South Carolina State Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #142
Conference Rank: #1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
2008-09: 17-14, 10-6
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Tim Carter (30-34 at South Carolina State, 201-202 overall)
The 2008-2009 season was supposed to be the year South Carolina State made a run at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. The talent was there, but in the end the Bulldogs finished behind a much better Morgan State squad. Without a trio of key contributors, on paper SCSU should take a step back, but Coach Tim Carter is at the school for his third year and the team is beginning to look like his kind of team.
Key Losses: G Jessie Burton, C Josh Jackson, F Jason Johnson
Coach Carter had to go the junior college route to fill in some glaring holes. It is possible that Tyvon Williams, a 5-11 point guard out of Monroe Community College, and power forward Rondrico Hightower could be starting from day one. Fellow junior college transfers Devon McBride and Joe Wright will add some much needed depth.
Without Burton, the new star on the perimeter will be Jimmy Williams. Williams had a superb freshman campaign, tallying 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. His do-it-all mentality will be extremely valuable to this team. Williams can hit the outside shot with consistency and will use his 6-4 frame to get to the basket. Junior Carrio Bennett is nearly as productive as Williams. His outside shot could use a little work, but Bennett still connected on one three-pointer per game and will be a threat to score 20 points on any given night. Either of those two could move to the point if necessary, but the Bulldogs hope that job can be filled by a newcomer so Williams and Bennett can worry about scoring.
It is in the frontcourt where there are bigger concerns. Losing Jason Johnson and Josh Jackson is huge. Johnson alone averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Jackson was a nice compliment to him, tallying 8.0 points per and 4.7 boards. However, the frontcourt cupboard is not bare. Jason Flagler is really a 6-4 wing, but he has the strength to battle in the paint and play the four position. By the end of the year Flagler was battling with Johnson in both the scoring and the rebounding department and should be able to average 14 points and eight rebounds during his senior season.
Who to Watch:
However, no matter how strong and productive he may be, Flagler is still only 6-4 and cannot move from the three spot to the five spot. There is not much else on the roster as far as forwards go and that will put a lot of pressure on newcomers Hightower and Wright. Those two will have to manage nearly all the minutes at the five spot and that is asking a lot from two relatively untested players. If Hightower is not ready to play the five spot at the Division I level and Wright cannot give the team a force off the bench, South Carolina State will not win the conference.
But otherwise there is enough talent here to make a nice little run at in the MEAC. Williams, Bennett and Flagler are all players who have proven that they can play basketball and will step up big time now that they will be forced to become the leaders on the team. The key is how well Coach Carter can fill in the holes at center and point guard. Those are a couple important positions, but the coaching staff did a good job giving itself plenty of options.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Tyvon Williams, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Carrio Bennett, Junior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Jimmy Williams, Sophomore, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Jason Flagler, Senior, Forward, 12.8 points per game
Rondrico Hightower, Junior, Forward, DNP last season