After starting the year 5-0 at home, I wonder if Eastern Kentucky will take the same approach to scheduling next year. I feel as if I deserve some credit for it, after railing on them playing so many games on the road to start last season. You’re welcome, Colonels fans.
In other news, I may have an inflated sense of my actual pull with schools. Because I have absolutely none.
Here’s today’ First Word:
Delaware State (3-4) at Eastern Kentucky (5-0)
7:00 p.m. EST
If you’re waiting for the Colonels to take on a tough opponent, don’t let the Hornets record fool you: they’re not it. Eastern Kentucky, with the 11th most efficient offense in the nation, takes on another opponent likely to help inflate their offensive numbers.
Glenn Cosey is making an early case for Newcomer of the year. The JUCO transfer has been absolutely terrific, shooting 55% from the floor, and averaging 17 points a game. Corey Walden and Mike DiNunno have been much improved as well. What’s really stood out for the Colonels is ball control, and while easier competition helps with this, I think this trend will continue throughout the season. The Colonels turn over the ball just 12 times a game, and force more than 18. Their assist to turnover ration is above 1.4, 19th best in the nation through three weeks.
Why do I think that trend will last? Easier competition often hurts ball control numbers because bench players get more minutes, who tend to turn the ball over more.
This could be a low scoring affair. Neither team likes to push pace, and Delaware State especially has struggled to score often this year. Their three point shooting has been awful, thanks in part to Casey Walker who is an inexplicable 6-40 from behind the arc this year, and just 2-21 in his last four games. Walker was a 36% three point shooter last year, so could be due to break his shooting slump.
The Hornets are allowing teams to hit 40% from behind the arc this year, a weakness the Colonels are likely to take advantage of.
Morehead State (4-2) at Marshall (3-3)
7:00 p.m. EST
This could be very much the opposite of the EKU – Delaware State game. These two teams can score, and like to run up and down the floor.
Milton Chavis is having a great start in the season, thanks in part to his ability to step in front of passes. His 2.7 steals a game is in the top 30 in the nation, and having true 3-point range for a 6’6″ forward is such an incredible weapon. Devon Atkinson is doing a great job running the offense. No other Eagles is averaging more than 21 minutes a game, which isn’t surprising given the system. But I wonder in the long run, if Sean Woods can keep the Eagles fresh and rested throughout the season. If they get behind (which hasn’t happened much) can he still afford to go so deep into his bench?
As I mentioned earlier, Marshall plays a full court game, but unlike the Eagles, can hold on to the basketball while doing so. As a result, they’ve been better scorers this year than the Eagles. Four Thundering Herd are averaging double-digits, led by DeAndre Kain and 6’9″ forward Elijah Pittman. Marshall has a lot of talented big players on their team, one of the reasons the Thundering Herd are in the top 30 in the nation in rebounding and blocks, both also strengths of the Eagles.
Unlike the Eagles, Marshall doesn’t play as deep into their bench. I’ll be curious to see if fresh legs prevail if the game is close late.
Angelo Warner remains day-to-day after suffering a concussion in last week’s game against Kentucky.
Berea College at Austin Peay (2-3)
7:00 p.m. CST
The Governors get a breather, hosting non Division I Berea College. Austin Peay hasn’t played as brutal of a schedule so far as last season, but with so many new players, they really need some easier games to gel as a team.
This team is shooting better than last year’s squad, but their defense once again just isn’t what I’ve come to expect from head coach Dave Loos. I thought last season he’d eventually get it turned around, but it appears they just didn’t have the personnel. I don’t know if that’s the same issue this year, but if you’re looking as to why the Governors are uncharacteristically struggling as of late, I’d start off by pointing to that side of the ball.
At the beginning of the season, if you gave me three guess who would lead the Governors in scoring, Travis Betran would not have been one of those three guesses. Betran is the best shooter Austin Peay has in the backcourt, and the frontcourt led by Anthony Campbell and Will Triggs have been inconsistent. Triggs has been fighting through some injury.
The Governors are also struggling with turnovers this season, turning over the ball more than 16 times a contest.