Last season, the Rebels lost to the Blue Raiders 68-56 in a game that saw Murphy Holloway go down to injury while Reggie Buckner and Terrance Henry both rode the bench for most of the game with foul trouble. Without a presence down low, the MTSU offense had its way with the hapless Rebels, shooting over 45%. After Holloway went out, the Rebels simply couldn't rebound as he accounted for 11 of their 27 boards. The Blue Raiders went on to finish the season with 27 wins and lost in the NIT quarterfinal.
This year, MTSU returns four starters and four of its top five scorers. They are led by Senior Guard Marcos Knight with 13.1 ppg. Knight is a capable three-point shooter, making 35% of his attempts from three but struggles with turnovers, averaging two per game. As buster_bluth points out in his Four Factors preview, Knight's 6.1 rebounds per game is a pretty stellar number for a guard. We need to stay on him after he puts up shots. Ideally, we'll get him into the thought process that he has to win them the game. He only averages 1.4 assists per game this season, down from 2.8 last year, and his eFG% is 42%, something that bodes well for the Rebels.
Junior forward Shawn Jones is second on the team with 10.4 ppg. Jones was relatively quiet in last season's matchup, scoring six points with little contribution elsewhere, but he's still someone we'll need to plan around. We can't let this game be decided the same way it was last season. We need our bigs to stay out of foul trouble, particularly given how minimal our depth is down low.
I think Kennedy will use this game to further his goal of sorting out the rotation. He's not going to be playing everyone just to play them tonight. This team is too good for that. We've got a logjam at the 2 guard that we need to settle on. I'm personally for Martavious Newby getting solid minutes due to his stellar perimeter defense, but I'm not sure whose minutes he should decrease. Marshall Henderson and Ladarius White are both good shooters whose playing time shouldn't be limited. So then do you let him play the 3 spot as an undersized wing? What does that do to Nick Williams or Anthony Perez (who will almost certainly move back to the wing now that Derrick Millinghaus is back in action). The backcourt just really has a lot of moving pieces that need to be settled soon.
Rebels 80 - MTSU 73
Time: 4 PM CT
If you didn't click the link to read buster_bluth's preview, do it. He uses much more statistical analysis than I've done here. A very worthwhile read.