Team preview: Arkansas State

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2011-12 season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: November 3, 2011, 12:29 PM ET
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

COACH AND PROGRAM

After finishing second in the Sun Belt's West Division in his second year at Arkansas State, John Brady's Red Wolves tied for first last season. But postseason hopes sank when they lost their Finn.

Trey Finn (8.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) was injured in practice preparing for the league tournament and missed the Red Wolves' one-and-done performance -- a 59-52 loss to UALR.

Brady's bunch had swept UALR during the regular season, including a 71-63 victory 10 days earlier that clinched a share of the West and concluded the first undefeated home record (13-0) since 1990-91. Finn, a 6-2 junior, delivered 13 points (4-of-7 shooting) and 11 rebounds in that one, and made all five of his free throws and 2-of-3 three-pointers.

But he could only watch the tournament loss to the Trojans, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't know if Trey Finn was our best player a year ago, but he was our most valuable player," Brady said. "And this year he's really, I think, gonna step up offensively and be really productive for us in that regard. He's a great defender. He's an extremely good rebounder for his position. I really think he'll be an all-league player."

PLAYERS

Finn, who made 83 percent of his free throws and 37.3 percent of his three-pointers (38-of-102) last year, had an encouraging spring and summer.

"He is fully recovered from his injury," Brady said, "and he looks really good in workouts."

Finn generally boxed out his counterparts, as did the Red Wolves. They out-rebounded opponents by nearly five per game (36.8-32.2). That large gap is easily understood with 6-8, 255-pound senior Martavius Adams (11.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg), 6-8, 265-pound senior Malcoln Kirkland (4.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and 6-7, 215-pound junior Brandon Peterson (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) roaming the paint. Brady also is high on newcomers Bryce Clark (16.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg), an athletic 6-7 junior, and 6-8 freshman Johnny Zuppardo (16.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg). Clark, who played at Houston as a freshman, made 44 three-pointers last season in junior college.

Adams has a back-to-the-basket game that can draw double teams. He attempted a team-high 134 free throws last season and was second-team All-Sun Belt. Brady can see him making the first team this season.

Adams and Kirkland, who led the team with 31 blocks in 2010-11, evoke images of the brawny posts Brady had at LSU such as Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Brandon Bass.

"We're still running the same offensive philosophy we had at LSU with the high-low post situation, and we've tried to recruit to that," Brady said. "Martavius and Malcoln and Brandon Peterson and Johnny Zuppardo will certainly give us four post men that can play in that. And then even Bryce Clark -- at 6-6 or 6-7 in the Sun Belt -- can play that position, too.

"Those guys have fit it really well, and that's what we're going to continue to try to do. It's been good for me. I'm familiar with it. I'm comfortable coaching it and we're going to try to continue to recruit to it."

Brady was pleased with the offseason performance of Peterson, who started 29 games, made 71.7 percent of his free throws and was second among Red Wolves with 29 blocks in 2010-11.

"Brandon Peterson is probably our most improved player at this point," Brady said. "He's playing really well."

Although he must replace point guard Rashad Allison (9.6 ppg, 3.8 apg) and wing Donald Boone (10.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Brady is comfortable with his backcourt. Edward Townsel (5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg) will take over at point guard. The 6-0 sophomore made 21-of-50 three-pointers (.420) as a freshman. The inflection in Brady's voice when he describes Townsel as a "really nice player" makes more of an impression than the actual words.

JUCO transfer Marcus Hooten (21.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) should reel in much of Boone's slack. The 6-4 junior did struggle behind the arc (28-of-85, .280) as a sophomore last season at Copiah-Lincoln in Mississippi. But he got to the free-throw 225 times in 22 games, and shot 65 percent.

Other guards expected to contribute include 6-1 freshman point guard Rakeem Dickerson (14.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.0 apg) and 6-3 junior Adam Sterrenberg (3.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg). Sterrenberg scored nine points in a spot start in the Sun Belt Tournament when Finn was out. Dickerson, who was in prep school last year, led Little Rock-Hall to a state title in 2010 and helped lead the Arkansas Wings to a national AAU title later that year.

"He's another one of our signees that our coaches have really liked in our workouts to this point," Brady said.

Brady's primary concern is perimeter shooting. The Red Wolves' 33-percent three-point shooting last season wasn't atrocious, but there were up-and-down nights to get there.

"I hope we can consistently shoot the ball," Brady said. "We need to shoot better from behind the arc. Some games we were pretty good, some games we weren't. Hopefully, Trey Finn will be a steady influence back there. I think Marcus Hooten will be a good shooter. I think our two point guards are capable three-point shooters.

"So if we can be more consistent behind the arc, I think our inside game is fine, our ability to rebound it is fine and our defending is pretty good. If we can make a few baskets out there behind that line, I think it'll make us a better team."

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B+
BENCH/DEPTH: A-
FRONTCOURT: A
INTANGIBLES: A-

Brady got a three-year extension through 2016 in the offseason. He's enjoying this gig, especially with assistant coach Richard Williams alongside for what seems like a long, rewarding ride into the sunset. Brady was an assistant for Williams at Mississippi State in the 1980s. Now, they comprise the only tandem in the country that has each led teams to the Final Four. Brady took LSU in 2006. Williams got Mississippi State there in '96.

"I like where we are," Brady said. "I like our returning players. I like our experience. We've got several players who've been here in the program three and four years now.

"If nothing happens that we can't control and our players make good decisions off the floor in their personal lives and we don't have anything we have to deal with to upset our team moving forward and limit our distractions & I think we've got a chance to be as good as we were a year ago, or maybe a little better."

Who knows, with the tournament nearby in Hot Springs again, if Finn and company stay healthy, Brady and Williams might have another shining moment this season.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.