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Charleston Southern is aiming for a bounce-back season, but its challenges are substantial

CSU would love to get back to contending in the Big South.

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Southern at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

NC State is tentatively scheduled to return to playing basketball that counts on Wednesday night against Charleston Southern. The Wolfpack is opening its regular season in Reynolds Coliseum for the first time in 22 years because that’s the kind of bizarro life we’re living.

The Buccaneers will be eager to show some grown after finishing the 2020 season 14-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big South. The good news for Charleston Southern is that it returns three guys who averaged double-figures last season, and it has plenty of veteran leaders to lean on. CSU was picked third in the Big South preseason poll.

The bad news is, well, CSU’s general whole everything, in general. The Bucs might be substantially better this season and still not be any good whatsoever—this is a group that finished 318th in the Pomeroy Ratings last year, so it’d take a dramatic leap just to approach mediocrity.

CSU Offense

2020 Buccaneers Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Buccaneers Off_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 95.4 (296) 48.4 (224) 18.8 (173) 22.8 (318) 25.3 (330)

Head coach Barclay Radebaugh is entering his 16th season at Southern (with zero NCAA bids; nice gig if you can get it!) and his teams have been all over the place stylistically, sometimes taking a ton of threes, sometimes not; sometimes pushing the pace, sometimes taking the air out of the ball.

Last season, CSU ranked 250th in tempo and 41st in three-point attempt rate. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers shot just 31.7% from beyond the arc, and this was an undersized team that didn’t collect many of its own misses.

If there’s a big red flag for CSU heading into Wednesday, it’s the fact that the Bucs had the ball stolen from them on over 10% of their offensive possessions—a rate that ranked 298th. A Kevin Keatts team will be more than happy to oblige that level of carelessness.

The Bucs will be led by Phlandrous Fleming, who in addition to having a great name also happens to be a pretty good basketball player. He averaged almost 18 points per game and you can bet he will have the ball in his hands a lot—he not only accounted for a ton of shot attempts, he also led the team in assist rate. For a 6’4 dude, he’s a solid scorer inside the arc, but his jumper has been a liability the last two years, and he’s only a 30.5% three-point shooter.

Travis Anderson (6’0, 175), Deontaye Buskey (6’1, 160), and Ty Jones (6’6, 250) should serve as the primary support for Fleming. Anderson and Buskey both attempted over 100 threes last season, with Anderson hitting 38.1% and Buskey shooting 33.9%.

Jones figures to do most of his work inside the arc, where he’s a career 52% two-point shooter. The Buccaneers need him to have a bigger impact on the offensive glass this season and get to the line more frequently, where he can leverage that career 83% free throw shooting.

CSU Defense

2020 Buccaneers Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
2020 Buccaneers Def_Eff (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Defense 109.1 (308) 52.6 (302) 18.6 (182) 30.1 (276) 28.8 (88)

Charleston Southern ranked 317th in average height and had exactly the sort of abysmal interior defense you’d expect from a team ranked 317th in average height. The Bucs were 324th in 2FG% defense and 270th in block rate, in addition to 276th in defensive rebounding rate. They were willing to play zone but that can do only so much to obscure flaws this dramatic. The interior should be a source of struggle for them again in 2021.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by 19.