For the first time, we’re trying a video podcast to go along with the written Daily 3. It’s still in beta stage, so to speak, so expect a lot of changes as we go along!
There are five games on the slate tomorrow night, but it’s pretty clear that Belmont at Eastern Kentucky should get top billing. Make no mistake, this is a must-win game for the Colonels, if they still want to earn the one-seed in March. I can’t see a scenario in which Eastern Kentucky loses, and rallies to win the conference or division. They would still have to go to Belmont, presumably win there, and hope Belmont drops at least two other games in conference play. Not to mention, on the other side of the conference, they would need Murray State to lose at least four times, since the Racers already hold the tiebreaker over the Colonels. Sure, it could happen, but I wouldn’t consider it all that likely.
So how does Eastern Kentucky engineer a win over the Bruins? You know you’re going to have to defend the three-point arc, and rebounding aren’t the Bruins (or the Colonels, for that matter) strong suit. But as much is made about their three-point shooting, it’s their shooting inside the arc that’s been troublesome in Belmont’s six losses. The Bruins are shooting 56.7% on two-point field goal attempts this season, which is the fifth best in the nation. They’ve been held under that number in all six losses. If you take away the layups, you take away a big part of Belmont’s offense. Obviously, you hope Belmont struggles from three, but they hit 10 in their loss against VCU, and 10 in their loss at South Dakota; In those two games, they shot 48% and 50%, respectively, from inside the arc. Stopping their three-point shooting is helpful. Stopping their inside game is mandatory.
After Murray State went 0-2 last season on their Illinois road swing, there’s a bit of trepidation this year as they head to Charleston tomorrow night. But last year’s loss was the exception, rather to the rule. Before last season, the Racers hadn’t lost in Charleston since 2008. Even worse for Eastern Illinois, they didn’t break the 55-point barrier once in any of those losses. Funny how quickly we forget history like that…
Of course, this game isn’t being played in the past, but there’s reason to believe Eastern Illinois could struggle to score once again. The majority of the Panthers offense comes from the inside, but Murray State’s Jarvis Williams and Jonathan Fairell have made that a tough task in OVC play so far. In fact, EIU attempted just six three-point shots in their win at Jacksonville State, and hit fewer than 30% behind the arc in both OVC wins. Chris Olivier played very well against the stout frontcourt of Morehead State, but the Eagles press, which you won’t see from Murray except in desperation, gave the Panthers quite a few open looks under the basket. The Racers will look to force the Panthers to operate in the half-court, and that has been a mighty struggle not just in conference play, but all season long.
To continue with our theme of game previews, Southeast Missouri travels to Morehead State in a game of interesting contrasting styles. Sure, both teams love to run, but the Eagles are ranked first in the OVC in defense. The Redhawks…aren’t. On the flipside, SEMO can score as well as anyone and Morehead State…can’t. This theme really continues:
- Offensive Points Per Possession
- SEMO: 1.14 (4th)
- Morehead: 0.991 (11th)
- Defense Points Per Possession
- SEMO: 1.212 (12th)
- Morehead: 0.938 (1st)
- 3-point shooting
- SEMO: 38.2% (3rd)
- Morehead: 29.7% (9th)
- Turnover Rate
- SEMO: 18.1% (5th)
- Morehead: 21.7% (12th)
- Turnover Forced Rate
- SEMO: 15.0% (11th)
- Morehead: 22.0% (1st)
Both teams could very much use a win, although I’d say SEMO is a more dire situation that Morehead State. The Redhawks margin of error in the West is very small, and as I described above, expecting Murray State to lose four times is quite a lot to hope for. Morehead State can’t afford to fall two back of Belmont if the Bruins get past Eastern Kentucky, although the Eagles do still have two cracks at the defending conference champs.