2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Lamar Cardinals

While they may not have the most talent in the Southland Conference this season, Marcus Owens and the Lamar Cardinals will be a thorn in the side of many teams in 2015-16.
While they may not have the most talent in the Southland Conference this season, Marcus Owens and the Lamar Cardinals will be a thorn in the side of many teams in 2015-16.

The date was November 22nd, 2014, and the game was one that didn’t garner much attention on paper leading up to the game.

Inside Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN, the Indiana Hoosiers were set to take on the Lamar Cardinals in what was expected to be a laugher. Laughter was the farthest thing from what Hoosier fans did, and the Lamar Cardinals caught the eye of seemingly everyone for the night being, including us.

Now, the final score was 85 – 72 in favour of the Hoosiers, but the contest was a lot closer than the 13-point differential in the box score. Lamar played the Hoosiers tough, and looked like they could pull off arguably their biggest win in school history.

While the win over Indiana wasn’t in the cards, Lamar scored some big wins in conference play in 2014-15, thanks in large part to a talented roster led by Tyran de Lattibeaudiere and the play of some of their younger players

. In 2015-16, things may get even better for Tic Price and the Cardinals, as they have talented and experienced players back to show that last year’s strong season was indeed no fluke.

Below, we take a look at what fans can expect from the 2015-16 edition of the Lamar Cardinals in the upcoming season.

Who’s Missing

The Lamar Cardinals lose their top three scorers from a season ago, leading to the coaching staff having to adjust and make some changes moving forwards. Losing their top offensive threats is tough enough, but replacing the productivity of Tyran de Lattibeaudiere will be something that Price could lose sleep over.

Tyran de Lattibeaudiere, a 6’4” senior out of Kingston, Jamaica, excelled in his only year of NCAA competition. In 2014-15, he averaged 13.4 points per game, good for second-best on the team. Add in his 7.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game, and it’s easy to see his impact on the team.

Over the course of the year, de Lattibeaudiere put up 8 double-doubles of points and rebounds, highlighted by a 16 point, 14 rebound, 6 block performance in a win over Houston Baptist in February. He did everything well for the Cardinals in his one year of NCAA action, and it’s a shame that the college basketball didn’t get to experience more of what Tyran de Lattibeaudiere had to offer.

Leading scorer Anthony Holliday (14.7 ppg) and Donovan Ross (9.2 ppg) are both gone from the Cardinals, leaving big holes in both the back court and front court for Lamar. Holliday also led the team in assists per game, averaging 3.4 per contest.

In the absence of their three stars, and go-to threats on the offensive end, key returnees will see a big boost in their playing time and will need to capitalize on it for the Cardinals to be successful.

Who’s Returning

To find out who’s returning for the Cardinals, you need to scroll a few names down the list of leading scorers from a season ago. As mentioned above, the top three scorers in 2014-15 are off to bigger and better things in their basketball and professional careers, meaning some slightly lesser known players will need to step up for Lamar.

The top returning scorer for the Cardinals in 2015-16 averaged 7.1 points per contest a season ago, and the kicker is that he didn’t start in a single game. Senior Dontavious Sears appeared in 29 games a season ago, averaging just 14.1 minutes per game, and was good for fourth-best on the team in scoring.

With the holes in the roster, Sears will look to slide into a bigger role for Tic Price and the rest of the coaching staff. He has shown that he can shoot the ball from all over the floor (45.8% from the floor, 34.0% from three point range in ’14-15), and has the look of a player who is capable of taking a leading role in terms of offense. Add in his veteran experience, and Sears is an integral part of the team.

Guards Kevin Booze and Marcus Owens also return in 2015-16, and can provide the team with some stability in the back court. As a freshman a year ago, Booze 6.2 points and 2.9 assists per game in 29 games, making 13 starts. One game that is fresh in the minds of Lamar fans is Booze’s 35-point outburst in February against Abilene Christian. Cardinal fans are hoping there’s more of that to come over the course of his career at Lamar.

One area of concern in Booze’s game is turnovers. If he is able to cut down on the number of turnovers he commits (55 in 2014-15), the Cardinals would be in much better shape and his personal game would vastly improve.

As for the 6’2” Owens, he has shown that he isn’t afraid to battle on the glass, and is capable of being a go-to offensive weapon, Last season, Owens averaged 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest. If Owens can come out of the gate with the same level of intensity that he had last season, in terms of rebounding, he too will be a focal point of the offense, and a key piece in the success of the Cardinals.

The play, and continued development, of big man LeMon Gregory and the incoming freshmen will be something to keep an eye on in 2015-16. Gregory stands at 6’10” tall, and could be the anchor that Lamar needs in the paint to battle their opposition’s big men.

Price and the coaching staff brought in a talented recruiting class for 2015-16, some of which could step in and contribute right away.

The healthy dose of talent and experience with Booze, Sears, and Owens, coupled with youth from the incoming freshman class and JUCO transfers should keep the Cardinals in the top half of the conference standings.

If they play their cards right (no pun intended), this season could top that of a year ago.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Kevin Booze (SO)

Guard: Marcus Owens (JR)

Guard/Forward: Dontavious Sears (SR)

Forward: Dorian Chatman (FR)

Forward/Center: LeMon Gregory (SR)

Scheduling Notes

Last year’s schedule for the Cardinals had the marquee match-up of going on the road to take on Indiana in one of the greatest college basketball venues ever built. While this year’s schedule doesn’t have a match-up quite like that, it still poses a tough road in advance of conference play.

To kick off the year, Lamar will take on Austin College in their home opener, in what should serve as a tune-up for what the Cardinals will embark on shortly thereafter.

From there, Lamar will partake in the BD Global Event, which sees them go on the road for three straight games over the span of 10 days. They will pay a visit to Fresno State, Delaware State, and Rice before returning home to close out the event against the UC Riverside Highlanders. If the Cardinals can come away from the event with a 2 – 2 record, it should be seen as a success. Both Fresno State and Rice pose interesting challenges.

The game against the Highlanders kicks off a three-game home stand against Division I opponents. The newly-formed UT-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros pay a visit to the Montagne Center, followed by Idaho State.

Two road games in two days are the marquee events of this year’s non-conference slate. A road trip to Virginia has the Cardinals taking on the Liberty Flames and Virginia Tech on consecutive nights. A win over Buzz Williams and the Hokies would do wonders for the confidence of the team as they approach Southland play.

Non-conference play closes out with three home games against non-Division I opponents, thus providing the Cardinals with an ideal opportunity to enter conference action on a bit of a roll.

A year ago, Lamar finished with a 9 – 9 record in conference action, good for the 6th spot in the standings. They scored quality wins over the likes of Texas A&M-CC and Incarnate Word, and are looking to build off their successes in 2015-16. With more talent across the floor this season, there’s no reason to doubt the Cardinals improving their records from a season ago.

Season Predictions

Losing a player of Tyran de Lattibeaudiere’s calibre is tough for any team to overcome, let alone losing your top three scorers. With that being said, the 2015-16 edition of the Lamar Cardinals have a ton of talent still in place, and a ton of talent on their way to Beaumont, ready to leave their mark on the NCAA.

Guards Kevin Booze and Marcus Owens are ready for breakout seasons as they gain more playing and are looked upon for leadership, as is Dontavious Sears. With several options in terms of offense on this year’s team, seeing Lamar finish above the .500 mark in Southland play is a real possibility.

Don’t overlook the Lamar Cardinals in 2015-16, as they just might surprise if you don’t play your cards right.

– T.B.