Checking in on the… OVC

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2009

Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and OVC Conferences.

Ohio Valley Conference Standings

  1. Austin Peay     5-1      9-7
  2. Morehead St.     5-1      8-9
  3. Eastern Illinois     3-2      6-9
  4. Tenn-Martin     3-3      10-6
  5. Eastern Kentucky     3-3      9-7
  6. Tennessee St.     3-3      5-11
  7. Jacksonville St.     2-3      8-6
  8. Tennessee Tech     2-3      8-7
  9. Murray St.     2-3      7-8
  10. SE Missouri St.     0-6      3-14

OVC league play is in full-swing and things couldn’t be more muddled.

At this point, here is what we know:

SEMO is the league’s worst team.  There’s no question about it.  EIU went to SEMO and won by 20 over the weekend.  Now let’s not come down too hard on the Redhawks.  They do only have seven scholarship players and went through an absolute mess with the whole Scott Edgar situation.  Zach Roman is doing a marvelous job just keeping this program’s head above water.  After understanding SEMO, this league is as up in the air as any league in the country.

EIU, a doormat for years in the OVC, is in third place.  League favorite Murray State is struggling at 2-3 in a tie for seventh.  Up is down and down is up right now.  With the exception of a SEMO win, nothing in the OVC would surprise me right now.

Perfect example.  Fresh off their first win in Murray State since dinosaurs roamed the earth, UT Martin was riding a six-game win streak and primed to win seven straight for the first time since becoming a division one program.  The Skyhawks hosted Austin Peay, a team that lost five of their last seven including a ten-point home loss to Morehead State.  The Govs go to Martin and win by nine (but the game wasn’t nearly that close.)  Peay parlayed that with a win at Murray State two days later, just their ninth win ever at Murray.

But let’s be fair, other than that loss to Austin Peay, UT Martin has been playing good basketball.  They’ve won eight of nine are back to a respectable 3-3 in the OVC.  A big reason, and it’s no surprise, is the play of Lester Hudson.  He picked up his fourth OVC player of the week award on Monday and has scored at least 30 points in five of his last six games.  He’s the only player in the country who has scored at least 20 points in every game this season.  That includes Davidson’s Stephen Curry, who is also the only player in the country averaging more than Hudson’s 27.4 points per game.  Hudson can single handedly carry the Skyhawks to a league title and their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.  He’s that good.

Thanks to those back-to-back wins over UT Martin and Murray State, along with a win over Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay is starting again to look like the league’s favorite.  The Govs are 5-1 in the OVC, including a perfect 4-0 on the road.  The Govs play three of their next five on the road.  If they can take care of business, Peay will be in the driver’s seat come February when they play five of their last seven OVC games at home in the Dunn Center where they’re 64-8 in the OVC since the 2001-02 season.

Morehead State
is responsible for one of those eight losses.  The Eagles upset Peay in Clarksville 84-74 thanks to another big effort from big man Kenneth Faried.  Faried tallied 24 points and 17 rebounds in that win.  Faried is the only player right now that looks like he could challenge Lester Hudson for OVC player of the year.  He ranks sixth in the nation with nine double-doubles.  Faried and the Eagles are currently tied with Peay for top spot in the league at 5-1.  They’re back on the OVC road this week with a trip to SEMO and EIU, which should both be wins.  We’ll find out if Morehead can handle success in those two games.

Murray State is starting to become a head scratcher.  Picked to win the league, the Racers have had some serious trouble closing out games.  They’ve held the lead late in each of their league losses to UT Martin, Austin Peay and Morehead State.  If Murray can find a way to close games out, they’ll be a contender.  The Racers are fighting through some injuries (Tony Easely (ankle, should be back soon) and Jewuan Long (torn ACL, out for season) and they have a bundle of players who are in their first year of division one basketball.  Head Coach Billy Kennedy said Monday he is a little disappointed in how the veterans have been playing.  Danero Thomas, a first-team pre-season All-OVC selection, is averaging less than 10 points per game in OVC play and is shooting just 31.4% from the floor (16.7% from three-point range.)  The Racers have a road trip to Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech this week.  A loss in either of those two games will really put Murray State behind the eight-ball in their quest for a league title.

The rest of the league is a muddled mess.  EKU and Tennessee State are both 3-3.  Both have been good at home (a combined 5-1) but equally bad on the road (a combined 1-5.)  Jacksonville State might be the biggest disappointment since league play has started.  The Gamecocks were flying high after a 6-1 start, but have lost five of seven since, including a 2-3 start in the OVC.  It’s a huge week for James Green and company as they welcome in powerhouses UT Martin and Murray State.  Two wins might get the mojo working again for JSU.  A pair of losses and the ‘Cocks will be fighting to just earn a possible home game in the OVC Tournament.

Here is a look at some of the big games coming up in the next couple of weeks:

  • 1/15 Murray State at Jacksonville State
  • 1/17 UT Martin at Jacksonville State
  • 1/17 Austin Peay at Tennessee State (rematch of last year’s OVC title game)
  • 1/24 Eastern Kentucky at Morehead State
  • 1/24 Jacksonville State at Austin Peay
rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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