Sneak Peak at the 2017-18 Georgia Southern Basketball Season

Georgia Southern released their Men’s Basketball schedule this week. Practice has started. It’s that time of year. It’s time to look ahead to basketball.

The out-of-conference slate is headlined by Wake Forest….and well, not much else (George Mason?). It includes games against Bluefield State and Tennessee Wesleyan, among others. Not the most challenging collection of teams. Some fans hate it and want to play sexier teams. Other fans have grown accustomed to it.

It is the kind of schedule that Eagle basketball fans gotten used to under Mark Byington (and frankly Charlton Young and Jeff Price). Hanner Fieldhouse is not an easy place to draw cool out-of-conference opponents, but that’s another discussion.

I do not blame him for scheduling light, especially this year. The Sun Belt is a one-bid conference. The goal is to win the conference this year. That is priority numero uno.

Using November and December as a sort of a preseason to get the guys ready for conference play makes sense. This is perhaps the Eagles best shot at making it to the NCAA Tournament since 1992. Maybe even better than the 2014-15 team that came within 2 points of beating Georgia State in the SBC championship game. Using the early part of the season to work the kinks out is not the worst idea.

Georgia Southern brought back essentially everybody from last year and brought in a few promising additions as well. They are coming off their first postseason appearance since 2006. Sure, it was the CBI, and they got demolished by Utah Valley 74-49, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The schedule:

NOV 1 VS GEORGIA COLLEGE (EXH.)
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
NOV 10 7:30 P.M. AT WAKE FOREST
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.
NOV 13 7:30 P.M. VS CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
GULF COAST SHOWCASE
NOV 16 VS BLUEFIELD STATE
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
NOV 20 VS MISSOURI STATE
ESTERO, FLA.
NOV 21 VS UMKC OR MANHATTAN
ESTERO, FLA.
NOV 22 VS THIRD ROUND
ESTERO, FLA.
NOV 25 2 P.M. AT BRADLEY
PEORIA, ILL.
DEC 2 VS TENNESSEE WESLEYAN
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
DEC 9 VS SAVANNAH STATE
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
DEC 12 AT GEORGE MASON
FAIRFAX, VA.
DEC 16 5 P.M. AT CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD
BAKERSFIELD, CALIF.
DEC 19 7 P.M. AT KENNESAW STATE
KENNESAW, GA.
DEC 22 7 P.M. AT ETSU
JOHNSON CITY, TENN.
DEC 29 AT TROY
TROY, ALA.
DEC 31 4:05 P.M. AT SOUTH ALABAMA
MOBILE, ALA.
JAN 4 7:30 P.M. VS ARKANSAS STATE
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
JAN 6 5 P.M. VS LITTLE ROCK
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
JAN 11 AT COASTAL CAROLINA
CONWAY, S.C.
JAN 13 3:30 P.M. AT APPALACHIAN STATE
BOONE, N.C.
JAN 20 AT GEORGIA STATE
ATLANTA, GA.
JAN 25 7:30 P.M. VS TEXAS STATE
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
JAN 27 5 P.M. VS UTA
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
FEB 1 8 P.M. AT LITTLE ROCK
LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
FEB 3 8 P.M. AT ARKANSAS STATE
JONESBORO, ARK.
FEB 8 7:30 P.M. VS ULM
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
FEB 10 5 P.M. VS LOUISIANA
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
FEB 16 9 P.M. VS GEORGIA STATE
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
TV: ESPN2
FEB 22 8 P.M. AT UTA
ARLINGTON, TEXAS
FEB 24 AT TEXAS STATE
SAN MARCOS, TEXAS
MAR 1 7:30 P.M. VS SOUTH ALABAMA
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE
MAR 3 5 P.M. VS TROY
STATESBORO, GA. HANNER FIELDHOUSE

Naturally, the two matchups against rival Georgia State jump out first. Especially the February 16 game at Hanner Fieldhouse, which will be televised on ESPN2.

When Hanner is packed for a good game, it’s a unique atmosphere. Take it from a former Hanner Hooligan. Say what you want about Hanner’s attendance issues, but fans show up when the Panthers roll into town.

The Eagles visit Kennesaw State on December 19 and Georgia State on January 20, which are important dates for Georgia Southern’s large Atlanta-based alumni. I know those are two games I’m going to.

