#31 Utah St: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #1 Western Athletic Conference
2009-10: 27-8, 14-2
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Stew Morrill (249-99 at Utah State, 512-237 overall)
Coach Stew Morrill has led Utah State to ten consecutive NCAA or NIT appearances. That streak will not end this year. The Aggies have a little bit of rebuilding to do with the loss of point guard Jared Quayle, but USU is about the system, not about a single player. While Quayle will be missed, Coach Morrill has a couple fine options to take over for him.
Key Losses: C Modou Niang, G Jared Quayle
Of the nine newcomers only two are true freshman. Ben Clifford has the ability to immediately add some depth to frontcourt if he can find the minutes and James Walker could see some playing time at the point in an effort to help replace Quayle. Brockeith Pane and his experience at Houston and Midland Junior College makes him the likely candidate to take over the point guard duties. E.J. Farris, who sat out last season to concentrate on academics, could also get an opportunity to run the show if all else fails. The talent continues on the wings where Antonio Bumpus, Norvell Arnold and Brad Brown are all experienced players who will compete for playing time. The new post players are Morgan Grim, a transfer from Utah, and junior college transfer Leland Miller. Grim should immediately bolster the interior depth.
Nine players averaged over ten minutes per game last year and eight of them back so the battles for playing time will be fierce. Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams will try and hang onto their starting roles on the wing. Newbold is mostly a shooter, but he does that very well…connecting on 42.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Newbold is also a solid rebounder and a decent passer. Williams is not a bad shooter either, but he will also attack the basket. At 6-3, he is a little undersized for a small forward, but this is a very good rebounding team despite Williams’ shortcomings in that department. Preston Medlin showed plenty of potential during his freshman campaign and could play a bigger role with a year of experience under his belt.
In this efficient offense, Tai Wesley, Nate Bendall and Brady Jardine will score a lot of points. All three of those forwards connected on at least 56 percent of their shots. It is Wesley who has emerged as the team’s most skillful big man. The 6-7 senior led the team with 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest. Nate Bendall is the bigger body under the basket. Bendall has turned into a fine post scorer and with him and Wesley under the basket, the opposition has to pay attention. With those two scoring so much in the paint, it really opens up Newbold and Williams, along with some of the newcomers, to knock down the long balls. Jardine has turned into a fine backup post player who can keep up with Bendall in the scoring and rebounding department. However, he needs to improve on his defense if he wants to hold off the newcomers. Matt Formisano is yet another experienced big man who can fill in ten to 15 minutes per game.
Who to Watch:
Brian Green was a superb sixth man last year, but he could play a much more important role this season. Green is a great shooter from everywhere on the floor and he will ideally remain as the sixth man since finding another player who can spark the offense like Green off the bench will be very difficult. However, Green can also handle the ball and if the newcomers, most notably Pane, have trouble running the point, the job could fall to Green.
The point guard issues may remain for a little while, but there are plenty of options. This is a team that only lost two contributors and added a whole slew of talented players who have the ability to contribute. The problem will be finding roles for all of these newcomers who on most teams would be obvious roleplayers. The battle for playing time will only make this team stronger and anything but another trip to the NCAA Tournament should be considered a disappointment.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Brockeith Pane, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Tyler Newbold, Senior, Guard, 8.0 ppg
Pooh Williams, Senior, Guard, 8.7 ppg
Tai Wesley, Senior, Forward, 13.7 ppg
Nate Bendall, Senior, Forward, 10.3 ppg
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