Radford Basketball Preview: #124
Overall Rank: #124
Conference Rank: #1 Big South
2008-09: 21-12, 15-3
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Brad Greenberg (31-32 at Radford, 31-32 overall)
Radford dominated the Big South, going 15-3, but the non-conference portion of their schedule was filled with losses and a few wins against non Division I opponents. That is how they ended up as 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they promptly got slaughtered by eventual national champions North Carolina. Most of the key pieces to the team are back and the Highlanders should find themselves right back on top of the conference standings.
Key Losses: F Eric Hall, G Martell McDuffy, G Chris McEachin, G Kenny Thomas
It is the frontcourt that has the most talent and that talent will get a boost from Lazar Trifunovic, a transfer from Binghamton. The 6-8 junior started nearly every game during his playing time at Binghamton and will make an already dominating frontcourt even better. Yet, the most important newcomers could be in the backcourt where freshmen Jamal Curry, Evan Faulkner, Blake Smith and Gorkem Sonmez will all battle for important minutes and possibly even a starting job.
Martell McDuffy was kicked off the team after 13 games last year and Chris McEachin has opted to transfer. McEachin, who averaged 8.7 points per game after missing the first semester due to academic reasons, would have likely been the starter at shooting guard had he opted to stick around. Even Aaron Austin, who played in just 12 games last year, would have likely seen quite a bit of playing time, but he too has transferred. That leaves walk-on Cole Wilder as the lone experienced shooting guard and he might even start until one of the freshmen unseat him. The good news is Amir Johnson is returning. The point guard averaged 9.6 points per game and dished out 5.2 assists per game. As long as Johnson can find the big men, the offense is in good hands.
The frontcourt duo of Artsiom Parakhouski and Joey Lynch-Flohr were nearly impossible to stop in conference play. Parakhouski, a 6-11 senior, led the way averaging 16.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. Lynch-Flohr added 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. The only thing that made the duo suffer was Lynch-Flohr’s knack for getting in foul trouble. With the addition of Trifunovic, worrying about foul problems is a thing of the past. Phillip Martin started 21 games last year after McDuffy was gone and did an admirable job. Martin has the ability to take the outside shot and turn into a legitimate scoring threat now that the proven shooters are absent.
Who to Watch:
Parakhouski, Lynch-Flohr and Trifunovic would be a quality frontcourt in any conference. The two returning starters may not put up such gaudy numbers this year since Trifunovic is now in the mix, but having three quality big men is certainly better than having two. The only possible concern is the lack of outside shooting from the big men. Those three are not going to stretch out the defense with their outside shooting very often and that may be a problem since the Highlanders lost most of their outside shooters.
And it is that outside shooting that will be the difference between a good year and a great year. Johnson is a capable shooter and scorer, but he will be busy running the point most of the time. Radford must find a couple players on the wing that can score, especially from long range or the defense can simply pack it in and stop the big guys inside. Most teams in the Big South will not be able to stop them anyway, but if Radford wants to make a little noise out of conference, they must have a more dynamic offense.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Amir Johnson, Senior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Cole Wilder, Senior, Guard, 0.7 points per game
Phillip Martin, Senior, Forward, 4.2 points per game
Joey Lynch-Flohr, Senior, Forward, 13.7 points per game
Artsiom Parakhouski, Senior, Center, 16.2 points per game