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MAC Men's Basketball Preview: Ohio Bobcats

After a less than spectacular first year in Athens, Saul Phillips looks to right the ship and bring Ohio back to prominence in the MAC with a different looking cast of stars.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

A .333 winning percentage (10-20, 5-13 in the MAC) was on no one's agenda going into the 2014-2015 season for the Ohio Bobcats. No one likely envisioned just how much the 'Cats would struggle given the talented athletes that the team returned and that was especially the case as a result of new excitement around the program after the signing of Saul Phillips as head basketball coach.

Let's throw that season into the furnace shall we? Yeah, just let that sizzle in there. Okay, I think we're good.

Ohio returns a number of players who played big minutes last season as well as some new faces that will likely operate better in year two under their new coach.

Head Coach: Saul Phillips, 2nd year, (10-20, 5-13 in MAC)

The hiring of former North Dakota State basketball coach Saul Phillips in the near immediate aftermath of Jim Chirstian's departure from Athens was enough to bring a whole new level of excitement to Athens. Many wondered just how far Ohio could go with Phillips, while some questioned how long he would even stay in Athens. Unfortunately, this was no factor just a few games into the season when it became apparent that Ohio would not quite play up to its potential.

But now can turn a new page. Phillips is beginning to implement the system that he wishes to run with the players the offense ran through a year ago long gone.

Phillips has a chance to run a system that should feature aspects learned by Phillips in his time playing and coaching under the likes of coaches like Tim Miles, Marty McDermott, and most importantly Bo Ryan. As Chris Manning mentioned in his profile of Kenny Kaminski, Phillips is reported to have been working a offensive style that lots of NBA teams employ, a style that allows movement on the perimeter with a stretch four player like Kaminski having the option to run pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops.

Phillips looks to improve upon his 144-104 overall record as a head coach, as many around the game of college basketball will look for him to achieve the successes he attained while in Fargo.


Date Opponent Time (EST) Notes
7-Nov Indiana Tech 2:00 Exhibition
14-Nov Florida Gulf Coast 2:00
16-Nov Tennessee State 7:00
20-Nov Tulsa 1:00 Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
21-Nov Indiana State/Norfolk State TBD Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
22-Nov TBD TBD Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
23-Nov TBD TBD Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands
1-Dec Marshall 7:00
5-Dec at St. Bonaventure 4:00
12-Dec at Cleveland State 1:00 Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
15-Dec Ohio Dominican 7:00
17-Dec Jackson State 7:00
21-Dec Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7:00
30-Dec UC Riverside 7:00
6-Jan at Northern Illinois 8:00
9-Jan Ball State 2:00
12-Jan Bowling Green 7:00
16-Jan at Kent State 7:00
19-Jan Western Michigan 7:00
23-Jan at Central Michigan 4:30
26-Jan at Toledo 7:00
30-Jan Kent State 2:00
2-Feb Akron 7:00
6-Feb Northern Illinois 2:00
9-Feb at Ball State 7:00
13-Feb at Buffalo 2:00
16-Feb Eastern Michigan 7:00
20-Feb Miami 2:00
23-Feb at Bowling Green 7:00
27-Feb Buffalo 3:30
1-Mar at Akron 7:00
4-Mar at Miami 7:00

Saul has "his guys"

As is the case across the landscape of college athletics, coaches have their own ideas of what types of players are needed to fit into their teams to achieve success. Be it their mental makeup, skill set, body type or what may be it, every coach has "their type of guy" picked out in his mind. Saul Phillips is starting to put together that crew that more closely resembles what he has in mind.

Phillips has recruited a handful of players of importance to the long-term success of the team. Guys like Gavin Block, Jordan Dartis, and more fitting into the lineup, Ohio has reason to be optimistic and to expect this team to grow stronger as the year progresses.

Returning players have high upside

For those who are worried that Ohio will not have scorers due to the loss of Maurice Ndour and Javarez Willis, well, don't fear.

While just a year ago, Antonio Campbell struggled to find his footing in an offense that wasn't particularly suited to his game, this season he comes in entirely comfortable on the offensive end and poised to be one of the better players in the MAC. Campbell posted 10 points per game and 7.6 boards a game while shooting 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. While Campbell undoubtedly benefitted from the attention paid to Mo Ndour, don't think that increased attention will keep Campbell's ever-improving offensive game from shining.

Others like defensive-minded starter Mike Laster, the hyperactive Treg Setty and the sweet-shooting Khari Harley are back and will all fill big roles for the 'Cats.

Keep an eye on these players

How could I have gotten this far without gushing extensively about the two transfers that Bobcat fans have been talking about for months on end? Kaminski and guard Jaaron Simmons (a transfer from Houston who is originally from the Dayton area) come in and will both start and take on leading roles for a team that will be looking to carve out an identity early.

Kaminski has a sweet sweet stroke, (like butter) and led the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage in his only year in East Lansing as a Spartans. Though he has battled a shoulder injury, Kaminski should be expected to be healthy enough to play major minutes and sustain a threat the likes of which Ohio did not have last year. Consistency in Kaminski's stroke is a given. What many will be interested in seeing from the big man is if he sometimes described "softie" can play among the big boys in a physical MAC slate. The 6'8" 225 pounder should be able to handle things just fine.

Simmons on the other hand it a quick, talented guard who Ohio has really hit it big with. Watch out for the sophomore to play around the bucket, finishing at the rim and dish out assists while he irons out a somewhat inconsistent shooting stroke.