Furman Paladins

The Furman Paladins look to make it back-to-back Southern Conference titles.

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The curse was finally broken in Greenville, SC last season. In the past seven seasons, Furman had won at least 20 games six times (COVID most likely prevented it from being seven for seven). They had also been ranked and reached the SoCon title game multiple times. Yet, breaking an NCAA Tournament drought that had been ongoing since 1980 kept being just out of reach. That is, until last season. Not only did Furman break that drought, they made the most of it in thrilling fashion, with JP Pegues making the biggest shot of his career to sink Virginia in March Madness’ first round.

Now, the goal is to do it all again. Gone are Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson, two of the best players in program history. However, as has been shown, the Paladins don’t rebuild, they reload. The aforementioned Pegues will be expected to take more on his shoulders, as well as guys like Marcus Foster and Garrett Hien. Bob Richey is also back, with no power conference schools scooping him away like has happened with the past five prior SoCon champions. The target is squarely in upstate South Carolina this season, but the Furman Paladins wouldn’t have it any other way.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Bob Richey (7th season, all at Furman)

2022-23 record: 28-8 (15-3)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to San Diego State, 75-52, in second round of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Mike Bothwell (Graduated), Jalen Slawson (Graduated)

Notable non-conference games: N/A

Projected Rotation

PG: J.P. Pegues (6-1, 185, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 11.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.9 APG

SG: Marcus Foster (6-4, 200, RS-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 10.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG

SF: Alex Williams (6-5, 235, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 6.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 46.9% FG

PF: Ben VanderWal (6-7, 210, So.)

2022-23 stats: 4.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.4 APG, 49.1% FG

C: Garrett Hien (6-9, 220, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 7.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 51.7% FG

6: Carter Whitt (6-3, 185, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.5 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 RPG

7: Tyrese Hughey (6-6, 220, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 4.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 57.8% FG

8: PJay Smith Jr. (6-0, 175, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.8 APG (D-II Lee University)

9: Davis Molnar (6-6, 215, RS-Fr.)

2022-23 stats: DNP (Redshirted)

Furman Paladins MVP: J.P. Pegues

Pegues will live in Furman basketball history regardless of how the rest of his career will turn out thanks to the shot mentioned earlier. However, as a rising junior, his legacy is really just beginning. Pegues runs the show on offense, and his passing ability is unquestioned. What will be interesting to see is if he can add to his scoring prowess.

He’ll be helped by Marcus Foster in the backcourt, and both will have to take on more of the scoring load with Bothwell and Slawson moving on. There’s no doubt that Pegues is capable of taking that step, and that will be a major key to the Furman Paladins pushing for a second straight SoCon title.

Furman Paladins Make-or-Break Player: Garrett Hien

Jalen Slawson was the go-to guy for Furman in the paint. He was as tough as they come, driving to the basket on offense and being the best defensive player in the league the past two (maybe three) seasons. With Slawson on a two-way contract now for the Sacramento Kings, Garrett Hien is the logical next guy up to be “the guy” down low.

Hien is not afraid to be physical inside. What has yet to develop with him is scoring. Furman will need Hien to take on more responsibility there and prove that the Paladins have a threat in the interior. He has big shoes to fill, but he’s also been around for this team and knows the expectations. Expect a big step forward this season.

Key Analytic: Two-Point Field Goal Percentage

Furman ranked third in the nation in two-point field goal percentage last season. The Paladins’ offense looked to put pressure on defenses by getting into the paint and forcing them to make a play. That aggressiveness and ability to not rely solely on the three is what made Furman dangerous last season. It might be unrealistic to expect a top-three finish again this season, but keeping that philosophy can help the Paladins try to keep their hold on the top spot.

Furman Paladins 2023-24 Projections

Projected Conference Finish: 1st in SoCon

Projected Postseason Ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 32

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