by Ed McCarnes

Analyze the recently completed Marshall men’s basketball season and its two parts quickly become clear. For analytical purposes, the segments will be called post and pre.

The post segment began when PG Jon Elmore became eligible at the conclusion of the fall academic semester. One word best summarizes the segment. The word: Wow! Here’s why.

With Elmore directing traffic, making good decisions, and scoring the ball, Marshall went 15-10. The statistical achievements, both in shooting and the floor game, are eye-catching.

Shooting segment: Marshall led in total field goals 799-766, field goal percentage 48.2-46.5, 3-point goals 264-179, free throw percentage 71.7-69.7, and scoring per game 89.2-85.1.

Floor game: The Herd won the battle of assists 434-334 and blocks 76-59. Steals finished in a tie at 161.

Those numbers were a marked contrast to the pre era. Marshall opened at 0-6 and was 2-6 awaiting the VMI transfer’s arrival on court. Marshall scored more 3-point goals (68-62) and recorded more steals (65-56).

Other numbers favored the composite of opponents. The figures: total FG percentage (47.3-41.5), 3-point percentage (39.0-29.2), free throws made (125-103), FT percentage (70.2, 62.0), rebounds (353-296), and assists (121-120).

There is no doubt head coach Dan D’Antoni has breathed purified oxygen into a success-challenged program. But significant challenges remain to be conquered. Three come to mind.

Consistency: A program anchor is its 3-point game. Any step-up would strengthen the opportunity for success.

The factor is crucial. Not all college players have NBA shooting skills. Can D’Antoni and staff recruit and/or develop enough players to achieve consistent quality results?

Two numbers underscore the critical of the crucial. On a Thursday Marshall shot 32.1% against Florida Atlantic. Two days later the Herd shot 41.9% against FIU.

Personnel: James Kelly’s presence improved the Herd’s front line execution and lessened the burden on Ryan Taylor. But Kelly’s MU career was for one year. Who will replace him? How will Taylor respond if he has to reassume freshman and sophomore responsibilities?

Then there are the international recruits. They came to campus accompanied by some level of hype. Observations of practice and games show improvements. But the question of when and how these players become key players remains unanswered.

And finally there’s the question of defense.

Points and Results: In selected games Marshall scored 95, 108, 91, 94, and 91 points and lost. Defensive yields in those games totaled 103, 112, 95, 99, and 97 points. Yields at that level are a major obstacle to success in the college game. More program attention and player commitment to defense are needed.

The program enters its inter-season hibernation with a repaired and reinforced or replaced fundamental skills base. The constructive moves have revitalized the team’s fan base. The new offensive strategy is a fan-attracting and ticket-selling positive. The torque of and for continued and enlarged success looms immediately ahead.