OVC Season Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2009

Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  The OVC Tournament begins at on-campus venues on Tuesday before moving to Nashville, TN, for the final two rounds.

Regular Season Wrap-Up

How can you not be happy for UT Martin’s Bret Campbell?  After years and years of finishing at the bottom of the OVC, Campbell has led the Skyhawks to the top of the OVC.   Martin’s 79-65 win over Morehead State on Saturday night clinched the school’s first-ever OVC title and just the second 21-win season in school history (first-ever in Division One.)

Campbell is really one of the good guys in college coaching.  He’s paid his dues and at times really struggled to get the UTM program growing.  He caught a real break when he was able to land a talent like Lester Hudson and caught another break when Hudson decided to return for his senior season.  Campbell was able to go out and find a great supporting cast and now UTM is on the verge of making their first-ever NCAA Tournament if they can capture the OVC Tournament title this week.

That will be much easier said than done.

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Checking in on the… OVC

Posted 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.

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Checking in on the… OVC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

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

(ed. note – this post was originally scheduled for publication on Friday 11/28, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to delay publication until today.  Please accept our apologies.)

Hard to believe, but OVC conference play begins next Thursday.  That’s right, less than a month into the season, we’ve already got conference play!
 
Not a lot of time to get a handle on how this league is shaping up, but here are some quick hits from the first few weeks:

Tennessee State (advanced to OVC Finals last year) lost their opener to Cumberland University, an NAIA school.  Not the start Cy Alexander was hoping for.  If there was a bright spot, sophomore Gerald Robinson, Jr. (one of league’s best young players) tallied 31 points.  He’s leading the league at 25.0 points per game so far.  Good news, TSU rebounded to win their last two over Northern Illinois (last-second layup) and Miles (Robinson scored 36 in that win.)  The Tigers will get Belmont on Monday before opening league play next weekend.  Coming up in mid-December is a brutal four-game stretch where they face Alabama, Kentucky, Marshall and Georgia Tech, all on the road, in 13 days.  Yikes!

UT Martin is off to an auspicious start.  The Skyhawks torched Maryville, lost to Tennessee, beat Elon and then lost to Arkansas State.  This is supposed to be a team that will challenge for the league title, mainly thanks to the play of All-American Lester Hudson and All-OVC guard Marquis Weddle.  Hudson is averaging just about 25 points per game, but in the two losses he and Weddle have been dreadful with their shooting.  Against Tennessee and Arkansas State, the two are a combined 26-85.  That’s barely 30%.  They rest of the team is 17-53 in those two losses.  It’s obvious that how Hudson and Weddle go, so go the Skyhawks.  UTM better hope these two are on a lot more than they are off or they better find another source of offense.  UTM will be tested at USC Friday night before opening league play with a trip to Death Valley (Morehead State and EKU).

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ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. - 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
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ATB: OJ Mayo’s Debut – “Mercer Mercer Me!”

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.10.07

Story of the Night. Is the A-Sun the best conference in college hoops this season? Three nights after Gardner-Webb shocked the hoops world against Kentucky, and one night after Belmont whacked Cincy… the Mercer Bears went into LA and pushed around #25 USC and OJ Mayo. That’s three road wins against three BCS teams in the span of about 72 hrs (remember: the A-Sun was 0-34 v. BCS teams last year!) As for this game, sure OJ got his numbers (32/7/4 assts on 12-27 FG + 8 tos), and isn’t that really why he’s there? In shooting 59% for the game (led by James Florence’s 30), Mercer rode a 17-pt halftime lead into an easy win. We have a bad feeling that more of this is on the horizon for USC with Mayo running the show. We’re just sayin… (Mercer 96, USC 81)

