The Flames will tip off its 2013-14 basketball season Friday night at home against crosstown rival Randolph College. This will count as an exhibition game for Randolph. Will the Flames begin their 2013 Big South Title defense with a win, or will they be shocked by their crosstown opponent? Find out in the Randolph College Primer.
1. Team Introduction. The WildCats are coming off one of their best seasons in school history. Under head coach Clay Nunley, Randolph made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The WildCats return three starters from the 2012-13 squad that set a program-record for wins in a season with 21. Randolph finished with a 21-7 overall record and went 11-5 in the ODAC before advancing to the NCAA Division III Tournament where they lost to Emory in the 1st round. Randolph will have to replace their top 2 scorers from last season. Head coach Clay Nunley is entering his seventh season as head coach and has an overall record of 78-80. He was named the 2012-13 ODAC and VaSID coach of the year. Nunley’s teams are extremely disciplined and play similar to Brad Stevens’ Butler teams.
2. Offense. Last season, Randolph averaged 69.9 points per game while shooting 46.7% from the field. The WildCats like to shoot the long ball as they attempted over 19 3-pointers a game a season ago, making 7.2 per game while shooting 37% from 3. Their 7.2 made 3-pointers per game was good for #83 in the country for all Division III teams while the WildCats ranked #65 in 3-point field goal percentage. The majority of Randolph’s offense last season ran through Colton Hunt, so it will be interesting to see who steps up as their top offensive threats this season.
3. Defense. Randolph prides themselves on their defense. Head coach Clay Nunley has been described as one of the most defensive-minded coaches in the game today. Randolph will attempt to slow the game down and keep the score in the low 60’s. The WildCats led the ODAC in scoring defense a season ago as they allowed just 61.2 points per game. Randolph allowed their opponents to shoot just slightly over 40% from the field and 30% from 3-point range. The WildCats also ranked 2nd in the conference in rebounding defense with 33.9 defensive rebounds per game.
4. Player Turnover. Last season Randolph was led by senior guard Colton Hunt. Hunt averaged 24.2 points per game while shooting nearly 50% from the field. He was named the Capital One Division III Academic All-American of the Year, which is awarded to the top Division III scholar-athlete in the country. Hunt was the top player in all of Division III and perhaps the greatest athlete in the history of Randolph College. He ended his career as Randolph’s all-time leading scorer. Chris Battaglia, a senior center, has also graduated. Battaglia was Randolph’s 2nd leading scorer last season at 11.5 and also added 6.1 rebounds per game. Even at 6’9″, Battaglia was more of a step-out shooter than a post presence.
5. Possible Starters. A look at the likely staring line-up for Randolph…
Point Guard: Evan Horn (#15), a 6’0″, 165-pound sophomore, should get the starting nod at the point. Horn is a decent ballhandler, but he is known for his defense. For the Division III level, Horn can be a lock-down defender, and is a typical Clay Nunley player who has taken his fair share of charges. His weakness could be handling pressure defenses in the backcourt. Last season, Horn played 29 minutes per game while averaging 5.9 points and 2.9 assists per game.
Shooting Guard: The WildCats’ top returning scorer from a year ago is Mike Ehilegbu (#3), a 6’0″, 170-pound senior. Ehilegbu is small, quick, and athletic. He’s also a streaky shooter, and is expected to be one of the team’s leading scorers this season. In 2012-13, Ehilegbu averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooting 42.5% from 3.
Guard: Due to a lack of size, Randolph typically utilizes 3-4 guards in most of their lineups. Looking to break into the starting line up this season is Zach Desgain (#11), a 5’11”, 177-pound junior. Desgain sat out last season, but during his freshman year he scored 8.8 points per game while playing an average of 33 minutes per game. With the loss of Hunt, expect Desgain to pick up much of his production. He ran the point during his first season, but will likely move into an off-guard spot as he looks to become one of the WildCats top scorers.
Power Forward: Dylan Shiflett (#40), a 6’5″, 230-pound senior, is back this season for Randolph after sitting last year out. Shiflett is expected to be in the mix for a starting spot at forward. Two seasons ago, he averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while playing 18 minutes a game.
Center: After coming off the bench a season ago, Lucas Smith (#45), a 6’9″, 225-pound sophomore, hopes to crack the starting lineup at center this season. At 6’9″, he has good size for a Division III player, and averaged 1.2 points and 0.9 rebounds per game last season.
6. Key Reserves. Some other key contributors …
Forward: Jason Eddie (#32), a 6’4″, 210-pound sophomore, saw plenty of time as a first year. He even started 24 games a season ago while playing 18.1 minutes per game. Jason is the younger brother of Virginia Tech’s Jarell Eddie. Jason is an outside threat as he shot over 40% from 3-point range a season ago.
Guard: Another supporting player who returns from a season ago is Corey Brown (#14), a 6’0″, 200-pound sophomore. Brown is quick, and has a knack for hitting the jumper. While playing about 21 minutes a game a season ago, he averaged 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Guard: Seth Wimbish (#22), a 6’3″, 180-pound sophomore, missed last season, but is expected to contribute this year. Wimbish is best known for his 3-point shooting.
7. Prediction. While Randolph is coming off one of their best seasons in school history, they must replace arguably their best player in school history in Colton Hunt. The crosstown opponent shouldn’t stand as too big of a hurdle for the Flames in their season opener. Liberty 76 Randolph 51.