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NH Division I men's college basketball preview: Run, UNH, run
University of New Hampshire basketball coach Bill Herrion yells directions his players along the sideline vs. Boston University in Durham last season. (UNION LEADER FILE)
DURHAM - Bill Herrion plans to use a new-look offense in search of a first America East championship for his University of New Hampshire men's basketball team.
"We're kind of revamping our offense and trying to run more and definitely take it inside more," Herrion said. "We've got some depth up front."
The Wildcats have been guard- and perimeter-oriented the last several years, but they have not generally shot well from the outside. That combination has put extra pressure on what has been a tough defense.
Seniors Chris Matagrano, Ferg Myrick (8.5 points a game last year) and Jeron Trotman, junior Chris Pelcher and freshman Frank Okeke make up the depth in the frontcourt. Pelcher is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound transfer from Iona College.
Myrick and Pelcher each had 14 points and nine rebounds in UNH's season-opening 91-51 win over Division III Suffolk. Matagrano had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Wildcats play at Dartmouth tonight at 7.
Herrion and senior guard Chandler Rhoads are counting on an improved inside game to open up better looks for the outside guys.
Rhoads is the leading scorer among returners and averaged 11.2 points a game. Junior Patrick Konan scored 9.7 points a game and was the leader among returning rebounders with 5.8 a game.
The Wildcats were the No. 5 seed for the America East tournament last year and lost in the quarterfinals to Albany. They intend to compete for league title this year.
"We're excited for the season," Rhoads said. "We want to make a run at winning a championship. We want to get a banner in our gym. I feel the league is pretty wide open."
UNH was picked sixth in the pre-season coaches' poll.
"If the players want to use that for motivation, so be it," Herrion said.
Vermont finished atop the pre-season coaches poll and pulled down five of the nine first-place votes. Stony Brook was picked second and was on top of the other four ballots.
Boston University was third, but is leaving the league after this season and is not eligible for the league tournament.
Herrion notes that the Wildcats have shown some flash and accomplished some things as he enters his eighth season, but it has been frustrating to not get over the hump and produce winning seasons.
UNH was last over .500 in the 1994-95 season.
The Wildcats have posted double-digit wins each of the last four years.
"We're at a point with the program, and I totally get it, that we're all anxious to start winning more games than we lose," Herrion said.
Gabas Madunas, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, helped Dartmouth show off its youth in a 67-54 win over Maine on Saturday night.
Madunas scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
He was one of three sophomores in a starting lineup that also included freshman guards Kevin Crescenzi and Alex Mitola. Mitola finished with a dozen points.
Coach Paul Cormier's team may be extremely young - he has one senior and one junior on the roster - but he's very excited about its talent level.
John Golden (13 points) and Jvonte Brooks (six points, nine rebounds) were the sophomores who filled out the starting lineup against Maine.
The Big Green were picked eighth and last in the Ivy League pre-season coaches' poll.
They will be out to not only prove the voters wrong, but to break a pattern of the last few years.
Dartmouth was 5-25 overall and 1-13 in the Ivy League last year.
They were 5-23 and 1-13 the year before in Cormier's first season of his second stint at the school.
They were also 5-23 and 1-13 the season before he returned.