It’s finally here. It has been a little more than 7 months since Connecticut defeated Butler to give Jim Calhoun his third national championship. In the interim, we have been forced to talk about the NBA Draft, a ridiculous amount of conference realignment, an even more ridiculous amount of NCAA violations, and some recent exhibition games (we will get to the latter three in a bit). Tonight, the actual games start with three games on the docket: William & Mary at St. John’s (the first game of the season and also the first RTC Live of the year), Eastern Kentucky at Mississippi State, and Valparaiso at Arizona. We are hoping with the season starting we can get back to focusing on the sport we all love. Just remember your team is still undefeated right now.
Connecticut freshman Ryan Boatright continues to be in limbo with the NCAA during its ongoing investigation into his eligibility regarding a plane ticket purchased for him by Reggie Rose, his AAU coach who happens to be Derrick Rose‘s brother. According to a NCAA source, Boatright could miss between three and six games depending on the value of the ticket. [Ed. Note: How do they figure this out? Use the highest possible price like it was purchased day of or do they see what you could get on Priceline?] For his part, Reggie Rose is declining comment “out of the respect to the Boatright family” while a source close to him calls the entire thing a “witch hunt”. While the Huskies will miss Boatright in November because of their lack of depth at point guard given the relatively short length of the potential punishment we doubt that this will affect UConn in the long run unless the NCAA drags its feet in announcing the punishment because Boatright will have to sit out during that period too.
We have known it was coming for weeks, but on Sunday the SEC made it official–Missouri will join the SEC for the 2012-13 season. We have already discussed in depth the impact this and other moves will have on the landscape of college sports so we will spare you all the details and moralizing. For the SEC fans who may not be familiar with Missouri and its sports teams, Alabama Live has provided a nice primer on the school and its athletic department. Our personal favorite part is the ranking schools by number of major NCAA infractions.
Bob Huggins would probably like to forget West Virginia‘s last second 77-74 loss to Division II Northern Kentucky on Saturday night when Eshaunte Jones hit a three with one second left. As we have said before these games aren’t particularly helpful although some people will make a big deal out of Northern Kentucky winning its first exhibition game against a Division I opponent in 19 tries. The reality is that the Norse shot lights out going 13 of 25 from beyond the arc and shooting 54% from the field overall while the Mountaineers came out flat falling behind 42-29 at half after trailing by as many as 17 points in the first half. After the game Truck Bryant, who led the Mountaineers with 24 points, said, “I didn’t see this coming. I mean losing to a D-II school, not to take anything away from them, that’s embarrassing.” We are assuming that Huggins and Bryant will use this as motivation for the regular season opener against Oral Roberts on Friday night.
Catlin Bogard of OVC Ball is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter @OVCBall.
Readers Take I
Here Come the Cougars: Although SIU Edwardsville is in its final year of transition to Division I, the Cougars will play a full Ohio Valley Conference slate. SIUE will be eligible to win the OVC regular season title, but cannot enter the conference tournament until they have completed their transition in 2012-13. The Cougars are unlikely, however, to make a major impact this season after going 0-9 against OVC teams a year ago.
Out of Balance: As a result of the Cougars entrance to the conference, the now 11-team league will play an uneven schedule of 16 games, much shorter than the 20 and 22-game schedules seen since the last OVC expansion. But the current structure won’t stay in place for long. After it was announced that Belmont will join the conference next season, OVC commissioner Beth DeBauchetold the voice of the Racers, Neal Bradley, that “it appears that it would make sense to have divisions, most notably for our men’s and women’s basketball teams.” But the OVC might not remain a 12-team league long enough to matter. Jacksonville State is exploring a move to a FBS conference according to a release from the school, and the Huntsville Times reports that Tennessee State has been invited to join the SWAC.
What Was Old is New Again: Two teams on opposite ends of last year’s final standings have one thing in common: inexperience. Both Morehead State and Jacksonville State will feature teams with more new faces than old this year. Last season’s last place Gamecocks have seven transfers and four new players, with Stephen Hall being the only Gamecock with more than one year of experience. Meanwhile, MSU has eight new faces, including six freshmen joining the defending OVC Tournament champions.
New Sideline Patrolmen: Two of the top teams last year, Murray State and Tennessee Tech, will feature new coaches this season. Steve Payne replaces Mike Sutton, who retired after eight seasons with the Golden Eagles. Steve Prohm will take over the Racers after Billy Kennedy left to take the head coaching job at Texas A&M.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Ohio Valley Conference correspondent, Catlin Bogard. You can read more of Bogard’s work at OVC Ball.
