Head Coach: Horace Broadnax—Eighth year at Savannah State: 86-123; 128-212 overall
Previous Season: 21-12; 14-2 MEAC (1st); Lost in NIT to Tennessee 65-51
Departures: F Keith Edwards
Additions: G Robert Burger, G Khiry White, G Deven Williams
In the 2010-11 season, the Savannah State Tigers finished their last year as an independent with a 12-18 record. Senior Jovonni Shuler led the team in scoring with an 18.1 average.
Even with Rashad Hassan and Arnold Louis returning to the floor after redshirting the previous year, the Tigers entered 2011-12 with low expectations. Savannah State was supposed to struggle mightily in its first season in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Tigers started the year 2-5 with wins coming against Jacksonville and Gardner-Webb. There were no early signs of the special season that Savannah State was going to have as the Tigers split their first two conference games.
After Savannah State lost its first game of 2012 to Arkansas 83-66, the Tigers went on an incredible run. After winning three of its next four contests, Savannah State finished the regular season with 13 victories in a row.
Savannah State won the regular season MEAC title with a 14-2 record. Unfortunately, the inexperienced Tigers did not react well to the pressure of being a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
The eight-seeded Hampton Pirates sent Savannah State home early by defeating the Tigers 59-46. The Tigers didn't fair any better in the Postseason National Invitational Tournament, losing to the Tennessee Volunteers in the first round.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG Preston Blackman, 6'0", 170 lbs, Sr. (9.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, 36 3PT%, 39 FG%, 71 FT%)
Blackman was one of best point guards in the MEAC last season. Along with being the floor general, he was the best playmaker for the Tigers.
With a quick first step, Blackman has little difficulty driving to the basket. He kept defenses honest by making 44 three-point shots last season.
Blackman's 15.5 points per game average in two exhibition games is an early indication that he may become a more reliable scorer this season.
Blackman needs to improve on converting more of his drives to the basket into points. The Tigers will be more efficient offensively this season if Blackman can cut down on his 89 turnovers from 2011-12.
G Deric Rudolph, 5'11", 175 lbs, Sr. (10.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 34 FG%, 77 FT%)
Coach Broadnax will look for Rudolph to be a more consistent shooter this year. At times, Rudolph lacked confidence in his offensive abilities.
Despite his up-and-down performances, Rudolph was selected second-team All-MEAC last season. Rudolph could improve on that accomplishment if his shot selection improves.
G Cedric Smith, 6'3", 190 lbs, Sr. (4.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 46 FG%, 43 FT%)
Smith's major contribution to the Tigers' success last year was on the defensive end. He finished second on the team in steals with 39.
Offensively, Smith gets most of his points driving to the basket. He only attempted one three-point shot, a miss, last season despite playing a total of 850 minutes.
A guard should not be missing more free throws than he makes, so this is an obvious area that Smith needs to improve on.
F Rashad Hassan, 6'7", 215 lbs, Sr. (13.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.8 APG, 57 FG%, 54 FT%)
Hassan is clearly the best player on the Tigers. He enters this campaign as the favorite to be voted as the best player in the MEAC this season.
Hassan mainly plays inside, but he can also step outside the paint and make jump shots. Hassan's scoring average will increase if he can improve his efficiency on the free-throw line. Hassan made it to the charity stripe last season more than any Tiger last year.
F Jyles Smith, 6'8", 200 lbs, Jr. (4.1, PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 52 FG%, 54 FT%)
Although Smith continued to develop as a shot-blocker, his points and rebounds were down from his 2010-11 season. Smith stats will improve this year if he shows more consistent energy and desire on the court.
Smith ranked 51st in blocked shots in Division I last year despite playing slightly fewer than 20 minutes on the floor per game. Smith could receive more playing time this season if he can reduce his turnovers.
G Robert Burger, 6'0", 180 lbs, Jr.
Burger is a transfer from Monroe Community College. As a freshman for the Tribunes, Burger averaged 10.5 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Burger comes to Savannah with the reputation of being a strong free-throw shooter.
G Richard Conner, 6'4", 205 lbs, Sr. (1.4 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 30 FG%, 57 FT%)
Conner appeared in 28 games and averaged 11.1 minutes per game last season. With the arrival of three guards and his inability to make three-pointers, Conner may find it difficult to get minutes this year.
G Angelo Davis, 6'1", 165 lbs, Jr. (0.4 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 20 FG%, 50 FT%)
Davis will probably only see playing time at the end of blowout games. He has appeared in 17 games in his career at Savannah State.
G Patrick Hendley, 6'8", 230 lbs., Sr. (1.7 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 33 FG%, 39 3PT%, 73 FT%)
Hendley participated in 28 games last season and averaged 7.1 minutes per game. His role of the bench is mainly to provide defense. Henley had 10 steals in just 200 minutes of action last year.
