The OVC’s best win so far isn’t Belmont at Marquette, which was at most a mild upset. (The line was pegged at Marquette -5, meanng the Bruins were just a one or two point underdog on a neutral floor. Big East team or not, the Golden Eagles were 13-19 last season) Instead, that honor goes to…Tennessee State.
The Tigers were larger underdogs, and were convincing in the second half. Wayne Martin scored 27 points, and pulled down 21 rebounds on the night, an impressive debut for the junior college transfer playing in his first Division I game. In the last 20 minutes, the Tigers hit better than 59% from the field, and held Loyola Maryland to just 31%. Tahjere McCall, a Niagara University transfer, hit a perfect 10-10 from the free-throw line on his way to 23 points. Marcus Roper, Xavier Ricards and Darreon Reddick all came off the bench, and all three were starters at various points throughout the year a season ago. The talent level on this program really appears to have gotten a much needed boost, and that could spell a much different kind of year for the team, and their fans in Nashville.
That’s not to say we should ignore Belmont’s win. If the Bruins make the NCAA Tournament, it looks good on paper to have beaten Marquette, even if they’re not an RPI-top 100 team at season’s end. (Again, they weren’t last year) I said in my Power Rankings that Evan Bradds, not Craig Bradshaw, may hold the key to this team’s success, and so far he’s proving me right. Bradds hit 10-12 shots inside the three-point arc, and was a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line. The Bruins defense was shaky at times, and only got two steals, but they start the season with a quality win in a shootout. And they only took 34 threes.
Eastern Illinois, Austin Peay, and Southeast Missouri were brutal in their opening night losses to three really good teams. SEMO played better in a loss Sunday at Evansville, and we’ll get a much better look at Eastern Illinois when they host in-state rival Western Illinois Saturday.
Austin Peay on the other hand gets the same Indiana team Monday night that throttled EIU just a few days ago. Of the three losses Friday, it’s not hard to argue theirs was the worst. Austin Peay was down by more than 20 before they made their first shot, and finished with just 21% shooting. Chris Horton was flat-out shut down against the Commodores, and the guards struggled to get shots.
What are the positives? Even with 50 misses, 17 offensive rebounds is alright (34% OREB) and after last year’s struggles with turnovers, 14 doesn’t seems like such a terrible number.
We were worried about production for the Governors going into the season. Those fears are still very much alive.
Though it’s early, scoring is up in the 2015-16 campaign compared to the year before. According to kenpom.com, the nationwide scoring average is currently 73.3 ppg after three days of the season, a boost of nearly five points from the year before. It’s not just the shot clock — offensive efficiency has slightly risen as well.
Fouls for the most part don’t appear to be too big of a problem yet, (Although I’m sure SIUE would like to have a word after their 40 attempts in a win over Arkansas State) but I don’t have any hard data to go on just yet. Overall — the new rules package appears to be working. Guards have more freedom to operate, and bad defense is getting exposed.