South Alabama Jaguars
Overall Rank: #79
Conference Rank: #1 Sun Belt
2007-08: 26-7, 16-2, 1st East
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
South Alabama lost a couple key players out of the backcourt, but there is one returning who can pick up the slack. Domonic Tilford finally found a home after spending one year at Cincinnati and one at New Mexico Junior College before playing for the Jaguars during the 2007-2008 campaign. The 5-10 guard tallied 12.5 points per game last year and, especially if his shot falls a little more consistency, Tilford can lead this team to big things.
Yet, can Tilford replace Demetric Bennett and Daon Merritt’s production? Bennett led the team with 19.5 points per game and was easily the team’s most dangerous and consistent three-point shooter. Bennett’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor will be missed greatly. Merritt was no slouch in the scoring department either, but it was his ballhandling and leadership skills that propelled USA to the NCAA Tournament.
Tilford could play the point, but the team would be better off if he was at the two guard spot. And whether or not Tilford can spend most of his time at the shooting guard position is up to a couple new point guards. Bryan Sherrer racked up quite a few awards during his two years at Three Rivers Community College in Missouri. The clutch shooter will score when he has to, but he does his best work getting to the basket and finding his teammates or getting fouled. Demarius Jones and the speedy C.J. Garner should be solid enough backups to keep Tilford at the two guard spot most of the time. LaShun Watson could even handle the ball if necessary; however, the 6-5 wing will likely spend most of his time backing up Tilford. Tracy Parks will add even more depth on the perimeter. The need for depth is less of an issue in the paint. Cameron Moore and DeAndre Hersey are both high scoring forwards who can play the three or four and center Charles Tabet is back after redshirting last season.
Who to Watch:
The strength of the Jaguars has quickly shifted into the frontcourt, although that may change once the newcomers get an opportunity to show their stuff. Brandon Davis leads the way after averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks last season. Davis is only 6-6, but he works hard around the basket and will get the tough rebounds and the tough baskets. DeAndre Coleman and Ronald Douglas can score around the basket too. Coleman is also a superb rebounder, while Douglas can help in the shot blocking department. They both probably will not start, but that is some quality, quality depth up front. Daniel Hayles did not have a great year after transferring in from Auburn, but he is an athletic small forward who can score around the basket and grab some rebounds.
The frontcourt has plenty of weapons, but South Alabama has gotten to the NCAA Tournament on strong guard play. Tilford can hold his own, but the newcomers need to step up and put some points on the board. B.J. Ford started 16 games last season, but only averaged 8.6 minutes per contest. Ford is not going to be the guy who picks up any of the scoring slack, but he can provide an important role playing solid defense. In the end, if Sherrer can handle the point guard duties South Alabama will be the best team in the Sun Belt conference. Overall, the conference will not be as strong as it was last year, so reaching the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid is not likely this time around.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Bryan Sherrer, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Domonic Tilford, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Daniel Hayles, Senior, Forward, 3.6 points per game
Brandon Davis, Senior, Forward, 10.8 points per game
Ronald Douglas, Senior, Center, 6.5 points per game