Marshall 2010 College Insider Tournament Preview
Marshall Thundering Herd - Conference USA (23-9, 11-5)
Big Wins: 11/28 vs Ohio (60-53), 2/13 at UAB (81-74), 2/17 Tulsa (64-58)
Bad Losses: 12/22 at North Carolina (61-98), 1/30 at Houston (66-81), 3/11 vs Tulsa (64-80)
Coach: Donnie Jones
Probable Marshall Starters:
Damier Pitts, Sophomore, Guard, 10.0 ppg, 4.7 apg
Shaquille Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 9.7 ppg, 3.0 apg
Chris Lutz, Senior, Guard, 9.1 ppg, 1.5 apg
Tyler Wilkerson, Senior, Forward, 14.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg
Hassan Whiteside, Freshman, Forward, 13.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.4 bpg
Key Marshall Roleplayers:
Tirrell Baines, Junior, Forward, 6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Antonio Haymon, Junior, Forward, 4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Darryl Merthie, Senior, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 2.5 apg
Dago Pena, Sophomore, Guard, 6.99 ppg, 1.8 apg
Why The Thundering Herd Can Surprise:
Marshall struggled with injuries last year and hopes were high heading into the 2009-2010 campaign. For the most part those expectations were met and a postseason berth is a step in the right direction for third year coach Donnie Jones. This is a high flying, high scoring bunch and much of their success stems from a trio of point guards who can keep the team moving quickly, yet under control. Darryl Merthie is the senior leader, but he is not much of a scorer and has lost a lot of his minutes to a pair of talented sophomores.
Damier Pitts leads the team in assists and is also a very capable long range shooter. At 5-10, Pitts will have some trouble working his way through all the big guys to finish around the basket, but he has enough quickness to at least drive the lane and find one of his teammates. Shaquille Johnson is not as effective of a shooter as Pitts, but he can use his 6-3, 205 pound frame to attack the basket. Like Merthie, Johnson is also a tenacious defender and his large wingspan, at least for a guard, makes him very effective on the defensive end.
Why The Thundering Herd Can Disappoint:
The most talented players on this team may be in the frontcourt. Tyler Wilkerson and Hassan Whiteside are a dynamic frontcourt duo. Wilkerson is the savvy veteran who can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper with consistency. Whiteside is having an amazing freshman campaign and is averaging 13.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.4 blocks. It is his effort that sparks the Thundering Herds defense. However, when versatile forward Tirrell Baines was out with an injury, it exposed a couple weaknesses. For one, the depth up front is thin. Baines may be undersized at 6-6, but he plays like he is 6-8 and is certainly capable of playing the power forward position. Secondly, the opposition was able to key in on Wilkerson and Whiteside in the paint and hope the shooters missed from long range. With Baines slashing ability mostly gone, the Herd went on a five game losing streak.
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Who To Watch for Marshall:
But hoping Marshall will not make three-pointers is not necessarily a successful strategy. Chris Lutz has been one of the most consistent outside shooters in the country and connects on an impressive 42.6 percent of his attempts from long range. Lutz is pretty much a catch and shoot guy and his involvement in the offense has lessened slightly this season. That is partly because there is more talent around, but it is also because Lutz is taking much smarter shots. He just needs to find more space to take more shots if he is going to continue to shoot that well from beyond the arc.
Marshall By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 80.4 (10th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.7 (169, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.0 (17, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.9 (15, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (111, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.9 (34, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.4 (191, 9)
Rebound Margin: 3.5 (70, 5)
Assists Per Game: 16.4 (14, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (90, 3)