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Because I work evenings for a living, I typically don’t even get much of a chance to look at the given games on a day until that morning. So, imagine my surprise when I wake up on a Friday, and see UT Martin is playing at…11 a.m.

There is a story here. UT Martin is playing this game against an NAIA team so that kids can watch it. Kids in school. It’s field trip day, and the destination is a UT Martin basketball game.

This is real. From the UT Martin game notes:

Approximately 1,800 students from local elementary, middle and high schools will be in attendance as part of a field trip to reward good behavior.

This is the real reason they’re playing at 11 a.m. on a Friday. Enjoy your game, kiddos.

Hope the Red Bull is stocked for the players, though, many of whom are probably not usually up this early on Fridays.

 

Rochester (MI) at UT Martin (0-3)
11:00 a.m. CST

The good news is that all the school kids, most of whom I would wager have zero interest in what’s going on in front of them, should see UT Martin win. They’ll be the ones in the white shirts, kids.

Texas Pan-American (1-2, WAC) at Tennessee Tech (1-1)
5:00 p.m. CST

In today’s example of “how the WAC has fallen” I present the Broncos of Texas Pan-American, a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2007-08. They finished .500 last year, thanks to solid defense, and a not-so-strong schedule. They also graduated a ton of production, including their top three scorers, top rebounder, top-three assist men. They’re a much different team this season.

If there’s one player to watch for, it’s 5’11 Milwaukee transfer Shaquille Boga. He’s averaging thirteen points a game for the Broncos, and a surprising 3.7 rebounds a game. Boga is a defensive threat as well, leading the team with 2.3 steals a game.

The Broncos aren’t a big team, as they don’t have a single player taller than 6’7, but they’ve held their own on the boards in their two Division I contests. They have struggled mightily with fouls through the early part of the season, but Tennessee Tech hasn’t shown they can take advantage of the new rules, hitting just 59% from the charity stripe this season. (Ladon Carter is 0-7 from the line, which takes some kind of skill)

The Golden Eagles through a pair of games look much more capable on the offensive end. Ty Allen has been fantastic, although he’s shooting just 31% from the floor. Dennis Ogbe hasn’t been a big scorer, but he’s been a great enforcer inside, and is averaging double-digit rebounds. They’re also getting good minutes out of Nebraska transfer Josiah Moore. This team clearly has more weapons, and it’s why they made the biggest jump in our Week 1 Power Rankings.

 

Murray State (1-1) at Old Dominion (1-1, Colonial)
6:00 p.m. CST

When Murray State scheduled the home-and-home over two years with the Monarchs, it was expected to be a great pickup for the Racers. Only when Old Dominion came to Murray…they weren’t good. I don’t necessarily mean in that game: Murray barely walked away with the win. But what was expected to be a resume boosted proved anything but as the Monarchs finished the year 5-25. Before last season, the Monarchs hadn’t won fewer than 17 games since 2001-02.

This year, they have a new coach, they’re much more experienced, (although they have just one senior, who plays limited minutes) and they’re already looking like a much better team. Aaron Bacote is off to a stellar start to his sophomore year; after averaging seven points a game as a freshman, Bacote is averaging 24 points through his first two contests. 6’6 forward Ross Richard has double-doubles in both of the Monarch’s wins. They’re shooting the three better than last year, where they finished sixth worst in the nation, they’re still rebounding well. They appear back to 20-win form.

The good news for Murray State is that the Monarchs aren’t much deeper than the shorthanded Racers. They have 10 guys that have played minutes, only eight were considered “significant”, in two games, one of which was an overtime affair, and another saw 32 teams fouls called on Old Dominion. If they’re only playing 8-10 in both of those scenarios, they’re not going to go any deeper than that.

If the Racers can stay out of foul trouble, I don’t think depth is a major issue. That’s a big “if” for a young team playing in an aggressive scheme, as we saw in Murray loss against Valparaiso. It’s interesting to see how much quicker Murray State has been playing this year. Their offense looks fluid, there’s a lot of movement that there wasn’t at times last year, and it’s good to see more players getting involved. They’re going to have to hit shots, and need to shoot better from the free-throw line as well.

 

Morehead State (2-0) at Xavier (2-0 Big East)
7:00 p.m. CST

Morehead State has looked pretty good in their two wins this season, but the difficulty gets ratcheted up tonight in a big way as the Eagles face a Musketeers team already with a win over Tennessee on their resume.

Xavier has one goal, and that’s to pound you on the inside; the Musketeers have attempted just 18-three pointers total in their two wins this season. They have the size to do it to. 6’10 center Matt Stainbrook, 6’8 Isaac Filmore and 6’8 Erik Stenger are all playing quality minutes, and combining for over 28 points and 20 rebounds a contest. While Morehead State has bodies to match, Billy Reader and DeAndre Leatherwood are going to have their hands full with physical players.

As a team that likes to bang it inside, Xavier has had no problems drawing fouls under the new rules this year. Morehead State hasn’t been as bad about fouls in their first two games, but they weren’t facing this level of competition either. This is probably a much better indicator if last year’s glaring weakness will come back around this season.

When Angelo Warner signed his LOI with the Eagles, we thought he was going to be a great player before his time was done, and he’s showing that this year. Warner is averaging 20 points, and shooting 46% from their field. He’s also second on the team in rebounds. But the guy really helping this offense click is 5’10 guard Kareem Story. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard all night, he’s just the guy making the passes to guys like Warner who can.


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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