Herd men’s hoops season ranked 11th in preseason coaches’ poll, season preview


Richard Crank

Herd Madness 2019

Head Coach Dan D’Antoni’s team may have lost leading scorers Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks to professional basketball, but with the returns and the new faces of Marshall University basketball, the goals remain the same for the 2019-2020 basketball season.

“We always try to win the NCAA tournament,” D’Antoni said. “It is like having a dream and you almost win the lottery, why not dream that you win the whole thing?”

Even though Marshall did not make it to the NCAA Tournament last season, the team still ended the 2018-2019 season on a high note by winning the College Insider Tournament to get another banner hung from the rafters.

Despite being picked to finish Conference USA 11th, the Herd returns guard Taevion Kinsey, who was the team’s third leading scorer as a freshman, junior guard Jarrod West, junior forward Darius George and redshirt junior forward Jannson Williams.

Besides Kinsey, all have gained experience and polished their play since being apart of the 2017-2018 Conference USA championship team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

Since the March Madness run, redshirt sophomore forward Iran Bennett and junior forward Mikel Beyers have also taken part in learning the D’Antoni system, as they both had roles in last season’s team. This year, the team is made up of six true freshmen and four redshirt freshmen, but leaders such as West have offered advice to the younger guys.

“Every day I try to come out and lead,” West said. “I am trying to get all of these young guys intact and in the flow so they can jump on board with us, but the most important advice is to play hard.”

Marshall finally got a feel for the team after scrimmaging nothing but Green and White for months in its two exhibition games, in which they easily won against Glenville State 100-66 and Rio Grande 92-59.

“It is a new year,” Kinsey said. “As soon as last year ended, everyone was ready to get right back on the court, so its been long awaited.”

Redshirt freshman guard Cam Brooks-Harris and freshman center Goran Miladinovic have shown sparks of energetic and smart play for Marshall in the exhibitions games. Brooks-Harris led the way for the Herd with 19-points over Glenville State and Miladinovic went 4-6 with nine points and three blocked shots against Rio Grande.

With only exhibitions games having been played, there is still a lot of uncertainty for what will unfold this season, but one thing is guaranteed – more exciting dunks from Kinsey coming to the Cam Henderson Center. When asking Kinsey how it feels for him to excite the crowd with a dunk, he appreciated the support of the Herd fans.

“I can start to see out of the corner of my eye the fans rising and pull out their phones, and it is really exciting,” Kinsey said. “We appreciate the love the fans give us here.”

The Herd kicks off non-conference play at home against Robert Morris, this is first of seven home games before Conference USA play begins. The other games are Toledo, College of Charleston, Howard, Akron, Bluefield State, and the team will round it out against Eastern Kentucky.

The first non-conference away game will take place in South Bend, Indiana as Marshall faces Notre Dame. The game will be aired on the ACC ESPN Network. To follow, the Herd will travel to Florida to take on the Florida Gators, a game that will be on the SEC ESPN Network.  The team will face Toledo for the second time this season, but this time on the road.  Morehead State and Northern Iowa will be on the road in mid-December. The Herd wraps up its non-conference play against Duquesne, this game will be played at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jan. 2 will start conference play off for the Herd in a home contest against Rice, followed by a game versus North Texas. Charlotte, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss. and LA Tech will face off against the Herd in the Cam Henderson this season. While the Herd will tackle Middle Tennessee, University of Alabama at Birmingham, WKU, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, UTSA and UTEP on the road.

Teams are set to play 12 members once and their travel partner (WKU for Marshall) twice. Following the 14 conference matches, teams will be grouped based on their final scores and schedules against four conference opponents in the final three weeks of the season for an 18-game schedule.

The Conference tournament is set for March 11-14 in Frisco Texas at The Ford Center.

Tip-off for the regular season is on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. against Robert Morris in the Cam.

Brigham Warf can be contacted at [email protected].