Neither team has a chance at an at-large NCAA bid, and both teams are likely 16 seeds if they make the tournament.
But today, the Colonels and Gamecocks open up OVC play as both teams begin their road to Nashville.
And you probably thought I’d be focusing on the No. 24 Racers.
Here’s today’s first word:
The Aces are led by 6’5″ guard Colt Ryan, a 19 point scorer who is coming off a 29-point, 5-7 three point shooting night against North Carolina A&T a week ago. Ryan is also a great slasher that knows how to get to the free throw line; In the Aces 8 games, Ryan has shot 10 or more free throws 3 times, and hits better than 80% from the charity stripe.
Somewhat flying under the radar this year, Kevin Murphy is having an outstanding start to the season of the Golden Eagles. Murphy shooting percentage is a little down, the but the 6’7″ forward is still averaging more than 20 points and 5 rebounds on the season, and has yet been held to single digit scoring.
Jud Dillard has taken a big step in his junior year, making Dillard and Murphy a great 1-2 threat on offense. But it’s when you get past those two that you start to see the issue with the Golden Eagles. Zac Swansey‘s production is a bit down this year, and no one else on the roster proves to be a great offensive threat.
Couple that with the lack of size for TTU, and the Golden Eagles don’t exactly impress on defense.
One final note: Evansville will look to force tempo and generate turnovers, something they’ve excelled at this season. Tennessee Tech’s ball control hasn’t been bad, but will definitely be tested.
[Tennessee St. (4-6) at Delaware St. (4-5), 6:00 p.m. CST] We can argue about how much Kenny Moore really meant to to the Tigers, but the fact of the matter is that Tennessee State has struggled since Moore was suspended. Tonight they face a Hornets team that has struggled to score as of late.
One of the reasons the Hornets don’t score a lot of points is that they play a similar offense to Eastern Kentucky: very methodical, half-court basketball, looking to use as much of the shot clock as they can to look for a backdoor pass, and if not, find an open shooter on the arc.
One reason the Hornets haven’t scored much of late is that their leading scorer, Tahj Tate, who averages 15 points a game, has been held in the single digits in each of Delaware State’s last 3 games.
Partially because of their pace, Delaware State is one of the best teams in the nation in holding onto the basketball, averaging less than 10 turnovers a game, 4th in the nation. Even if you use the tempo-free equivalent, the Hornets are still 12th in the nation in ball control. Here, the Hornets have a huge edge over TSU, who are closer to the bottom than the top in turnovers.
Robert Covington continues to be Mr. Consistent for the Tigers, averaging 16 points and 7.5 rebounds, for the Tigers. And after a rough start to the season, Patrick Miller has hit double-digits in scoring in each of the Tigers last 7 games.
[Eastern Kentucky (6-5, 0-0) at Jacksonville State (3-7, 0-0), 7:00 p.m. CST] The Colonels opened the season, now they’ll open OVC play.
Despite Jacksonville State record, they’re 2-0 at home, although one of those wins came against a teams from lower divisions.
Jacksonville State has been very solid defensively, leading the OVC in defensive efficiency, but are at the bottom of the conference on offense. Stephen Hall, who many, myself included, expected to be the clear leader as the only returning player with more than a year in the program, has struggled so far this season. Instead, it’s JUCO transfer Tarvin Gaines, and a 4-point a game scorer last season, Brian Williams, leading the Gamecocks offense.
Eastern Kentucky continues to play their modified Princeton style of offense, but have struggled in shooting from behind the arc, a key facet of their offense. As is expected with teams that play this style of basketball, ball control is a premium, so it comes as no surprise that the Colonels are 7th in that nation with just 10.7 turnovers a game. Also per the usual for these style of teams, Eastern Kentucky scores by committee, but that being said, Jaron Jones, has had a coming out party these past 2 games, putting up 50 points in his last two contests.
Last season, Eastern Kentucky won both matchups between these two teams.
[Arkansas St. (5-5) at No. 24 Murray St. (11-0), 7:00 CST] I will be providing live coverage tonight on Twitter @OVCBall
Let me begin with the word that worries me about this game, “tired.” In Steve Prohm’s press conference after Thursday night’s game against Lipscomb, Prohm used the word twice in describing the coaching staff. If the coaching staff is tired, how are the players?
But on the other end, Murray State did play 3 games in 3 days in Alaska, and is at home for their 2nd game in the 3 days this time.
Another thing that has me somewhat worried: Arkansas State is one of the few teams in the nation that can shoot the 3 as well as Murray. The Racers are hitting 42.6% from behind the arc, Arkansas State 41.8%
All that being said, the Racers are still undefeated, and Arkansas State is anything but. Despite the Red Wolves 3-point shooting, their not a great offensive team: Their 2 biggest guys expected to get 20+ minutes are only 6’7″, and struggle to match up in the paint. That means Murray State will once again look for big games from Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel who combined to hit 15-17 from the field in the Racers win over Lipscomb.
Much like Lipscomb, the Red Wolves are no strangers to the OVC this season, with wins over UT Martin and SEMO, but the Red Wolves did give Austin Peay their first win.
[Rochester College at Austin Peay (2-9), 7:00 CST] Austin Peay deserves a break after their killer schedule, and should move to 3-9 before starting OVC play.