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As a general rule, I like cupcakes. They’re essentially cake, it even says so in the name, and cake is awesome. Except when we’re talking about basketball scheduling. Then I despise cupcakes. The thing is, I can’t really blame a school for scheduling them. Not only does it fall under the school-yard paradigm of “everyone’s doing it,” but it also means a (nearly) automatic win, which makes certain team’s non-conference records not seem as horrible as they are.

Enter Jacksonville State’s cupcake, Dalton State today, who should, in theory, end the Gamecock’s winless start to the season. Tennessee State’s winless start face a bit more competition…

 

Last Night’s Scores

Austin Peay 75, Central Michigan 90

There is a silver lining to the loss, and it’s this: Austin Peay seems to be the one OVC team avoiding the onslaught of foul calls plaguing some teams early in the year. That may all of the good news. The Governors are turned over 18 times, get pounded on the glass, and that’s how you fall by 15 despite outshooting your opponents from the floor 52-42%. Travis Betran seems to be working himself out of his early season slump, scoring a team high 16 points on 5-13 shooting.

 

Indiana-Kokomo 39, Tennessee Tech 92

*Sigh*

 

Today’s Games

Dalton State at Jacksonville State (0-5)
1:00 p.m. CST

For an NAIA school, Dalton State has a really awesome looking athletics website. No really, you should look at it. Although, if I’m being critical, could they have made the roadrunner’s beak any longer? DS is 8-1 on the year, having yet to play a Division I school, so they could provide a bit of resistance.

 

Austin Peay (2-2) at Cal-State Northridge (2-2, Big West)
3:30 p.m. CST
Central Michigan Tournament

This is a match made in run-and-gun heaven. Austin Peay like to run. CS-Northridge like to run. While I can’t guarantee there will be points, I can all but guarantee it won’t be because of a lack of trying.

The similarities on the stat sheet don’t end there. Both teams force turnovers, both teams rebound fairly well, neither team really defends all that well. Where the major differences lie is in how they get to their final result. Whereas Austin Peay has really spread around their scoring this year, the Matadors haven’t. Three Northridge players are averaging more than 15 points a game, and their starting five have combined for 88% of their points on the season.

Chris Horton‘s size was a huge boon in the Governors win over SIU earlier this week, and he’ll get tested on the inside again. Two of those 15+ ppg scorers are 6’6 and 6’7, and both are hitting close to 50% from the field on the young season. Stephen Maxwell is a serious threat, not just to score but to get to the line, where he’s 28-37 in four games. In fact, free-throws are a strength of the team as a whole, hitting 80.2% on the year.

When the Governors can hold onto the ball, their offense hasn’t been bad. It’s just that pesky turnover problem is kind of a big deal. And there have been some free-throw issues as well. But as long as they hold onto the ball, and don’t draw contact, Austin Peay is hitting 48.7% from the field on the year, and that includes Travis Betran‘s slow start. Having more in the way of guards like Zavion Williams and Damarius Smith have helped the offense flow a little easier than last season.

 

SIU Edwardsville (1-2) at UC Davis (1-2, Big West)
5:00 p.m. CST
Portland State Tournament

It’s been nearly a week since the Cougars hit the century mark in their first win of the season against Central Arkansas, which seems like forever ago in non-conference play. (Six whole days between games? What is this?) While I wouldn’t exactly call for a repeat performance, SIUE is facing a UC Davis team giving up nearly 83 points a game on the young season. So no, I guess I kind of am calling for a repeat performance.

Of course, it’s here where I point out SIUE is allowing 91 points a game. Which is more than 83.

This is another game which has run-and-gun written all over it, as both teams are in the top-25 in possessions per game. As you tend to expect with up-tempo teams, UC Davis has a talented group of guards to run it. In fact, expect the Aggies to use four-guards quite often, although calling the team’s leading scorer, 6’9 Josh Richtart, a guard seems kind of disingenuous. 6’4 Ryan Sypkens provides a deep threat for the Aggies, as 26 of his 32 field goal attempts on the season have come from behind the arc.

Turnovers have been a major issue for the Cougars offense, and so has defending the perimeter. SIUE’s opponents are shooting 44.4% behind the arc through the first three games.

 

Brescia (NAIA) at Eastern Kentucky (5-1)
7:00 p.m. EST

EKU put up 114 points in their last game against a non-Division I opponent, so I guess the goal is 115? Or is it to hold Brescia under 45? Either/or, I guess.

