In all, there are three types of non-conference games:
- The “money game”, where you get paid to lose by 30 and hope no one gets injured.
- The “cake walk” game, a game that puts your fans to sleep and is marginally beneficial to working out kinks.
- And the rarest of the all, the competitive non-conference game, where you scheduled a game two years ago that you thought fell into one of the previous two categories but due to factors beyond your control actually presents a reasonable challenge.
Alright, that may be a bitter view of non-conference games, but days like today is the reason why I hold such a belief. Without checking with Vegas, I would guess the average line on today’s two games is somewhere around 25.
But these games do serve a purpose: Money is important, as is 40 minutes of essentially organized practice.
And there are exceptions, where money games can be won (see Murray State at Memphis and Austin Peay at Tennessee) and non Division I games that prove entertaining, although usually for the wrong reasons. (See Bethel at UT Martin)
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily blame either school playing today. Scheduling for low and mid-major programs is a huge challenge, as every school you want to schedule essentially asks “What can you do for me?” and often, that answer is, “show up.”
Despite the odds, I hope for two entertaining games.
Although I’m sure TTU fans would rather have a blowout. Here’s today’s First Word:
SIU Edwardsville (0-0) at #15 Missouri (0-0)
4:00 p.m. CST – ESPN 3
To make for a better atmosphere for the Tigers, today’s game was pushed back so Mizzou football fans could watch the Tigers play at Tennessee, then head over to the Mizzou Arena for the season opener against the Cougars. If fans do attend, they could be in for a 3-point shootout; Both the Tigers and Cougars finished in the top-10 in the nation in 3-point shooting last year. But whereas the Tigers top long range gunmen have graduated, the Cougars return 40% 3-point shooter Michael Messer and Kris Davis, whose 59.8% 3-point shooting was among the top 10 in the nation.
Despite losing their top three scorers a year ago, two double-digit scorers return in Michael Dixon Jr., and Phil Pressey. But in exhibition play, it was three newcomers leading the Tigers in scoring, something that could be somewhat frequent from a team that graduated seven players from last year’s squad. That team ranked as the most efficient offense in the nation, and while the Tigers put up at least 86 points in both exhibition contests, it’s yet to be seen if this team will make the same mark.
I was really high on the Cougars in my preseason rankings, which came as a surprise to many given that SIU Edwardsville is coming off of just a 10-win season. But those 10-wins are the most for the program since making the Division I transition, and with five of their top six scorers returning, there’s little reason to think this team won’t be better this year. They have to be better on the inside on both side of the ball, and can’t afford 15 turnovers a game.
These two schools met in 2008, and it was a pretty solid win for the Tigers, 107-57. That was just one of 65 straight wins against non-conference competition at Mizzou Arena for the Tigers, dating back to 2006.
Crowley’s Ridge (1-2) at Tennessee Tech (0-0)
8:00 p.m. CST – OVC Digital Network
This year’s Golden Eagle squad is incapable of really surprising me. I can see reasons that the Golden Eagles are among the top teams in the OVC, and I can see reason that Steve Payne‘s team will really struggle this year. Last year, they were both at times.
There’s likely no replacement for Kevin Murphy on this squad, and I’m curious to see how Jud Dillard performs more on his own. On one hand, he’ll likely get more touches, but on the other defenses will flock to him more so than last year. I saw Jeremiah Samarrippas play when SMU traveled to SEMO last year, and was highly impressed with the then-sophomore.
But with six seniors gone, including five of their top six scorers, it’s easy to see where this team could struggle. Outside of Dillard, the Golden Eagles top returning scorer is Dennis Ogbe, who averaged 3-points a game. Given that the newcomers will get a lot of minutes tonight, I’ll be curious to see who steps up early.