Jacksonville State (0-0) at Bradley (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver Arena (11,164) -- Peoria, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: JSU 0-0, Bradley 0-0. Away Record: JSU 0-0, Bradley 0-0. Neutral Record: JSU 0-0, Bradley 0-0. Conference Record: JSU 0-0, Bradley 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Jacksonville State Gamecocks will begin the 2013-14 season with a tour of the Land of Lincoln as they take on the Bradley Braves at Carver Arena on Friday.
The Gamecocks had last season's 17-11 performance go to waste as they were ineligible for postseason play due to academic issues. Now with the postseason ban no longer an issue, Jacksonville State will try to achieve the same success despite losing some significant seniors. Coach James Green did a great job of preparing his squad defensively, which yielded a scoring defense average of 64.9 ppg to rank third in the Ohio Valley Conference. The strong effort on the defensive end helped the Gamecocks avoid any losses to teams from non-major conferences during their 11-game non-conference slate in 2012-13.
Coach Geno Ford has a handful of new additions, who will be very important as the Braves attempt to replicate their 18-17 finish to last season. Bradley's roster includes seven eligible players who were not on the squad a season ago. It will be looking to extend its streak of victories in season-openers after beginning each of the past 15 seasons at 1-0. Bradley's season ended last season with a third round exit from the CIT.
This will be the first meeting in history between Jacksonville State and Bradley.
The Gamecocks have a proficient backcourt with Brian Williams (13.1 ppg) and Darion Rackley (13.7 ppg) returning. JSU needs to become a better rebounding team, but that improvement may require some recruiting as the biggest issue is a lack of size. Junior college transfer D.J. Felder will help on the front line as his 6-7, 225-pound frame will make him one of the Gamecocks' biggest players right away. Freshman forward Jamal Hunter (6-8, 215) could provide assistance on the interior if he is able to increase his strength and awareness in a timely manner.
The Braves will lean on senior leaders Walt Lemon, Jr. and Tyson Pickett. Lemon, a preseason first-team All- MVC guard, is the conference's active scoring leader. He is one of only two players in league history to tally at least 500 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists, and 70 steals in a single season. Pickett (11.0 ppg), a transfer from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, earned a spot on the 2012-13 MVC All-Newcomer Team in 2012-13. Bradley has a solid big man in fifth-year center Jordan Prosser, who has pulled down 504 rebounds to rank first among the OVC's active players.
Williams and Rackley should match up well with Lemon, Jr. and Pickett, but JSU will struggle to compete with the Braves on the boards due to the presence of Prosser. The Gamecocks could end the Braves' streak of wins in season openers if one of their newcomers makes a splash in their debut.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bradley 73, Jacksonville State 64
11/08 10:42:13 ET