As a general rule, once Conference play starts I always consider the home teams first. Even the lesser teams. For example, last year Indiana finished next-to-last in Big Ten play with a Conference record of 7-13. However, in Conference play at the State Farm Center they were 5-4 with wins over both Maryland and then third-ranked Michigan State. While that’s a Power 5 Conference it applies almost universally.
For example, the SWAC was only ranked ahead of the MEAC, so, not a very good one. And yet, Southern University, a team that went 7-25 overall, had a 6-3 record in their own gym. So, don’t ever overlook home underdogs in Conference play.
Another important factor that we can use right now is non-Conference strength of schedule, and I’m reminded of Radford both this year and last. This season they went into Big South play with a record of 5-7 and promptly rattled off five straight wins. The reason is simple. They played the 15th toughest non-Conference schedule in the nation this season. Once they started playing in the Big South it was as if Spring Training were over.
A team that might fit that bill this year is Nichols State, who played the 4th most difficult schedule before Southland play began. Lo and behold they are 6-2 in Conference play and for added measure they are undefeated at home.
The other really big takeaway with them is statistically. Overall, they are 258th in the nation in turnovers. However, that was against the elite teams, for the most part. Since Conference play started they are turning the ball over the second least. I could go on, but suffice it to say most all of their numbers are just that much better in the Southland Conference.
Another factor to keep in mind is a teams’ pace. It’s generally accepted that the home team will influence the tempo more often than not. Having said that, a fast-paced team that goes on the road to play a sluggish team is often at a disadvantage. The can get taken out of what they like to do and hence become either frustrated, impatient, or both. Perhaps the best example of that this season is the Oregon Ducks whose pace is ranked 324th (out of 353 teams). As of today they’ve lost four games, and all four were to teams that forced the pace. And, two of those losses were on the road to teams (Colorado and Washington State) they were expected to beat.
And for good measure, here’s a game I really like Wednesday.
Mississippi State -2 over Arkansas at Bookmaker.eu
I’m gonna call Arkansas pseudo pretenders. I know they think the officials in the Kentucky game didn’t do well by them, but the fact is they lost and they’ve lost to both top 40 teams they’ve faced and lost at Western Kentucky. They just haven’t proven they belong as serious contenders in the SEC,and in fact have played the easiest Conference schedule through five games.
Mississippi State is playing well right now. After they were smoked in Tuscaloosa they lost by one at LSU and destroyed UGA and Missouri. They’ve been at home for over a week.
On paper Mississippi State has the #1 three point defense in the SEC, which is where Arkansas likes to play offense. The Bulldogs like to play offense under the basket, and they’ve got a massive length advantage. And in SEC play they’re a 77% FT shooting team.
The Bulldogs have lost just five home games in two years and six isn’t happening Wednesday.