Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham yells out to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)
The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (2-2) — one of the better teams in the Ohio Valley Conference so far this season — take on the Incarnate Word Cardinals (0-4) Friday at the McDermott Convocation Center in the Alamo City. Tip off is set for 1 pm ET.
SEMO enters the contest as favorites according to oddsmakers and KenPom predicts the Redhawks will win 75-69.
Southeast Missouri State
O 144.5 (-110)
U 144.5 (-110)
Odds as of November 25th, 2021.
Sophomore guard Josh Morgan has put up 17.5 points per game to lead the way for the Cardinals, while senior guard RJ Glasper has been UIW’s key facilitator. The 6-foot guard has put up 12.3 points and 4.5 assists an outing.
Meantime, the Redhawks are led by Eric Reed Jr., who is averaging 14.8 points and are one of the better teams in college basketball at getting to the charity stripe. The Cardinals have attempted the eighth-most free throws in all of Division I, averaging 27.5 free throws per game.
Head coach Brad Korn had a rough start to his inaugural season in Cape Girardeau last years, starting out 2-6 — with three of those losses coming in overtime. But the Hawks rebounded to finish the bumpy season 11-16 and Korn clearly won over the locker room, convincing almost everyone of importance to return this season. His team picked up a solid eight-point victory Monday.
HIGHLIGHTS | @SEMOMBB beats Missouri Baptist 71-63 on Monday night pic.twitter.com/6I4DGCY4xY
— SEMO Redhawks 🏆🏆 (@SEMORedhawks) November 23, 2021
One of the strengths of SEMO is its backcourt. Reed entered the season as the third-option on offense after DQ Nicholas and Chris Harris — known primarily for his 3-point shooting. But, the 6-foot-2 junior from Baton Rouge has enjoyed a nice start as the team’s leading scorer.
Meantime, Harris and Nicholas’ ability to drive the lane and get to the line cannot be diminished. The pair racked up a combined 243 free throw attempts last season and finished with the top-2 individual free throw rates in the OVC. The Redhawks are currently rated 5th in Division I by KenPom at getting to the line.
When scouting the frontcourt, the emergence of Manny Patterson has been fun to watch. Inserted into the post role following an injury to Nolan Taylor, the 6-foot-8 Chicago native used his wily, long-limbed frame to bother opposing shots at the rim. Nana Akenten, another plus athlete, returns to flank Patterson in the paint. The Nebraska transfer took some time to transition from the Big Ten to the OVC, but he eventually found his groove as a ‘3-and-D’ tweener.
The Redhawks offense isn’t too complicated, but will it be enough to overcome a Cardinals team hungry for its first win?
2022 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
“There’s No Basement in the Alamo!”
All due respect to Carson Cunningham’s squad — but the Cardinals enter Friday’s tilt with a 352nd overall rating on KenPom. That means there’s only six teams (out of 358 Division I programs rated) that are worse. And, yes, Incarnate Word is at the bottom of the Southland. Cunningham’s charges are are coming of a 22-point loss to the Red Raiders in South Padre Island last weekend.
🔥🔥🔥🔥@Kevin_McCullar hit a career-high four 3s and had a team-high 17 points against UIW. pic.twitter.com/WOoYDY6QGm
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) November 21, 2021
The Cardinals play at a tortoise pace offensively – they were the slowest team in the Southland last season and have consistently been among the slowest in the country during Cunningham’s tenure. Shooting is the key for this offense – UIW led the league in 3P% and was 2nd in 3PA rate last season and ranked 34th nationally in 3P%. The team’s ability from distance has been one of the line bright spots so far this season, ranking 26th overall.
The Cards are also very good at the foul line, ranking fourth in the country in offensive free throw shooting percentage and eighth in defensive free throw shooting percentage. After that,though, it’s slim pickings looking for positives.
Glasper, an Oral Roberts transfer, is a talented scorer who could eventually overtake Morgan as the team’s leading scorer. His ability to convert off ball screens and in isolation situations are a definite strength of a bottom-feeder looking for positives.
DII transfer Johnny Hughes III is averaging 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game so far and his versatility and athleticism are his best assets. Meantime, freshman Ben Griscti, a stretch 5, is putting up 9.5 and 3.8, respectively and has given Cunningham quality minutes. He’s mobile for his height and has ball skills to play with it on the perimeter.
While UIW has played a more challenging schedule (the Cardinals also lost 87-60 to Baylor) than SEMO, the Redhawks are the play here. Korn’s crew is flush with a distinct size advantage and their defensive tenacity is impressive.
Bigger picture … Incarnate Word is improving. But, I don’t see the Cardinals ready to win just yet.
Pick: Southeast Missouri State -5.0 (-110)