By the numbers
A look at last year's season box score will tell you that Fresno State loses its top three guards to graduation and second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Torren Jones to dismissal. Statistically, Fresno State is without four of its top five players from a year ago and Karachi Edo is the fifth piece to that puzzle. Edo’s 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game make him the Bulldogs’ top returner in both stat columns, but we believe that it is not a reach to think the new-look ‘Dogs can continue without skipping a beat in his absence. That final box score is not completely reflective of how the ‘Dogs were playing by March, of course, especially with Jones out of the picture for the team's postseason run.
By the rotation
Karachi Edo is one of two reliable bigs that can play center for the Bulldogs. At 6-foot-6, his spectacular strength and athletic ability make him viable in the low post. Fortunately, Fresno State Coach Rodney Terry has been able to fill the shelves with height - something this program could hardly find any of not too long ago. Terrell Carter more than likely steps into the starting lineup as his replacement. The 6-foot-10 and nearly 300-pound presence undoubtedly makes an impact when on the court and looks to show that he has improved his stamina and fouling.
Where Edo’s absence does hurt the ‘Dogs is how they will backfill minutes at the center spot when Carter needs to rest. Carter surpassed 20 minutes only three times last season. While there is more opportunity for him, it is tough to see him playing any more than 25 minutes on a consistent basis.
Others who can contribute at the five-spot include senior Cullen Russo - although he is 6-foot-9, he flourishes on the perimeter. Russo did tell BarkBoard.com that he added about 20 pounds this offseason to improve his post defense, however. A pair of young 6-foot-8 forwards could also handle minutes at the position without facing too many mismatches. True freshman Bryson Williams has impressed early, enough to likely earn a spot in the rotation regardless of Edo's status. Redshirt freshman Nate Grimes also provides athleticism and length to disrupt near the rim. Six-foot-11 true freshman Lazaro Rojas could also log minutes if he does not redshirt, but also plays a style of basketball that favors the outside rather than down low.
Fresno State has a lot of flexibility in its lineups with a plethora of athletic guards and forwards that can play a variety of positions. Being a man down on the frontcourt could lead the Bulldogs to try lineups that feature more guard play and using perimeter forwards like Paul Watson at the four-spot rather than the small forward position.
Who steps up?
With Edo out, only 28 percent of Bulldogs’ field goal attempts last season will come from players who return to the floor this year. That leaves a lot of opportunity for long-time role player Paul Watson to step up, as well as Cullen Russo who began to find his rhythm in the second half of last year. Terrell Carter also gets his chance to play big-time minutes.
Regardless of the frontcourt, the Bulldogs need to find a way to replace their three outgoing guards. Six-foot-six Colorado transfer Jaron Hopkins steps in at point guard - he has an arsenal of ways to score too. Returning guard Jahmel Taylor and true freshman Johnny McWilliams appear to have the upper hand for playing time as 3-point marksmen. UMKC transfer Deshon Taylor, freshman Darryl McDowell-White and junior college transfer Jacob Holland also add options in the backcourt for Coach Terry.
Overall, the pieces are all there to justify this group as a Mountain West contender, but meshing so many new players and rotations is easier said than done and often takes a large portion of the season to figure out.
By the schedule
Fresno State’s non-conference schedule begs two questions: Can any visiting teams beat the Bulldogs? And how many games can Fresno State actually take on the road? They are two questions that aren’t swayed by the loss of any one player, even Edo.
The home schedule features UTSA, Prairie View A&M, Lamar, Menlo College, Cal Poly and Holy Names. Even the names of those schools you might actually recognize had horrendous records last season. Fresno State is not invincible by any means while breaking in so many new players, but expect the Bulldogs to go into conference play without a home loss despite Edo’s absence.
The road schedule features trips to Cal State Bakersfield, Oregon State, Drake, Marquette, Pacific and Oregon. Drake and UOP may be the Bulldogs’ only trips as road favorites.
Overall, the Bulldog squad without Edo might miss out on a chance or two for an upset win on the road, but likely will not cause a significant impact on the team’s record.
If the Bulldogs can win the games they're supposed to and possibly add one upset, that would put them at around a 9-3 record going into conference play. Despite adding talent, Fresno State could also face some hiccups in bringing back Karachi Edo as well as highly-touted recruit William McDowell-White who should join the team around the same time.
The Bulldogs will need Edo to position themselves for a Mountain West Championship or at least a high seed in the conference tourney, but they should get by during non-conference play.
Tonight presents the first opportunity to see the 'Dogs in action as they hose Cal State San Bernardino for an exhibition game at 7 p.m.