Cleveland State at Davidson
When and Where: Tuesday, Nov. 6, John M. Belk Arena, Davidson, N.C., 7 p.m. EST.
While Davidson lost its top player from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, the Wildcats do not lack for scorers entering Tuesday night’s season opener against Cleveland State.
Appleby, Vikings looking to build on run to conference final
Cleveland State enters its second season with Dennis Felton after going 12-23 in 2017-18 and finishing tied for eighth in the Horizon League. The Vikings were not expected to improve much per the conference’s preseason media poll, placing seventh, but things could be on the upswing if Felton can find an inside presence to complement Tyree Appleby.
Appleby was an all-freshman Horizon League selection after averaging 11.8 points and 4.0 assists and leading a late charge to the conference title game as the No. 8 seed by totaling 61 points and 20 assists in those last four contests. The 6-foot-1 guard, a preseason all-conference selection, will look to improve on his 32.4 percent 3-point shooting.
— Horizon League (@HorizonLeague) October 17, 2018
Appleby’s backcourt partners and fellow top-three scorers from last season — Kenny Carpenter and Bobby Wood — have graduated, which means Felton must find other sources of offense. Sophomore forward Stefan Kenic could be the leading candidate to step up with Appleby after averaging 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range.
“They were a major part of everything we did last year,” Felton told Blue Ribbon Yearbook about Appleby and Kenic. “They experienced the whole process of dealing with adversity. They learned through all types of adversity you can still control your destiny by dealing with it. It will help their leadership voice.
Kenic had 21 points and nine boards in Cleveland State’s 102-55 exhibition victory over Ohio Valley last Tuesday. DePaul transfer Algevon Eichelberger added 12 points and seven rebounds, and the hope is the 6-8, 250-pound sophomore will let Kenic be an inside-out option.
"Last year we really didn't have anyone to throw the ball to into the post. This year we have 3 guys we can do that with." – HC Dennis Felton
— CSU Basketball (@CSU_Basketball) October 31, 2018
True freshmen Seth Milner and Rashad Williams are expected to round out the starting five after getting substantial minutes during Cleveland State’s preseason tour of Italy. That cohesion could be vital for a team that gave up 74.7 points per game last season.
This is Cleveland State’s first game against an Atlantic 10 opponent since a 78-71 loss at Duquesne in November 2016, and the Vikings have lost four straight to A-10 teams since a 67-45 romp at Rhode Island in 2011.
Grady expected to be among nation’s best scorers for Davidson
The Wildcats ended a three-year NCAA Tournament drought last season after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament and giving Kentucky all it could handle in the 5-12 game before losing 78-73.
Though Davidson lost its star player to graduation in Peyton Aldridge, who averaged team highs of 21.2 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range, there is still plenty of optimism around coach Bob McKillop’s team because Kellan Grady is back.
The 6-5 sophomore was the A-10 Rookie of the Year after averaging 18.0 points and connecting on 37.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Grady shot a staggering 64.1 percent from inside the arc in conference play and was third in the A-10 in effective field goal percentage (58.5).
— David Scott (@davidscott14) November 3, 2018
He had 20 points and six assists as Davidson cruised to a 116-56 victory over Division III school Washington & Lee on Thursday, and his backcourt partner Jon Axel Gudmundsson — who averaged 13.2 points in 2017-18 — had 22 and six assists.
McKillop, though, was quick to harp on his team’s defense, noting it struggled to find a rhythm against the up-tempo Generals.
“The pace that they played at, their interchangeable parts, the free flowing aggressive offensive attack put us in positions that we were not very comfortable in,” McKillop told Davidson’s official website. “And they caught us in several issues of communication. We need Nathan (Ekwu), KiShawn (Pritchett) and Jon (Axel Gudmundsson), as the captains of this team, to really spearhead the communication that a game like this mandates we have.”
Davidson averaged 76.3 points last season, ranked 16th in the nation with 353 3-pointers made, and 27th in 3-point shooting at 38.9 percent, numbers it may able to replicate with its four-guard alignment.
Gudmundsson also averaged 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists while connecting on 40.6 percent of his long-range attempts and was one of just five Division I players to have those minimums while averaging at least 13 points in the past 25 seasons.
Redshirt freshman Luke Frampton could be a player to watch after sitting out last season with a torn ACL. The 6-5 Frampton is expected to provide defensive versatility for McKillop with the ability to guard both guard and forward positions.
Davidson is 1-5 against Horizon League teams since the start of the 2005-06 season, losing the last four. The Wildcats were swept in home-and-home series by Milwaukee in 2012-13 and by nationally ranked Butler squads in 2009-10.
- 20-8 ATS in its last 28 games as a favorite.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six games as a home favorite.
- 4-1 ATS in its last five home games as a favorite between 7.0 and 12.5 points.
- The over is 4-1 in their last five non-conference games.
Cleveland State is:
- 3-11-1 ATS in its last 15 road games as an underdog between 7.0 and 12.5 points.
- 4-10 ATS in its last 14 games as an underdog between 7.0 and 12.5 points.
- 14-32 ATS in its last 46 Tuesday games.
- The over is 5-2 in its last seven road games.
- The over is 5-2 in its last seven games as a road underdog.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
McKillop has a very good track record with guards who are capable of scoring at an elite level and gaining national recognition (hello, Stephen Curry), and he has another one in Grady. The better news for the Wildcats is Grady will not have to shoulder the offensive burden alone with Gudmundsson in the backcourt.
Cleveland State is 1-18 in non-conference road games since the start of the 2015-16 season and lost the last 15 over the past two seasons.
Prediction: Pick: Davidson -18.5
Full-Game Total Pick
In addition to Cleveland State’s overall road struggles in non-conference play, the Vikings have given up an average of 80.1 points during their 15-game non-conference losing streak.
Davidson ranked 10th in effective field goal percentage (57.4) and 13th in 2-point shooting (56.5), and those numbers should continue in this season opener against the Vikings.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 145 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The Wildcats should be the better offensive team with Grady and Gudmundsson running the show and also better than Cleveland State’s defense, which has many questions to answer after finishing 237th in scoring defense last season.
Prediction: Pick: Davidson -10.5
Half-Time Total Bet
McKillop is one of the best offensive minds in the country and often overlooked because he is at Davidson. With that experienced backcourt and a highly efficient offense against a Vikings defense that allowed teams to shoot 52.2 percent from inside the arc, the Wildcats should be able to carry the scoring burden in the opening 20 minutes for the over to hit.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 68 points