One last ride. One last chance to snap a 27-year tournament drought.
That’s what’s at stake for a trio of seniors: Tookie Brown, Ike Smith, and Montae Glenn. Back in March that was briefly put in jeopardy when Brown declared for the NBA draft. But after receiving feedback from NBA scouts, the Tookie Monster decided to return for one last season in blue and white. Understandably, the relief among Eagle Nation was palpable.
Why? Well, Tookie Brown is quite simply one of the best to ever play for the Eagles. He’s only 153 points shy of becoming Georgia Southern’s all-time scoring leader in the DI era. Brown has earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors three times and could become the first to ever win it four times. Not to mention, he is the emotional heart and center of this team. Just look at the progress this team has made since the star point guard (as well as Ike and Montae) stepped on campus:
2015-16 – 14-17
2016-17 – 18-15
2017-18 – 21-12
Had Tookie left, this might be a middle-tier Sun Belt squad. With Tookie coming back, Georgia Southern is among the preseason favorites. The Sun Belt coaches voted Georgia Southern to finish 2nd. Lindy’s, Athlon, and Street & Smith all have the Eagles ranked in the top-3 in the conference.
Expectations are high. Can the Eagles deliver?
PG: Tookie Brown, David-Lee Jones, Calvin Wishart
SG: Quan Jackson, Elijah McCadden/Will Dillard
SF: Ike Smith, David Viti Jr.
PF: Simeon Carter, Isaiah Crawley
C: Montae Glenn, Trey Dawkins/Tyshaun Crawford
Key losses: Mike Hughes, Jake Allsmiller, Shawn O’Connell, BJ Gladden, Coye Simmons
Key additions: Simeon Carter, Isaiah Crawley, Trey Dawkins, Will Dillard, Elijah McCadden, David Viti Jr., Calvin Wishart
But this isn’t all about Tookie. This might be the best team Georgia Southern has had since its last tournament appearance in 1992. Guard Ike Smith was named to the preseason All-Sun Belt third team. Forward/Center Montae Glenn finished 2nd in the country in offensive rebounds last season and is among the best window-washers in the nation. Coach Mark Byington adds Iowa State transfer Simeon Carter (6-8 215) to the frontcourt after sitting out last season. Expectations are high for Carter, he could be the X-factor this team needs to get over the hump.
Jake Allsmiller and Mike Hughes are the biggest losses from the 2017-18 squad. The Eagles will miss Allsmiller and Hughes’s ability to stretch the court. But sophomore Quan Jackson and junior David-Lee Jones are poised to step up and replace their production.
On top of that, Byington hauled in one of the best recruiting classes he’s had since taking the helm in 2013:
David Viti F/G Fr. 6-5 205
Elijah McCadden G Fr. 6-4 192
Calvin Wishart G Fr. 6-1 180
Will Dillard G Fr. 6-2 190
Isaiah Crawley F Jr. 6-7 210 Columbia State CC
Trey Dawkins F/C Jr. 6-8 200 Southwest Tennessee CC
Six dudes including two JuCo transfers, not bad. Among the four freshmen, McCadden, Dillard, and Viti could see significant playing time right away. The two JuCo transfers, Isaiah Crawley and Trey Dawkins, provide immediate depth in the frontcourt and will almost certainly be big-time contributors this season.
The biggest wildcard on the roster is Tyshaun Crawford. At 7-1 270, the redshirt freshman Crawford provides size in the middle rarely seen in Statesboro. However it remains to be seen if his skill set translates to Mark Byington’s pace and space system.
There’s a good balance of guards, wings, and bigs on the roster. The Eagles can give opponents several different looks depending on the situation and have quality depth to draw from.
The schedule is quite interesting. The non-conference slate is headlined with games against George Mason, Arizona, Mercer, UCF, Bradley, and Dayton. Additionally, the Eagles will compete in the Islands of Bahamas Showcase from November 7-18. Should Georgia Southern beat Florida Atlantic on November 16, they could face the winner of the Towson/Pepperdine game.
This is probably the strongest out-of-conference schedule I have seen since Byington arrived. Convincing schools to play in Hanner Fieldhouse has historically been a chore, so having decent opponents like George Mason and Bradley make the trip to Statesboro has to be considered a win. George Mason is a member of the A-10, one of the toughest leagues in college basketball, and Bradley won 20 games in the tough Missouri Valley a season ago.
As far as the conference slate goes, Georgia State and Louisiana remains the biggest obstacles for Georgia Southern to get to the tournament. The Panthers are led by D’Marcus Simonds, a legitimate NBA prospect, and Devin Mitchell. The Ragin Cajuns are headlined by Effingham County product Jakeenan Gant. Finishing the regular season in the top two and securing a bye to the conference tournament semifinals remains the paramount concern.
The vast majority of games will be available on the ESPN+ platform, with the February 5th matchup vs. Troy being the only game currently scheduled for ESPN2, that may change. The conference tournament is March 13-17 in New Orleans.
Islands of Bahamas Showcase
Wed, Nov 7
vs Carver Bible College 7:00 PM
Tue, Nov 13
vs George Mason 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Fri, Nov 16
vs Florida Atlantic (Nassau, Bahamas)
Sat, Nov 17 2 P.M./8 P.M.
Towson/Pepperdine (Nassau, Bahamas)
Sun, Nov 18 TBA (Nassau, Bahamas)
Tue, Nov 27
vs East Tennessee St 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Nov 29
@Arizona 9:00 PM (PAC12 Network)
Sat, Dec 8
@Mercer 4:00 PM
Tue, Dec 11
@UCF 7:00 PM (ESPN3)
Fri, Dec 14
vs Brewton-Parker 7:00 PM
Tue, Dec 18
vs Bradley 7:30 PM (ESPN+)
Fri, Dec 21
@Radford 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 29
@Dayton 3:30 PM
Thu, Jan 3
@Texas State 8:00 PM
Sat, Jan 5
@UT-Arlington 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Jan 10
vs UL Monroe 8:00 PM
Sat, Jan 12
vs Louisiana 5:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Jan 17
@Troy 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sat, Jan 19
@South Alabama 4:05 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Jan 24
vs UT-Arlington 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sat, Jan 26
vs Texas State 5:00 PM
Sat, Feb 2
@Georgia St 1:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Feb 7
@Louisiana 8:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sat, Feb 9
@UL Monroe 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Feb 14
vs South Alabama 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Fri, Feb 15
vs Troy 9:00 PM (ESPN2)
Thu, Feb 21
@Coastal Carolina 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sat, Feb 23
@Appalachian St 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Thu, Feb 28
vs Arkansas-Little Rock 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sat, Mar 2
vs Arkansas St 5:00 PM
Sat, Mar 9
vs Georgia St 5:00 PM (ESPN+)
Sun Belt Championships
Tue Mar 12 – Sun Mar 17 (ESPN+)