A busy weekend of college basketball continues, giving all of us something to watch as we try to figure out what to do with another plate of leftover turkey. Today’s previews:
Eastern Illinois (1-5) vs Southern (1-5)
We are officially on Chris Olivier watch. The Panthers forward has played limited minutes in each of the past two contests — and he’s a huge part of EIU’s offense. The Jaguars are as, if not more offensively challenged as EIU: Southern is hitting 19.4% from three-point range on the season. They also average just six assists a game. This isn’t a “must-win,” but this would be a not very good loss — even given it’s another early tip.
Kentucky Christian (NAIA) at Morehead State (3-4)
Last time Morehead State played an NAIA team, they rested their leading scorer Angelo Warner. There’s no need to do that this time, so Morehead will likely go in full-tilt against their lower division opponent.
Tennessee State (2-4) vs St. Francis (0-5)
Tennessee State looked stronger that at any point on the young year last night, and they’re closer to full strength than at any point. Christian Mekowulu was strong in his season debut, so we’re curious to see if the freshman can back up his 13-point performance from Friday. The Terriers are winless, but better than their 0-5 record. They want to push tempo, force turnovers, have a balanced offense, and have lost three of their last four games by less than a basket.
Belmont (5-1) at Ohio (2-1)
Belmont won a solid road game last weekend, in a comeback effort at Western Kentucky. This one would be another noteworthy win, although the verdict is still out on the Bobcats. Ohio is playing up-tempo, but they’re struggling to score consistently, which is something the Bruins aren’t struggling with. Ohio is led by a pair of 16-point per game scorers: Javarez Willis and Maurice Ndour. Ohio wants to get the ball inside, and could challenge Belmont’s frontcourt. Defensively, they’re holding opponents to under 30% shooting from three-point range. Belmont’s Taylor Barnette is shooting better than 50% from three. As they say: something’s got to give.
Alabama A&M (1-3) at Southeast Missouri (2-3)
Alabama A&M is coming off a loss to Jacksonville State — so there’s no doubt this is a game you expect the Redhawks to win. The Bulldogs are in the bottom-10 nationally in offensive efficiency, and they’re averaging just 53 points against Division I teams. SEMO’s offense hasn’t gotten off to the start many expected. Jarekious Bradley has been solid since returning to the lineup. The Redhawks are also playing more methodical, which isn’t what we’re used to seeing. Tonight could be a good chance for an explosive effort.
Valparaiso (5-1) vs Murray State (2-3)
It’s hard to get a great read on this Racers team at this point in the year, but they’re no doubting they’re challenging themselves. Things don’t get much easier tonight. The Crusaders are solid on both sides of the ball, led by 6’9 forward Alec Peters, who is averaging 18 points a game, and shooting 58.5% from the floor. He’s going to be a matchup challenge for a Murray frontcourt that’s been inconsistent this year. Peters is also a 50% three-point shooter, meaning you can’t just pack-in the defense, either. Murray State is still looking for more production off the bench — especially given Jonathan Fairell‘s foul trouble. These two teams played each of the past two seasons, with Valpo coming away with two wins.
Eastern Kentucky (4-0) at BYU (4-2)
This is by far the toughest test Eastern Kentucky has faced this year. BYU is shooting 41% from three-point range, 49% percent from the field on the year, led by 6’5 guard Tyler Haws 21.5 points a game. Offensively, the Cougars do just about everything well, and they don’t turnover the ball. Enter the number one team in the nation at forcing turnovers in EKU. The Colonels defense has been solid, but EKU has been overly reliant on Corey Walden for scoring. He’s going to need help against such a prolific offense at BYU’s.