Aside from that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Basketball Eagles made it to January with only one or two losses. If the Eagles were to upset Wake Forest in the regular season opener on November 10, they could enter conference play undefeated.

Conference play itself is a bit trickier. Arkansas State is expected to be good despite the departure of head coach Grant McCasland to North Texas. Coming off of a 20-12 season last year, new coach Mike Balado has several key players from last season returning, and brought in four JUCO transfers in the offseason.

Usual suspects of Georgia State, Louisiana, UT-Arlington as well as Texas State and Troy will all be in the mix in what should be a deep conference in 2017-18. Is the SBC two-bid good? I’m not so sure about that. We’ll have to see what the teams named above do out-of-conference.

The Players

2016-17 Stats:

Bold players are returning.

Ike Smith JR G 6-4 195  19.6 Pts, 5.2 Reb, 1.7 Ast
Tookie Brown JR G 5-11 180  17.1 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 4.0 Ast
Mike Hughes SR G 6-3 190  10.6 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 1.6 Ast
Jake Allsmiller SR G 6-5 185  7.8 Pts, 1.6 Reb, 0.7 Ast
B.J. Gladden SR F 6-6 214  5.5 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 0.8 Ast
Montae Glenn JR F 6-8 250  5.4 Pts, 4.9 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Devonte Boykins SR G 6-2 180  3.8 Pts, 1.8 Reb, 1.0 Ast
Shawn O’Connell JR F 6-8 190 3.8 Pts, 2.8 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Coye Simmons SR F 6-8 235 2.3 Pts, 4.4 Reb, 0.2 Ast

Key additions and other players to keep an eye on:
Tyshaun Crawford C Fr. 7-1 270
David-Lee Jones Jr. G So. 6-0 160 (TR-Santa Fe College)
Quan Jackson G R-Fr. 6-4 180 (redshirted last year)
Jared Hamilton G R-So. 6-4 190 (transfer-Jax State)
David Georgiev F So. 6-7 200 (Macedonia)

Mark Byington likes to keep a tight 8-man rotation, especially as the season wears on. As you can see above, 8 of the top 9 returning players in production are returning from 2016-17’s team. The rotation is set, although the talent on the roster might convince Coach Byington to stretch the rotation out a couple of spots.

Ike Smith and Tookie Brown are obviously the focal points of the team. Both in the top 5 in the SBC in points per game last year. Mike Hughes is not a bad third banana either, and guys like Jake Allsmiller, BJ Gladden, Montae Glenn, Shawn O’Connell, and Coye Simmons are seasoned role players at this point. There’s depth on this team.

Early in the season, you will get a chance to see prized 7-1 foot freshman Tyshaun Crawford play against the Georgia Colleges and the Savannah States on the schedule. For a team that struggles with rebounding, a kid that averaged a double-double his senior year of high school might be hard to keep on the bench.

Guard Jared Hamilton transferred in from Jacksonville State and sat out last season. He averaged 9 points a game for the Gamecocks as a freshman. He and Juco transfer David-Lee Jones could battle it out for minutes behind the backcourt three-headed hydra of Tookie, Mike, & Ike.

Two other guys with talent that probably won’t play much this year, but are still plenty talented are Quan Jackson and David Georgiev. Quan Jackson is a lengthy guard with promise that redshirted his freshman year. Georgiev is a 6-7 wing from Macedonia that has played for his country’s U18 and U20 teams at the European Championships.

The Verdict

The sky’s the limit for this team. This season certainly could be the best Eagle team we’ve seen in awhile. It has more offensive firepower than the 2014-15 squad. The schedule is a snoozer. They’re deeper and more experienced than they were last year when they won 18 games.

I have been impressed with Mark Byington’s tenure at Georgia Southern so far. He’s a North Carolina guy (played at UNCW) and is an excellent recruiter.

He was an early adherent to the “positionless basketball” philosophy that has been all the rage in basketball recently. He was doing it out of necessity most of the time (hard to find quality size), but he’s made it work somewhat.

For the 25 years, Eagles fans have been thirsting to go back to the big dance. Maybe this year is the year? Who knows. Meanwhile Mark Byington continues to build the program up, little by little.

 

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