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Previewing William & Mary: Tribe will be bombs away even without Marcus Thornton

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or listen to the game

Tip time: 8 p.m. ET, Friday, Nov. 13

TV: None

Online streamingESPN3

Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

William & Mary vitals

Record: Undefeated!
Preseason Pomeroy ranking: No. 121

Adjusted tempo (projected): 67.6 poss/40 minutes (ranks 251st)
Adjusted offensive efficiency (projected): 104.3 (ranks 71st)
Adjusted defensive efficiency (projected): 101.4 (ranks 216th)

W&M roster
W&M schedule
W&M stats 2015

The William & Mary offense and starters

W&M Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2015 56.3 (6) 17.5 (74) 24.2 (330) 35.5 (217)
2014 55.9 (6) 16.2 (50) 24.0 (341) 40.1 (179)

William & Mary has had a good couple of years in the Colonial Athletic Association, but one thing still eludes the program: a trip to the NCAA tournament. The Tribe reached the CAA tournament final in each of the past two seasons only to fall short. The program is one of only five original D-I members to never have made the NCAAs--the others being The Citadel, Northwestern, St. Francis-Brooklyn, and Army.

Can the Tribe make another run at breakthrough in 2016? Probably, but there is one thing that needs to be settled first; one real big thing. That's the absence of conference player of the year Marcus Thornton, who averaged an even 20 points per game in 2015. Thornton shouldered an enormous load offensively and rarely was off the court; he also managed to hit 39% from three, 53% from two, and 82% at the line despite that.

That type of individual season doesn't come along often. But the good news for Bill and Mary is it returns the other four starters from last season, which should help ease the transition. The Tribe may not have someone ready to step in and take 30% of the shots every night, but they have experience they know they can count on, which is a start.

With that core returning, W&M's offense figures to continue what it's been doin', which is shoot a whole heck of a lot of three-pointers. In 2015, about four out of every 10 W&M field goal attempts came from three; the proportion ranked 23rd nationally. Question is, can the Tribe continue to be one of the country's best shooting teams in the absence of Thornton, who was a once-a-generation type for that program?

The Tribe didn't run deep last season--they were 294th in bench minutes, and oh, let's call it 6.5-ish players deep. So the issue might not be what W&M has at the top in 2016, but rather a thinned out secondary scoring tier.

And if the Tribe can't maintain their torrid shooting from 2014 and 2015, it figures to be troublesome for a team that's been among the worst at grabbing offensive boards in the nation. The offense is going to have to pick up some slack in other areas, and it's hard to see much added help coming on the glass.

Starters

David Cohn (6-2, 168) -- Cohn is a transfer from Colorado State, where he played sparingly as a freshman. Lots of guesswork involved here, but based on his limited track record, he seems to be at least an average three-point shooter (who is plenty willing to take threes).

Daniel Dixon (6-6, 210) -- Dixon has no particular need for your fancy two-point shooteratin', as more than 73% of his career attempts have come from beyond the arc. Which is fine since he is a career 42.5% three-point shooter. Can't lose this gentleman at the defensive end.

Omar Prewitt (6-7, 195) -- Prewitt is a career 53.8% shooter inside the arc and a career 35.4% three-point shooter, with his attempts split about 50-50 inside and out. He carried the second-heaviest workload behind Thornton in 2015, and he will no doubt continue to be a significant part of the offense. Not a bad shot blocker, decent passer, solid free throw shooter.

Terry Tarpey (6-5, 210) -- Mr. Terry Tarpey, step right up, sir. The dude responsible for the only triple-double in program history is going to have to shoulder a larger load moving forward, and I think he'll be able to handle that fine. I don't even know where to start with how good he was last season. Sure, there's the shooting: 82.5% at the line, 59.6 from two, 34.7 from three. There's also the fact that he ranked 16th nationally in defensive rebounding, 69th in steal percentage, and posted an assist rate that plenty of true point guards would be happy to have. With an above-average workload, he could emerge as a monster in the CAA.

Sean Sheldon (6-9, 252) -- He's shooting well in the paint, but that probably has a lot to do with his extremely low workload over the last two seasons. William & Mary might could benefit from an expanded role, assuming he can handle one; if he can't, it's no sweat, he can keep on in the happy opportunist role. Sheldon is a good offensive rebounder but is of no particular interest otherwise.

The William & Mary bench and defense

Reserves: Greg Malinowski (6-5, 205), Michael Schlotman (6-5, 200), Jack Whitman (6-9, 235), and probably some other guys probably. Malinowski and Schlotman will have to help out at the guard/wing spots, and Whitman is the only other actual true posty-forwardy type with playing experience on this roster. Beyond those guys, who knows. Malinowski knocked down 45.5% of his threes in a reserve role last season.

W&M Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2015 50.5 (232) 17.6 (262) 29.9 (119) 31.9 (65)
2014 52.4 (290) 16.0 (308)
30.7 (136) 30.1 (12)

While William & Mary deserves credit for a game effort on the glass despite limited size and depth, there is not a whole lot to like about the way the Tribe have played defense recently. Their best ranking in adjusted defensive efficiency over the last five years is 266th, and that was ... five years ago. Three straight season's they've finished ranked below 300.

See, though, this is what's made Tribe games in the last few years entertaining--you know there are gonna be buckets. William & Mary is shooting at a high level on one end, and then on the other it's got the matador action going on.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 10.