 

Tennessee State (0-5) at Tennessee (2-1, SEC)
6:00 p.m. CST
ESPN3

I really want to give Tennessee State a lot of credit for putting together an incredibly tough early slate of games, but boy do I bet they’d love to get to their December 15th matchup against Non-Division I Fisk as soon as possible. Today’s game is against a Tennessee team that shoots the three well, doesn’t turnover the ball, great at rebounding, and is stingy defensively.

Likely the biggest handful for the Tigers will be 6’6 guard Jordan McRae, a senior leading the team in scoring through their first three games, and picked second in the SEC preseason player of the year voting. He, along with Jarnell Stokes, are on the Naismith watch list, and are both dynamic scorers. Tennessee has two other guards who can both hit the deep ball as well, and a pair of 6’8 guys in the middle that know how to attack the glass.

While this team is solid up front, they’re not very deep. They’ve played a lot of guys this year thanks to a pair of blowouts, but most of their offensive production comes for a core group of guys.

Tennessee State’s woes have been fairly well documented on our site. Patrick Miller has put the team on his shoulders, and has done all you can ask out of your senior guard. M.J. Rhett has been solid, if unspectacular, and I’m really hard pressed to name anyone else that’s been productive on a consistent basis.

 

Mid-Continent (NAIA) at Southeast Missouri (2-2)
7:00 p.m. CST

I actually live quite near Mid-Continent, and they have this really cool beam of light that shoots up into the sky every night from what I assume is a chapel. I can’t imagine how much that costs on their energy bill, because you can see it from quite a far ways away. Seriously, it’s kind of cool.

 

Jackson State (1-4, SWAC) at UT Martin (1-5)
7:00 p.m. CST

I’m not saying this, a non-conference game, is a must win. But for us to even consider taking UT Martin seriously, it’s kind of important after the egg they dropped against previously winless UMKC. There were quite a lot of factors in that loss: missed layups, fouls, zero inside presence when Myles Taylor isn’t on the floor, Marshun Newell yelling “I’ve got this” as he puts up 18 shots on the night, making all of 5.

It’s early, and a lot can change, but the Skyhawks are currently my most disappointing team on the year. Yes, I know about Taylor’s injury, and Liabo’s continuing suspension. I get there are mitigating factors, but it seems like there are always mitigating factors with this team. There’s always a feeling of “if this” then the team would be where everyone expects it.

Here’s my thing, though: almost their entire OVC tournament team from last year has come back. The OVC appears to be having a bit of a down year. This should be the year UT Martin rises up, not falls back. Can it still happen, absolutely. After all, OVC play doesn’t start for another five weeks. But this team has some work to do.

Tonight, the Skyhawks guards will be busy on the defensive end against the Tigers backcourt duo of Javeres Brent and Julysses Nobles. Both are talented scorers who can hurt you on the perimeter, although Nobles is a bit more of a driver than shooter. Jackson State is about as young as young can get, with eight freshman on their roster. (And three players whose year is unknown. I’m not kidding. That might be important to figure out)

 

Morehead State (4-1) at #22 UCLA (3-0, Pac 12)
11:00 p.m. EST
Pac 12 Network

It’s a long trip to California, and a late tip for the Eagles, who are facing the 11th best defense in the nation on the young season. Just how good is the 11th best defense in numbers? They’re holding their opponents, all three of which are Division I, to 34% shooting from the floor, 23% from behind the arc, and have the fewest fouls per game in the nation. This is going to be quite the challenge for a Morehead State offense that, while they have put up a lot of points, haven’t been the most efficient in doing so.

Offensively, the Bruins aren’t a slouch either. Five guys are averaging double figures, led by 6’5 sophomore Jordan Adams. While his 19.7 points a game are impressive, it’s his 4.3 steals a game, thanks to eight against Sacramento State, that’s really makes his stand out. UCLA doesn’t turn over the ball often, which is of course the bread and butter of the Morehead State defense.

Angelo Warner is having an absolute breakout year for the Eagles, and Bakari Turner is a really good player most people aren’t talking about. So is former Mississippi Valley State guard Brett Arrington, who is hitting 38% from three-point range early in the year. Teams are going to focus in on Turner, but if there are other weapons in the Eagles backcourt that could really hurt you if you’re not careful


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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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