I knew it wouldn’t take long, and it didn’t.
Murray State was called for 29 fouls in their opening night 77-74 loss to Valparaiso, AND THE NEW FOUL RULES ARE RUINING COLLEGE BASKETBALL!!! So says twitter, anyhow.
@OVCBall free throw contests. Abysmal.
— Joe Darnall (@RacerJoeD) November 9, 2013
@OVCBall yea, guaranteed free throws if you drive towards the basket = lots of points and boring basketball
— Dustin Brown (@d_brown14) November 9, 2013
— Aimee Graves (@soccersting07) November 9, 2013
Here’s the thing, and this isn’t just for Racers fans: (Although it is definitely for Racers fans.) Are you sure your team didn’t just foul a lot? Here’s the math.
Through the first eight OVC games last night, Ohio Valley Conference teams averaged 22.1 fouls per game. While that is above last year’s national average, that’s still below the 24 fouls a game committed by Morehead State last season, under the old rules.
Here’s the second thing: with the notable exception of Lipscomb, who fouled often late against Belmont to try to extend the game, no non-OVC opponent fouled more than 24 times. In fact, only Murray State and UT Martin (who both had 29) fouled more than 24 times counting Ohio Valley Conference teams.
Through one day, college basketball didn’t break. Every game didn’t break out into free-throw contests. Before everyone keeps jumping on the rules, or the refs, you may want to look at your own team. Murray State and UT Martin had a lot of fouls called on plays they were beat.
The new rules did cause some of those foul calls, no question. But the new rules didn’t make your team foul more than your opponents, because you’re all playing by the same set. Austin Peay fouled just 14 times in their win over Oakland City. Arkansas fouled just 14 times in their win over SIU Edwardsville. The Redhawks and Billikens were both under 20 team fouls, while the Gamecocks and Braves both stopped at 20.
Things will almost certainly get better. Teams will adapt, and total fouls across college basketball should go down as the season goes on.
But let’s also be honest: if your team committed 29 fouls, the rules aren’t to blame. They would have committed plenty under last year’s rules as well.
Eastern Kentucky at Kennesaw State
5:30 p.m. EST
The Colonels start their season for the second straight year with three games in three days, although this year they’re doing it on the road. For game number two Eastern Kentucky faces the hosts of the Kennesaw State Tournament, after coming off a very solid win in their opener.
The Owls season, on the other hand, did not get off to a great start. Kennesaw State shot just 35% on their home floor in a 73-57 loss to Youngstown State. Just six players got into the scoring column, which is a recipe for almost certain disaster. The offense also committed 19 turnovers, which again, isn’t good.
Kennesaw is coming off just a three-win season, and graduated their leading scorer from a team that was outscored by an average of 10 points a game. In an attempt to reverse that, the Owls will likely turn to Delbert Love for the bulk offensive production. The 6’0 guard scored 12 points a game last season, but shot just 35% from field goal range.
After suffering an undisclosed injury, Eric Stutz didn’t start, but the Colonels big man did play 16 minutes, leading us to believe he’ll be good to go if needed. Glenn Cosey and Marcus Lewis provided the bulk of the offense as expected, and the EKU defense held FIU to 35% shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers.
Rebounding was a bit of a issue: The Colonels pulled down just three offensive boards on 27 missed shots. The Panthers? 16 rebounds on 37 misses. That’s where EKU misses Stutz at full health, although I don’t see him making up the difference on his own.
Last season, EKU hosted Kennesaw as part of their tournament, winning by 14.
Tennessee Tech at South Florida
6:00 p.m. CST
I joked last year, quite often, about head coach Steve Payne‘s aversion to my calling his rebuilding team…well, rebuilding. But last year is behind us, so the team is now built, right? That’s what we’ll get a glimpse of as the Golden Eagles take on a South Florida team that won just three games in the Big East each of the past two seasons.
Despite their record, TTU will have their hands full with 6’9 forward Victor Rudd. Rudd was the only Bull to average double-figures a year ago, while leading the team in rebounds. Expect guard Anthony Collins to look for Rudd often; the 6’0 averaged six assists a game a year ago. While the Bulls didn’t have the size to face Big East opponents, South Florida finished 9-4 in non-conference play both of the last two seasons.
The Golden Eagles have some size of their own. 6’8 forward Anthony Morse and 6’9 Ryon Riggins are both expected to see their minutes increase as sophomores, and senior Dennis Ogbe made huge strides in the second half of the season.
Tennessee Tech’s scoring woes were well documented, and they lost their top scorer in Jud Dillard. Payne is hoping for more balanced approach this season, led by a more healthy Jeremiah Samarrippas and an improved Ogbe. TTU has also brought in quite a lot of JUCO players to provide an instant boost, and sophomore DeOndre Haynes returns after a season-ending injury cut short his rookie campaign.
Mid-Continent University at Morehead State
7:00 p.m. EST
For those that are new here, we don’t preview games against non Division-I opponents. But tonight’s game will give us a glance at how Morehead State will fare with the new foul rules, already holding the distinction as the most foul-happy team in the OVC.
Eastern Illinois at Northwestern
7:30 p.m. CST
If you knew one thing about Eastern Illinois last season, it was that they played offense at their own speed. Which was slow. This season, head coach Jay Spoonhour is hoping his offense allows his team to play a bit faster. Northwestern is looking to do something similar. Under head coach Bill Carmody, Northwestern was known as a methodical offense. Carmody was fired this past march, and replaced with Chris Collins. Being his first head coaching job, I can’t say for certain, but given he came to Northwestern by way of Duke, as both a player and an assistant, I’d be willing to bet up-tempo basketball is in their immediate future.
Northwestern graduated two of their their three leading scorers from a year ago, and feature many more underclassmen than upper. That being said, their returning experience is strong. Drew Crawford scored 13 points a game last season before undergoing a season-ending shoulder surgery. 6’1 guard Dave Sobolewski averaged nearly 10 points and four assists a game at the point for the Wildcats, while playing 35 minutes a game over both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
When a mid-major takes on a major conference program, generally it’s the later that has a distinct size advantage. With 6’11 Luke Piotrowski being granted instant eligibility after transferring from Richmond, joining his 7’2 older brother Mat Piotrowski, that’s not the case. Of course, having size, and having talented size are two different things, and we still have to see where those two fall, both playing in their first season for the Panthers.
Tennessee State at New Mexico State
7:00 p.m. CST
TSU’s season hasn’t gotten off to the way we hoped, but it did the way many of us feared. The Tigers were never in the game against Hawaii, losing by 30 on the road to start the season. Things don’t get any easier today, taking on a New Mexico State team coming off a 24-win season that returns two double-digit scorers from a year ago.
The Aggies are also coming off a loss to a good Western Michigan team, thanks in part to 35% shooting and hitting just 25-40 from the charity stripe. 6’10 center Tshilidzi Nephawe (really glad I only have to spell his name once) scored a team-high 18 points in his first game back from a thumb injury last season. And then there’s 7’5 Sim Buhllar. That’s not a typo on his height. I triple checked. Buhllar averaged nearly 10 points, six rebounds, and two and a half blocks a game a season ago. He scored nine in 23 minutes played in the opener.
There weren’t a whole lot of positives in the Tigers 30-point loss to Hawaii. M.J. Rhett and Patrick Miller scored in double figures, Rhett also pulled down 12 rebounds, but the Tigers allowed the Warriors to shoot 46% from the floor, and were outrebounded 47-25. The Tigers were frozen from three-point range, hitting just 1-15 from behind the arc.