Movin’ On Up: Two teams will feature former assistant coaches in new roles in 2011-12, although each school took a much different path to the same decision. In March, StevePayne was named the new head coach at Tennessee Tech for the retiring Mike Sutton. The longtime Golden Eagles assistant had coached the team previously, as Sutton was sidelined with a horrible health condition that threatened his immune system. Over at Murray State, Steve Prohm will head the Racers after an offseason that saw former head coach Billy Kennedy’s name come up in at least three job searches before he eventually accepted the head coaching job at Texas A&M. The late-season coaching change didn’t leave Murray without options, as former Racer and current NBA assistant Popeye Jones’ name was one of many mentioned for the opening before the Racers eventually named Prohm as Kennedy’s successor.
Ten-Man Class: Morehead State lost its biggest player when Kenneth Faried graduated and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, but coach Donnie Tyndall is cashing in on the Eagles’ success last season by signing ten players for the 2011-12 season, including three juco transfers. The cupboard wasn’t exactly bare for the Eagles either, with ten players scheduled to return for Tyndall, so how he slices his rotation is something well worth monitoring for any Eagles fan.
Transition Period: Quite possibly the biggest news of the offseason will not even affect the OVC until next season. Belmont will join the conference in the 2012-13 season, leaving the Atlantic Sun after ten years of dominance. Also in 2012-13, SIU Edwardsville will become a full member of the conference, making the OVC a 12-team league. This year, the Cougars will play a full OVC regular season, but will be ineligible for postseason play as they continue their transition into Division I. How long it will stay a 12-team conference is up in the air, though. Jacksonville State is openly searching for a FCS football conference to move to, and Tennessee State was recently offered a chance to rejoin the SWAC.
Faried Will Be Missed in the OVC (But Not By His Opponents)
Three more conference tourneys kicked off last night, and that meant more eliminations from the national title race. From the Atlantic Sun, OVC and Patriot League, let’s bid good tidings to Kennesaw State, Campbell, Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky, Colgate, Holy Cross, Army and Navy — there are now 302 schools still alive.
Coming next: a big night, as thirteen more teams will be eliminated from the national picture this evening.
If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to email@example.com.
Top 25 Games
#11 Tennessee 83, #3 Pittsburgh 76: “Tennessee just DISMANTLED the #3 team in the nation on what was essentially their home court a day after learning a player they were counting on and practicing around wasn’t going to be available. Ho hum. Just another day in the life of Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee Volunteers. Don’t let the score fool you. After Pitt scored the first basket, it was All Vols. For the first eight minutes or so, it was a kind of stealthy ravaging. Up one. Up three. Up six. Eight. And then, with a little over twelve minutes to play in the first half you suddenly noticed that Tennessee was simply having its way with the Panthers and that it wasn’t a fluke. They were just beating them like it was what they were designed to do. And it looked almost effortless.” (Rocky Top Talk)
#4 Kansas 76, Colorado State 55: “The Jayhawks move to 9-0 tonight and head for a long week off before playing Southern California next Saturday. The game had a few scares but they weren’t provided by the Rams. Marcus Morris missed a large chunk of the first half after rolling his ankle under the basket. Elijah Johnson also missed time due to an injury of some sort, theories included a separated shoulder, a torn tricep, and maybe a hangnail was ripped off. Both players logged significant time in the 2nd half, so neither appears to be very serious at this point. As to the actual game, it was kind of a “we’re better than you, so please quit causing us problems” type of game. Intensity came and went throughout. The Jayhawks had trouble finding their rhythm in the high/low offense and didn’t have Marcus Morris to bail them out. Colorado Sate had the lead cut down to 5 early in the second half and appeared to have raised Bill Self’s blood pressure. The effect of that was for Kansas to go on their typical run and building a 15 point lead for the next several minutes. As time went on, Kansas just continued to build the lead and won by 21.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
#5 Kansas State 68, Loyola (IL) 60: The Wildcats won a close game in what was Jacob Pullen’s homecoming. (Bring on the Cats)
#6 Michigan State 77, Oakland 76: Taking a look from the Golden Grizzlies’ perspective about a pair of losses this week to Michigan State and Illinois. (Golden Grizzlies Gameplan)
#14 Syracuse 100, Colgate 43: “45 years ago, Syracuse and Colgate staged an epic game. Today, Colgate didn’t even score 45 points. Every single player on the Syracuse roster played and the Orange held the Raiders to a mere eight points in the first half as they enjoyed a 100-43 breather after the big Michigan State win. It was a one-sided affair, to say the least.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
