The Byrd Cage

Racers vs. Colonels – Pick Your Poison

In Game Posts on March 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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It was easy for us, as Belmont fans accustomed to rolling though a conference schedule (hey #ASunMBB), to be overly confident for a time back in early January. Well, the time for over-confidence has come to a close. It’s March. #winthedamngame

On Friday night, Eastern Kentucky will face Murray State in the semi-finals of the OVC tournament. At first blush, it may be easy to assume that Murray will get the easy nod forward to the finals. But as any good Racer fan knows (and I know there’s at least three of you reading this) EKU will not be an easy out.

I’m not a big fan of EKU. Mainly for this reason.

However, I have to root for the Colonels tonight because I’d still rather play EKU – a known entity at this point – than wander into the mysterious forest that is the Murray State Racers this year. EKU isn’t a surprising team. In fact, they’re strikingly similar to Belmont. Score points. Move the ball. Shoot well. Never rebound.

Mike DiNunno is typically the heart and soul of the Colonel team. Though, as they faced off against SEMO in the quarterfinals Thursday, DiNunno was largely a non-factor. 10 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists is an off-night for Nunno-maker. The surprise of the quarterfinal game was EKU big man, Eric Stutz who notched 22 points, matching his career high, and 10 rebounds. Stutz averages 7.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. What does all this mean? DiNunno and Stutz may give Canaan and Daniel a hard time tonight.

Oh, you think I’m making this up Racer fans? Where were you on January 9 when the Colonels beat you in Murray by 12?

Unlike EKU’s Thursday night win which featured the aforementioned Mr. Stutz, the first meeting between EKU and Murray was led by the Colonel’s guard play – the oft-overwraught requirement for tournament success…good guard play. In that game DiNunno, Walden and Tarius Johnson combined for 57 of the Colonel’s 77 points. Our hero, Mr. Stutz, tallied a whopping goose egg in his 19 minutes of playing time. He did have one rebound though. Good on ya Stutz. Tell me, how does one play nearly half a basketball game, only attempt one shot and grab one rebound?

Murray will have to show up in this game to beat EKU and showing up is something they’ve struggled with this year. In fact, I’d venture to say that Murray would rather play any other team in the semi-finals in lieu of EKU. After all, the Colonels are the second best team in the conference. The only reason Murray earned the double-bye is because of ridiculous divisional standings. Isaiah Canaan will score twenty points (at least) because that’s what Isaiah Canaan does. Ed Daniel may score a few as well – he’ll certainly grab some rebounds. But the Racers’ success or lack thereof will rest on the shoulders of Brandon Garrett, Stacy Wilson and Dexter Fields. Belmont fans know all about Wilson and Garrett; the two scored 16 and 13 respectively against the Bruins in Murray and will surely come out with guns a blazin’ tonight.

Finally, after taking a moment to look back at the statistical differences in Belmont’s loss v Murray and EKU’s win v Murray a few things stand out. EKU and Belmont are basically the same statistically. The only major difference between the two games was the number of steals by EKU. Belmont only forced 5 of 8 Murray turnovers while EKU forced 12 of 17. EKU’s tenacious D will put them in a position to control this game but watch out for those highly talented refs of the OVC. If EKU starts sending Canaan to the line on the regular, Murray will win regardless of what the rest of his team does.

Belmont fans should worry primarily about beating TSU (#winthedamngame), a team that has every bit of the talent necessary to win the whole shooting match. But keep a close eye on the bottom half of the bracket; guaranteed to be good basketball in the Muni on Friday.

– Matt

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