Things We Didn’t See. #5 Georgetown appears to have had a shaky opening game against Bill & Mary tonight, leading by only 2 pts with under 10 mins to play. When the Hoyas finally realized they have something nobody else in CBB has – a skilled 7’2 center named Roy Hibbert (23/8/3 blks) – they put the game away. We love the Hoya backcourt of Wallace and Sapp (combined for 33/10 assts), but we’ll continue to have a lingering concern over the long-term prospects of this year’s version until we see if Dajuan Summers or someone else can adequately fill the departed role of Jeff Green (Georgetown 68, William & Mary 53). Staying in the Big East, Pitt is a team we never know what to make of from year to year game to game. Tonight they throttled a solid NC A&T team, with a big contribution from Sam Young (career-high 24/11/4 stls). We’re sure they’re on their way to another 20-25 win season and a top 4 seed, where we’ll either pick them to go to the E8 and they’ll lose in the first round; or, the reverse (Pittsburgh 86, NC A&T 61). Tubby Smith’s debut today at Minnesota went much as his debuts at Kentucky (88-49 v. Morehead St.) and Georgia (91-71 v. W. Carolina), with a blowout win versus an overmatched team. In typical Tubby fashion, the Gophers held Army to 35% shooting and forced 23 turnovers. One Gopher blog lauded the hustle and dedication from players that has been missing in recent years (Minnesota 84, Army 52). Over at Oregon, we were interested to see how the Ducks would respond to the loss of Aaron Brooks, and so far, so good, as a balanced attack quickly overwhelmed Pepperdine tonight. Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter and Bryce Taylor all had 17 pts each as the Ducks raced out to a 30-pt lead at halftime and cruised the rest of the way – we likey (Oregon 100, Pepperdine 70). Vandy is an SEC team that we probably have overlooked this year, but the Dores picked up a solid win over a mid-major tonight by beating Austin Peay. Showing just how tough it is to beat Vandy in Memorial Gym once again, the Commodores shot 55% from the field and 52% from three in keeping AP comfortably at bay most of the night. Shan Foster (21 pts) and AJ Ogilvy (18/9/2 blks) led the way for Vandy, while AP star Drake Reed had a rough night (12/7 on 3-16 shooting) (Vanderbilt 81, Austin Peay 67). There was a great game tonight in Milwaukee when Marquette took on another talented mid-major, IUPUI. Marquette’s 8-pt halftime lead was quickly erased by a second-half 17-2 run by IUPUI, but spurred by Jerel McNeal’s 20 pts, the Warriors came storming back with a 23-8 run of their own to ensure victory (Marquette 76, IUPUI 68).

Score of the Night. Unbelievably, we’re going back to The Farm. For the second consecutive night, Stanford had a 30+ pt halftime lead over an opponent, and again, no starter played more than 20 minutes. Tonight’s beneficiary was Northwestern St. – what’s TJ giving those boys (Stanford 97, Northwestern St. 58)?

Upset Alert. Other than the above USC game, there were no big upsets today.

Joey Dorsey Award. OJ Mayo (USC). Not for his game tonight, but for his quote that hearing his name called in the starting lineup “was a lot of fun. I wish we would’ve won.” Maybe we’re being nitpicky here, but after getting thumped by Mercer, we’re not sure any part of the night should be remembered as fun.

On Tap Today (all times EST). 47 games on tap, several of which are worthwhile (assuming Comcast doesn’t screw us again and gets FC working).

  • Loyola (MD) (-5) v. Pennsylvania 12pm – our favorites in the Ivy and the MAAC.
  • Rutgers (NL) v. North Dakota St. 1pm - NDSU gave Florida trouble; they can do more than that with Rutgers.
  • Seton Hall (NL) v. Monmouth (ESPN FC) 1pm – um, we’ll be washing our hair at that time.
  • Virginia (NL) v. Vermont 2pm – don’t understand why this isn’t FC worthy but the garbage game above is.
  • Florida (-17.5) v. Tennessee Tech 3pm – really would like to see if Calathes can keep it up.
  • Gonzaga (-12.5) v. Montana 4pm – we’re very high on Gonzaga this year, but Montana is no slouch.
  • Stanford (NL) v. UCSB 6pm – if Stanford is up 30+ at half of this game, we’re putting them #1 in Monday’s blogpoll ballot.
  • Pittsburgh (NL) v. St. Louis (ESPN FC) 6pm – we’re tuning in just to see Majerus back on the sidelines.
  • Kansas (NL) v. UMKC (ESPN FC) 8pm – let the Kansas Kremations continue.
  • Oregon (NL) v. Pacific (ESPN FC) 9pm – both of these teams had great first games.
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Conference Primers: #27 – Ohio Valley

