Saturday, April 29, 2017

Strong start breeds strong finish

LUT WILLIAMS BCSP Editor A good indication of which Div. I black college basketball teams will do well once conference play starts is how well they do in non conference play. Given that metric, not many teams are going to be good this year. On the NCAA Div. I level, only two HBCU teams – […]

LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor
A good indication of which Div. I black college basketball teams will do well once conference play starts is how well they do in non conference play.

Given that metric, not many teams are going to be good this year.

On the NCAA Div. I level, only two HBCU teams – 7-1 Tennessee State out of the Ohio Valley Conference and 5-3 North Carolina Central out of the MEAC – can boast winning records so far.

The Tigers, under third-year head coach Dana Ford, have built their record with six wins on the road against mid-major competition. Their only blemish so far is an 83-59 loss at crosstown Nashville foe Vanderbilt of the SEC.

Ford, 32, the youngest Div. I head basketball coach, won the 2015 OVC Coach of the Year award after leading the Tigers to a 20-11 record last year and a berth in the postseason CollegeInsider.com Tournament. They return several of the key components in last year’s run.

TSU features three-double figure scorers in 6-7 senior Wayne Martin (13.1 ppg.), 6-5 senior Tahjere McCall (13.1) and 6-4 senior Jordan Reed (11.1). Six-nine junior KenDarrius Hamilton (9.8), 6-4 junior Darreon Roddick (8.8) and 6-3 junior Delano Spencer (8.1) are a solid supporting cast.

The Tigers will face ACC members N. C. State (Dec. 10) and Duke (Dec. 19) before beginning conference play on Dec. 31 with a nationally televised (CBS Sports Network) game vs. Murray State

Three of N. C. Central’s five wins have come on the road with the biggest a 62-52 win at Missouri of the SEC on Nov. 28.

Seventh-year head coach LeVelle Moton is getting double-figure scoring from his senior backcourt of 6-5 off-guard Patrick Cole (20.5 ppg.) and 6-foot point guard Dajuan Graf (12.0 ppg.). Six-six junior forward Pablo Rivas adds 10.8 points per game and is atop league stats in field goal percentage (.833). Cole, currently third in the MEAC in scoring, leads the Eagles and is second in the league at 8.0 rebounds per game.

The Eagles have three more Div. I road game vs. Coastal Carolina (Dec. 10), LSU (Dec. 13) and McNeese State (Dec. 17). They return home and begin conference play on Jan. 7 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Three SWAC teams are at the .500 mark – 4-4 Texas Southern, 3-3 Grambling State and 3-3 Southern.

TSU, who plays its first 16 games on the road, won three straight over Rice (71-68), LaSalle (77-76) and James Madison (67-56) before dropping its last three. The Tigers are being led in scoring by its new backcourt of transfer guards Zach Lofton (21.0 ppg., 2nd in SWAC) and Dulani Robinson (12.9 ppg.). Reigning SWAC Player of the Year, 6-7 forward Derrick Griffin, is averaging 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds and shooting .771 from the field.

Head coach Mike Davis’s troops have a tough finish to their brutal non-conference schedule with five games before beginning conference play at Alcorn State on Jan. 2.

They face No. 11 Louisville Saturday (Dec. 10), then travel to Cincinnati (Dec. 13), LSU (Dec. 17), TCU (Dec. 18) and Baylor (Dec. 21). TSU plays its first 13 non-conference games on the road and then plays its first three SWAC games in January on the road.

Southern dropped its first three games before winning three straight. Six-four senior forward Shawn Prudhomme is pacing the Jags and the SWAC scoring at 22.7 points per game. Prudhomme is shooting 56% (23 of 41) from 3-point range. Point guard Trelun Banks is putting in 12.3 ppg. and leads the league with 5.7 assists per game. The Jags have a tough three game road stretch coming up vs. Baylor (Dec. 14), UAB (Dec. 18) and Nebraska (Dec. 20)

The only Div. I win for Grambling State and head coach Shawn Walker was a 59-55 win at home vs. North Carolina A&T.

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