- For the past few weeks, I’ve characterized SIUE as “better than their record.” Yeah, I’m done with that. They seem to be regressing in a big way. This team has zero inside presence, and it doesn’t matter if you hit 42% from three-point range, as they did last night, if you can’t score inside. The Cougars finally got to the free-throw line at least, only to miss 10 of 22. The defense, oh boy, the defense. It’s not good. Sure, I can break down how they get lost on screens, how they’re slow getting set, but honestly they’re not solid in man defense, the most basic, and important defense there is. The ball-handler make too many bad passes (arguably just too many passes) and commit too many turnovers. Yes, I’ve moved past the denial stage and straight to anger. From what I’ve seen on Twitter, most fans are already into the bargaining stage.
- I’m not sure I ever start Mike Liabo if I’m Jason James. Last year, James shuffled Liabo around a bit, thinking he might be better coming off the bench than a starter. But he just didn’t have the talent to make that stick. This year, he’s does, and Liabo has been outstanding off the bench since returning from suspension. Last night, 20-points in 21-minutes, shooting 6-11 from three-point range. Myles Taylor is still not a full strength, by the way, and the Skyhawks are on a three-game winning streak, their first in nearly three full calendar years. I was hard on this team early, but this is starting to look like the team I was expecting in the summer.
- Today’s Slate:
Southern Illinois at Murray State: Ten years or so ago, this was a great mid-major rivalry. The game is back, but it’s hard to get super excited, given how far the Salukis have fallen as of late. Desmar Jackson is having a great season, and with the exception of forcing turnovers, SIU’s defense is solid. Today marks the much heralded debut of Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp for the Racers. Sapp is not expected to start tonight.
Tennessee Tech at Green Bay: The Golden Eagles have their first road win under their belt, and now they a bigger road test in the Phoenix. A top-50 RPI team, Green Bay narrowly lost to Wisconsin, and has wins against Virginia and Harvard. The team is among the nation’s leaders in blocks, and Keifer Sykes is averaging more than 21-points a game. Looking for a weakness: the Phoenix are not a good free-throw shooting team.
Central Michigan at Jacksonville State: The second game of a home-home, the Chippewas won less than three weeks ago on their home floor over the Gamecocks, and also hold a narrow win on the road against SIUE. JSU’s much-maligned defense faces a stiff test: CMU doesn’t turn over the ball, and score in the paint as well as almost anyone.
Austin Peay at Vanderbilt: In a way, this is like looking through a mirror for the Governors. Vanderbilt likes to run, and has a killer inside-outside combo in Eric McCellan and Rod Odom. The differences? Vanderbilt is much deadlier from behind the arc, and a much better defensive team. The Commodores don’t force many turnovers, which has been a big weakness for Austin Peay this year. This is a good opportunity to see how far Austin Peay has come since the Memphis game.
Belmont at Denver: This road swing didn’t start the way the Bruins would have liked, as their defense couldn’t get in South Dakota State’s way. Denver is an interesting team in this respect: they don’t have killer scorers, but are the most unselfish team in the nation, notching an assist on 68% of their baskets. (FWIW: Belmont, solid in this department, has an assist on 57% of theirs) That loss at South Dakota state dropped Belmont’s RPI from 22nd to 38th, according to BB State.
FEATUREDPredicting the OVC race…in mid-December