The 2019 Paradise Jam in the St. Thomas Virgin Islands will be interesting this year, with a lot of talented teams participating. The tournament tips off on Friday as the Valparaiso University Crusaders face off against the Grand Canyon Antelopes. After that game it is Fordham vs. Nevada and then Illinois State vs. Cincinnati. The first round ends with Bowling Green vs. Western Kentucky at 9 p.m.
The Falcons face a rather tough opponent in Western Kentucky, who currently are 4-0 and sit atop the Conference USA. Western Kentucky has a deep roster this year with a lot of returning players. They have been shooting 55.9% from the field, 80% from the line and 41% from behind the arc.
Star 6’11 center Charles Bassey, who decided not to declare for the NBA draft last season, averages 14.8 points per game as well as 10.2 rebounds. Not to mention, forward Carson Williams leads the team in scoring at 17.5 per game and guard Taveion Hollingsworth averages 13.3 points per game.
The Falcons will have to focus most of their attention on the defensive end to try and disrupt Western Kentucky’s hot shooting. Tayler Mattos among other bigs will have to play tough down low against Bassey and guards will need to gang rebound as well.
Justin Turner, who averages 19.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds, needs to be the one who leads the team to victory. If they can limit the damage from behind the arc and run their sets on offense, then Bowling Green has a good chance of winning this game.
If the Falcons do defeat Western Kentucky, there is a chance that they could face Cincinnati in the next round. If the Bearcats defeat Illinois State, they would face the winner of Bowling Green vs. Western Kentucky.
Cincinnati currently sits at 2-1 in the American Conference and would be a very tough matchup, mainly due to the return of former ACC player of the year Jarron Cumberland who averages 12 points per game. The other Cumberland, Jaevin, is also a force to be reckoned with averaging 11 points per game and has shot a three pointer in each of their first three games.
The Falcons are 1-9 all time vs. Cincinnati, but this Bowling Green team has the talent to make a deep run in this tournament.
If Bowling Green makes it past Western Kentucky and Cincinnati, then they could play any of the other teams on the opposite side of the bracket, which are Nevada, Fordham, Grand Canyon and Valparaiso. The Falcons have the firepower and discipline to win the Paradise Jam this year, they just need to focus on their defensive intensity. As long as they can get back on defense and limit their sloppy turnovers, they are poised to win in any matchup they may see.
Bowling Green plays Western Kentucky on Friday at 9 p.m. in the first round of the Paradise Jam.