Conference USA Team by Team Preview: Marshall Thundering Herd

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations were high last season, but the Herd disappointed with a 9th place finish. Tom Herrion's program once again has a chip on its shoulder and enters the season with a plethora of new faces.

During the 2012-2013 preseason, Marshall was considered a dark horse to challenge Memphis for the Conference-USA title and an NCAA Tournament bid. They had a star guard in DeAndre Kane and perhaps the strongest frontcourt in the league. The Herd showed flashes of their talent at times last season, but mostly they grievously underachieved, as illustrated by losses to Hofstra, Delaware State, and of course, the unbelievable 56 point loss at Southern Miss. The expectations will be much lower in 2013-2014. The Herd head into the new season having lost 7 players from last year's disappointing squad. Many questions surround the program heading into this season. Let's take a closer look at Marshall.

ALL TIME
5 NCAA Tournament Appearances
0-5 NCAA Tournament Record

Best Year
1972 or 1947. The Thundering Herd won the NAIB (National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball) National Championship way back in 1947 under the legendary Cam Henderson. The Herd's best NCAA season was arguably 1972, a year which saw star players like Mike D'Antoni, Russell Lee and Randy Noll lead them to a  23-4 record. The team ultimately lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by their smallest margin of defeat (to Louisiana Lafayette by 11).

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance
1987. Marshall all-time leading scorer Skip Henderson led the Herd into the tournament in the '87 season as a 13 seed. They lost to TCU in the first round 76-60 and have not been to the Big Dance since. That's a quarter century since their last dance and counting.

Best Stretch
The Cam Henderson era lasted from 1936 to 1955. In those 20 years, Coach Henderson's first season turned out to be his only losing season as head coach at Marshall. His 19 straight winning seasons is still a Marshall record. Henderson is credited with inventing the zone defense and had 8 20+ win seasons. Although the Herd did put together an impressive run of 3 NCAA tournament bids in the 1980's, nothing in Marshall's basketball history really compares to Coach Cam Henderson's run.

CURRENT TEAM
Venue
Cam Henderson Center, capacity 9,600
2012-2013 Avg. Attendance = 6,150

Head Coach
Tom Herrion. Herrion's first head coaching job was at College of Charleston where he compiled an 80-38 record and even earned a top-25 ranking at one point. He left the C of C for a position as an associate head coach under Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh. He arrived at Marshall in 2010 and posted two 20-win seasons in his first two years. Last year marked his first losing season as a head coach. Despite winning seasons in 6 out of 7 of  his seasons as head coach in Charleston and Huntington, Herrion has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament. He does, however, have two NIT appearances and a CIT appearance.

Last Year
13-19 overall, 6-10 in C-USA

As stated, Marshall entered the year as a popular darkhorse candidate in the league. However, the Herd were shaky and inconsistent all year long. They lost nail-biters to South Dakota State, Hofstra, Delaware State and Memphis and were blown out of the gym by Kentucky, Ohio, Southern Miss, Houston, and even Tulane. When DeAndre Kane returned from injury mid-to-late in the year, many were hopeful the Herd would make a run. That never materialized however, and Marshall exited the C-USA Tournament in Memphis after just one game.

2013-2014 Prospective Roster
G- Kareem Canty, 6'1 FR
G- DeVince Boykins, 6'4 SO
F- Shawn Smith, 6'6 JR
F- Elijah Pittman, 6'9 SR
C- J.P. Kambola, 6'9 JR

G - Tamron Manning, 6'4 SO
C - Yous Mbao, 7'2 SR
F - TyQuane Goard, 6'7 SO
F - Ryan Taylor, 6'7 FR
F - Cheikh Sane, 6'9 JR
G - Austin Loop, 6'4 FR
G - Justin Edmonds, 6'4 JR

The list of departures from the Marshall men's basketball team is large and talented:

-Forward Dennis Tinnon was a senior
-Forward Robert Goff was a senior
-Center Nigel Spikes was a senior
-Guard DeAndre Kane transferred to Iowa State and will play immediately
-Guard D.D. Scarver decided to transfer out
-Guard Chris Martin transferred to Mount St. Mary's
-Forward Jamir Hanner transferred to Buffalo

That's seven of Marshall's eight top scorers and 29.9 of the team's 38 rebounds per game gone from a year ago. What's left for the Herd? Well, it starts with returning leading scorer and now senior leader Elijah Pittman. Pittman will enter the year as the leading returning scorer in the conference with an 2012-2013 average of just over 16 points per game. The secondary scoring option and filler of Kane's shoes will likely be redshirt freshman Kareem Canty, who has impressed in five preseason games in Canada for the Herd. Marshall will have a strong collection of forwards to complement Pittman in transfers Shawn Smith, TyQuane Goard and freshman Ryan Taylor. J.P. Kambola and Yous Mbao can defend the paint with their length. Herrion likes to build teams around talented frontcourts, and sure enough, that will likely be this team's strength again this year.

The Outlook
Was last season's disaster an aberration in Coach Tom Herrion's otherwise solid coaching career? Tim Floyd has called him a great coach and, while he has never seen astounding success, his teams are usually very good. Or was it the sign of the beginning of a trend with the Marshall program under Herrion's watch? It is rare that so many important starters leave the program all at once. The constants for Marshall will likely be Pittman's points and rebounding, but in order for the Herd to have a chance in the new C-USA this season, they will need a number of new faces to step up and fulfill their roles. Expectations are considerably lowered for this team in 2013-2014, but then again, maybe that's the way Herrion and his team like it.

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