Monday's Preview: Belmont at Marshall

    
December 18th, 2011

Monday's schedule doesn't have much in the way of games that will make a dent on the national landscape, but that doesn't mean that there are some intriguing contests to keep an eye on. One of those being Belmont (7-4) heading east to take on Marshall (7-2) in a battle of teams expected to either win or contend in their respective leagues. Rick Byrd's Bruins have lost two straight road games, most recently falling at Miami (Ohio) due in large part to their 6-for-21 performance from beyond the arc. Belmont may shoot just 34.9% from deep on the season but they score 34.7% of their points on three-pointers, so defending the line will be of utmost impotance for the Thundering Herd. 

Tom Herrion's team allows opponents to shoot 30.1% from three, a mark that ranks fourth in Conference USA and 62nd nationally. Marshall is a poor three-point shooting team (26.4%), meaning that the Herd looking to get into a contest of sorts with the Bruins would get them in trouble. The guards will offer quite the contrast in this regard, with Marshall having a pair of very good attack-minded guards in DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Kane (15.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is a 6'4" guard who has the build required to finish with contact, and he's also averaging 3.6 assists and two steals per game. Pitts (14.1 ppg, 4.8 apg) runs the show from the point, and he can be dangerous scoring as well with a 25-point outing against Iona being a solid piece of evidence.

Belmont will counter with a three-headed attack on the perimeter with Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson and Drew Hanlen. Johnson's (14.6 ppg, 5.3 apg) the leading scorer and assist man for the Bruins while also shooting 55% from the field, but it's Hanlen who is their best perimeter shooter. Hanlen (10.2 ppg, 3.7 apg) is shooting 42.6% from beyond the arc with 54 of his 79 shot attempts coming from deep. Clark is averaging 11.6 points per game on the season and ranks behind only Johnson in possession percentage (22.1%). While the Bruins are a balanced outfit on the offensive end of the floor, one of those two are the most likely to be responsible for what happens.

The play inside should be interesting to watch due to both teams relying on solid tandems. Belmont has seniors Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders, who combine to average 16.6 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Hedgepeth shoots 53% from the field while Saunders is right there with a 52% mark, and Hedgepeth is the better of the two with regards to both offensive rebounding and assists. Marshall will counter with juniors Robert Goff and Dennis Tinnon, who combine to average 19.3 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. Tinnon's making 61% of his shots in his first season in Huntington, a mark that ranks second in Conference USA.

The rebounding numbers of Goff and Tinnon underline the concern for Belmont going into Monday night: rebounding margin. The Thundering Herd have out-rebounded their opponents by 11.5 rebounds per game, and Belmont is squeaking by with a margin of plus-2.8. Part of that may be due to how much Belmont relies on the perimeter shot for their points, but they'll need Hedgepeth, Saunders and the rest of the team to hit the offensive boards when possible. Marshall grabs 17 offensive rebounds per game while averaging 67 possessions per game (2.5 fewer than Belmont). If Marshall is allowed to control the glass it could be a long night for the visitors.

In other games Monday night Davidson takes on Kansas in Kansas City, and Bob McKillop's team has a chance to win if they're able to hold their own with the Jayhawks' Thomas Robinson. After hanging with Vanderbilt throughout the Wildcats went to Charlotte and were whipped 84-61, and the nine days since have given them plenty of time to think about rebounding from that loss when not occupied with finals. De'Mon Brooks (16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is the player up front that Davidson will look to in their dealings with Robinson.

Marquette takes on LSU in Baton Rouge, and if this game were while classes were in session the Tigers may have an even better shot of winning. But Trent Johnson's team will have their hands full with Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Jae Crowder, with an upset depending on whether or not LSU can take advantage of the Golden Eagles being without the injured Chris Otule inside. Creighton's trip to Tulsa could be a tricky affair for the Bluejays and it would likely be a surprise if Cleveland State didn't end the night with another BCS AQ victim on their resume as they visit USF. Out west there's the opportunity to see whether or not 11-1 Wyoming is "for real" as they visit Denver, Temple visits Rice and TCU should probably be expected to win at USC.  

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at (5) Duke (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Nicholls State at (6) North Carolina (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Paul Quinn at (7) Baylor
9:00 PM (11) Marquette at LSU (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Davidson at (12) Kansas (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at (13) Florida (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Cornell at (19) Illinois (ESPN3)
6:30 PM Howard at (20) Indiana (BTN)
8:30 PM UMKC at (23) Michigan State (BTN)
8:00 PM (24) Creighton at Tulsa
8:00 PM Longwood at (25) Vanderbilt

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM La Salle at Delaware
7:00 PM Cleveland State at USF (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Alabama A&M at Georgia Tech
7:00 PM Ball State at IUPUI
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at East Carolina
7:00 PM Southern University at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Alabama State at Clemson (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Lipscomb at Memphis (CSS)
7:00 PM Citadel at James Madison
7:00 PM North Florida at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Belmont at Marshall
7:00 PM Tennessee Tech at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Utah Valley at Maine
7:00 PM Campbell at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Akron
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Colgate
7:00 PM Milligan at East Tennessee State
7:00 PM Albany at St. Francis (NY)
7:30 PM Sacred Heart at Notre Dame
7:30 PM USC Upstate at Florida Gulf Coast
7:30 PM Coppin State at Charlotte
8:00 PM Florida A&M at Auburn
8:00 PM Reinhardt at Jacksonville State
8:00 PM Wyoming at Denver (Root RM)
8:00 PM Central Arkansas at Iowa (BTN.com)
8:00 PM Rockhurst at Loyola (IL)
8:00 PM Hastings College at Nebraska Omaha
8:00 PM Loras at Northern Iowa
8:00 PM Central Methodist at Northwestern State
8:00 PM Southern Methodist at Southeast Missouri State
8:00 PM Le Moyne-Owen at Tennessee State
8:00 PM Wayland Baptist Univ at UTSA
8:05 PM Georgia Southern at South Alabama
8:05 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Southern Illinois (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Lyon College at Arkansas State
8:05 PM Texas A&M-CC at Missouri State
8:05 PM Newman at Wichita State
8:15 PM Morehead State at Binghamton
8:30 PM Western Illinois at Illinois-Chicago
9:00 PM Texas Southern at Colorado State
9:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Colorado
9:00 PM Fresno State at Boise State (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM Temple at Rice (CSS/TCN)
9:00 PM Portland at Utah
9:00 PM McNeese State at UTEP
9:00 PM Mayville State at Weber State
10:00 PM Southern Miss at Arizona State (FSN)
10:00 PM UC Riverside at San Diego State
10:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at Stanford
10:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at UNLV
10:00 PM Kennesaw State at Saint Mary's
10:30 PM UCSB at California
10:30 PM TCU at USC
11:05 PM Eastern NM at Long Beach State