primed for a successful season next year. A season that Southern Miss fans have been long for four years.