The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles of the Ohio Valley Conference have a 4-1 record. They won two "warm-up" games over Virginia Intermont (96-67) and Virginia-Wise (90-47), then lost to Kentucky 108-81, and beat Idaho State 87-62 and Middle Tennessee 87-63. All their games except the one with Kentucky have taken place on the home court in Cookeville.
Tech has five players scoring in double digits, led by 6-6 junior Willie Jenkins (right), a transfer from Massachusetts who played high school ball in Memphis. Jenkins is scoring 18.8 ppg and is snaring 6-2 rebounds. He has made 41.2% of his three point shots and plays forward-center. He is good enough to give the Commodores the same sort of problems as did Odell Bradley of IUPUI and Roshaun Bowens of Tennessee State.
Only nine players have seen action for Tech, but all of them play 13 minutes or more. Three of them man the post positions, including Jenkins and the tallest man of the nine, 6-9 senior Rusty Strange, who has been plagued by injuries in his first three years. The 240-pound Strange is playing about 16 minutes per game and averages 4.2 ppg.
The next tallest players are both 6-7, junior Ben Jacobson and freshman Jonathan Jones. Jacobsen transferred from Iowa Western Junior College after spending a year at Division I Lamar, in Texas. He is from Omaha, Neb., and is the second leading rebounder (6 per game), scores 8.6 ppg, and averages 21 minutes of action. Jones is scoring 1.8 ppg.
Tech's strength is more in the backcourt. The starting wing players are 6-4 sophomore Milone Clark and 6-4 senior Cameron Crisp, and they are scoring 14.2 and 13.2 ppg respectively. Clark has been something of a surprise, but Crisp was second-team all-OVC last year and is already in the all-time top ten players at Tennessee Tech in assists and steals. Crisp is the best three-point shooter, but Clark can also fire them in from the outside.
6-0 senior Will Moore is off to a good start at the point, scoring 10.2 ppg and leading the team in assists. Crisp backs up Moore. Next to Jenkins, he plays more minutes per game than anyone else (28.4). 6-5 senior Keyon Boyd, wing player, is averaging 10.2 ppg and is shooting 42.9% from beyond the three-point line.
5-10 senior Leigh Gayden was an all-OVC player in his sophomore year (13.4 ppg), but suffered a fractured leg last season and got into only five games. Although still not back to full strength, he has averaged 17 minutes in the first five games and is scoring 7.0 ppg. Gayden is a very good outside shooter.
Also on the Tennessee Tech roster, but not having seen action so far, are two freshmen, Antjuan Koger (6-5) from Lavergne, Tenn., and Isaiah Mills (6-9), a 245-pounder from Corbin, Ky. A recent addition to the roster is Darius Mohn (6-3), from the football team.
Tennessee Tech is definitely oriented toward guard play, quickness, and outside shooting. Coach Mike Sutton has no one taller than 6-9 to call upon, and only one player of that size unless Mills is used. The Golden Eagles were beaten soundly on the boards by Kentucky, but have outrebounded the four lesser teams that they have played.
Vanderbilt is once again the obvious favorite. Tennessee Tech relies mostly on transfers and lost several seniors from last year's team. Vanderbilt has much more size. Tech has several good outside shooters (Jenkins, Jacobsen, Crisp, Gayden, Clark, and Boyd) and could shoot lights-out from long range if the defense is not careful. However, Vanderbilt should win by 10-20 points or more.