#16 Purdue 77, North Florida 57: “Purdue enjoyed a delicious cupcake at home tonight and played Purdue basketball for one half and then simply put it on cruise control in the second. JaJuan Johnson had 25 for the Boilermakers while E’Twaun Moore had 21 and the rest of the team napped on the bench.” (Boiled Sports)
#18 Minnesota 71, Eastern Kentucky 58: “Braving blizzard-like conditions and hitting the floor without one of their leaders, the Gophers overcame a slow start against a pesky 1-3-1 zone to take down Eastern Kentucky in game that was expected to be a blowout from the beginning.” (From the Barn and The Daily Gopher)
#21 Kentucky 82, Indiana 62: “The very best thing I can say about this game is that we won. Let’s be honest, this was not Kentucky’s best game, but I will say that this was the best they have finished a game all year. They were struggling against an inferior but dangerous opponent, and I have seen UK teams fail open in that situation like a burnt-out circuit breaker. But not this team. In the end, the way they finished this tough rivalry game is encouraging. The way Kentucky played 32 of the 40 minutes is a bit disconcerting, but as the old golf saying goes, “It isn’t how, it’s how many.” This team got it done in the end when other teams haven’t in similar situations.” (A Sea of Blue and Inside the Hall)
Greg Waddell is the RTC correspondent or the Ohio Valley Conference. [ed note: this post was written prior to the weekend games of Nov. 26-28]
A Look Back
Kenneth Faried proved why he’s the Number 1 player in the OVC and probably an NBA lottery pick over a two-game Morehead State road trip. Facing off against two Top 10 teams in Florida and Ohio State, Faried put on a clinic as the 6’8 forward notched 20 points and pulled down 18 rebounds against the Gators and recorded 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Buckeyes on 5-7 shooting from the field. Faried is the real deal and OVC fans should enjoy him while he’s here.
Murray State has stumbled out of the gates, struggling to find an identity while trying to mesh a talented backcourt with an inexperienced frontcourt. The lack of production in the post has put a burden on the Racer guards thus far as teams have been able to pressure the perimeter and force Murray State to shoot the three. If the Racers hope to have success this season, Ivan Aska and Jeffrey McClain must step up their game in the post and high flying wing Ed Daniel must begin to assert himself in the scorebooks. All in all the Racers have the talent to repeat their success of a season ago but continue to be their own worst enemy. The game against Morehead State will get a whole lot juicier if Billy Kennedy can’t find a way to right the ship before December 4.
Murray State (3-1): Things haven’t gone quite as Billy Kennedy expected this early in the season but that’s okay with the Racers’ head man as his team heads west for the 76 Classic. Yet, they were able to notch a 55-52 win against Stanford in a semi-road environment. Still reigning as the class of the conference, things are looking up in Murray, Kentucky, as guard play has been the backbone of the team again this season. One cause for concern, though, is the lack of inside presence the Racers have shown thus far. The inability of the big men to establish themselves has hampered the backcourt slightly. There’s too much talent waiting in the wings though to dent their momentum too much though as sophomore sensation Isaiah Canaan leads the charge for the team this season, notching 11.7 points per game while senior Isacc Miles has been on the mend with a bum knee.
Morehead State (2-3): The boys in blue put on a show for OVC fans in their last two games provided a chance for Morehead golden boy Kenneth Faried to put on a show against perennial powers Ohio State and Florida is back to back contests. The Eagles has a little more success against the No. 10 Gators, pushing Billy Donovan’s squad to the wire before falling 61-55 as Faried notched 20 points and 18 boards. Faried found a fan in Donovan who gushed about the forward’s potential. “That’s Dennis Rodman all over again,” Donovan said. “If I was an NBA general manager I’d be taking him with my pick. That’s what a next-level guy looks like.” Faried is averaging 17.2 points per game on the season and adding 12.8 boards per game.
Austin Peay (2-3): Although their record is not quite as good as No. 4 Eastern Kentucky, the Govs have played a tougher schedule to this point, knocking off quality opponents in St. Louis and Chattanooga and narrowly falling to Lipscomb and Southern Illinois. The only glaring blight comes from a 87-65 beatdown at the hands of Purdue, but the Boilermakers are the No. 8 team in the country so that can’t be held too much against Austin Peay. Transfer Tyshawn Edmonson from St. Johns has been a bright spot, averaging 17. 4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for his hometown team while John Terry and Anthony Campbell average 12.8 and 12 points, respectively.
