2019 0911 mu hoops

Marshall’s Iran Bennett works through a drill as the Herd men’s basketball team practices on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at the Marshall Recreation Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON - Marshall head basketball coach Dan D'Antoni has never been accused of being short on words.

Such was also the case on Thursday afternoon when the Conference USA Coaches Preseason Poll was released by the league.

Marshall was picked to finish 11th out of 14 teams in 2019-20, a move that D'Antoni feels is a slight to the returning pieces from successful teams in the two previous years.

"Last year, we beat the leader at their place, the second-place team once," D'Antoni said. "We've been in the top tier for four straight years and all of the sudden we're not? It's kind of really a chip not only on the players, but on the program itself."

Marshall's losses were heavy with Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks, Rondale Watson and Christian Thieneman all exiting after graduation.

Elmore is Conference USA's and Marshall's all-time leader in scoring and assists while Burks was also a top-5 scorer in program history.

D'Antoni contends that despite those losses, the system which he incorporates, plus the return of many players with starting experience, including Jarrod West, Jannson Williams, Taevion Kinsey, Mikel Beyers and Darius George, should have afforded the Herd more respect than was given.

"They are counting the program out," D'Antoni said. "We've just got to go out there and know that we've got something to prove. Let's go out there and give it our best shot."

D'Antoni did offer that he somewhat understood, given that most of the coaches in the league have only seen his system run with Elmore and Burks at the helm, though.

"Many of them are looking at it like if they lost that, 'Oh crap,'" D'Antoni said. "I just think that the way we play within our system allows players who may not have stepped out yet because it was dominated by a couple other guys. When they leave, our guys are very capable of filling those spots. They just haven't had that opportunity yet."

One of the guys that he looked at as an example was Jarrod West, whom he calls a natural leader, but had to wait his turn behind Elmore and Burks while filling a role the past two seasons.

Another is Taevion Kinsey, who emerged as one of the Herd's top scoring threats - even with Burks and Elmore on the court - late in the season and in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship run.

"Taevion, they are going to be surprised in how much leadership he has in bringing everyone up to the top," D'Antoni said.

D'Antoni added that the bottom line is results - not what everyone thinks the results will be.

"It is what it is," D'Antoni said. "It's early. Five games in, if we are playing really well, no one will remember it and it won't make any difference."

Marshall's women's basketball team is in the same predicament as the men - losing its top two senior scorers at the guard position.

And Tony Kemper's club also found themselves voted in the bottom tier of the league at 11th out of 14 teams.

After losing scorers Shayna Gore and Taylor Porter, Marshall's women's team was only chosen to finish above UTEP, UTSA and FIU in the league standings.

Marshall returns several pieces, including seniors Khadaijia Brooks and Ashley Saintigene along with juniors Kristen Mayo and Taylor Pearson. The Herd women have lots of new talent on the floor, including Huntington native and junior college transfer Dazha Congleton, along with freshman Savannah Wheeler.

Both teams will be on display at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night for Thundering Herd Madness at Cam Henderson Center. The event will feature a dunk contest, 3-point contest and other interactive events for fans. The event is free to the public.

Marshall's women's team opens its regular season at 6 p.m. on Nov. 5 against Kentucky Christian while the men's team opens its 2019-20 campaign at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 against Robert Morris. Both games are at Cam Henderson Center.

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