Jacksonville State looks for their fourth straight win, Murray State wants to avoid a fourth straight loss. And TTU plays Tulane. Today’s First Word:
Tennessee Tech (3-2) at Tulane (4-1)
1 p.m. / ESPN 3
Tech hopes to be a little less Jeckyl & Hyde as they continue their deep south road trip against a high-scoring Tulane squad. The Green Wave are scoring more than 76 points per game, and ranked in the top-100 nationally in offensive efficiency, and top-75 on the defensive side. They’ve played a lot of other mid-majors, including the same Southeast Louisiana squad TTU split against in the past week, winning by 10 at home. Tulane has a lot of size: six guys 6’8 or taller that play significant minutes, and have enough talent in their backcourt to keep you honest defensively. They’re a balanced offense, with eight players averaging six or more points a game, and no player is averaging more than 30 minutes. TTU doesn’t have a three-point threat as of yet, making them too one-dimensional on offense. They need guys to hit shots to spread out opposing defenses, and make things easier on their very talented frontcourt.
Ft. Valley State at Jacksonville State (3-3)
Barring the very unexpected, Jacksonville State is on the cusp of winning their fourth straight game of the year, after what could be described as a hapless 0-3 start. Two of the wins, including today, would be against non-Division I teams, but it’s still a good bounceback after a start to the year that saw JSU’s offense unable to compete for 40 minutes. Darion Rackley has been strong this week, and Jeremy Watson is making serious push to join the Gamecocks starting five.
Murray State (2-4) vs Drake (1-5)
The last time Murray State lost three straight wasn’t all that long ago — they did it last December. The last time Murray State lost four straight? The 2007-08 season. There’s not a lot of positives from last night’s loss to Valparaiso, their biggest loss since 1992. They were beat in every aspect of the game, and their performance in the second half was uninspired. To put it bluntly: Everyone expected a lot more from this Racers team. We’re just six games in, there’s plenty of time for the Racers to turn things around, and Drake is, statistically, the lesser of their three opponents in Nashville. They can score, they just haven’t defended anyone this year. Murray State’s already had a few “gut check” games this year, and they’ve mostly responded well: winning big at Middle Tennessee, and the narrow loss just two days ago against Portland. I’m curious to see just how much the Racers fight to avoid falling to 2-5.