Eastern Kentucky (3-3): Despite sporting a .500 record, the Colonels could have fallen further in the power rankings as they have yet to play anyone worth mentioning. They do however have some depth to brag about as four players average more than 10 points a game with Preseason All –OVC player Justin Stommes just behind at nine a contest. Had Stommes been available in all the team’s games (he did not play in the first three) EKU could be 5-1. Spencer Perrin averages 11.3 points per game with Willie Cruz closely behind at 10. 8
Tennessee Tech (0-2): The Golden Eagles could have ranked higher with their two losses coming against potential tournament teams in NC State and East Tennessee State, but with no wins it’s hard to know how good Tennessee Tech can be at this point. Alfred Jones leads the way with 10.5 points and five boards per game with Kevin Murphy chipping in 10 and 6.5. UGA transfer Zac Swansey has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, including a 13 point performance against the Wolfpack in the season opener.
Eastern Illinois (1-3): The Panthers pose the same problem as most of their OVC contemporaries as little competitive basketball has been played to this point. With three bad losses, it’s hard to rank Eastern Illinois any higher but the talent to go deep in the conference still remains. Tyler Laser is the bright spot for EIU again tossing in 13 points per game while Jeremy Granger adds 12.6 points and 3.6 assists per game.
Jacksonville State (1-3): Same story, different team. Plagued by a lack of star power, the Gamecocks continue to toil at the bottom of the OVC standings with little hope of climbing out of the cellar as little help looms on the horizon. One bright spot has been Nick Murphy whose 18 points and seven boards a game pace JSU. The Gamecock’s lone win of the year comes against West Alabama. Enough said.
UT-Martin (2-3): A surprising start to the season has helped the Skyhawks as they rank in the top half of the league at this point in wins, but a lack of talent keeps them muddled in the cellar of the conference. Reuben Clayton has been a big time player for Martin this season, averaging 19.8 points and nearly seven rebounds a game. Mike Liabo is adding 12.2 points and 3.2 boards a game for team whose biggest claims to fame come in losses against LSU and No. 15 Memphis.
Tennessee State (1-4): Notching only one win this season, against small Fisk University at that, the Tigers have little to celebrate at this point. The bright spot for TSU comes in the form of a trio of talented scorers in Kenny Moore, Patrick Miller, and Robert Covington. Moore is averaging 14.8 points a game while Miller and Covington check in right behind him at 13.4 and 12.8 respectively. The Tigers can lay claim to a loss to a quality teams in Mississippi State (75-65) but a slaughter at the hands of St. Louis (78-50) shows inconsistency in the early going.
Southeast Missouri State (0-4): You know things are bad when all you have to brag about are losses but the Redhawks did play SEC foe Arkansas tough when they pushed John Pelphrey’s squad to the wire in a 66-56 thriller. Leon Powell and Nick Niemczyk are the only bright spots for SEMO – Powell checks in averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds while Niemczyk has posted 13.8 points per game.
SIU-Edwardsville (1-3): The bad got worse for the Cougars when the team’s leading scorer from last season, Mark Yelovich, went down in the team’s opening game, and will miss the rest of the season. The team has rebounded somewhat though as two players in Corey Wickware and Nikola Bundalo are averaging 14. 8 and 14.4 points a game, respectively.
A Look Ahead
Holiday tournaments are underway and the OVC teams are getting their fair share, with participants in the 76 Classic, Chicago Invitational and Global Sports Roundball Classic. The biggest chances for some national attention come against the Big Ten. Friday, SIU-Edwardsville will face struggling Iowa, and on Sunday, Tennessee Tech squares off against Michigan State. The OVC gets to conference play in a hurry — Morehead State and UT-Martin meet in Morehead on December 2.
Isaiah Canaan appears on ESPN First Take after a half court shot from his knees against SEMO:
Isacc Miles, Murray State (9.7 PPG, 47% FG)
Zac Swansey, Tennessee Tech
What You Need to Know
This could be the first year in quite some time the OVC puts two teams in the NCAA Tournament. Though unlikely, it could happen if Murray State has the season everyone is expecting, and Morehead State can find a way to knock off the Racers in OVC Tournament play. Based on preseason hype including a #31 ranking by Lindy’s, Murray State could make a resume impressive enough for an at-large bid if it can knock some big-name teams and win the 76 Classic in Anaheim. The other MSU can make some noise also, as the Eagles possess a special player in Kenneth Faried. In basketball, that kind of player can make all the difference and Donnie Tyndall’s squad will get the chance to make waves early as they play three quality teams from last season’s NCAA Tournament in Ohio State, Florida and Northern Iowa. Morehead State will travel to Gainesville on November 11 to get a crack at Billy Donovan and the Gators before heading north to Columbus two days later. Northern Iowa is the final stop as the Eagles head west to Cedar Falls on the December 11. Also, SIU-Edwardsville continues to wait in the wings as it transition to full-fledged membership.
