BTH Gameday: Middle Tennessee has experienced team, coach for UALR matchup

When UALR travels to Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. tonight, it will match the Sun Belt Conference’s most inexperienced team against the conference’s most experience team. It will also match the two longest-tenured coaches in the league in UALR’s Steve Shields and Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis.

UALR (11-8, 5-3), the Sun Belt’s West Division leader, is a 15-point underdog tonight to Middle Tennessee (14-4, 6-1), the East Division leader.

Much as it did last year, Middle Tennessee is hyping this as one of its biggest home games of the year. Last year, they scheduled a blue-out for fans. Tonight, it’s a white out and a larger than normal crowd is expected.

Davis has 104 conference victories in 11 seasons at Middle Tennessee while Shields has 76. But Shields has five division championships to Davis’ two. And Shields has one trip to the NCAA Tournament to Davis’ none.


We reported earlier in the week that Middle Tennessee’s Jacquez Rozier is out for the season with a broken hand. The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro reported today that senior guard James Gallman has a concussion and will be a game-time decision and that junior guard Tweety Knight has an injured foot. UALR is expected to be without freshman guard John Gillon again tonight.


UALR and Middle Tennessee are two of the four schools in the nation in which the head coaches of the men’s and women’s basketball teams are the all-time leaders in victories at the school. UALR’s Steve Shields and Joe Foley are UALR’s all-time leaders while Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis and Rick Insell are Middle Tennessee’s all-time leaders. The others are Gonzaga and Sacred Heart.


Avoid the runs: UALR has lost each of its three Sun Belt Conference games because it couldn’t avoid sustained scoring runs by its opponents. UALR has to avoid runs of 10 or more points by Middle Tennessee tonight.
Let it fly: Middle Tennessee is 14-0 when it shoots a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. UALR is 11-2 when it shoots a higher percentage. Tonight’s winner likely shoots the higher percentage from the field.
Rebound: We’ve seen some signs of life from UALR concerning rebounding. The Trojans can’t afford to get murdered on the boards tonight. Keep rebounds close and they’ve got a chance.


Middle Tennessee is a 15-point favorite as of this morning. The line opened at 16.5 points yesterday.


Not surprisingly, everyone is taking Middle Tennessee tonight:
OmniRankings (9-1): MTSU 75, UALR 55
Real Time RPI (15-3): MTSU 73, UALR 58
Jeff Sagarin (14-4): MTSU 86, UALR 70
The Sports Network (13-4): MTSU 70, UALR 60
CBS Sportsline (11-7):  MTSU 75, UALR 57
BTH Average (13-5): MTSU 75.8, UALR 60.0