If there’s a complaint leveled at college basketball, it’s that games in November just don’t matter. Unlike in FBS college football, where a loss in Week 1 one can wreck your chances of playing for the national title, you can go 0-November and it’s not a major deal.
Except it is, especially for smaller conferences. Even if your conference is a one-bid conference like the OVC almost certainly is this season, seeding matters come March. There’s a reason 15-seeds are more successful than 16’s. 14’s even more so. At least one 12-seed tops a 5-seed every season. If you’re a team like Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, or another NCAA Tournament hopeful, these games matter.
And it’s not just about what your team does. Belmont topping North Carolina on the road is going to be a big boost for their RPI, which means beating the Bruins could be a boon to an OVC hopeful’s RPI with a win. More non-conference wins across the OVC is a huge boost to everyone’s chances of pulling a higher seed.
Sure, you’re not going to determine who’s going dancing in November. But it matters in the long run.
Which is why it’d be nice for Tennessee State to get into the win column tonight. For the conference, and themselves
Southeast Missouri (2-1) at Ball State (1-1 MAC)
6:00 p.m. CST
The biggest question coming into the season was about the Redhawks backcourt, which has looked surprisingly good early in the season. Defensively, it gets another test tonight, as they’ll look to contain the duo of Jesse Berry and freshman Zavier Turner, both off to impressive starts on the year for the Cardinals. Ball State also has some size on the inside, with 6’9 forward Majok Majok, (he’s not from around here…) a big rebounding threat for the Cardinals.
In their only Division I game of the year at Indiana State, the Cardinals defense didn’t pass it’s first test, allowing the Sycamores to shoot 56% from the field. Ball State was nearly able to match the scoring, but trailed throughout the game.
It was odd seeing Nino Johnson coming off the bench over the weekend in the Redhawks win over IUPUI, and though it’s far from definite, he’s not listed as a probable starter in the game notes for tonight. Jarkevious Bradley, who is off to a very solid start this season, will get the start at the four as the Redhawks start with a smaller but quicker lineup. Ball State doesn’t have a lot of size outside of Majok, which could also factor into the decision to start Bradley over the larger Johnson.
That being said, having a potential all-conference player coming off your bench is a good problem to have.
Lipscomb (1-2 Atlantic Sun) at Tennessee State (0-4)
They’re still winless, but the Tigers have shown they can put up some more points this weekend, which is a step in the right direction. They’re probably going to need ’em, facing a Lipscomb team averaging 80 points a game on the young season. In fact, the Bisons have five players averaging 12 points a game or more on the young season, and are pounding teams inside despite not having a player taller than 6’6 playing significant minutes.
Despite their scoring issues, TSU has no problem pushing the ball on offense, which plays into Lipscomb’s hands a bit. The Bisons are one of the more up-tempo teams in Division I this season, and this game turns into a shootout it almost has to be advantage Lipscomb. I said it in last week’s 10 things: if you can’t score, why run?
Patrick Miller has done about all he can do in the Tigers four losses, but the big question is who can step up to help. M.J. Rhett has been solid if unimpressive early, and then there’s a huge fall off. There’s no other three-point threat on the team: Miller has hit seven of the team’s 11 made three-pointers on the season. Without some help, it’s going to be a very long season.
Statistically, Lipscomb’s defense hasn’t been great, but their two losses are to a Belmont team that just beat North Carolina, and Vanderbilt, which are both really good teams.