If you didn’t watch much of ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon over the past day, you missed some great games and classic finishes. As much as I wonder why a team would ever agree to play some of the early morning spots, (who is watching basketball at 6 a.m.?) it’s great that there’s a feature event to get people interested about college basketball before March.
Seriously, If an OVC school was offered the 6 a.m. spot, I’m not certain I would wake up to watch it. I normally don’t make it to bed until at least 2, and I could always watch it on ESPN3 later, so why wake up and watch it live?
But I’m always impressed because these schools get fans to show up, somehow. Maybe my old age* is getting to me. Here’s today’s First Word:
*I’m not really that old…
Western Illinois (1-0) at SIU Edwardsville (0-1)
7:00 p.m. CST
Coming off an overall good performance in a loss against No. 15 Missouri, the Cougars host a young Western Illinois squad in tonight’s home opener.
Western Illinois graduated 4 seniors from last year’s CBI team, but top scorer Ceola Clark III returns for the Leathernecks. The 6’3″ junior is a talented 3-point shooter at the point guard position, and doesn’t turn over the ball: His 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio a year ago led the Summit League and put him in the top 20 in the nation. He doesn’t come out of games either, averaging over 37 minutes as a sophomore, playing 40+ minutes in 6 games.
The Cougars struggled from the field against the bigger Missouri squad, but got a good shooting performance from Jerome Jones, who hit 5 threes in the loss. The Cougars were only turned over 8 times as well, a number that will more often than not lead to a win. Rebounding could be a struggle again tonight for SIUE, as Western Illinois has a pair of talented 6’8″ guys in Terrell Parks, and Michael Ochereobia.
This will be the first Division I game of the season for Western Illinois, after rolling over Wabash in their opener.
Fontbonne at UT Martin (0-2)
7:00 p.m. CST
UT Martin seems to be defined by Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Two injuries to key players contributed to an absolutely miserable season for the Skyhawks last year, and then one minute into just the second game of the year, Terence Smith seemingly slips on the floor, and breaks his ankle. While his official date for return is unknown, I can’t imagine it’s going to be during this calendar year.
It’s just the latest setback for head coach Jason James squad, whose Skyhawks have started off the season with two 20+ point losses on the road.
To be fair, the Skyhawks have played good teams on the road, and I do think this team looks improved over last year’s squad. Friday’s game hosting Arkansas State may provide a better barometer for this squad than the two earlier matchups (and obviously tonight’s), and they can use the game against Fontbonne to help find a primary and secondary ballhandler with Smith out, which is where the Skyhawks will definitely feel his loss.
To quote a really overused saying, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Skyhawks aren’t going to be completely rebuilt a week into the new season. But they do appear to be on the right path.