Today pretty much marks the slow change of focus from football to basketball here at the blog. Sure, there are still two games left in the season, but the likelihood of a bowl game is very low after the Michigan loss. There is little else to follow other than our inevitable loss this Saturday at Michigan State and the Bucket Game at home. It is a lost season for football, where five wins would be an achievement at this point after some were expecting nine wins. The early season of basketball is the perfect ramp-up as the football season winds down.
Early season basketball is often a case of severe mismatches. Teams like Howard and Alcorn State take big paychecks for near sure losses at bigger programs. This part of the season is rife with blowouts, where the ESPN crawl has scores like 105-56, 99-64, 76-40, and others. The Southwestern Athletic Conference, home to the Alcorn State Braves, is a prime example of this principle. This conference's representative rarely is not in the play-in game at NCAA Tournament time. Already they have started the season collectively at 1-14. Alcorn State has been to the NCAA's six times, with a 3-6 overall record.
They last made the NCAA's in 2002, when they lost the play-in game to Siena. Last year they were about as far from the NCAA Tournament as you can get.
2010-11 Record: 0-2
2009-10 Record: 2-29 (2-16 SWAC)
Blog Representation: HBCU Sports Blog (all Historically Black Colleges)
Series with Purdue: First Meeting
Alcorn State is probably the worst team we will face this season. Their 2-29 record was near the bottom along with Fordham (2-26), Marist (1-29), and Bryant (1-29) in Division I. They have already had a tour of Texas this season, losing to Texas A&M (88-56) and Houston (88-68). Both of those teams were NCAA teams a year ago, so we're the third straight tournament team they are facing. I actually feel sorry for the kids from Alcorn State. As one of the poorest Division I programs in the nation they often can't afford home games. They do not play in their home gym until January 4th against Prairie View A&M, and they have no non-conference home games. Last season they started 0-24 before beating Mississippi Valley State.
These are kids that are trying hard. They are on scholarship and playing for their education. They have to truly love the game to take the beating that they take almost nightly, especially outside of the conference. Their current crop of players does not have a victory over a Division I program outside of SWAC play. Alcorn State last beat a non-SWAC D-I opponent on December 13, 2003 when they beat Jacksonville State 70-68.
Marquis Baker, a 6'2" junior guard leads them in scoring at 13.5 points per game. He is a JuCo transfer that had 23 against Houston, but struggled against Texas A&M. 5'10" guard Kendrick McDonald is also averaging in double figures at 12.5 points per game. He had 17 against Houston for his best game of the two. Chris Davenport, a 6'6" junior forward, had 11 points in the Texas A&M loss but fouled out after 20 minutes of play.
This is not a strong rebounding team. They average just 35 boards per game (204th in Division I) with Shaunvanta Ingram and Keith Searcy leading the team at four per game. JaJuan Johnson should have a field day in what will likely be limited minutes. Alcorn State has four players at 6'8", and most of those guys haven't played a lot of minutes.
Outside of Baker and McDonald the minutes have been fairly evenly spread around as the braves search for an identity. 12 players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game, mostly because their games are over early and the bench gets to play a lot late. They average 17 turnovers per game and only six assists, which is not a high ratio for success.
Obviously, any time we face a team that ranks in the 300's nationally in many categories we're going to be favored by a lot. Alcorn State ranks 304th in field goal percentage at 32.5 percent. We just held a team to worse than 25% so their chances dwindle even more. We should be able to name our score and margin of victory in this one.
Goals for this game:
- Stay Healthy - We clearly can't take this for granted at all.
- Get minutes for the developing bigs - Sandi Marcius, Travis Carroll, and Patrick Bade will likely log a lot of minutes that will pay dividends later.
- Keep looking for a third option - Yesterday it was John Hart and D.J. Byrd. Terone Johnson will also see some good looks.
- Limit turnovers from Kelsey Barlow and Lewis Jackson - GDB and LewJack need to attack the basket and get to the line. I want to see how they handle free throws and if we can rely on them.