The Blue Raiders are ready to resume Sun Belt conference play after finishing their non-conference schedule last week. After beating in-state rival Vanderbilt to top off an impressive non-conference slate, Middle has a lot of momentum heading into the Sun Belt season, but to avoid any Holiday slumber, here are some keys to Middle staying unbeaten in conference play.
Control Jerome Frink
This Florida International team is on the up-and-up. With new head coach, Richard Pitino, the Golden Panthers have a solid upswing in their program, that’s due in part to their biggest signee from the 2012 class, Jerome Frink. Frink is a 2-star recruit from the 2012 class, but he’s definitely made a difference as a freshman. In his first nine games, Frink has 2 double-doubles, including a 22 and 10 outing against Boston College to start the season.
Frink is capable for putting up points, but most importantly for the Blue Raiders, they’ll have to control the small forward on the glass. He’s currently FIU’s leading rebounder, averaging about 7 a game, a stat that no Blue Raider can boast.
If Middle wants to extend their winning streak in the conference, they’ll have to find a forward to control Frink consistently throughout the game.
Keep It In The 60s
While the Golden Panthers are only 4-5 on the season, there is a consistent stat throughout all of their wins – high point totals. This season, FIU is 3-1 when they score more than 70 points, and just 1-4 when they score less than 70. On the other hand, the Blue Raiders are 9-2 when they hold opponents under 70, and just 0-1 when teams surpass the 70-point mark.
Florida International can definitely score, but Middle Tennessee is one of the most efficient defensive teams in the country, and their defense will be a key again against FIU.
Dish The Dimes
The Blue Raiders defense may be one of the nation’s best, but their efficiency offensively has struggled so far this season. However, one statistic Middle can track closely to their success on the court is how well they pass the ball for scores. They currently average just less than 14 assist a game through their first 12 games. When the Blue Raiders have 12 or more assist they’re unbeaten this season. However in their three losses, Middle has not hit that mark.
The guard play in college basketball is huge already, but with the set of skilled guards Middle Tennessee has, and the inconsistencies their offense has seen this season, hitting this mark in assist is a must to continue their win streak.
No Holiday Layoff
All stats aside, the biggest factor going into this matchup may be the holiday season. Games during a school’s winter break are always easy trap games, and when you add in the fact that Middle is coming off a big emotional win against Vanderbilt, this game is the perfect equation for an upset. There’s a good chance attendance could be low, and the Blue Raiders could be looking forward to their big matchup with the Sun Belt’s preseason West division favorites in North Texas. Its games like this where a coach’s preparation of his team can truly be seen.
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