Time for a look back at last basketball season. The season was both encouraging and extremely disappointing at the same time.
The three major factors of the season:
Early success with very easy oc schedule.
The problematic year for NT's best returning player.
Injury plague that ruined both the conference and total season.
NT started the season 12-1 with a much criticized oc schedule. The only loss to a good OU squad away. Notable wins included away at New Mexico, away at Indiana State, and a tournament championship in Hawaii. Much criticized slate and I think to some degree unfairly. Add a couple of ranked teams and assume losses in the pre-season and NT would still have had the best oc in the conference and at that point one of the hardest schedules.
Roosevelt Smart was a returning all conference player who averaged 19.5 pts. and 4.2 rbs in that year. He had a pre-season injury that he was slow recovering from and never regains the shooting touch he had in his first year with the Green. His number dropped to 10.7 pts and 3.6 rbs per game. He went from setting the NT records for threes and 3 shooting of .378 to a .274 percentage.
NT went 8-10 in conference including a losing streak of 7 games to end the conference season. Then went 1-1 in the tournament. Injuries are out of anyone's control and all teams deal with them. However, out of all NT conference loses, only 2 were played with a full roster by NT. Woolridge, who most agree was NT's best player this season, was out or limited in 6 of those lost games. Duffy and J. Simmons were also out for multiple loss games.
NT was not a deep team as late season exposed. NT was a balanced scoring group with an almost unbelievable 6 players averaging double digit scoring.
McCasland almost exclusively played a 4 guard offense and defensive intensity was required. On the positive side, most surprising was the play of Gibson and prior walk-on Draper. Gibson was the leading scorer as a freshman at 12.6 pts a game and shot threes at a .393 pace. Also did a good job taking over the point for an injured Woolridge. Draper who was pressed into a lot more minutes than anticipated because of injures, shot the highest 3% of .415 and played decent defense at 5'10".
Biggest disappointment has been discussed, Smart's off year. Jahmiah Simmons was also somewhat disappointing based on the fact, McCasland brought him with him from Arkansas State and he had a redshirt year to improve. In his defense, he was forced to play basically the 5 spot in McCasland's defense. J. Simmons' numbers actually declined from his freshman year at ASU were he scored at 6.4 and had 5 rbs a game compared to the past year's 3.5 points and 4 rbs.
Woolridge when not injured, was the best player on the team and one of the best in the league. Zack Simmons continues to improve and should be a bigger part of the offense. Duffy and Miller, both were good shooters and rebounders for NT despite a year of playing primarily much bigger players.
Outside of Zack, NT's other bigs remain a mystery. Alcindor playing little and showing little in a few games to lose his redshirt. Tikhonenko a 6'10 supposed shooter injured and maybe gets another redshirt year. Muhammed who was redshirted, although at 6'7 listed as a guard.
In summary, this could not be rated a stellar year despite 21 wins. This team did not come close to challenging in CUSA, but that couldn't happen with the injury situation.
Even without the injuries, West Kentucky and ODU would probably have been significantly better teams. NT with less injuries could and should have been capable of competing with the rest of CUSA.