G Marcus Hutchins , 6'4", 180 lbs, Sr.
Hutchins did not appear in any games last season. He won't find it easy to get on the floor this season either.
F Arnold Louis, 6'7", 205 lbs., Sr. (9.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 45 FG%, 54 FT%)
Last season, Louis started nine games for the Tigers. He provides size and scoring punch off the bench. Louis will probably again split time with Jyles Smith this season.
Louis mainly plays inside, but he did attempt 21 shots from beyond the arc last year.
F Joshua Montgomery, 6'4", 195 lbs, Sr. (5.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 36 FG%, 27 3PT%, 72 FT%)
Montgomery saw his impact on the team greatly reduced last season. In 2010-11, he finished third on the team in scoring with a 10.3 points per game.
Montgomery's played less than half the minutes last year than he did as a sophomore. He may get some of that time back if he improves his shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
G Keirre Richards, 6'1", 180 lbs, Jr. (1.8 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 26 FG%, 67 FT%)
Richards played in all 33 games last year for the Tigers and averaged 11.9 minutes per game. He will be competing with Stephen Wilson and Khiry White for playing time as a reserve point guard.
It would not be surprising if Richards was redshirted because of the crowded backcourt.
F Christopher Spears, 6'7", 220 lbs, Jr. (0.7 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 40 FG%, 67 FT%)
Out of all the players on the team, Spears is the most likely to make the biggest improvement from last season. Because of his size, Spears will see more time on the court than he did last season.
Spears is an athletic player who can provide needed scoring and rebounding off the bench. He tends to play too aggressively on defense, picking up personal fouls rather quickly.
G Khiry White, 6'3", 180 lbs, Jr.
White comes to Savannah State from South Georgia Tech College in Americus. He is a combination guard expected to provide the Tigers with needed shooting and ball-handling depth.
Last season, White averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists per game. Because of his stellar performance, White was named to the Georgia College Athletic Association's All-Conference second team.
G Deven Williams, 6'0", 205 lbs, Jr.
Williams is a transfer from Olive-Harvey College in Chicago. He is expected to provide Savannah State will scoring and three-point shooting off the bench.
As a sophomore, Williams averaged 25.9 points per game while making 81 baskets from long distance.
G Stephen Wilson, 6'1", 160 lbs., Jr.. (2.2 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 26 FG%, 25 3PT%, 69 FT%)
Wilson represents another option at what is now a crowded backcourt at Savannah State. Although he received more playing time last season, Wilson's shooting percentages declined from his freshman season.
Wilson appears to come into this season as an improved ball-handler and decision maker. While filling in for Rudolph in the starting lineup for the two exhibition games, Wilson tallied six assists while committing no turnovers.
Nov. 13 Middle Tennessee: Quality teams don't visit Savannah State very often, so the Tigers need to take advantage of the opportunity.
Nov. 16 @ Alabama State: This is the best chance for the Tigers to pick up a rare non-conference road win.
Nov. 26 Robert Morris: The Tigers get another chance to play a good team at home.
Dec. 1 Norfolk State: Savannah State starts conference play against the school that represented the MEAC in the NCAA tournament.
Dec. 19 @ Marshall: The Tigers will be able to gauge their progress against a solid opponent.
Savannah State's football team has been the butt of many jokes because of its 1-8 record, including losses to Oklahoma State and Florida State by a combined score of 139-0. However, there is nothing to laugh at concerning the Savannah State men's basketball team.
The Tigers return all five starters from a team that had the best conference record in the MEAC during the regular season. Coach Broadnax brought in two highly regarded transfers to make Savannah State even stronger.
The Tigers only gave up 59.1 points per game last season to lead the MEAC. Savannah State also topped the MEAC in rebounding margin while finishing second in scoring margin.
Savannah State will look for Hassan and Rudolph to improve upon their success from last year. An increase in scoring production from Blackman would make the Tigers stronger as well.
The Tigers are not very tall, and the height they do have doesn't have a lot of bulk attached to it. Savannah State also needs to improve its free-throw shooting.
The Tigers will be tested plenty early in the season with non-conference games against Central Florida, Florida, Ohio State, St. Louis and Marquette. Savannah State's main competition in the MEAC should come from Delaware State and Bethune-Cookman. Oddly enough, the Tigers do not play the Delaware State Hornets in conference play.
With an experienced team, the Tigers should repeat as regular season champions of the MEAC. Savannah State is hoping that last season's disappointment in the MEAC Tournament will provide enough motivation for the Tigers to capture the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament this time around.