While I was posting about Tennessee State's improved team yesterday, a wicked story broke about the Tigers: Bruce Price has suffered ANOTHER ACL tear and will miss the entire season. Tough break for TSU, and Price has to be very frustrated. Here's to a full and speedy recovery for Bruce.
We march on with the Hilloppers two opponents in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving weekend: the defending national champion Florida Gators and Ball State.
Florida Gators (33-6, 10-6 SEC, NCAA Champions)
The defending national champs return their TOP SEVEN players. Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, and Walter Hodge all return. View their gaudy stats here, because I'm not going to type them all out. The Gators also added New York's Mr. Basketball in Jonathan Mitchell, a 6-7 forward who broke Ben Gordon's all-time scoring record at Mt. Vernon High School--so, I guess he can play. They have two other capable freshmen coming in as well. Suffice it to say that Florida is stacked on top of stacked. There is not much more that I can add to what is already being said about the juggernaut Gators.
What makes them so good, besides a stockpile of talent? They had the #3 most efficient offense in the country and the #6 most efficient defense last season. That will win you some games. They were #1 in KenPom's overall ratings by a wide margin. Their eFG% was 56.9%. They shot 39.1% as a team from 3-pt land. In fact the only area in which the Gators were even close to mortal was in taking care of the ball (#139 in turnover %).
They are good. REALLY good. The Tops will, uh, have their hands full in this one.
Ball State Cardinals (10-18, 6-12 MAC)
BSU slogged home with a 1-5 mark in their last six games last season. But, the Cardinals have some reasons to be optimistic about this year. First, they return All-MAC performer Skip Mills (17.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg). The 6-3 forward ended the season by scoring 34 and 38 points in the last two games of the season last year. He is a MAC POY candidate. BSU also returns PG Peyton Stovall who went down with an injury in the second game of the season last year. As a sophomore, Stovall averaged 16.7 ppg. The Cardinals have an excellent tandem in these two hombres. Forward Deandre Peyton is a solid performer up front as well.
Outside of those three, there are lots of question marks. BSU lost PG Maurice Acker (10.2 ppg, 4+ apg) and their top shot-blocker in Charles Bass. The bench was fairly thin last year, so the Cardinals are going to need multiple players to step up if they want to challenge in the MAC. They have six new faces that will get plenty of oppotunities to contribute.
Last year, BSU played a slow pace (#262), bad offense (#231), and pedestrian defense (#177). Their strengths were interior defense and defensive rebounding. But, teams lit it up from 3-land on the Cardinals at a 38.2% clip (#308) and Ball State sent opponents to the FT line more than any other team in the entire country! They were #334 and dead last in opponent's FT rate. They have a couple of nice players and some young blood coming in this season, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
Tomorrow, we hit UAB and Eastern Kentucky.