The way the schedule has played out, it has been hard to gauge the Tulane men’s basketball team.
The Green Wave (7-3), which already has surpassed its win total from coach Mike Dunleavy’s first season, obviously is better than a year ago. But it was flattened by Atlantic Coast Conference powers North Carolina and Florida State, flopped at Georgia State in its only game on an opponent’s home court and has beaten seven teams with a combined record of 30-44 and an average RPI of 227, according to RealtimeRPI.com.
Monday night’s home game with Nicholls State (5-5 but with three wins against non-Division I competition), available on ESPN3, will not clear up the big picture. Tulane, playing for the first time in eight days due to final exams, hopes to do the little things well as it gets ready for the start of American Athletic Conference action next week.
Specifically, that means continuing to run good offense with excellent teamwork. Tulane has handed out 20 or more assists four times after reaching that total once in 2016-17.
“We’re not going to take guys off the dribble and make great plays over great defenses,” Dunleavy said. “We’re trying to play harder than you, we’re trying to make the better pass than you to get great percentage shots. We’ve shown that we can do it.”
Tulane definitely has more options than in the past. Junior swing man Melvin Frazier, the Louisiana Sportswriters Association player of the month for November, averages 17.2 points on 57.0 percent shooting. Senior forward Cameron Reynolds is right behind him with 16.8 points, connecting on 44.8 percent of his 3s. Guard Jordan Cornish, a junior transfer from UNLV, contributed 18 points and nine assists against Southern in the Wave’s last home game.
Sophomore point guard Ray Ona Embo had a stretch of three games with 12 assists and only four turnovers before struggling against FSU’s athletic, long-armed defense on Dec. 9. He also hit 6 of 9 3-pointers in a two-game span.
Reserve forward Samir Sehic, a Vanderbilt transfer, is third on the team with 11.9 points per game and has scored in double figures seven times. Although not a traditional post player, he knows how to finish around the basket and should be even more effective when he finds his range on outside shots after hitting only 5 of 18 from behind the arc to this point.
“Samir is a smart player,” Dunleavy said. “Basically we’re using him a lot in the post even though he has the ability to be a stretch player for us. He has good instincts as far as rebounding, passing and being able to score. He gives you a good effort on the offensive glass, comes up with loose balls and gets his hands on a lot.”
Even center Blake Paul came alive against FSU, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting after a six-game stretch when he had 5 points and made one shot in nine attempts.
Nicholls State counters with high-scoring guards Roddy Peters (19.5 ppg) and Tevin Saddler (16.8 ppg), but the Colonels, picked 10th out of 13 teams in the Southland Conference, have allowed 100 or more points four times.
Tulane, still trying to figure out how good it can be, may be able to pick that defense apart.
“It’s everybody understanding what their role is and understanding what they are trying to create,” Dunleavy said. “When we don’t vary from that, we go through stretches where we’re very good.”