Kenneth Faried is ready to dethrone Murray State, but the Racers have other plans. (zimbio.com)
Murray State (NCAA Seed: #9): After a campaign in 2009-10 that will go down as one of the best in program history, the scary thing for OVC foes is that this year’s edition may be even better. Despite losing senior leaders Tony Easley and Danero Thomas to graduation, the Racers look to reload behind the strong play of a three-headed guard attack. Led by returning starters B.J. Jenkins and Isacc Miles, the deadly backcourt gets a little more frightening when last year’s sixth man, Isaiah Canaan, gets thrown in the mix. Canaan, who actually averaged the second-most points on the team last season at 10.4 PPG, should pick up right where he left off, shooting a ridiculous 50% from the field and 48% from behind the arc. After last season’s last-second buzzer-beater vanquished Vanderbilt, things are looking good for Billy Kennedy’s squad, as the Racers look to cash in plenty of wins at the newly renamed CFSB Center.
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.
Kenneth Faried's return to Morehead State spells trouble for the rest of the OVC in 2010-11. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Greg Waddell of Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Standings (as of 2/18)
Team of the Week – Murray State captures the honor this week at the Racers continue a run of dominance through the OVC. Sitting at 16-0, Billy Kennedy’s team secured the regular season crown on Tuesday in a 80-68 win over Southeast Missouri State. Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has Murray as a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, playing Temple in Spokane. It will be interesting to see how the brackets unfold if Murray falls in the conference tournament as the OVC has typically been a one-bid conference. As Doug Gottlieb noted, it may be hard to turn down a Racer team with only four losses.
Player of the Week- In an unorthodox move, this week’s edition will nominate two players for the top honor. Seeing as how coverage is divided into a bi-weekly segment it would only seem fair to have two winners. Week one winner, Nick Murphy of Jacksonville State averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game as the Gamecocks split a pair of games from Feb. 8 through Feb 15 while week two winner Mark Yelovich from SIU – Edwardsville earned the award after dropping 34 points on the University of North Dakota.
Play of the Week – Instead of the typical game of the week, this edition will instead focus on a single play. This week’s honor goes to Isaiah Canaan, a freshman on the Murray State basketball team, after a half court shot from his knees earned the guard the top spot on the Sportscenter Top 10 and an interview with Jay Crawford on ESPN2 First Take. The heave has been mentioned as a possible nominee for an ESPY as Play of the Year.
According to OVCSports.com the OVC has a conference RPI of 19th nationally entering this week, a 10-spot improvement over two seasons ago.
Also as of now seven OVC teams have clinched a spot in the eight-team tournament as Tennessee State, UT Martin and SEMO fight for the final spot.
Murray State. The Racers wrapped up a conference championship and no. 1 seed in the OVC tournament Tuesday, coasting past the Redhawks of SEMO 80-68. Senior Danero Thomas recorded 18 points in the win and Isaiah Canaan hit a circus shot from half court to earn a date with ESPN. This season has been All-Racers thus far. Can it continue? We’ll see.
Morehead State. The Eagles played one of the toughest conference games this week, taking on Eastern Kentucky in a battle of the OVC’s No. 2 and 3 teams. Kenneth Faried was, well, Kenneth Faried, notching 15 points and 16 rebounds for the his 20th double-double on the year. Maze Stallworth added 20 points and four three-pointers and State rolled, clinching second place in the conference in the process.
Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels played admirably but fell just short against Morehead, stumbling 77-64. Josh Taylor played well for EKU, notching 21 points in the loss, but it just wasn’t enough. Eastern will get a shot at Murray State on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.
Austin Peay. The Govs had an exciting week as they opened play against Jacksonville State, drubbing the Gamecocks 83-63, before edging the Golden Eagles on Tennessee Tech in overtime. Austin Peay got a little help from two players this week, as Anthony Campbell and Wes Channels team to lead the team in scoring both games. The highlight of the week came in the second contest as Channels dropped 24 with Campbell adding 23.
Tennessee Tech. Overtime is just not good to the Golden Eagles as both games this week went to extra periods and both ended with losses. Tech is now 1-4 in extended play this season with Elijah Muhammed remaining one of the few bright spots after notching 26 points and 8 assists against Tennessee State and 15 against Austin Peay. Frank Davis added 15 in the loss to Peay.
Jacksonville State. Jacksonville State had another bad week, stumbling in back to back games at Austin Peay and Tennessee State. Dominique Shellman and John Barnes recorded 13 points apiece in the loss to the Govs.
