Summer School in the Ohio Valley ConferencePosted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010
Greg Waddell is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference
Around the OVC
- He’s Baaack…: Kenneth Faried has decided to return. An Associated Press All-American honorable mention last season, the 6’8 power forward is back in Morehead after garnering NABC All-District honors and sweeping the Ohio Valley Conference awards, earning Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and First Team All-Conference. His 16.9 points and 13.0 boards per game captured the attention of NBA scouts as he turned down what might have been a second-round pick to return to school. Clocking in at No. 25 on Chad Ford of ESPN’s Big Board, he is viewed as a mid to late first rounder by the worldwide leader.
- The Rich Get Richer…and So Do The Poor: Recruiting is a funny thing, and sometimes, crazy things happen. Take this season’s OVC recruiting haul, for example. The top two ranked players entering the conference according to ESPN.com, Shawn Jackson and Jeverik Nelson, went opposite routes with one choosing the conference’s best team (Jackson to Murray State) and the other the worst (Nelson to Tennessee-Martin). Martin, which limped to a 4-25 record and finished last in conference play (excluding SIU-Edwardsville, who is technically not a member of the conference yet), benefited the most from recruiting as they added three highly-touted players.
- Murray State: After winning the OVC regular season title, conference tourney, upsetting Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament, and falling just short of knocking off national runner-up Butler, the 2009-10 Murray State team was one to remember. The scary thing is the 2010-11 edition may be better. Despite losing senior stalwarts Tony Easley and Danero Thomas, there is help on the way. Easley, the Racers’ emotional leader from last season, looks to be the biggest hole to fill but head coach Billy Kennedy managed to work his magic yet again, luring 6’9 big man Shawn Jackson from Florida. Jackson, arguably the best freshman in the conference, should start immediately and looks to be a force in the paint from his first day on campus while Chris Griffin, the other freshman recruit, will look to back up the three, potentially sophomore high-flier Ed Daniel. With the two-headed scoring attack of guards Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins returning, OVC Tournament MVP Isaiah Canaan may be relegated to sixth man again. What a good problem for Kennedy to have as the Racers look to be the class of the Ohio Valley once again.
- Morehead State: The other MSU had a decent season as well. Okay that might be a bit of an understatement. Led by Kenneth Faried, who won almost every award the OVC has to offer, the Eagles soared to a second place finish in league play and captured an NIT berth that led to a beatdown of Colorado State and a narrow loss to Boston University in overtime. Projected as a second-round pick in the NBA draft, it seemed that Faried was all set to try his luck in the league, until he decided to come back. Although Morehead State does say goodbye to second leading scorer Maze Stallworth, (12.6 PPG) they welcome back three of their top four scorers and look like a promising pick come tournament time. The only team standing in their way is Murray but after dashing the Racers’ hopes of an undefeated conference run, they’ve shown they can hang with Billy Kennedy’s squad. The OVC is a two-team league, and if Morehead can take out their rivals to the west, March Madness may find more than two MSUs dancing.
- Austin Peay – After last season’s unexpected finish, a loss at the hands of Tennessee Tech in the first round of the OVC Tournament, the Govs will look to pick up the pieces and build on their 17-15 2009-10 campaign. The only problem is they’ll be forced do so without two main components. Guard Wes Channels, whose 16.9 PPG led the team, has graduated, and 6’8 forward Duran Robertson fell victim to a career-ending knee injury in a preseason pickup game. Robertson’s injury will affect the Govs’ frontline depth where Austin Peay returns 6’9 junior center John Fraley (9.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and 6’7 second-team all-Ohio Valley Conference forward Anthony Campbell (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), The Govs do add Tyshawn Edmonson, a transfer from St. John’s via Midland (Texas) College, who will look to push for playing time. Edmonson played high school ball at nearby University Heights Academy.
- Eastern Illinois: Depth may be an issue on this year’s team as the bench took a hit, graduating five Panthers, including three of the top nine scorers, but the core playmakers return. The starters shouldn’t be affected too much, as only senior guard T.J. Marion departs. Look for both Tyler Lasser and Jeremy Granger to pick up the slack after leading the team with 13.9 and 10.3 PPG, respectively. Redshirt sophomore James Hollowell looks to continue where he left off after averaging 12.5 PPG over his final eight contests to help push EIU to a OVC semifinal appearance against Murray State. Coming into the contest as one of the hottest teams in the conference, they played the Racers hard, but fell just short, 55-51. Things are looking up for Mike Miller’s squad.
