2013-14 Preview: Youngstown State

Youngstown State Penguins

2012-13: 18-16 (7-9)
In-conference offense: 0.99 points per possession (5th)
In-conference defense: 1.05 points allowed per possession (7th)

Senior guard Kendrick Perry is a compelling force at both ends of the floor, and he's the reason the Penguins have hope for their best conference finish in years. Detroit's Ray McCallum ran away with Horizon player of the year honors last season, but the truth is that McCallum's and Perry's rate-based stats were nearly identical -- both were high usage (25 percent) and high efficiency (118 for McCallum to 116 for Perry) with practically the same assist rates, turnover rates, free throw rates and steal percentages.

There really was only one difference between them: supporting cast. Perry needs some more help if he's going to carry the Penguins to a prestigious postseason tournament the way McCallum did with the Titans the past two seasons.

Projected starting lineup

Senior forward Kamren Belin had a solid debut, hitting 40 percent of his 140 3-point attempts. However, Belin also settles for a lot of low-percentage 2-point jumpers; this season, he needs to get to the rim with more regularity to realize his potential as a scorer. Sophomore forward Bobby Hain could be a breakout candidate. Though he played limited minutes last season as the primary backup in the frontcourt, he displayed an elite ability to finish at the rim (an exceptional 79 percent, per hoop-math.com). More touches for him in the paint should be a goal. However, both must do better work on the glass. The Penguins were one of the worst rebounding teams in the Horizon last year, and cleaning up more defensive rebounds would do wonders for the team's poor efficiency on that end.

The most improvement is needed in the backcourt. Junior guard DJ Cole takes a lot of shots at the rim, but he finishes at a subpar rate when he's not fouled. Coach Jerry Slocum likely will choose between Ryan Weber and Shawn Amiker for the final starting spot. It really depends on style preference; Weber is a shooter who had a rough freshman year doing that in limited touches, while Amiker, a junior, is more of a slasher. He draws fouls at a high rate, but struggles making free throws. Overall, there's lots of room for attainable improvement from all three players.

While Perry is awesome, there's probably still not enough talent around him for the Penguins to contend for the league crown. However, improving on the seven wins of a year ago with a move into the top half of the conference is a goal within reach.

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 5th