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So when I saw (and heard through Twitter) that SIU Edwardsville was playing SIU Carbondale this year, I laughed at the Cougars fans that were talking about beating the Salukis.

And I still don’t give the Cougars favorable odds. But as bad as SIUC is this year, SIUE may have a real chance to pull off the win.

At least, they have a better chance than I’m giving Tennessee Tech at West Virginia.

And before TTU fans get too mad at me, the last time I said that, Austin Peay upset Tennessee. I like to think that my challenge is the reason for that win.

Here’s today’s First Word.

[Tennessee Tech (6-4) at West Virginia (7-2), 6:00 p.m. CST, ESPN3] West Virginia is on a 3-game win streak with wins at Kansas State and at home against Miami.

Tennessee Tech is also on a 3-game win streak, with wins at Evansville and at home versus Lipscomb. While those are good win, they’re no Kansas State and Miami.

The big problem for the Golden Eagles in this matchup is how to stop 6’8″ forward Kevin Jones. While matching him up with Kevin Murphy seems like the best solution, if Murphy gets into foul trouble while guarding Jones, that only leaves one consistent scorer on the floor in Jud Dillard. Terrell Barnes is another solution, but he fouled out against Evansville, and hasn’t been a strong rebounder this year despite being 6’8″.

Even if they can contain Jones, that still leaves senior guard Darryl Bryant, and 6’9″ forward Deniz Kilcli, both of who average over 12 points a game.  But, fouling might not be a bad option for the Golden Eagles: WVU shoots just 61.7% from the FT line, 307th in the nation.

I don’t see a way for TTU to keep this game out of at least the 70’s, which means for Tennessee Tech to have a chance, they’re likely going to have to find more scoring than Murphy and Dillard. Ball control could also be an issue, as West Virginia forces over 17 turnovers a game.

[Reinhardt at Jacksonville St. (3-8), 7:00 p.m. CST] I’ve drawn some flack this season for not previewing games against lower division teams because some teams have found a way to lose, or nearly lose those matchups.

And while that’s a valid point, I stand by my policy. These games don’t count in the eyes of the NCAA come tournament time, and so I don’t count them either.

That being said, if Jacksonville State can’t find a way to score, every game is a chance to lose. Another problem: Senior Stephen Hall, junior Tarvin Gaines, and junior Terrence Turner all missed the Gamecocks conference opener against EKU due to injury. Will any return tonight?

Okay, that was more of a preview than usual. But you should be aware of the injuries.

[Southern Methodist (5-4) at SEMO (4-6), 7:00 p.m. CST] The Redhawks are struggling as of late, but the Mustangs aren’t considered a great 5-4 team. In fact, their RPI is still in the 300’s, and worse than SEMO’s, despite the record.

Southern Methodist plays at the slowest pace in the nation, averaging just 59 possessions a game. For reference, SEMO averages 68, just above the middle.

Normally, slower paced teams are solid ball control teams. Not really the case with the Mustangs. Sure, they only turn the ball over 12 times a game, but take their tempo out of the equation, they’re 235 in the nation in turnovers. That being said, SEMO is one of the worst at forcing turnovers, so it may not be a major issue.

Unlike a lot of other teams that run a slower pace, this isn’t a “score by committee” type of team, nor are they guard oriented scorers. Two forwards, Shawn Williams and Robert Nyakundi average 27 points between them a game, a lot when you consider the Mustangs only average 61 points as a team. Considering the fact they’re playing against a team very solid at the forward position, a lot could fall on the guards ability to stop London Giles, who is only averaging 12.7 points a game, but has managed double-digit scoring in every contest. It doesn’t get much more consistent than that.

I’ll save my rant on SEMO’s inconsistent play at the guard position for the Final Word. I’m confident they’ll give me a reason. They’ve been very consistent at doing that throughout the season.

[Le Moyne-Owen at Tennessee St. (5-6), 7:00 p.m CST] The Tigers will likely move to .500 with 2 out of conference games remaining on the season (not counting the Bracketbusters) which isn’t bad considering the suspension of Kenny Moore, and a fairly challenging schedule.

Nothing challenging about this one though.

That being said, watch Le Moyne-Owen prove me wrong. It seems to happen a lot when I make these kind of predictions.

[SIU Edwardsville (2-6) as SIU (2-5), 7:05 CST, ESPN 3] As I said earlier, at the beginning of the season I wouldn’t have given SIU Edwardsville a snowball’s chance in…well, you know where, of winning this game. And since the Cougars haven’t won a game against a D-I opponent this season, and shockingly enough SIU has won 2, I’m still not saying the Cougars are going to win.

But the Salukis did open the season with a loss to Ohio Dominican. And has scored in the 40’s twice this season. And only average 56 points a game.

That means the offensively challenged Cougars do have a chance to pick up a win on the road.

But while the Salukis have been one of the worst teams on offense in the nation, they’ve stayed in games thanks to solid defense, which isn’t likely to be challenged by another of the worst offenses in the nation.

This is pretty well my way of telling you to take the under. Even if the line is at 90, the under might still be a safe bet.

(That being said, watch this game be a shootout. If you’re betting on my advice, you’re might as well just send me your money. Actually, that sounds like a great idea.)

[Morehead St. (4-7) at Binghamton (0-8) 7:30 CST] You know how sometimes I say a team is better than their record?

Binghampton is not. They are not a good team. Outside a 4-point loss to open the season, their closest loss is by 14 points. And outside of playing No. 10 Missouri, they haven’t been playing good teams either.

They average 57 points a game. Their opponents average 75. Yes, they’re that bad.

And here’s the funny thing about it. Most times, bad teams want to slow down the game. That keeps it close, and gives them a chance to stay in a game, and make a late rally.

Binghamton doesn’t even do that. They push tempo. It almost defies logic.

The only thing I can see that might get the Eagles into trouble are turnovers, which have plagued Morehead State throughout the early season, and are one area that Binghamton isn’t completely terrible in. If Binghamton does manage get to the FT line, they are surprisingly good shooters from the charity stripe. Unlike any other place on the floor.


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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