Cookeville, we have a problem. I noted in yesterday’s Daily 3 that Tennessee State was playing better, and that the Golden Eagles were coming off a disastrous road trip. Now it’s time for some alarms to be going off. Losing to a now three-win Tennessee State team isn’t the problem in and of itself; it’s that you lost at home, were never really in the game in the second half, you’ve now lost four straight, and are on the outside of the OVC Tournament looking in.
That…and you’ve still got five games left against the top three teams in your division, and your best win so far was at home against SIUE.
If there was ever a need for a sense of urgency, now is that time.
The defense, which really has been the heart of this team this season, has absolutely fallen apart during this latest skid. TTU allowed at least 80 points in all four of their losses, something they hadn’t allowed since December 5th prior to this streak. Their defensive efficiency has fallen from a peak of second in the conference to ninth, and the Golden Eagles offense hasn’t been overwhelming at any point this season.
The magic number to all but guarantee a spot in Nashville is eight; seven likely gets you there, but could require help. Assuming (and it’s far from a guarantee) that TTU can beat UT Martin once and Jacksonville State twice, they still need to win two of five against Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, and Belmont to get to that number. That’s their stretch run, and it’s one of the hardest remaining schedules in the OVC.
For comparison stake, UT Martin, who lost last night badly to Eastern Kentucky, sits at 2-7, but has just one team left on their schedule that’s above .500 in conference play. But they hit the road for a three-game road swing to Illinois and Missouri, and they’re going to have to likely come away with two wins to stay in the hunt.
TSU is also a two-win team in the OVC now, but has to win out to get to .500, or go at least 5-1 to get to 7-9.
EKU fans know Marcus Lewis is a dunk machine. In case anyone needed a reminder, here you go.
Tonight we have the rare Friday OVC game courtesy of the CBS Sports Network schedule, but it’s a pretty good rivalry. While I’ll hold off on saying it’s the premiere conference rivalry, (EKU and Morehead may want a part of that discussion, as would Belmont and Lipscomb if we’re counting non-conference games) from personal experience it’s always a blast as a fan and as a writer.
Correction: it’s always a blast as a home fan. As a road fan? It’s always painful. Which is the entire point of having a rivalry.
One of my favorite complaints of any road fans, in any game, really, is when they complain the home team’s fans are “hostile.” Yes, that’s what they’re supposed to be. It can be taken too far, obviously. Throwing things at opposing fans is out of bounds. Profanity, especially around children, isn’t cool.
But they’re not supposed to roll out the red carpet for you. If you’re on the road, you should feel a bit uncomfortable. You should be shouted down every time you start to chant. You should be relegated to a section as far away from the court, as split up as much as possible. Home teams should go out of their way to maximize their advantage.
And you know what, I love it every time. I do. Games like tonight, with two fan bases that really do not like one another, for reasons not one of them could verbalize other than, “I don’t like them.” These games are fun. I hope the late start, and Friday night don’t keep fans away from Clarksville. (If so, it would be a shame)
I’ll be courtside, likely with a big smile on my face.