Central Connecticut St. (2-2) vs. Florida A&M (2-1)
When: Sunday, 11/18, 9pm
Where: Montego Bay, Jamaica
How to Watch: CBS Sports Network
Florida A&M- 348/343
Kenpom- CCSU 73-64 (80%)
T-Rank- CCSU 72-64 (81%)
Possible Starting Lineups:
G- Tyson Batiste, 6’2” Jr.
G- Ian Krishnan, 6’2” Fr.
F- Tyler Kohl, 6’5” Sr.
F- Jamir Coleman, 6’7” Jr.
C- Deion Bute, 6’9” Sr.
G- Justin Ravenel, 6’1” Sr.
G- Richard Anderson, 6'3" Jr.
F- Tracy Hector, 6'5" Jr.
F- Bryce Moragne, 6’5” Soph.
F- D.J. Jones, 6’9” Soph.
*3 players started for the first time on Friday against Campbell, so my confidence level in this starting lineup is ~25%.
About Florida A&M:
Wins: A-#322 Jacksonville (65-50)
Losses: N-#249 Campbell (66-59)
Robert McCallum begins his second year has head man at Florida A&M, after previous stops at Western Michigan (2002-2003) and South Florida (2004-2007). There was some success at Western Michigan, two 10-8 finishes in the MAC, however, he finished just 10-54 in league play during his time at USF, which included two years in CUSA and two season in the Big East.
The Rattlers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2007, when Mike Gillespie won the MEAC Tourney for his second NCAA Tournament berth. Unfortunately for Gillespie and the school, he was fired that summer after the head coach was arrested on a misdemeanor stalking charge. Since then, there’s been little success for the program; their lone season finishing above .500 in league play came in 2008 (9-7), and they were just 13-37 in the MEAC in three seasons under previous coach Byron Samuels.
This season, FAMU was picked 7th in the 12-team MEAC by the coaches (8th in Blue Ribbon), and somewhat surprisingly went out and won on the road at Jacksonville by 15 on opening night. Sure, Jacksonville might not be very good this season (they are currently ranked #322 in Kenpom, and lost each of their first three games by at least 15 points), but any non-conference win for a MEAC school is notable.
In two D1 games so far this year, the Rattlers have performed really well defensively; they held Jacksonville to just 0.7 PPP in their win, and on Friday held Chris Clemons and Campbell to 1.01 PPP. It's too early to spot any trends, but it appears McCallum has a lot of quickness on the perimeter which they utilize to try and force turnovers and get out on shooters.
FAMU is led by senior guard Justin Ravenel (more on him below) and junior guard Richard Anderson, who transferred from Oklahoma. The 6'3" Anderson has made 7 of his 9 three-point attempts. 6'5" sophomore Bryce Moragne has already played more minutes than he did as a first year player, and is the team's best rebounder (6.7 rpg). And 6'5" point-forward Tracy Hector (8.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.3 apg), a transfer from Kennesaw St., is possibly the team's best all around player and interior scorer.
Point guard play has been a bugaboo for the Rattlers, as three players (sophomore Kamron Reaves, freshman MJ Randolph and junior Nasir Cole) have all gotten chances; unfortunately all have stuggled mightily.
Size has also been an issue; against Campbell, the only player taller than 6'5" who saw the floor was 6'9" sophomore DJ Jones. However, Jones is just 3 for 13 from the field on the season, and hasn't rebounded particularly well. Ifeanyi Umezurike, who transferred in from NEC foe St. Francis University, got a DNP against Campbell but is also an option up front.
Player to Watch: Justin Ravenel
The Rattlers are without a true “go-to” guy, and Ravenel probably isn’t going to emerge as a high usage player; last season as a starter during conference season, he averaged a 15.4% usage rate, which is more “role player” level. However, he filled that role really well; his 126.4 O-Rating was tops in the league, he shot 42% from three, and he rarely turned it over (5.6%, lowest in the MEAC). Overall he averaged 8.6 ppg.
However, at least in the early going, it appears McCallum is asking more of him this season. Ravenel is 9 for 14 from three (64.3%), and has a ridiculous 147.3 O-Rating at a respectable 18% usage, and really went off in the loss to Campbell; 25 points on 8 of 12 from three, plus 7 rebounds and 2 assists.
While Ravenel is a three-point dynamo, he's not much of a slasher; he's just 1 for 4 on two-pointers this season, and last year he attempted just 21 shots at the rim compared to 150 three-point attempts. Getting over the top of screens will be imperative.
Things to Watch:
The Three Ball
Against D1 opponents, FAMU is shooting 56% as a team from three, which is tops in the entire nation. Chew on that for a minute.
Is that sustainable? It's highly doubtful; it's literally two players who are doing all the damage. Justin Ravenel and Richard Anderson, who are shooting a sizzling 16 for 23 combined. The rest of the roster is just 3 for 11.
It'll be important that the Blue Devils identify Ravenel and Anderson, and overplay them on the perimeter, allowing them to try and beat them inside the arc.
The Three Ball On the Other End
Ya know, CCSU hasn't been too shabby from three either. The Blue Devils are now shooting 45% from deep, and certainly have more shooters than the Rattlers; Krishnan (50%), Kohl (45%) and Hugley (36%) have been the bulk shooters; but Kashaun Hicks knocked down two in the loss to Austin Peay, Jamir Coleman is 3 for 5, and Tyson Batiste is 2 for 4.
Here's the thing though; FAMU held Jacksonville and Campbell to a combined 8 for 39 from three (20.5%). Now, obviously that's heavily skewed by Jacksonville's dismal 1 for 17, but getting open looks may be difficult on Sunday night.
The Size Advantage
Even if the Rattlers cover the three-point line well, CCSU should be able to play to its strength; the frontcourt. It doesn't appear that FAMU has anyone that can match up with a guy like Deion Bute down low (Jones is listed at 6'9" 200 lbs.), and Jamir Coleman, Joe Hugley, Karrington Wallace, and Tyler Kohl should have little trouble getting to the rim.
It's important to note that, while Campbell didn't have a ton of success at the rim in their win over the Rattlers on Friday, their roster isn't really built to take advantage of a small team like FAMU. Campbell's biggest starter was 6'7" 210 lbs., and had no other rotation player taller than 6'6" or heavier than 190 lbs.
It feels weird to say it, but Donyell Marshall's version of Central Connecticut State isn't really built to play a heavy guard-oriented team like Florida A&M. This game is truly a battle of different styles; FAMU is small and quick, while CCSU is bigger than any team the Rattlers have faced so far this season.
The key here is Justin Ravenel; if CCSU can shut him down, I don't see how Florida A&M can score enough points to win this game. And theoretically, this is where having a former NBA player as your head coach should come in handy; Marshall knows what its like to try and take a player like Ravenel out of the game.
I know Florida A&M has a blowout win and a close loss on their resume, but this is a game an NEC contender should win. CCSU is favored by around 8 or 9 points, and if its closer than that, I'd think it would mean the Blue Devils didn't play very well.