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The Other Top 25 Preseason Rankings: No. 6 Marshall Thundering Herd

Jon Elmore, Dan D’an, and the gang are back.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Marshall vs Wichita State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

2017-18 Record: 25-11 (12-6 CUSA)
Key Returning Players: Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks, Jarrod West
Key Losses: Ajdin Penava
Key Newcomers: Ante Sustic

Along with Loyola University Chicago, Nevada, and UMBC, Marshall was one of the best feel-good stories of the 2017-18 postseason. The 2017-18 Thundering Herd will be remembered for their nails-tough rivalry with Western Kentucky, their in-state superstar Jon Elmore, and coaching fashion icon Dan D’Antoni. A win against Landry Shamet and the Wichita State Shockers in the tournament proved the sky’s the limit for the West Virginia boys.

Key Non-Conference Games

Nov. 23 at Maryland: After a disappointing finish in Big Ten play last year, the Terps should be significantly better and a threat to make the tournament with returns from freshman phenom Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan.

Nov. 28 vs. William & Mary: The Tribe went 19-12 last year and should only be better this year with 6’10 junior Nathan Knight and Justin Pierce, who shot over 40 percent from three. William & Mary will be hungry this year and ready to take a home win away from Marshall.

Dec. 5 vs Duquesne: The Dukes have two up-and-coming guards in former A-10 All-Rookie selections in Mike Lewis II and Eric Williams Jr.

Dec. 22 at Texas A&M: I’ll go out on a limb here and say that a win in College Station against a 2018 Sweet 16 team is very possible. One word: losses. We’ll be looking at a depleted Aggies team this year.

Dec. 31 at Virginia: Virginia lost to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament by 20 points. Anything is possible with Jon Elmore and Co.

Three Things to Watch

Who will replace Penava?

The Herd will have a tough time replacing the double-double machine who notched 10 of them last year and scored in double figures in every one of their postseason games. Flow in games revolved around a pick and pop between Penava and Elmore, so the dynamic for the team will be greatly altered and the Herd will need someone to step up inside the paint. Look for sophomore Darius George or 6’10 JuCo transfer Ante Sustic to fill the void.

Jon Elmore’s case for All-American

Elmore is definitely a prolific scorer, but this is the year he can turn himself into an NBA-level player. Last year, he shot 52 percent from two and averaged 22.7 points per game. He beat Wichita State on the big stage and will have an even greater role as the Herd’s floor general this season. I have a feeling he won’t disappoint.

Not just Elmore’s understudy: C.J. Burks

Last year, Elmore and Burks became the most recent duo to each score 700 points in a season — the first such occurrence since Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler did it at Duke. This was largely due to Burks’ stealing ability (he had four steals against Wichita State) and knack for getting to the line to sink his free throws. Burks may not be target number one for opposing teams, but he sure has the ability to go off.

X Factor: Darius George

Only a sophomore, George has the best chance of replacing Penava and to thrive in doing so. He made use of his minimal playing time last season with 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and has the potential to be a big man who can score, with over 50 percent of his field goals made. With the ability to hit the double-digits in scoring due to his versatility at all three levels, George could be the spice the Herd need to return to the tournament.