Preview: North Florida Ospreys
Key losses make it tough to significantly improve upon last season
2013-14 Atlantic Sun Projected Standings1. Mercer | 2. Florida Gulf Coast | 3. USC Upstate | 4. Jacksonville | 5. Stetson | 6. North Florida | 7. East Tennessee State | 8. Northern Kentucky | 9. Lipscomb | 10. Kennesaw State
2012-13: 13-19 (8-10)
In-conference offense:1.02 points per possession (5th)
In-conference defense:1.06 points per possession (7th)
North Florida looked poised to make a push for the top of the conference prior to last season with its major contributors all returning. But that never happened, as Jerrod Granberry left the program early in the season and big man Travis Wallace regressed in an area where the Ospreys needed him the most.
When a team goes from being the best defensive rebounding group in its conference to the worst in the span of one season without any major losses along the front line, like North Florida did in 2012-13, there had to have been a change in philosophy with the coaching staff or style with the players.
Whether it was direction from Matthew Driscoll's coaching staff or his own prerogative, Wallace decided to go after blocks more often during his junior season. That led to a rise in block percentage, from 1.8 to 3.5, but it also meant an even bigger drop in defensive rebounding percentage (19.1 to 15.9).
North Florida's overall numbers followed Wallace's lead. The Ospreys were not only one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the Atlantic Sun, but in all of college basketball as well. That undermined the improvement in 2-point defense.
If UNF's best interior defender decides to go for blocks again this season, he will need some help on the glass. That doesn't appear to be in the cards. The next-best defensive returning rebounder is sophomore guard Beau Beech (13.1 DR%).
Wallace may be in for a production dip on offense as well without deep threat Parker Smith to attract attention from opposing defenses and point guard Will Wilson to feed him the ball. The remaining backcourt players are inexperienced and untested.
With key losses and a defense heading in the wrong direction, North Florida is going to struggle in 2013-14. The Ospreys will see a dip in wins and fall closer to the bottom of the league.
Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 6th
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2013-14 Insider College Hoops Preview
In the lead-up to the 2013-14 college basketball season, Insider is providing preview articles on every Division I team, as well as essays from Insider's analysts and experts.