The Weekend of Opportunity

For OVC teams basketball opponents like Arkansas, Pittsburgh, and Ole Miss are infrequent opportunities.  This Saturday and Sunday several OVC teams will get high major foes to measure against.

Ole Miss (6-2) will travel to Southeast Missouri Saturday afternoon (2 PM Central).  You can watch that game on American Sports Network.  Tennessee Tech will venture to the University of Arkansas (7 PM Central) for a difficult road test, while Morehead State trudges into the Peterson Events Center Sunday afternoon to play the Pittsburgh Panthers (3 PM Central).

Pittsburgh (6-1), under Jamie Dixon, is notorious for playing a soft pre-conference schedule.  For this reason MSU has a chance to smack them in the face.  They remain relatively unchallenged thus far.

Entering that Indiana contest, Morehead State ranked first in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 54.5 points per game. Following the loss at IU, the Eagles still rank 16th in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 59.9 points per game.

The biggest undertaking of facing Pitt will be suppressing Michael Young.  The Pennsylvania-product harasses loose rebounds.  His combination of strength and size is daunting.  Standing 6-foot-9, Young began the season as a mobile 235-pounds.  More than the relentless rebounding of DeJuan Marrero will be needed to keep Young in check.

Also, Coach Dixon instills tough, physical defense each year.  This season, Pitt opponents are shooting just 37.0% against.  And if the MSU’s second half against Indiana happens again this game will not be close.  Morehead State has to generate higher-percentage shots, and they have to do it in another difficult venue.

Pitt students will be stuffed full of anxiety, as their Final Exam week begins Sunday, and will certainly hope to unleash the customary fury of the Oakland Zoo on the visitors.

Prediction: Morehead State wins 62-59.

The Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech (5-2) had two thrilling wins last week.  In fact, they have won five straight (against D1 opponents). Continuing that run will be difficult.  Like Pittsburgh, Arkansas (4-4) has a wonderful homecourt advantage.  The Razorbacks are 4-1 at home.

To defeat the Hawgs, TTU will once again need to lean on Torrance Rowe and Ryan Martin.  Arkansas Head Coach Mike Anderson does not respect the backcourt walking dribble.  And Rowe wRowe will be swarmed all over the floor, which can be physically draining.  His second half heroics will rely upon his energy reserves.

Martin will have a tougher task than even Rowe.  Whether he guards Martin directly or not, Arkansas power forward Moses Kingsley is the kind of elongated pogo stick that attacking bigs dread.

Lately, Martin has been pulling his man out to the corner and penetrating past with quicker feet.

“I have been shooting it pretty well, so I knew that as soon as I try to upfake they are going to bite on it,” said Martin after the win at Lipscomb.  “And it is going to just leave a wide-open lane.  And if they don’t respect it…I am confident enough that I am going to hit it.  If I miss, I miss.  I am going to shoot the same shot again the next time.”

The Nigerian Kingsley is startingly springy.  He gets off the floor better than most college guards.  The fact that he is 6-foot-10 is appropriately foreboding, considering his 2.0 blocks per game.

If Martin has to score against Kingsley’s outreaching arms all night it could get ugly.  Blocks are a very metaphoric and literal rejection.  Martin is a confident man.  Ideally for Tennessee Tech he will keep attacking, possibly attracting fouls or misplays by Kingsley and the Arkansas frontline.

Prediction: Arkansas wins 82-75.

Lastly, Southeast Missouri seeks their first win of the year against a potential pro, Stefan Moody and Ole Miss.  Moody takes 28.7% of his team’s shots.  He is explosive in traffic and scores from outside too.  Think Nate Robinson with a decent jumper.  Moody will be a nightmare for a program trying to find its way.

Prediction: Ole Miss wins easily, 78-51.

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