2013-14 Preview: Drake Bulldogs

New Drake coach Ray Giacoletti lost four of the top six scorers from last season's team. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Drake Bulldogs

2012-13: 15-17 (7-11 in Missouri Valley)
In-conference offense: 1.01 points per possession (T-6th)
In-conference defense: 1.08 points per possession (7th)

If there's one team to keep an eye on in the Missouri Valley, it's Drake. Why? Not even new head coach Ray Giacoletti, who was once the head coach at Utah and has since been sitting next to Mark Few at Gonzaga, has a feeling for how they'll do this season.

"We need to have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and be the best we can be," said Giacoletti. "[But] I don't know where that's going to lead, to be honest."

Projected starting lineup

The uncertainty makes sense considering four of the top six scorers from last season -- Ben Simons, Chris Hines, Jordan Clarke and Joey King -- don't return. Giacoletti also brings in two former JUCO players who legitimately have a chance to start -- wings Trevor Berkeley and Chris Caird. Another potential starter, Aaron Hawley (who played under former coach Mark Phelps), took a year off from basketball before returning to the program this season.

But while all this uncertainty exists, it doesn't mean Giacoletti has no established options. The post will be manned by 6-foot-11 senior center Seth VanDeest, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a season ago. If he stays healthy -- he had ankle and knee surgery at the end of last season and still isn't fully back -- he has the potential to be one of the best big men in the Missouri Valley.

He'll form a strong inside-outside tandem with point guard Richard Carter, who averaged 9.2 points and 3.4 assists a game last season. The 5-11 senior has the ability to hit from the outside and mid-range, and has good floor vision. If he can diversify as a slasher -- 75 percent of his drives go left, where he had a points per possession of just 0.606 -- he can be a key member for the Bulldogs.

The most crucial area to address is on the defensive end. Drake ranked 277th in effective field goal percentage defense last season, allowing opponents to make 51.3 percent of their attempts. Giacoletti, though, believes that statistic will improve this season with so many fresh faces.

"I told the guys that they all have clean slates and, in my mind, how you're successful is focusing on the things you can control," Giacoletti said. "Control defensively, control boxing out rebound-wise -- those are the areas we're going to start out on. It doesn't matter who you are or what team you are, if you're unable to get stops, you are not going to be successful."

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 10th