First Word: 11/21 Basketball Previews
For two schools separated by about 60 miles, Morehead State and Kentucky should meet more often. They’ve met 6 times in the past 15 years, and predictably every game has been a blowout.
But playing cupcakes isn’t just relegated to the mid-majors, teams like UK do it as well. Why not instead play a regional Division I team that counts as a win come March, and still is likely to allow your bench to get good minutes?
And if you were wondering what chance I give the Eagles today, that last sentence should have answered your question.
Here’s today’s First Word:
Morehead State (3-1) at No. 8 Kentucky (2-1)
7:00 p.m. EST – ESPN3
Just days after some incendiary comments about current UK players, Sean Woods returns to his old Kentucky home (had to do it) for what might be a mixed reception from Big Blue Nation. He brings with him a very quick, but turnover friendly Morehead State squad off to a hot start this season.
With the new up-tempo style, Woods isn’t shy about using his bench. Only one player, Devon Atkinson, averages more than 30 minutes a game, and only two others, Angelo Warner and Milton Chavis play more than 20. The rest of the minutes are spread across nine or more players, which could cause more problems than create solutions. Some of it, I’m certain, is that Woods is still working on finding the right lineup, but interchanging so many parts so often could contribute to some of the bad turnovers each game. (Like hitting your own player in the back with a pass) With the pace they play, there’s always going to be the opportunity for more turnovers, but 17 a game is still too many to win consistently. (Unless you’re forcing 21, which the Eagles currently are)
I’ll be curious to see what happens if the Eagles can’t force turnovers and dictate pace like they have so far this season. In their loss at Maryland, they forced 20, and still only managed 45 points.
I doubt there’s much need to preview the Wildcats, as I’m sure most Morehead State fans have seen them play a time or two. But if not here’s what you need to know: They’re young, they’re athletic, and they can score.
Tennessee State (1-4) vs Monmouth (2-3)
The Tigers haven’t been shy about running the floor this season, but it’s nothing compared to what they’re about to face in Monmouth. The Hawks are averaging just over 79 possessions a game, 11th most in the nation. They can do that thanks to forcing more than 22 turnovers a game, 5th most nationwide. Tennessee State hasn’t been particularly careful with ball control this season, which could cause some problems this afternoon.
As I’ve stated earlier this season, Robert Covington has been off to a slow start this year, but what really surprises me is that no one else has really been able to step up. Kellen Throrton is a rebounding machine, but has struggled to score since putting up 20 against BYU. Patrick Miller has doubled his assist average from last season, but his scoring has suffered as a result. When putting together my preseason rankings, I thought that the Tigers were one of the, if not the deepest team talent wise in the OVC this year, but it just hasn’t materialized yet
But it very well still could. Despite their pace, Monmouth is a better defensive team than offensive team, which will once again put pressure on the TSU Tigers to score.
Rochester (MI) at Eastern Illinois (2-3)
After two surprising wins (to me) at the Iceman classic, the Panthers look to move to .500 on the season against lower Division Rochester College.
The key for the Panthers today is to continue to work on the offense. Josh Piper has been hot as of late, and Sherman Blanford has reached double-digit scoring three times this year, so you have a base. But you’re going to need more than those two when conference play comes this year. The Panthers ball control and pace should keep them in games, but they’re going to have to make buckets to win them.
Austin Peay (2-2) vs Gardner-Webb (3-3)
3:00 p.m. CST
After a thrilling win over Western Carolina, the Governors will have to regroup against a very defensively sound Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs are allowing opponents just 58 points a game thanks to suffocating defense against the three: Gardner-Webb opponents are shooting just 21% from behind the arc this season.
The problem really comes on offense for the Bulldogs. They don’t have a serious three point threat themselves, and have struggled in pulling away from teams as a result.
Anthony Campbell and Travis Betran are coming off monster games yesterday, but depth could prove to be an issue, especially if Will Triggs remains out. The Govs are very young, and will need those young players off the bench to give good minutes to Dave Loos’ squad today.