Norris Cole leads the Vikings into Huntsville Saturday
For the third game in a row, the Bearkats will be taking on a solid non-conference opponent at home at Johnson Coliseum.
This third game is likely the toughest of the bunch. Cleveland State will come in with a 10-0 record, ranked No. 1 in the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll.
On top of all that, the Vikings beat the Bearkats 80-65 last season.
Coach Gary Waters has a young team with only two seniors on the roster, but it hasn't seemed to matter to this point.
It's no surprise that CSU's veterans lead the team on the court. Senior guard Norris Cole paces the Vikings with 21.5 points per game. He is also the team's leading distributor with 48 assists on the season.
Junior guards Trevon Harmon and Jeremy Montgomery help out with 13.6 and 12.2 points per game, respectively.
Junior forward Aaron Pogue provides much of the muscle on the interior, averaging 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
For the Vikings, rebounding is more of a team effort rather than an individual effort. Pogue leads the way, but CSU has five players averaging 3.5 rebounds per game or more.
The Cleveland State offense goes as their guard play goes, and their shooting as a team shows it. Nearly a third of their field goal attempts are from behind the arc. They shoot 36.5 percent from long range. They also shoot a solid 72.1 percent from the free throw line.
Pogue with his 7.5 points per game is the only forward averaging more than 4.9 points per game.
Like the Bearkats, the Vikings like to have their defense set the tone. They average holding their opponents to 58.7 points per game.
Defensively, they're led by point guard Norris Cole. He has 28 steals so far this season. Harmon and Montgomery both average more than one steal per contest.
In the post, forward Charlie Woods has 11 blocks and Pogue has seven.
In terms of pace, CSU will give the Bearkats an opponent that will allow them to get up and down the court. The Vikings put the game in the hands of the guards and there isn't a big-scoring post player that you have to worry about. Of course, I said that before the Houston game and Kendrick Washington went for 20.
I'd look for the Bearkats to feed Gilberto Clavell early and often. CSU doesn't have much depth in the frontcourt. Clavell can handle their post players one on one. The hope is that CSU's ball-hawking guards collapse into the post, and that will leave the Bearkat guards with open threes. With the way the Vikings' guards defend the ball, you don't want your guards to be trying to shake them one on one.
Cleveland State averages defeating its opponents by 15 points. That won't happen Saturday afternoon.
For the Bearkats, this game gives them a chance to finish 2-1 in this series of three good non-conference games. These games give you a good barometer of how conference play might go. If the Bearkats duplicate the performance they gave Wednesday night against North Texas, they might be trying to tell us that conference play will go well.