The newest edition of the Three-Point Play is officially here, and with it comes plenty of insight into college basketball in the Nashville area this week.
There’s definitely plenty to talk about with several intriguing local games on the schedule, so let’s jump right in.
1. MTSU looking to make another statement against Belmont
We said last week that the MTSU Blue Raiders had a chance to make a statement against the Auburn Tigers. And that’s exactly what happened.
Despite the fact that Bruce Pearl’s team entered Bridgestone Arena this past Saturday scoring over 90 points per game, it didn’t stop MTSU from finding a way to win 88-81 in overtime.
The win moved MTSU to 6-2 on the season, with the two losses coming to Murray State and VCU.
But now with the Great Alaska Shootout title and a win over Auburn under its belt, the Blue Raiders face their most interesting challenge of the season thus far.
High-scoring Belmont will head to Murfreesboro on Thursday night for what should be a thrilling game from start to finish.
The Bruins, like Auburn, have no trouble scoring. Belmont is now at 84.5 points per game on the year, with Evan Bradds (18.7 PPG) and Craig Bradshaw (16.5 PPG) leading the way.
However, the problem for Belmont is that they haven’t exactly been consistent on the road this season. After winning their first game of the season at Marquette, the Bruins have only managed to go 2-4 away from home. The competition has certainly been a big reason for that, as Belmont has lost at Arizona State, Evansville, BYU, and Valparaiso.
At this point, MTSU deserves to be lumped in their in terms of challenging road tests. It’s hard to see this game being anything but close the entire way.
Belmont wants to prove that it has learned from these difficult road games early in the season. MTSU wants to prove that it is a mid-major worth keeping an eye on.
No matter the outcome, this game is a must-watch.
2. Lipscomb trying to stop TSU’s hot streak
Belmont and MTSU will likely get the main event treatment when it comes to Thursday night basketball in the mid-state, but don’t sleep on a sneaky good game between Lipscomb and TSU.
TSU has won five in a row and enters the game with a huge amount of momentum with a 7-2 record overall.
Lipscomb, on the other hand, is perhaps in the worst spot it’s been in all year. The Bisons have lost five of six, but the biggest loss undoubtedly came last Saturday against Princeton when star guard Josh Williams suffered a torn ACL.
This Lipscomb squad was obviously struggling with Williams in the lineup, but without him, it’s going to be an even larger challenge.
Even with that development, this game should still be fun to watch.
The Tigers play five straight games away from home after this contest, so a win here would be a major boost as they get ready to hit the road until mid-January, which includes a game at Tennessee near the end of the year.
On paper, Lipscomb would appear to be the favorite. However, given the recent string of struggles and the loss of Williams, TSU may be in great shape to score its sixth straight victory.
3. Vandy facing toughest challenge of the season
Saturday night’s game against Wofford at Memorial Gym should be just what the doctor ordered for the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Wofford is 3-6 on the season and simply shouldn’t give Vandy much of a game.
After back-to-back losses to talented opponents in Baylor and Dayton, the Commodores are no longer in the AP Top 25.
So when Kevin Stallings’ team takes the floor against Wofford, you might sense a sense of excitement and relief. Excitement since the team will have not played a game in 10 days, and relief considering that the constant chatter and Final Four hype is essentially gone.
But the Wofford game will be only a slight break from the daunting non-conference schedule. That’s because three days later, Vandy travels north to take on No. 9 Purdue.
The Boilermakers are currently 11-0. If they can knock off No. 17 Butler, they’ll be 12-0 when Vandy comes to town on Tuesday.
And that game is where we find out what this Commodore team is really made of. Vandy will continue to be without Luke Kornet and Camron Justice for a while, so the Commodores will enter that game as more of an underdog than they would have been with those two healthy.
The question is, who is going to step up? Wade Baldwin has continually been the player to step up for this team this season, but it’s gonna take more than that for Vandy to win at Purdue. It’s going to take Damian Jones being more aggressive and wanting to be “the man.” It’s going to take the entire team being much more enthusiastic about rebounding.
There is no way that Vandy can beat Purdue playing like it did against Dayton. The questioning of the team’s effort simply cannot happen again.
Once again, Vandy’s back is firmly against the wall.
The response against Dayton left a lot to be desired. There has to be a better response in this week’s games against Wofford and Purdue.
If not, this season could spiral out of control in a hurry.
This week’s mid-state schedule:
Belmont at MTSU – 7 PM CT
Lipscomb at TSU – 7 PM CT
Belmont at Cleveland State – 12 PM CT
TSU vs. Alcorn State (Memphis, TN) – 4 PM CT
Wofford at Vanderbilt – 7 PM CT
Austin Peay at Lipscomb – 2 PM CT
TSU at Illinois State – 6 PM CT
MTSU at Georgia State – 6 PM CT
Vanderbilt at Purdue – 7 PM CT
Mac Walden, a senior guard for the Trevecca Trojans, was named Men’s Basketball Player of the Week by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association this week.
Walden had 24 points in a road loss to Clayton State and then added 14 more in a 83-73 road victory at McKendree University.
Trevecca host St. Joseph’s College on Thursday night.
Anything else I need to know about in Nashville hoops this week? Let me know on Twitter.