Checking in on the… OVCPosted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2008
Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the OVC and MAC Conferences.
On paper, this might seem like the same old Ohio Valley Conference. But the league, in fact, is actually off to a pretty good start. In Thursday’s RPI, the OVC had three teams in the top 116. Last season, only two teams in the OVC finished in the top 200 (Austin Peay #64 and Murray State #179.) I know it’s VERY early in the season, but Jacksonville State (#65) and Murray State (#93) are both top 100. It might not be much to most mid-majors, but it’s a sign that OVC is moving in the right direction. Baby steps. But the reality check is Eastern Illinois is #343. That’s #343 out of 343. Dead last in case you’re still a bit confused. Tennessee State is not much better at #333. Like we said, baby steps. As a league, they’re hovering around #23 in the RPI, which is a major upgrade from last year’s #28 finish. In case you were wondering, the best the league has finished in the past decade was #18 in 2000 and 2001. Murray State has had the highest RPI finish this decade at #58 in 2004, which was also the last year the league had two teams finish in the top 100 (Austin Peay #94). Enough with the RPI, here are some quick hits from the past couple weeks in the OVC.
- We start with Morehead State. It looked like the Eagles were in for a long year after an 0-6 start. But maybe we were too quick to judge. Donnie Tyndell’s bunch has run off three straight wins, including two over the league’s pre-season favorites, Murray State and UT Martin. The win over the Racers snapped an 11-game losing streak to Murray. We knew Morehead had two proven players in Leon Buchanan and Kenneth Faried (27 points, 24 rebounds vs. FAMU 11/22), but the emergence of Demonte Harper has been a pleasant surprise. He averaged over 21 points per game in the two wins over Murray and UTM giving the Eagles another weapon. His efforts were awarded by the OVC as he was named Co-Player of the Week. Morehead has an intriguing game on Sunday at Illinois State. The Redbirds are 8-0 and are a favorite in the always tough Missouri Valley. We’ll see if the Eagles can hang with the MVC’s best on the road.
- No surprise, Austin Peay is off to a 2-0 start in the OVC. The defending champs won at SEMO and at Eastern Illinois. Honestly, they should have. SEMO and EIU are two of the league’s worst teams. But we’re trying to stay positive here. The Govs all-everything forward Drake Reed is firing on all cylinders. He torched EIU for an OVC-high 37 points in their win last Saturday. He was named Co-OVC Player of the Week after averaging over 25 points per game in the two wins. It’s the second time in three weeks he’s won the award. Peay has a couple of big out-of-conference games coming up at Louisville and at Arkansas in the next two weeks.
- Murray State failed to pull the “Death Valley” sweep for the third straight time under Billy Kennedy. But instead of stumbling at EKU, the Racers fell at Morehead State. Not only did the Racers lose the game, they lost point guard Jewuan Long for the season. Long’s offensive numbers might not seem like much (4.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game) but he will be sorely missed on defense. He was considered one of the Racers best defenders on a team that ranked #1 in defense in the OVC. On a more positive note, it looks like Isaac Miles (Creighton transfer) is starting to regain his scoring touch. He tallied 12 and 17 points during the Death Valley trip. Miles has the potential to really have a big year if he plays like he did his freshman year at Creighton when he took the Blue Jays to the NCAA Tournament as their starting point guard. Murray State has five big games before returning to OVC play. They’ll head to Mizzou on Saturday and then it’s a trip to Puerto Rico where they’ll get South Florida, Wright State and Oral Roberts before facing Niagra on a neutral floor at a holiday classic in Chattanooga.
- UT Martin maybe had the most disappointing opening weekend. The Skyhawks have now lost four in a row to fall to 2-5. All-American Lester Hudson is getting his, putting in at least 20 points in all seven games. The problem is, the rest of the team is really struggling to score. Marquis Weddle is the only other player averaging in double-figures (14.9 ppg), but he’s shooting just 32% from the floor. The Skyhawks need to find some better balance if they’re going to dig themselves out of their 0-2 start in league play. The Skyhawks play their only home game this month with Brescia next week. Road games at Middle Tennessee, Central Arkansas and a tournament at Florida International with the Panthers and Fordham end the calendar year for UTM. Then it’s time to “Cowboy Up.” 2009 kicks off with home games against Murray State and Austin Peay. Two big chances to prove they are ready to compete for a league crown.
- Without question, the biggest and most pleasant surprise so far in the OVC season is Jacksonville State. What a job by first-year head coach James Green. Last time we told you about their big win at UMass. Well, they’ve followed that up with a pounding of VMI 95-67 (yes, the same VMI team that won at Rupp Arena over UK.) Throw on a road win at Tennessee Tech (never an easy place to win) to start OVC play and you’ve got a 6-1 Gamecock team ranked in the RPI’s top 70. The start is tied for the best since the team made the transition to Division One. Jax State will get two more big road tests next week at UAB and Iowa State. What a big boost it would be to not only JSU, but to the OVC, if the Gamecocks could steal a pair of wins in those two games.
Here’s a look at some big games coming up in the next couple weeks in the OVC:
- Austin Peay at #9 Louisville (12/13)
- Murray State at Missouri (12/13)
- Eastern Kentucky at Ball State (12/13)
- Morehead State at Illinois State (12/14)
- Tennessee Tech at Florida State (12/16)
- Austin Peay at Arkansas (12/17)
- Jacksonville State at UAB (12/17)
- Tennessee Tech at Vanderbilt (12/20)
- Murray State vs. South Florida, Wright State & Oral Roberts (12/20-22)
- Eastern Kentucky at Cincinnati (12/20)
- Jacksonville State at Iowa State (12/20)
- Tennessee State at Kentucky (12/22)