1. Every year, when we get to the last week of the season, we look at the “must-win” games. But far too often, we’re overlooking the early games that put them in those positions. Eastern Illinois’ win over Tennessee State Saturday could be huge in March for the Panthers, and devastating if the Tigers make a run. Tonight’s game between UT Martin and Jacksonville State could be the same. These early East-West game, the only matchup between these teams and therefore the tiebreaker in a two-way tie, are hugely important, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
2. It’s been more than a month since we looked at free-throw numbers, so are team’s adjusting? Here’s a look at the defensive free-throw rates from November 21st to December 30th, which is a representation of how often opposing teams shoot free-throws.
|Dec. 30th||Nov. 21st||Change|
The numbers are pretty clear. Nine teams have seen their opponents free-throw rates decline, meaning they’re opponents are shooting fewer free-throws than they were a month ago, and the overall average is down 10% across the league. I said it all November long: teams would adjust to the new rules. They are, and it’s one reason you’re not seeing as much outcry about the new rules this month as you were last month. I’d be willing to wager we’ll see another decrease next month, although it likely won’t be near as pronounced.
3. In case you were curious, Dayton is quite a drive. I wasn’t even driving, only riding, but still, it’s a haul. That being said, I like Dayton. They packed 12,000 fans for a Sunday 2 p.m. tip against Murray State, which is very impressive. But here’s the odd thing: the fans don’t stand and cheer during the game. Ever. They’re asked not to, actually. What’s the point of packing 12,000 people into an arena if they’re all sitting in their seat the entire time? They do make an exception for the student section, at least, which was small this weekend due to the winter break. All that being said, though, their fan support is amazing. That’s a true mid-major school, and there aren’t many fan bases outside the major conferences that even can compare.