If I didn’t have a job, I would be in Edwardsville tonight, as the Cougars host SIU-Carbondale. (Which they hate to be called. But I’m not a Missouri Valley Website, so I’ll do it anyway.) Last year, one of the best fan experiences I saw was when the Racers headed to Edwardsville, and I’m sure there will be an electric environment tonight.
But at all of these “preseason tournaments,” that are happening two weeks into the season, the atmosphere is anything but electric. And given that everyone plays in them for the chance to get extra games, why doesn’t the NCAA just raise the games limit from 28 to 30 or 31. Most schools are playing that many anyway, and it would be much more fun for the fans to have another home game, instead of games hundreds of miles away played in front of tens and tens of people.
Although some of the tournaments can stay. The Maui Invitational is always fun. Can they invite an OVC team so I can go cover it? Here’s today’s First Word:
Troy (2-2) vs. Southeast Missouri (3-2)
4:30 p.m. EST
If you look at how most teams distribute their points, it tends to be about 55% from 2-point field goals, about 30% from 3-point field goals, and the remaining 15% from free throws. Then there are schools like Troy. The Trojans this season are getting over half of their scoring from behind the 3-point arc. Just to put this in perspective, Murray State, who shot over 50 threes in the final two games of the Charleston Classic, are scoring just 42% of their points from behind the arc.
But that’s not to say Troy is particularly skilled in the department. The Trojans are hitting 37% behind the arc, and averaging just 55 points a game. Just because they take them, doesn’t mean they’re going to make them.
You can probably surmise from the above information that the Trojans don’t play a large lineup, but they do have plenty of 6’7″ and 6’8″ players they can throw at Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson, but they might not. They’re leading rebounder, Emil Jones is just 6’3″ and none of their 6’7″ or taller players are averaging more than 20 minutes a game.
Both teams are tough to turnover, and Troy plays a very slow, methodical offense, meaning possession could be at a premium in this one.
Tennessee State (1-3) at Georgia State (1-2)
7:00 p.m. EST
Don’t let the record fool you, Georgia State’s schedule has been every bit as brutal as Tennessee State’s. In fact, they share BYU as an opponent, and the Panthers have also faced Duke this season.
Despite the competition, and the fact they’re a very young team, the Panthers have three players averaging double-digit scoring, led by 5’10” guard Devonta White. Continuing the small trend, Georgia State’s best “big man” is 6’5″ freshman R.J. Hunter, averaging 13 points a game, and leading the team with over 7 rebounds per contest. That’s not to say the whole team is small though. The Panthers have a 6’10” senior center, James Vincent, who is playing extended minutes this season off the bench.
While they are very guard-centric, they don’t necessarily play like one. They’re just 25% on the season from 3-point range, they average more than 15 turnovers a game, and ranked in the bottom third in the nation in assists.
First-year head coach Travis Williams seems like he’s still trying to find the right lineup. Only Patrick Miller is playing more than 30 minutes a game, and 10-players average 10 minutes. Very few teams in the nation are truly that deep, and I don’t think the Tigers are one.
Lyon College at UT Martin (1-3)
7:00 p.m. CST
I’m close to invoking my “I don’t preview games against Non Division-I opponents” clause from last season. Nothing against Lyon College or UT Martin, but I’m beyond unexcited for these matchups. It will be a good chance for the Skyhawks to work out some frustration from their triple OT loss to Arkansas State.
If I were coaching in this matchup, (I can hear Jason James‘ laughter from here) I’d sit Myles Taylor early. Like as soon as the lead reaches double-digits early. Why? We know what Taylor can do, we know the Skyhawks want to get him the ball in paint as often as possible. That’s covered.
Instead, work on every other offensive set. Keep the rest of the starters out there for extended minutes, and work on playing without Taylor, and without Terence Smith, who is lost for now to injury. For long term success, they need to develop the other options outside of Taylor when they get the chance, and looking at their upcoming schedule they aren’t likely to get many more easy games.
I’m probably completely wrong on that. It’s why I write, and they coach. Okay, that one reason for that. There are many, many others.