Another busy day of preseason tournaments on tap, and it’s nice to see a day full of games against Division I competition.
Of course, that means there aren’t any “guaranteed” wins today, either. Here’s today’s First Word:
Austin Peay (1-1) at Depaul (1-1)
2:00 p.m. EST
If you don’t know much about the Big East, don’t let the fact that the Blue Demons are in the Big East distract you; They’re not a Big East team. They might be more of a low to mid C-USA team. They’re just in the wrong conference. Coming off a 12-point loss to Garder Webb, Depaul looks to right their ship against a team trying to right theirs in Austin Peay.
Both teams this season have looked to run, so this could be a very fast paced game. One reason: both teams can force turnovers, leading to quick buckets the other way. What is different is how they score. 6 Governors are currently scoring between 8 and 10 points a game. I don’t know if it’s necessarily an identity problem, it’s simply a balanced team without a go-to scorer, and we’ve seen those type of teams do well in the OVC in the past. (Think of the Racers team two years ago, before Isaiah Canaan went off)
The big challenge for the Governors is stopping 6’8″ forward Cleveland Melvin, who averaged over 17 points and 7 rebounds last season, and is doing the same in two games this year. The Blue Demons also have a talented guard in Brandon Young, who isn’t much of a deep threat, but a good passer and talented slasher.
Tennessee Tech (2-0) at East Tennessee State (0-1)
4:00 p.m. EST
East Tennessee State is coming off a 17-14 season, their worst since 2005-06. Needless to say, they should provide quite a challenge for the Golden Eagles this afternoon.
Jud Dillard is off to a fantastic start for Tennessee Tech this season, averaging 29.5 points, and 10.5 rebounds over the two contests so far, and guards Jeremiah Samarippas and Lanneryl Johnson are running the offense well, combining for 9 assists so far this season. While their offense has been high powered, their defense wasn’t as strong against Coastal Carolina in a narrow 2-point win.
East Tennessee State appears to have a prolific scorer of their own in Lester Wilson, who put up 20 in his debut with the Buccaneers in a loss to Virginia Tech. This team has historically been tough to turnover, evidenced by just 10 in their opening loss.
These teams have met each of the last two season, with the home team winning each matchup.
Eastern Illinois (0-3) vs Texas Pan-American (1-3)
I’m not going to beat the “offensive struggles” drum again today, because I think that’s widely understood at this point. The Panthers defense is going to face a pretty good test today against a Broncs squad with two talented 3-point shooter.
Texas Pan-Americans two leading scorers, Brandon Provost and Aaron Urbanus are both better than 40% behind the arc this season. More than half of Provost’s shots from the field, and just under half of Urbanus are from three, so there’s little reason not to expect them to set up on the perimeter today. Provost, just 6’3″, is the Broncs second leading rebounder as well, which is likely part of the reason Texas-Pan American doesn’t have a real inside scoring threat.
The Broncs have been troubled on defense, making this a good chance for Eastern Illinois to get their offense going, but to do so their rebounding must be better.
There is a conflict of styles here, with Pan-American looking to speed up the game, and Eastern Illinois looking for anything but. The Panthers ball control this season has been good, and that should help them control the pace against today.
Both teams have a common opponent in Bradley, with both teams suffering similar losses.
Towson (1-1) at Eastern Kentucky (2-0)
6:00 p.m. EST
I hesistate to call this an “easy win” for the Colonels, but Towson’s one win this season matches their total from all of last year. The Tigers are coming off a 1-31 season, and looking to exceed last year’s win total with a win at Eastern Kentucky today.
How good has the Colonels offense been so far this season: They’re 6th in the nation in the early going in offensive efficiency. Last year, they were 6th in the OVC. Glenn Cosey is making an early case for newcomer of the year, thanks in part to 9-13 shooting from behind the arc this season. Mike DiNunno appears to be better facilitating the Colonels offense this season, doubling his assist average from last season through the first two games.
Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon has been excellent in his first two games in a Tiger uniform. The 6’8″ forward is averaging 21 points and 6.5 rebounds in the early part of the season. Townson will very likely look to the post often, as they don’t really have a scoring guard threat.
Jacksonville State (3-0) at No. 18 UNLV (1-0)
The Gamecocks will face by-far their stiffest test so far this season, as they head to Las Vegas to take on #18 UNLV. The Rebels have just one game under their belt this season, a dominating 38 point win over Northern Arizona.
Jacksonville State’s offense has been vastly improved this year, surprising because the personnel is mostly the same, and that the Gamecocks have been under practice restrictions due to their APR troubles. The one major knock on the offense has been 3-point shooting: 17% on the season as a team, obviously among the worst in the nation. It hasn’t been a problem yet this year, but against a team that can score in bunches, not having that weapons will be a major drawback.
The Rebels want to run, a style that will definitely clash with the calculating half-court attack of Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks have been solid in preventing turnovers this year, but UNLV is one of those rare teams that doesn’t necessarily need turnovers to speed up the pace: they can do it off of missed shots, and they can even catch you sleeping on made ones.