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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Evansville

The Purple Aces no longer play in sleeves, but they still... I don’t know, actually. I don’t pay attention to Evansville basketball and I’m writing this before I research the post.

NBA: Summer League-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Brace yourselves, people my age: Walter McCarty is old enough to be a head basketball coach at a D1 program. Not just walking into a job because he’s Walter McCarty, either; he has paid the cost to be the boss, as it were. What hath God wrought?

This is an episode of our irregularly schedule season preview series. It will focus on the Evansville Purple Aces, who will visit the Cintas Center for the second game of the Steele Era on November 10th at 4pm.

While McCarty has been climbing the ladder since 2007, when he landed a job as an assistant at Louisville, he doesn’t have any head coaching experience. He moved to the NBA in 2010, where he spent parts of eight seasons as an assistant with the Pacers and Celtics before taking the Evansville job.

Key departures

Ryan Taylor, F (21.3/3.8/1.1, .426/.424/.864)
Dru Smith, PG (13.7/3.5/4.6, .578/.482/.862)
Blake Simmons, F (10.4/4.7/2.1, .438/.407/.774)

So everyone who scored more than 7 points per game or made more than 17 threes last year for Evansville is heading out the door. Blake Simmons was a senior, so his departure is not entirely unexpected, but Taylor and Smith were both eligible to return and chose instead to transfer. Taylor went to Northwestern and Smith to Missouri. Some attrition is not unexpected when there’s a change in head coach, but the cupboard is really bare for Walter McCarty.

Key returnees

KJ Riley, Jr., 6’5” F (6.8/3.4/2.8, .412/.111/.770)
Noah Frederking, So., 6’4” G (5.4/1.8/1.1, .383/.364/.814)
Dainius Chatkevicius, Sr., 6’9” F (4.8/5.4/0.2, .569/.000/.537)

Riley posted a gruesome 39.3% EFG% last year, and he’s the team’s leading returning scorer. He was bad at the rim and an abysmal 16-65 on jump shots. Not the stuff dreams are made of. Frederking is a low usage rate guy who might develop into a solid spot-up shooter. Chatkevicius is a good rebounder at both ends of the floor and a semi-proficient post scorer All three of these dudes are going to be asked to take on a much larger portion of the load this year.

Incoming players

Shea Feehan, Sr., 6’0” G

Feehan is a D3 grad transfer from Eureka College in Illinois. Feehan fed buckets to the entirety of Division III to the tune of 30.6 PPG on .537/.442/.874 shooting. It’s hard to say how that’s going to translate with a jump of two divisions, but top marks to the young man for taking on the challenge.

It’s hard to see anything but a big step backward for Evansville this year as they break in a new coach with a limited roster. They have some interesting pieces for their level and only two seniors in the rotation, but the future is definitely brighter than the present for the Purple Aces. This one should be another early season tune-up for X.