Eastern Illinois. Eastern Illinois only played one game this week but that one game was a win, knocking off UT-Martin 83-68. Zavier Sanders, notched 16 points on eight of 10 shooting, to lead the Panthers.
Southeast Missouri State. SEMO played an integral role in Murray State’s conference championship Tuesday. Mainly in that they lost, but it’s a role they played nonetheless. There really isn’t anything to positive to say about the Redhawks at this point other than Marland Smith (19 points) and Derek Thompson (17 points) played well in the loss.
Tennessee State. The Tigers managed a two game winning streak this week, knocking off the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State in succession. Jeremiah Crutcher and Robert Covington teamed up for 48 points (24 apiece) in the win against Tech and Jacquan Noble dropped 18 points in the win over State.
UT Martin. Marquis Weddle was the only thing to write home about again as the Skyhawks lost their only game of the week. Weddle scored 18 points but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe next week.
SIU Edwardsville. Playing a JV team this week, the Cougars picked up their fourth win of the season as Mark Yelovich exploded for 34 points against North Dakota. That was pretty much the only bright spot for SIU-E
Pardon the baseball reference, but we know that if a guy’s throwing a no-hitter you’re not supposed to talk to him about it. In fact, you’re supposed to just stay away from him, let him sit in the dugout alone, and act like nothing special is happening. We don’t go for such superstitions around here, so let’s check out the teams that are currently undefeated in their conferences, and who has the best chance to actually pull off a perfect conference campaign.
Last season, there were only two teams that streaked through their conference schedules without a blemish — Memphis went 16-0 in the CUSA, and Gonzaga tallied a perfect 14-0 in the WCC. Memphis kept it going three games into this conference season, but back on January 20th UTEP showed the Tigers that they were having none of that, and snapped Memphis’ conference winning streak at 64 games. The Zags stumbled ten days later at San Francisco after winning their first six WCC games this season.
Can Aldrich, Collins, and the rest of the Jayhawks run the conference table?
Right now (before Thursday night’s games), there are no less than eight teams with perfect conference records. We list them here along with the next time they’ll put it on the line, and our prediction as to when they’ll drop their first conference game — if at all:
Greg Waddell of Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.
Standings: (as of 2/7)
Team of the Week – Rivals Murray State and Morehead State share the honor this week as both teams played admirably in their games. Murray continued its reign of dominance over the OVC, squeaking past hated rival Austin Peay 65-63 in the Regional Special Events Center while Morehead roared to a 84-75 win over Tennessee Tech to sweep the season series and capture 13 of their last 14 games. The two teams will square off on Feb. 25in Morehead, Ky., in a game that could determine conference supremecy.
Player of the Week – In a closely contested battle, Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried edges Tennessee-Martin guard Marquis Weddle for the title of Player of the Week in this edition. Although Weddles’ play (24 ppg and 6 rpg) over the week was superb, Faried claimed the award by showcasing an all-around game more suited for the NBA than the OVC, notching a dominant performance over the weekend against Tennessee Tech to raise his averages for the week to 19 points and 14 boards. During the stretch Faried recorded his 17th and 18th double-doubles of the season including his ninth straight.
Game of the Week – Murray State 65, Austin Peay 63. When rivals collide, crazy things tend to happen. This edition’s game of the week was just another example as it took every ounce of magic the Racers had to keep the team’s conference mark unblemished for one more game, edging the Govs on a last second shot by junior guard Isacc Miles. Although Miles provided the heroics, Danero Thomas provided the steady hand as the senior forward from Louisiana paced the Racers with 23 points and 11 rebounds. On the other side, Anthony Campbell played well for Austin Peay, nearly recording a double-double with 20 points and eight boards.
ESPN released its schedule of games for its Bracketbuster series on Feb 1. All 11 OVC schools will participate in for the fifth straight season with games taking place on Feb. 19 and 20. OVC schools are 16-29 all-time in the event, including a 3-7 record last season.
