2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: Marshall

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Marshall Thundering Herd (Last Year: 21-12, 9-7 in C-USA)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Nigel Spikes (Jr)/Yous Mbao (So)

F: J.P. Kambola (So)/Robert Goff (Jr)/Eladio Espinosa (Jr)/Dennis Tinnon (Jr)/Jamir Hanner (Fr)

G/F: Justin Coleman (So)/Dago Pena (Sr)

G: DeAndre Kane (So)/Shaquille Johnson (Sr)/Devince Boykins (Fr)

PG: Damier Pitts (Sr)/Chris Martin (Fr)

Gone: PF-Tirell Baines, F-Johnny Thomas, C-Orlando Allen, G-Johnny Higgins (transfer), C-Aundra Williams (transfer-Valdosta State)

2011-12 Outlook:
The best thing Marshall has looking ahead to this season is its talented backcourt. Damier Pitts and DeAndre Kane combined to average more than 31 points, eight assists and eight boards per game last season. Pitts continued to add to his stellar career with the Herd while Kane earned Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors. A lot will be asked of that duo and if they can improve upon their less-than-stellar three-point percentages from a year ago, it will certainly help the team as a whole.

Many Marshall fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of wing Justin Coleman who sat out last season due to academic reasons. Combined with Pitts and Kane, Coleman will provide second-year head coach Tom Herrion with another scorer on the wing capable of averaging double figures on a nightly basis.

There is also solid depth on the wing with seniors Shaquille Johnson and Dego Pena in the fold. Both players spent part of last season in the starting five. Freshman Davince Boykins will likely be the odd man out in the rotation. Chris Martin (no, not Coldplay’s lead singer) could see minutes at the point although Pitts and Kane are both capable of running the show.

The frontcourt lacks the experience of the backcourt as they lose three seniors and deal with the transfer of another big. Starting center Nigel Spikes will certainly have an increased role and need to become a more dominant presence inside. Like Coleman, 6-9 J.P. Kambola sat out last season due to academic reasons but should provide a boost and compete for a starting spot.

USF transfer Eladio Espinosa is back after missing all but 10 games last season due to injury and is the only other frontcourt returner for the Herd. Herrion also landed a pair of top-20 JUCO transfers in Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon. They will compete for minutes along with 7-2 Marquette transfer Yous Mbao and freshman Jamir Hanner (if he qualifies academically.)

Herrion must incorporate a bunch of new faces with a talented returning core. If the pieces all blend together, Marshall could be a Conference USA sleeper.

Player to Watch: Justin Coleman, G/F
The former Louisville commit was a consensus top-50 recruit in the Class of 2010. When he failed to qualify academically for the Cards, he ended up at Marshall but still had to sit last season while he figured out his school situation. It is rare for a middle-tier C-USA school to land a player with Coleman’s ability and potential. How quickly he is able to make an impact for the Herd could be the difference between them once again finishing in the middle of the conference pack or possibly competing with Memphis for the league title.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/25 at Cincinnati

    Predicted C-USA Finish: 5th

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