- Belmont now owns the OVC’s two best wins of the year by beating Middle Tennessee last night, and winning at North Carolina earlier this season. I don’t even think it’s debatable, honestly. Belmont is currently ranked 20th in the RPI according to BB State, and they’re playing a good as almost any mid-major team right now, despite dealing with injuries. With Rick Byrd at the helm, you always expect the Bruins to be good. But this good? After losing Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark, as well as three other seniors, this team was not supposed to be this good. When J.J. Mann is on top of his game, as he was last night, I’m not sure there’s a more dynamic scorer in the league. And the idea, that when healthy, this team will be even better? I’m amazed at this team. The only question: can they carry the momentum all the way to March, when it really matters.
- For me, tonight ends any “benefit of the doubt” for Murray State. The schedule hasn’t been easy, although there is some debate just how good Old Dominion and Valparaiso really are, but after the shellacking they took at home last week, if they can’t defend their home court against a mostly even Evansville team, there are some issues. Will this team be better with T.J. Sapp? Racers hope so, but we honestly don’t know how much impact he’ll have until he takes the court later this month. I’ve heard a lot of “Murray State will be better” this year. They need to start proving it. There’s not a switch that can be flipped. They have to play harder, first and foremost.
- Today’s Slate:
Evansville at Murray State: Evansville is off to a 5-2 start, but they haven’t played the toughest of schedules, and are coming off a blowout loss of their own at Ohio. They can score, led by DJ Balentine’s 25 points a game, and they get to the free-throw line, two things Murray State has struggled with at times. Balentine, Racer fans may remember, went off in the first half last season in a game the Racers won in a great comeback effort.
East Tennessee State at Austin Peay: ETSU fell earlier this year at Tennessee Tech, which kind of sets the bar the Governors. Austin Peay is coming off a very solid win at Youngstown State, but I’m not fully sold on their defense. Zavion Williams says he thinks the Governors can go undefeated in December. Tonight could be a sign just how realistic that statement really is.
UT Martin at Samford: The Skyhawks make the trip to an old OVC foe, and this point, we just need to see something from UT Martin. Samford is 3-6, and just narrowly won against Division II Kentucky State on Sunday. It’s a very winnable game on the road, and UT Martin needs to take advantage of every opportunity after a slow start
Morehead State at Southern Miss: Donnie Tyndall says his former team is the second toughest team his Golden Eagles has faced, and this team has faced a (surprisingly 4-2) DePaul. Tyndall’s mantra hasn’t changed: he wants to control tempo, and defend, and his team has done a good job of both this season.
Eastern Illinois at Western Illinois: Eastern Illinois, while better than last year, is still a bit offensively challenged. Western Illinois is even worse. The Leathernecks are 341st (out of 351 teams) in offensive efficiency, despite shooting 47% from the floor on the year. How does that happen? Too many turnovers, and as a team, Western Illinois is shooting 54% from the charity stripe. No team is worse in Division I basketball.
FEATUREDFinal Word (11/13): Jacksonville State stands alone…in basketball too.