Oral Roberts at Austin Peay
Northern Illinois at Eastern Illinois
Winthrop at Eastern Kentucky
Presbyterian at Jacksonville State
Morehead State at Illinois State
Morgan State at Murray State (TV – ESPNU)
Southeast Missouri at Miami (Ohio)
SIU Edwardsville at Cal State Fullerton
Tennessee State at Central Michigan
Tennessee Tech at Appalachian State
UT Martin at Ball State
Murray State. The Racers continued their unbeaten streak through conference play, knocking off Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay in dramatic fashion. Against Tech, MSU started off slow but a second half surge allowed them to pull away easily behind B.J. Jenkins’ 17 point outburst. Jenkins also added five rebounds in the rout. The Austin Peay game was a different story altogether though as the Racers struggled to put together any rhythm and fell behind early. Isacc Miles, who struggled to score the entire game, put the team on his back in the final two minutes, scoring seven points including a dagger at the buzzer to knock off the Govs. Danero Thomas was a workhorse throughout the game for Murray State, recording 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Morehead State. This past week was a good one for the Eagles as they swept the season series against Tennessee Tech while also extending their win streak to 13 of their last 14 games. Kenneth Faried was a monster down low for Morehead State as the forward from New Jersey did everything but get the team water. Against the Golden Eagles he was especially dangerous, cleaning the glass for 17 rebounds while adding 26 points, but the game before was a relataively pedestrian one for the big man as he recorded only 12 points and 11 boards. Teammate Maze Stallworth picked up the slack though, dropping 26 points and 11 rebounds. Farried’s two double-doubles push his season total to 18 and nine straight.
Eastern Kentucky. The past week was also good for the Colonels and Papa Oppong as they jumped out to two wins behind the guard’s stellar play. In the games Oppong put on a shooting clinic for the opposition dropping two games of double-digit scoring in which he recorded 20 and 19 points respectively. The highlight of the week as the Colonels knocked off Jacksonville State on a Justin Stommes layup with 21 seconds remaining. EKU escaped to play another, notching their seventh straight home win against the Gamecocks.
Austin Peay. Despite dropping the heartbreaker to Murray, the week wasn’t all that bad to the Governors. Forward Anthony Campbell lit up the nets for 20 points on six of 10 shooting against the Racers while adding eight rebounds. He was equally impressive from the floor in Austin Peay’s win over Tennessee Martin and he notched 13 points and 10 boards. Center JohnFraley had his way with the Skyhawk defense in the win as he cleaned the boards for 14 rebounds and added 13 points as well.
Tennessee Tech. And now to the bad… Very few things went right for the Golden Eagles this week as they dropped tow straight games. Kevin Murphy was one of the lone bright spots in the 76-58 shellacking at the hands of Eastern Kentucky as the guard netted 16 points. There are no moral victories in conference play so although the margin against Morehead State was a little smaller, a loss is still a loss in the books. Jud Dillard did everything he could to help Tech in the Morehead game, but sometimes that not enough as his 25 points and 12 rebounds just couldn’t get them over the jump. Maybe next week.
Jacksonville State. Another 0-2 week for the Gamecocks was made a little bit worse by a close loss at the hands of EKU on Saturday. Nick Murphy was a monster in the first game, a 94-75 loss to Morehead State but the problem is he was the only one to show up, his 22 points and 12 rebounds just not enough to offset the point differential. Jacksonville State rebounded nicely against EKU but ran out of gas in the end as a crucial play by Eastern’s Justin Stommes put them down one and a timely charge call on the next possession ended their chances at a W. Trenton Marshall scored 19 points and added five boards in the loss.
Eastern Illinois. They fall in the bottom part of this list because they only played one game this week. That one game was a win, but coming against one of the weaker teams (SEMO) in the league doesn’t help. Jeremy Granger roughed up the Redhawks for 19 points on nine of 15 shooting and James Hollowell added 10 points and 5 rebounds for the victors.
Southeast Missouri State. Things got worse for the Redhawks as their only win this week came against a team technically not even in their league…literally. After a loss to the Panthers, SEMO took on lowly SIU-Edwardsville, currently 3-20 overall, to claim an ugly win. Sam Pearson scored 11 points and added four rebounds in the loss while Marland Smith netted 17 points and five rebounds in the win.
Tennessee State. Tennessee State doesn’t fall this low because of a lack off effort, just a lack of production. Despite Robert Covington’s outburst of 19 points and eight rebounds the Tigers failed to match up with Murray State, and squandered an early lead before falling by 22 (76-54). Jacquan Nobles and Will Peters did everything they could against Tennessee- Martin and their combined 39 points (Nobles-20, and Peters-19) helped TSU squeak past Martin 74-68.
UT Martin. Marquis Weddle is an animal; his team…not so much. Despite two 20-point games (23,25) against quality opponents in Austin Peay and Tennessee State the Skyhawks just couldn’t pull off a win in the end. The loss of a player like Lester Hudson would hurt any team but Martin must find a way to help out Weddle if they expect do anything come tournament time.
SIU Edwardsville. SIU- Edwardsville is doing a valiant job despite the odds stacked against them. The talent on their team will get better and better in future seasons but they aren’t there yet and it’s no ones fault. Nikola Bundalo did his best against SEMO, notching nine points and 13 rebounds, but Edwardsville found itself overmatched in every facet of the game and went home with a tough 68-49 loss.
