We previewed three of today’s games in yesterday’s Daily 3, so it’s only fair we discuss the other two today. The spread for Austin Peay at SIUE was a bit shocking on first glance, especially if we’re considering Austin Peay a contender in the West Division. (Which, I guess, it still up for some debate) Of course, SIUE has done some good things on their home floor, and the Governors are just 1-6 in road games this year.
The one statistic that really surprises me so far in conference play is how bad the Governors are rebounding. You’re getting your 10 from Chris Horton, but the Govs have lost the battle on the boards in all three of their conference games. This has been a weakness for much of the year, but it hasn’t gotten better against “smaller” OVC teams. SIUE doesn’t have a dynamic player on the inside that’s going to get a lot of boards, so if they lose that battle again tonight, there’s some cause for concern.
We talked a lot during non-conference play about how SIUE was struggling on defense. In their four conference games, it’s been a different story. No team has reached 80 against the Cougars, and no team has put up more than 1.10 points a possession. They’re currently fourth in league play in defensive efficiency, and while they’ve played Eastern Kentucky, they’ve also played three lower power offenses as well. Their defense on the interior has still been a weakness, one the Governors will almost certainly look to take advantage of.
Jacksonville State has already lost once to the Tigers, and let’s be honest, you can’t afford to lose a second. It’s unlikely you’ll need the tiebreaker, but since 6-wins is likely the minimum needed to make it to Nashville, it’s hard to see this team getting to that number if they’re swept by the Tigers.
The Gamecocks loss at TSU wasn’t a horrible defensive game by JSU’s standards this season, but rebounding was a big problem. JSU allowed 12 offensive rebounds on just 29 missed shots. The Tigers also hit 47% from three-point range, making the most of their possessions in a rather slow-tempo game.
Jacksonville State was able to control tempo because they didn’t turn over the ball. That will be key to doing so the second-time around, as Tennessee State is much more comfortable when they can get Patrick Miller in space then when they need him to run the offense in the half-court, where it’s much easier to key on him defensively.
Kenpom.com, which is one of two sites we use here for advanced stats, recently made the decision to take out all games against non-Division I teams in their statistics. This is a decision I whole-heartily support, although I’d like the NCAA to do the same. There’s no problem with schools playing these opponents as they try to work things out, but why should they count for anything? Make no mistake, these are exhibition games. They’re rarely competitive, and most useful for coaches to try new plays, and help their guys get some confidence early. Fans don’t like them because they’re uncompetitive, and analysts hate them because they skew stats. You don’t have to get rid of the games. Just get rid of the incentive for teams to play them.