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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Championship Week is Actually Two Weeks, Starting Tomorrow

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2009

We all know that the calendar turned to March a little over 36 hrs ago, but did you know that we’re already on the verge of conference tournament season?  ESPN’s ballyhooed Championship Week doesn’t start for another seven days, but some of the smaller conferences are ready to tip it off and crown a champion.  Immediately, as in…  Tomorrow. 

Yes, the Big South, OVC and Horizon are all playing elimination games within the next 24 hours, and we’re quite sure that you weren’t aware of that.  The Patriot League begins Wednesday, and there will be ten other conferences that will start their tournament extravaganzas this week, with five of those finishing before Saturday is through.  In order to keep up with it all, we produced this schedule for our own internal use that might as well be made public for you guys also. 

2009-conf-tourney-schedule-v3

Also keep in mind that RTC Live will be attending the festivities this week in St. Louis, Richmond and Las Vegas for the MVC, CAA and WCC Tournaments, respectively.  Should be a blast at all three of those high mids.

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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.

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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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A Brief Conference Primer Interlude…

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2008

We’ve made it through eighteen of our thirty-one season conference primers so far, and our correspondents continue to top each other with their breadth of knowledge and coverage of the one-bid leagues.  So we want to thank them and once again highlight their fantastic work over the past few weeks by anchoring their primers in one post here, so that you (and we) can easily access them.  Going forward, we’ll primarily be dealing with the traditional multiple-bid conferences or conferences that should expect to see multiple bids this season.  Conference #13 will go up tonight, and we’ll be counting down to tipoff on Nov. 10, when the #1 conference primer will be unveiled. 

Also, keep in mind that our correspondents will continue to bring RTC comprehensive coverage of each league throughout the season.  Each of the above leagues will have an update post every two weeks, beginning in mid/late November. 

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Conference Primers: Single Bid Conference Recap

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

So we figure we’ll be done with these conference primers by Christmas 2008 Thanksgiving, which is about the time most people start keeping an eye on college hoops anyway.  In the meantime, we thought we’d take a moment to recap the seventeen single bid conferences we’ve already reviewed.  Keep in mind, our definition of a single bid league is a conference that does not regularly compete for multiple NCAA bids (even if they occasionally get multiple bids).

31.  SWAC
30.  MEAC
29.  Northeast
28.  Atlantic Sun
27.  Ohio Valley
26.  Southland
25.  America East
24.  Big South
23.  MAAC
22.  Ivy
21.  Patriot
20.  Sun Belt
19.  Big Sky
18.  Summit
17.  Southern
16.  Big West
15.  MAC

Some brief Single Bid Conference superlatives while we’re at this point:

  • Best Team. Davidson (#9 Seed NCAA) - this team has a shot at the Sweet 16 this year
  • Possible Spoiler. Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt) – everyone loves WKU in the Sun Belt, but ULM has an excellent team returning
  • Low Major All-Americans.
    • Stephen Curry (Davidson) – POY
    • Bo McCalebb (New Orleans)
    • Kyle Hines (UNC-Greensboro)
    • Jason Thompson (Rider)
    • Alex Harris (UCSB)
    • Hon. Mention – Courtney Pigram (ETSU), Arizona Reid (High Point), Courtney Lee (W. Kentucky), Tim Pollitz (Miami (OH))
  • Conference We Wish Were on TV More Often. America East. We dunno why, other than we’ve enjoyed watching teams like Albany, Vermont and BU over the past few years.  Seems like a fun conference.
  • Conference We Wish Would Re-Organize (or Implode). Sun Belt.  Despite a long and proud history, there are simply too many teams (13) located in too many places (from Denver to Miami).  This conference has lost its bearings.
  • Conference Champ You Can Count on to Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08Big West.  Although Ivy league champs tend to stay close, Las Vegas knows that, so we like the Big West instead, where teams not named Long Beach St. have lost by an average of only 7 pts during the 2000s.
  • Conference Champ You Can Count on to NOT Cover the Spread in NCAA Tourney 08Summit.  In its last nine first round games, the Summit champ has lost by an average of 22 pts.

And here’s how our Consensus Conference Picks are shaping up (RTC choice in red):

Consensus Conf Picks 11.07.07

Since last time, we added the CBS Sportsline picks as well as the conference media days selections for each league.  We had three more leagues came on with a full consensus (Patriot – Holy Cross; Sun Belt – W. Kentucky; Southern – Davidson) to join the OVC (Austin Peay), while the Big Sky (Montana) was only one vote short.  The Big West (UCSB) and MAC (Kent St.) were solidly in one team’s corner, while the Summit (IUPUI) and Ivy (Cornell) weren’t far behind.   We’re still not buying that Ivy selection of Cornell, though.

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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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