% – SIU Edwardsville joined the OVC in July 2008. The program is reclassifying to Division I and not playing a full OVC schedule until 2011-12. They are not eligible for the OVC Championship or postseason play until 2012-13.
THIS WEEK IN THE OVC
PRIME-TIME BATTLE. The New Year begins with a top-notched showdown in the OVC and it will all be televised on ESPNU when defending tournament champion Morehead State (6-6, 1-1 OVC) welcomes in Austin Peay (8-6, 2-0 OVC) for a game at 8 p.m. (CST) Saturday night. It’s not lost on anyone involved that the Eagles upset the Govs 67-65 in two overtimes to win the 2009 OVC crown last March. And it helps that Morehead State and Austin Peay were picked to finish first and third (by the conference and RTC) in the preseason. Morehead State junior center Kenneth Faried, the Preseason Player of the Year, continues to dominate the league by averaging 16.5 points (third in the OVC) and 12.2 rebounds a game (tops in the OVC). He will be challenged by the Govs senior guard Wes Channels, whose 15 points a game is sixth in the league.
ONLY ONE? By the time Tuesday rolls around Murray State (10-3, 2-0 OVC) could be the last unbeaten left. The Racers don’t play Saturday and, while not an easy task, face OVC-winless UT Martin at 7 p.m. (CST) Monday.
THIS WEEK’S RESULTS
Monday, December 28
Morehead State 66, @South Dakota 64
UMKC 63, @SIU Edwardsville 54
Tuesday, December 29
Eastern Kentucky 76, Morgan State 62 (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
@#16 Ole Miss 90, Jacksonville State 75
@Saint Louis 60, Eastern Illinois 42
Wednesday, December 30
@UT Martin 71, Westminster 59
Chattanooga 68, Eastern Kentucky 54
Murray State 82, @SIU Edwardsville 51
@Tennessee Tech 95, Union College 46
@Alabama 77, Tennessee State 65
THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES
Saturday, January 2
Jacksonville State at Eastern Illinois, 6:00 p.m.
Tennessee State at Eastern Kentucky, 6:00 p.m.
Tennessee Tech at Southeast Missouri, 7:45 p.m.
Austin Peay at Morehead State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Monday, January 4
Austin Peay at Eastern Kentucky, 6:30 p.m.
Tennessee State at Morehead State, 6:30 p.m.
UT Martin at Murray State, 7:00 p.m.
Tennessee Tech at Eastern Illinois, 7:30 p.m.
Jacksonville State at Southeast Missouri, 7:45 p.m.
Tuesday, January 5
Milwaukee at SIU Edwardsville, 7:00 p.m.
Austin Peay at Morehead State: Rematch of 2009 OVC Tournament Championship Game won b y Morehead 67-65 in two overtimes.
UT Martin at Murray State: Racers could end up as lone OVC undefeated so early in New Year.
OVC. APSU’s Wes Channels and UT Martin’s Marquis Weddle were named Co-OVC Players of the Week.
AUSTIN PEAY GOVS (8-6, 2-0 OVC). Govs went 5-2 in December with losses at No. 3 Kentucky and Missouri. Govs lead series with Morehead State 48-47.
EASTERN ILLINOIS PANTHERS (7-5, 1-1 OVC). Panthers 5-2 on road in non-conference.
EASTERN KENTUCKY COLONELS (8-5, 1-1 OVC). Leads OVC in 3-point field-goal percentage at 41.4 percent (137-of-331 in 13 games)
JACKSONVILLE STATE GAMECOCKS (2-4, 0-1 OVC). First-place Gamecocks went 0-3 on road in non-conference
MOREHEAD STATE EAGLES (6-6, 1-1 OVC). Looking to beat APSU fourth straight time.
MURRAY STATE RACERS (6-1, 1-0 OVC). Could be lone league undefeated by Tuesday.
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI REDHAWKS (4-8, 1-1 OVC). The Redhawks broke a 27-straight conference game losing streak, then longest active streak in the nation, with a 74-66 win over Tennessee State on Dec. 5, 2009. Still only one home win.
TENNESSEE STATE TIGERS (3-10, 0-2 OVC). Only OVC team with one win at home, on road and at neutral site.
TENNESSEE TECH GOLDEN EAGLES (6-6, 1-0 OVC). Only team to win at least three at home and on road in non-conference (Murray State five at home, three on the road is the other)
UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS (2-9, 0-2 OVC). Skyhawks 0-6 on road in non-conference.