#138 Tennessee Tech: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #138
Conference Rank: #2 Ohio Valley Conference
2009-10: 15-17, 8-10
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Mike Sutton (129-117 at Tennessee Tech, 129-117 overall)
Tennessee Tech surprised many last year by finishing with an 8-10 record in conference play. The Golden Eagles had some quality wins, but simply lacked consistency. Having to bring in a new point guard does not sound like it should fix that, but in general this team is a year older and a year wiser and while they may not be able to catch Murray State, Tennessee Tech should be aiming for a postseason berth of some sort.
Key Losses: G Frank Davis, G Elijah Muhammad
Tennessee Tech has a trio of freshmen coming in who will likely need to at least play a few minutes off the bench. Mitchell Hill, a 6-1 guard, and Javon McKay, a 6-5 wing, are the two who will likely be forced into action. The other freshman is German forward Dennis Ogbe. He is an intriguing 6-7 prospect, but on this team he will be given the opportunity to progress under some more experienced frontcourt players. The more important newcomers are Zac Swansey and redshirt freshman Chase Dunn. The two point guards will battle it out for playing time, but it is Swansey who is expected to take over the point guard duties. Swansey spent two seasons at Georgia and averaged 4.3 points and 2.9 assists during the 2008-2009 campaign and should immediately step into a leadership role after spending last year on the sidelines. Liam McMorrow could answer some frontcourt questions if he is eligible to play this season. The transfer from Marquette did not play for the Golden Eagles due to health concerns last season, but the 7-0, 265 pounder may be eligible to play immediately for Tennessee Tech pending an NCAA appeal. If that is the case, the frontcourt will have the big bodied strong man under the basket that they need.
The backcourt will have some problems replacing Frank Davis and Elijah Muhammad. Those two both shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc and averaged over 11 points per game. Muhammad also ran the point and did a lot of work on the glass for a guard. Swansey should help replace some of that production, but this team needs to find a shooter who can be a consistent player at the two guard spot. The most experienced option is Zach Bailey. As a sophomore last season Bailey only averaged 5.1 points per game, but he has the shooting ability to step into that role and see a drastic increase in production. Wing Jud Dillard could spend some time at the shooting guard position as well and is a good scorer around the basket, but he is better equipped to be a small forward and that will leave him on the bench behind Kevin Murphy.
Alfred Jones is one of the players who should step up his scoring output with Davis and Muhammad out of the picture. The 6-7, 205 pound power forward averaged 9.2 points and a team high 5.1 rebounds during his junior campaign and should be in store for a big senior season. Fellow senior Byron Pickens is not the scorer that Jones is, but he is a fine backup power forward who can play some defense and hit the glass. The bigger issue is at the five spot. Terrell Barnes and Bassey Inameti pretty much split time last year and one of them needs to become a more consistent interior scorer. Inameti is the more efficient scorer in the paint, but he only averaged 4.3 points per game last year. Barnes is not much of a scorer either at this point in his career, but he will use his 6-8, 245 pound to create space for himself and at least grab quite a few rebounds. Barnes is just a sophomore, so the hope for Tennessee Tech and Coach Mike Sutton is that Barnes can develop his offensive game as a sophomore.
Who to Watch:
The man who will do most of the scoring for this team is Murphy. The 6-6 wing averaged 15.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a sophomore and should be one of the top scorers in the Ohio Valley Conference again in 2010-2011. He is a capable outside shooter, but most of his scoring comes from attacking the basket. If Murphy can hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts instead of 30 percent, he will be nearly unstoppable.
The problem is this team needs more scorers than just Murphy and all of them cannot be on the inside. Surely Jones and Dillard can help, but they will do their scoring in the paint. The opposition can simply clog the lane and stop all the talented slashers from getting to the basket. That means Bailey, Swansey and maybe even some of the freshmen better start hitting the three-point shot consistently. Most of the team did not have to think about shooting last year with Davis and Muhammad handling those duties, and now it is their time to step up and become the perimeter scorers that this team needs to reach the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Zac Swansey, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Zach Bailey, Junior, Guard, 5.1 ppg
Kevin Murphy, Junior, Guard, 15.3 ppg
Alfred Jones, Senior, Forward, 9.2 ppg
Terrell Barnes, Sophomore, Forward, 4.2 ppg
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