Following a rebuilding year in 2014-2015, Middle Tennessee State college basketball head coach Kermit Davis enters this season with five of his top six scorers back, together with six players who either started at least nine games and/or averaged at least 8.9 minutes per game last year. Depth is not an issue for Davis, who has always had success utilizing his bench by going 10-12 deep throughout a season.
Middle Tennessee State’s strength rests in its frontcourt, which is led by senior forward Perrin Buford and junior Reggie Upshaw, Jr. Buford averaged double-figures in scoring in ten of the Blue Raiders’ last 12 games last season, and currently sits third on the team in scoring with 9.6 points per game. Upshaw led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks last season and is currently leading the Blue Raiders with 6.8 rebounds per game. The 6-7 power forward is also second on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game.
The Blue Raiders’ frontcourt is further enhanced by senior Darnell Harris, a 6-8 forward who dedicated himself to an intense training program over the summer and takes the floor in the best shape of his collegiate career. Harris is second on the team in rebounds with 5.2 per game, while also averaging 9.6 points per game.
Middle Tennessee State’s backcourt isn’t as experienced as its frontcourt, but senior guard Jaqawn Raymond brings both experience and leadership to the floor. Raymond has started the past two seasons after transferring from North Carolina State and is the team’s best perimeter defender.
The point position has created an immense level of competition during practices between sophomore Giddy Potts, who leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game and fellow sophomore Ed Simpson, who started nine games as a freshman and has earned the praise of Davis and his coaching staff.
Junior college transfer Quavius Copeland has also been a pleasant surprise, averaging 7.8 points in 20:24 minutes per game. Middle Tennessee State’s defense, which is once again the team’s strength, will be challenged by a solid VCU attack that is averaging 76.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 69.4 points per game.
The Blue Raiders’ have been 5.0 points per game better than average defensively this season, which only gives VCU a nominal 2.1 points per game advantage at the offensive end of the floor. The question entering the 2015-2016 question was whether the Blue Raiders would improve offensively after finishing 205th in offensive efficiency last year.
I am encouraged with what I have seen through the first five games as two players are averaging in double-digits, while two others are fractions of a point from averaging double-figures in points scored. Last season, no one Blue Raider averaged double-figures in scoring so Davis’ emphasis on offense during the offseason has paid immediate dividends.
My math model only favors VCU by 1.5-points and the Blue Raiders are 16-6-1 ATS in their last 23 home games. I like Middle Tennessee State plus the points in this college basketball game.
Oskeim Sports’ Free College Basketball Betting Preview & Pick: Middle Tennessee State (+4.5)