CAA Preview: Elon Phoenix

elonHead Coach: Matt Matheny

Last Season: 16-16 (CAA 7-11)

Departures:

  • G Tanner Samson (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
  • G Sam Hershberger
  • C Tony Sabato

 

Additions:

  • G Seth Fuller (Dublin Coffman/Dublin, OH)

By: Mack Krell

Elon ended last season with a disappointing one-point loss to Drexel in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Up 56-55, the Phoenix gave up a basket with 25 seconds left to lose in their tournament opener. Elon looks to rebound this season in the CAA with more experienced players across the roster.

Elon will be going into this season after graduating 3-point basket record holder, Tanner Samson. In his senior year, Samson averaged 11.8 points while playing 28 minutes per game. He led the team in scoring and 3-point percentage during his senior year. With the loss of Samson, the Phoenix will turn to senior guard Luke Eddy to lead the team this year.

Eddy, a 6-1 senior guard from Charleston, West Va., was second on the team in points during his junior year. He also led the team with 4.5 assists per game, which was 3rd in the CAA  last season. Elon will need Eddy’s strong passing ability as they finished last season 2nd to last in  in assist to turnover ratio at -1.47. Eddy will also look for help from younger returning players around him.

Sophomores Dainan Swoope and Tyler Seibring will likely join Eddy in the starting lineup. Swoope will look to help Elon through his 3 point shooting ability. Seibring, along with senior guard Christian Hairston, will be important for the Phoenix because of their rebounding ability, a point of emphasis for Coach Matheny this off-season. Together the two averaged close to 10 rebounds per game.

“We’ve also got to be a team of rebounders.,” Matheny told Elon’s athletics website.

“We had a negative rebounding number last season. So we want to outrebound out opponents.”

While there are many positives about the Elon team, including their strong ability to move the ball and make teams work defensively, there are also some big concerns going into the 2016-17 season. The main concern will be replacing the offensive threat of Samson. Another concern for Elon is their inability to shoot free-throws, a category in which they finished last in the CAA during the 2015-15 season. The Phoenix hope to improve from their team free throw percentage of 66 percent last season.

Another aspect of the game that Elon looks to improve on this season is their defense; the Phoenix finished 8th in the CAA in scoring defense and 8th in field goal defense. Last season Elon had multiple games in which they could not finish on top because their defense let them down late in the game. This was seen even in the conference tournament when they lost on a late bucket.

“We’ve got to be a better defensive team,” Matheny added.

“We felt like during the year last season that there were time when we were in close games and we couldn’t count on getting a stop to help us finish the game off.”

Bottom Line: With just one freshman, Elon has an experienced team going into the 2016-17 season. However, Elon will have to replace their MVP from last season, Tanner Samson. If Elon is able to replace the offensive prowess of Samson, and continue to make other defenses work hard through their strong passing, they could cause some trouble in the CAA this season. This will have to be done in partnership with stronger defensive effort, as well as keeping down the turnovers offensively.

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