Marshall Thundering Herd
Overall Rank: #119
Conference Rank: #6 C-USA
2007-08: 16-14, 8-8, 6th
2007-08 postseason: none
Marshall struggled to string together wins last year, never garnering more than three in a row. However, the Thundering Herd never lost more than two in a row. By definition, that is pretty much average. It might be more of the same, but with a few talented transfers heading into the program, Coach Donnie Jones’ squad has the potential to make some noise in Conference USA.
Yet, there will be a lot of new faces. Guard Mark Dorris was the team’s leading scorer and backcourt mates Matt Walls, Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes and Taurean Marshall all played important roles. Big men Robbie Jackson, Jean Francois Bro-Grebe and Jesse Oglesby did not play that many minutes, but they were good for a few fouls and rebounds.
The losses on the perimeter are the big ones and Marshall has some newcomers ready to step in and play a big role on this team right away. Chris Lutz should have the largest impact. The transfer from Purdue is a superb shooter from long range and hit 47.2 percent of his attempts with the Boilermakers two years ago. When he is on, Lutz can light up the scoreboard in a big hurry. Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson highlight the class of incoming freshmen. Pitts, a point guard, has the basketball IQ and the skills to be a leader very soon, maybe even this year. Johnson, a 6-3 guard, can do a little bit of everything and has the skills to run the point or play either spot on the wing. Forward Kore White rounds out the group of talented freshmen. White is expected to develop into a dynamic post player before his days at Marshall are done and can immediately help on the glass and on the defensive end. Brandon Powell, a 6-3 guard, and Octavius Spann, a 6-6 forward, are eligible to play this year after transferring in from Florida and Georgetown, respectively. Add Marcus Goode to the mix, who did not play last year for academic reasons, and the Thundering Herd have a ton of quality depth.
Who to Watch:
Most of the returning talent is in the frontcourt. Markel Humphrey, Tirrell Baines and Tyler Wilkerson all averaged between 9.2 and 13.1 points and 5.6 to 5.9 rebounds per contest. At 6-5, Humphrey is the small forward who can get to the basket and occasionally hit the outside shot. Baines is a little undersized for a four in C-USA, but he definitely does not play like it. Baines will use his quickness and athleticism to blow by opposing defenders and he has a knack for grabbing offensive boards. Wilkerson is the biggest of the bunch and swatted away one shot per game last year. He also has the ability to step outside and hit the mid-range jump shot and that makes him quite difficult to guard.
Can Darryl Merthie run the show or will the Herd have to depend on freshmen to lead the team? Merthie is a good scorer and can at least hit the outside shot to keep the opposing defenses honest, but now he will have to become a senior leader and create for his teammates. If that does not happen, Pitts and Johnson will have to grow up in a hurry. Those two freshmen certainly have the skills to run the point effectively, but having a senior leader like Merthie step up into a bigger role will be very important for the new look backcourt. If Merthie has a big year, so will the Herd. If he does not, the team can still be successful, but it is always dangerous to depend on freshmen…no matter how talented they are.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Darryl Merthie, Senior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Chris Lutz, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Markel Humphrey, Senior, Forward, 13.1 points per game
Tirrell Baines, Sophomore, Forward, 11.5 points per game
Tyler Wilkerson, Junior, Forward, 9.2 points per game