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Austin Peay (20-9) (16-4)
  2. Eastern Kentucky (17-11) (14-6)
  3. Murray St. (17-10) (13-7)
  4. Tennessee Tech (17-13) (12-8)
  5. Southeast Missouri (15-14) (11-9)
  6. Eastern Illinois  (13-14) (10-10)
  7. Samford (12-16) (9-11)
  8. Tennessee St. (10-17) (8-12)
  9. Morehead St. (9-18) (8-12)
  10. Jacksonville St. (10-17) (6-14)
  11. Tennessee-Martin (3-23) (3-17)

OVC Logo

WYN2K.  The OVC is a league that has been incredibly up-and-down depending on a given year.  In the last five years its RPI has hovered between the 19th and 25th best conference, and its Sagarin rating between 16th and 26th.  As a testament to its herky-jerkiness, no league champion has received the same seed as the prior year’s champion for the last eight years (13/15/14/13/12/15/14/16).  But if there is one trend worth noting, it is that the league’s overall profile appears to be dropping.  After a seven-year period from 1998-2004 where the league champion averaged a #12.7 seed, the last three seasons have resulted in an average of #15.0.   This is supported by the reality on the court, as no OVC team has won an NCAA Tourney game since the 80s, when Austin Peay (1987), Murray St. (1988), and Middle Tennessee St. (1989) comprised a three-year string of first round upsets. 

Predicted Champion. Austin Peay (#15 Seed NCAA).  This was the easiest pick of the previews yet.  “Let’s Go Peay” returns all five starters (including OVC POY Drake Reed) from a team that was the regular-season champion in 2007, but who lost on a buzzer beater to Eastern Kentucky in improbable fashion.  6’5 forward and resident muscle man Fernandez Lockett is likely another first-team all-OVC selection.   

Others ConsideredEastern Kentucky was the second-best team in the OVC last season, and Jeff Neubauer’s methodical style (310th in tempo nationally) led to EKU rankings near the top of the nation in effective FG% (18th) and two-point FG% (8th).  In other words, the Colonels consistently take and make good shots.  If any team is ready to supplant Austin Peay again, it’s likely to be EKU.  Murray St. is always in the mix in this conference (20 straight winning seasons), and we expect this year to be no different.  The Racers finished strong in 2007 winning eight of their last ten, and return many of their key players from last season.  Another team that finished very strong last year was Tennessee Tech, who won twelve of their last fifteen games as their coach Mike Sutton continued to arduously work his way back from Guillain-Barre Syndrome.       

Games to Watch.  If they OVC Championship game is anything like last year’s, then it should most definitely be on your March viewing calendar. 

  • OVC Championship Game (03.08.08). ESPN.

RPI Booster Games.  Last year the only BCS opponent that the OVC managed to defeat was Northwestern (by Tennessee Tech) at a neutral site.  Otherwise, the league was 0-20 against BCS teams.  We’ve identified several opportunities for an OVC squad to pull an upset this year to help the league’s overall RPI. 

  • Tennessee Tech @ Rutgers (11.09.07)
  • Austin Peay @ Vanderbilt (11.10.07)
  • Georgia Tech @ Tennessee St. (11.11.07)
  • Murray St. @ Mississippi St. (12.01.07)
  • Samford @ Florida St. (12.02.07)
  • Tennessee Tech @ Oregon St.  (12.16.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  Absolutely no chance. 

Neat-o Stat.  Reigning OVC Player of the Year Drake Reed was the first sophomore to win the honor since Popeye Jones did so back in 1990 at Murray St.   It’s unclear whether Reed is related to Jones (see below). 

Popeye Jones family 2

64/65-Team Era.  The OVC has gone 3-24 (.111) over the era.  As mentioned above, the glory days were the late 80s, when the OVC won a first round NCAA game each year from 1987-89.  The league hasn’t won a game since, although it has had a couple of very close calls (#2 Duke 81, #15 Murray St. 78 – 1997; #1 Michigan St. 75, #16 Murray St. 71 (OT) – 1990).   

Final Thought.   The OVC is definitely a top-heavy league this year.  There are three or four teams that can realistically win the NCAA bid, while the others are fairly noncompetitive.  Even with the lack of a balanced league, there is likely only one team with the experience and talent for us to consider it as possible first round upset material – Austin Peay.  But as we saw last year, even with the best team in the OVC, there’s no certainty that the Governors can win the conference tournament in its own back yard (47 miles from Clarksville, TN, to this year’s site again, Nashville, TN).   

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