- Eastern Kentucky: Jeff Neubauer’s squad will look to rebound after last year’s disappointing finish. Despite finishing in a three way tie for third place in the OVC, the Colonels found themselves on the outside looking in after the first round of tournament play, getting ousted by EIU. Eastern Kentucky must find a way to get back to form without the help of two of their top three scorers, as just top point man Justin Stommes (14.2 PPG) returns. The loss of Josh Taylor ‘s scoring (13.7 PPG) and Papa Oppong’s shooting (45% from beyond the arc) will be a challenge to replace, but talented returners Josh Jones (8.9 PPG) and Spencer Perrin (7.7 PPG) should help soften the blow in expanded roles.
- Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks look to be in good shape going into the 2010-11 season, as they return five of their top six scorers. The trio of Trenton Marshall, Nick Murphy and Jeremy Bynum did most of the damage for JSU, racking up nearly 43 PPG among them. Marshall was the best of three, tallying nearly 18 per game, while Jacksonville State finished just one game behind Tennessee Tech in conference play. The returning starters, coupled with another year of experience, should add up to leapfrogging Tech into the No. 6 spot on this list.
- Tennessee Tech: Replacing their entire backcourt will be tough, as Frank Davis and Elijah Mohammed were two of the top three scorers on the team. Still, the Golden Eagles have one of the conference’s best players in forward Kevin Murphy to fall back on. At 15.3 PPG, Murphy’s offensive play looks to expand more this year, but should be bolstered with the return of Alfred Jones in the post and Jud Dillard on the wing. Each has proven a scoring threat after averaging 9.2 and 8.8 PPG, respectively.
- Tennessee State: The Tigers’ season will rest on the shoulders of Robert Covington and Jaquan Nobles. The sophomore duo was the fourth pair from State on the all-newcomer team since the conference started recognizing the squad at the end of the 1991-92 season. Nobles, a 6’4 guard, finished the season as the Tigers’ leading scorer (11.2 PPG) while knocking down nearly 44% of his three-pointers (68-155) to lead the team. Covington, a forward finished as the team’s second leading scorer (10.9 PPG) and top rebounder (6.3 RPG). The duo will be helped by junior guard Will Peters, who pitched in 9.6 points per contest last season.
- Tennessee-Martin: Despite last year’s last-place finish, the Skyhawks look to be on the up and up as they return their top three players, all seniors, and add what I believe to be the best recruiting class in the conference. Finishing only two games behind SEMO in last year’s conference race, Martin looks primed to jump the Redhawks this season. Behind Marquis Weddle, Benzor Simmons and Reuben Clayton’s scoring load, (41 PPG combined) Tennessee-Martin should be interesting to watch this winter.
- Southeast Missouri State: SEMO made a case to stay above Martin in the rankings, but the numbers don’t lie. Despite returning their top three scorers, they failed to add an impact recruiting class and don’t have as much firepower as the Skyhawks can offer. SEMO could overcome them, but the load falls on Marland Smith (10.8 PPG), Anthony Allison (10.1 PPG) and Cameron Butler (9.0 PPG) to produce in expanded roles.
- SIU-Edwardsville: Things don’t look good for an already-depleted Cougars team. After a woeful 5-23 season in 2009-10, SIU-E now must battle with the loss of their second-leading scorer, Aamir McCleary’s and his 11.5 points per game. Mark Yelovich must carry the burden alone now, but he has shown he can score in bunches after averaging nearly 17 points per contest last season. How far the Cougars can go will depend on him.
- Despite typically being a one-bid league, 2011 might be the year when the OVC breaks the trend and sends two teams dancing. The OVC should be a two-team league again this season as both Murray State and Morehead State sit atop the food chain.
- If things shake out right in the conference tournament and Morehead finds a way to take out the Racers, it would be only the second time in league history (and the first time since 1987) that the OVC found itself with two NCAA representatives. Both teams look to have the firepower to make the dream a reality.