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Meet the veteran Tennessee State Tigers, challengers in the OVC and probably a challenge for NC State

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or listen to the game

Tip time: 4 p.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 10

TV: RSN/Fox Sports South (Bob Rathbun, Mike Gminski)

Online streamingESPN3

Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

Tennessee State vitals

Record: 7-1
Pomeroy ranking: 144
Best win***: 74-63 over Middle Tennessee (No. 73 in Pomeroy Ratings)
Worst loss: 83-59 to Vanderbilt (No. 77 in Pomeroy Ratings)

(***Based on opponent's Pomeroy Rating, not margin of victory.)

Adjusted tempo: 68.3 poss/40 minutes (ranks 245th)
Adjusted offensive efficiency: 101.9 (ranks 192nd)
Adjusted defensive efficiency: 100.3 (ranks 104th)

Tenn St. roster
Tenn St. schedule
Tenn St. stats 2016 2017

The Tennessee State offense and starters

TSU Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2015-16 50.4 (146) 19.2 (251) 31.4 (217) 41.5 (61)
2016-17 48.3 (237) 21.6 (294) 37.2 (26) 50.3 (12)

Tennessee State is expected to be a serious contender in the Ohio Valley Conference, just as it was a season ago. That's an impressive turnaround considering that the Tigers were only 5-26 (2-14) in 2015, which was head coach Dana Ford's first season.

Since that disaster of a debut, Ford has re-worked the roster with a tidal wave of transfers, either from the D-I or junior college ranks. Nine players on the current roster transferred in to the program, including the team's three leading scorers: Tahjere McCall (Niagara), Jordan Reed (Binghamton), and Wayne Martin (JUCO). Bringing in a bunch of transfers, and hitting on a lot of them, is basically how you turn around a program overnight.

The problem with this process is you generally don't have much of a window with those players, and the aforementioned trio will all be gone after this season. But for now, the Tigers look primed to challenge OVC stalwart Belmont for an NCAA tournament bid come March. And they are the third-best team on NC State's non-conference schedule.

The Tigers' offense this season has been plagued by poor shooting inside the arc and some lackluster ball security, which is an especially poor combination for a team that is not going to rely heavily on three-pointers. Their strength lies in their guards creating havoc by driving to the rim, as they've been one of the best groups in the country at drawing fouls, and all the dribble penetration seems to be helping on the offensive glass as well.

The good news for the Tigers is that their interior shooting should trend upward as several players warm from slow starts, but they probably aren't as good of an offensive rebounding team as the early-season numbers suggest. If they are that good, though, they'll be a tough out in the OVC (not to mention on Saturday).

Starters

Tahjere McCall (6-5, 195) -- McCall has always struggled with turnovers and he's never been much of a shooter (career (45.8% on twos and 23.8% on threes) but man can this kid get himself to the charity stripe. Last season he ranked 41st in free throw rate, finishing the year with 203 FT attempts. This year, he has been to the line 75 times--he has eight more free throw attempts than field goal attempts. That is real good. His problem is he doesn't exactly make free throws at Cat Barber-like levels. He's at 68.7% for his career and 60% this season, though he was outstanding here (75.9%) last year.

Darreon Reddick (6-4, 195) -- Darreon Reddick seems to lack an understanding of what type of player he needs to be on the court. In 2+ seasons, he has attempted 249 twos and made 32.5% of them. He has attempted 157 threes and made a respectable 35% of those. This year: 9-35 (25.7%) from two, 10-24 (41.7%) from three. Any time this kid attempts a two, it's a win for the opponent.

Jordan Reed (6-4, 210) -- Some dudes simply have a nose for rebounding, regardless of their size, and Reed is one of those dudes. He has been an excellent rebounder at both ends throughout his career, spanning stints at Binghamton and TSU. Similarly to McCall, Reed gets to the line a ton but hasn't been very good from the field, inside or out. Both are also solid, disruptive defenders.

Wayne Martin (6-7, 237) -- Also exceptional on the boards, and he is a career 52.2% shooter inside the arc. He has takent the occasional three-pointer but that is pretty much always a bad idea for him. Decent shot-blocker who is also pretty good at earning foul calls at the offensive end.

Ken'Darrius Hamilton (6-9, 275) -- In his brief D-I career, the JUCO transfer is 19-34 in the paint and 6-13 from three. Tune in on Saturday to see a 275-pound guy attempt a three-pointer!

The Tennessee State bench and defense

Reserves: Delano Spencer (6-3, 195), Christian Mekowulu (6-9, 240), Armani Chaney (5-10, 165). Spencer is here to shoot threes, as far as he sees it, and he has not been shy. He probably won't do much beyond jump shooting, but so far he's been a boost in that area that Tennessee State has needed.

Mekowulu has zero interest in threes and is a terrible interior scorer but does manage to draw a lot of fouls somehow. Chaney will likely get some time at the point but should not be much of a factor in the scoring.

TSU Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2015-16 49.5 (141) 21.7 (14) 29.0 (129) 42.7 (299)
2016-17 47.9 (104) 21.9 (53) 28.6 (141) 45.1 (306)

Tennessee State's defense is a whirling dervish of extremes--with an athletic group of guards/wings, they have been disruptive in both man and zone pressure looks. Like last season, the Tigers have multiple guys who can either generate steals or block shots. McCall and Reed are good enough to be above average at both.

Their style forces opponents to settle for a lot of three-pointers, and this season over 48% of opponents' attempts have been from deep. But the Tigers also foul a whole lot, which is bad in general but extra not good for a team that probably only runs about seven-deep.

And while forcing opponents to take a lot of jump shots is generally a good plan, when three-pointers are involved, there's always the whims of any-given-day randomness that can prove backbreaking. TSU opponents hit 36.8% of their three-point tries last season.

Between Tennessee State's impressive ability to draw whistles and the reckless abandon with which they commit fouls defensively, we might be in for a long game Saturday afternoon. I mean long, like, this might take three hours. NC State needs to be assertive and dictate terms when it has the ball--TSU is pretty good at what it does defensively, but good execution by the Pack can get the Tigers into early foul trouble that could define the game. McCall, for instance, is committing 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes. You want to attack that guy when you can.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NCSU by 10.