2007-2008 Bradley Braves Basketball Preview
Bradley Braves - Missouri Valley
2006-07: 22-13, 10-8, 4th
2006-07 postseason: NIT
The backcourt will win championships in the Missouri Valley and Bradley boasts a couple of the best in the conference. Point guard Daniel Ruffin and wing Jeremy Crouch both averaged 13.8 points per game last season and are quality shooters. Crouch is one of the best in the nation and shot 50 percent from long range and made over three per game. Ruffin is a smart floor leader and averaged 5.4 assists and only 2.4 turnovers per game.
Ruffin and Crouch do lose their backcourt mate and the team’s leading scorer Will Franklin. Franklin was the third dangerous threat from three-point land and averaged 14.6 points per game on the season. Fellow starting guard J.J. Tauai has also run out of eligibility. Tauai, the fourth of last year’s starting guards if you are keeping track, was never a great scorer, but he was a solid defender and did a lot of work on the glass despite his 6-3 stature. The big man around those four guards is also gone. Zach Andrews averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds during his senior campaign. Forward Danny Adams was usually one of the first players off the bench and little used guard Saihou Jassey has transferred to SIU-Edwardsville.
Despite all the losses, four junior college transfers are expected to use their experience and contribute immediately. The frontcourt needs the most help and David Collins and Rashad Austin fit the bill. Collins, a seven-footer, is a decent rebounder and shot blocker and will at least be a big body off the bench. It is Austin who is garnering larger expectations after averaging 13.3 points and 7.9 rebounds at Northeastern Junior College in Colorado. However, at 6-7, Austin is not the biggest of big men around. Theron Wilson will do a little bit of everything and the 6-5 wing will be effective inside and outside, on offense and defense. Guard Tyron Cole-Scott is a terrific scorer. He scored nearly 1,100 points during his junior college career and will continue to shoot lights out from anywhere on the floor. The only knock on the Waterloo, Iowa native is his height. At 5-10 he may have more trouble finding clean looks in the MVC than he did at the junior college level. That fills all the holes Bradley was concerned about this year, but a few other newcomers will help build for the future. Center Anthony Thompson needs to put on a little weight, but he is a good athlete who can hit the mid-range jumper. For now, it will be his defensive presence that moves him up the depth chart. Will Egolf is another versatile big man who can handle the ball, but it will be difficult for the incoming freshmen to see many minutes in a suddenly crowded frontcourt. Point guard Sam Maniscalco will learn behind Ruffin, but the 6-0 Chicago product is mentally and physically prepared to earn some quality minutes as a backup. Coach Jim Les ran a two point guard offense last year and it is not out of the question that Maniscalco could see some minutes on the court at the same time as Ruffin as well.
Who to Watch:
Matt Salley was a junior college transfer and had a decent campaign his first year in Peoria. The 6-7 forward started 13 games and, with a more traditional lineup expected, Salley should step into a starting position at the four spot. Salley is a strong rebounder and can step outside and hit the jumper. His versatility and upside could turn into a big, big season for the senior. The only other returning player up front is Sam Singh. The 6-9, 266 pound junior has struggled with injuries much of his career but, if healthy, Singh could develop into a quality reserve.
Final Bradley Projection:
Andrew Warren had a good freshman season and will battle with the newcomers for minutes on the wing. He only averaged 4.1 points per game, but Warren is a quality scorer and could drastically increase that number with the increase in playing time he will most certainly see this season. The only thing stopping Bradley from being really, really good is fitting all the new faces together. Once everybody learns their roles, the Braves are good enough to win the conference and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Daniel Ruffin, Senior, Guard, 13.8 points per game
Tyrone Cole-Scott, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jeremy Crouch, Senior, Guard, 13.8 points per game
Matt Salley, Senior, Forward, 7.1 points per game
David Collins, Junior, Center, DNP last season
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