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November 9, 2012
Preview: Blue Raiders vs Alabama State
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The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are getting national recognition in every major sport this year. While the women's basketball team is used to the acclaim, the men's team finds themselves catching the eye of national analysts this year as well - and for good reason.
The strong core of returning players from last year's team include seniors Marcos Knight, JT Sulton, Raymond Cintron, and Bruce Massey. Knight averaged 11.8 points per game while snatching 5.2 rebounds per game. Knight also shot 50 percent from the field and 30 percent from the 3-point line while playing almost 28 minutes per game. He also led the team in scoring six times last season and his season high was 19 coming against Minnesota and North Texas.
Forward JT Sulton averaged 25 minutes while netting 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 2011. Sulton also shot 53 percent from the field and 74 percent from the charity stripe. Sulton led the team in scoring four times last season and produced a season-high 17 points against Florida International.
Sharpshooter Raymond Cintron had a great year from long distance, connecting on 43 percent of his 3-point attempts and 90 percent from the free throw line. Cintron finished 2011 averaging 8.4 points per game with an average of 22.5 minutes of action. Cintron led the team in scoring four times last year with his best being an 18-point output against the Ole Miss Rebels.
Finally, Bruce Massey started nearly every game last year and played an average of 28 minutes per game. Massey averaged 6.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and a team-leading 3.9 assists per game, but his defensive prowess is where he made a name for himself. While not known for his offensive output, Massey did lead the Blue Raiders in scoring four times with his best performance coming in the NIT Tournament against in-state rival Tennessee in Knoxville where he had 20 points.
While the Blue Raiders have plenty of firepower in their starting lineup, the depth of this team shows no drop-off, whatsoever. Reservists Jason Jones, Kerry Hammonds, James Gallman, Shawn Jones and Torin Walker will all see their fair share of playing time this year, including some starts of their own whenever head coach Kermit Davis sees fit.
Perhaps the most intrigue surrounding this team revolves around the two newcomers - Trantell Knight and the highly touted Neiko Hunter. Hunter will be looked to as Laron Dendy's replacement, but his game is will not mirror Dendy's. Whereas Dendy was a bruiser in the paint, Hunter can work off the ball and create his own shots - which includes a lethal mid-range game and above average long range touch.
As for Knight, he will push Massey for minutes at the point. A gifted defender, Knight also possesses quick hands on defense and will be a nightmare for guards around the Sun Belt to deal with.
Stephawn Brown, Ryan Watts, and Luther Page are some key returning players who played in, and started most of last season.
Brown averaged 4.4 points while playing 24.4 minutes per game last year. Watts averaged 6.1 points in 18 minutes.
Page averaged 3.1 points on 17 minutes of action per game, but shot a paltry 37 percent from the charity stripe.
JUCO transfer Josh Freelove has been impressive in both of ASU's exhibition matches this season. The junior average 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in those two contests.
The Hornets will have 11 freshmen on their squad this year and only four total players returning from last year so this appears to be a rebuilding year. Their peers seem to think so, too, as ASU was picked to finish sixth in the SWAC.
However, I see the Blue Raiders winning this game, and winning big. The starters will get the ball rolling early, and I expect the reserves to keep their foot on the gas down the stretch.
I know this prediction is a major blowout, but there just are not any areas where I would give ASU an advantage in this matchup.
Look for the Blue Raiders to come out hot, and knowing that they need this win with a tough schedule coming up, they will not mess around with Alabama State.
Middle Tennessee NEWS