Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 21st, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

A top ten battle with a bit of recent history leads a solid slate of games this weekend. We are down to the last few non-conference games before we go full tilt into the conference season starting in the new year. It is going to be interesting to see who starts to separate from the pack as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#8 Kansas at #7 Ohio State 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)

Kansas' Jeff Withey Builds A Case For Most Improved Player. (AP)

How will Ohio State deal with Jeff Withey? (AP)

  • Kansas beat Ohio State twice last season.  Once in the regular season in Lawrence and once in the Final Four. Both teams are without their main contributors from last season in Jared Sullinger for OSU and Thomas Robinson for KU. The key for Kansas in both wins was field goal defense. They held OSU to under 40% shooting in both outings. The Jayhawks come into this game with another solid defense led by center Jeff Withey. Withey provides an inside presence that the Buckeyes will need to game plan around. They had trouble with Duke\’s Mason Plumlee in last month\’s loss to the Blue Devils. Plumlee put up 21 points and 17 rebounds against a Buckeye team that is a bit thin on the inside. While Withey\’s offensive skills may not be as refined as Plumlee\’s, he is capable of putting up 20+ points and will certainly be a major factor on defense. Additionally, pay close attention to the KU guards. Travis Releford, Ben McClemore, and Elijah Johnson are big guards. Look to see if they can take advantage of their size.
  • Ohio State has only lost two non-conference home games since Thad Matta got to Columbus in 2005. They lost in 2008 to North Carolina and in 2009 to West Virginia. While OSU is struggling a bit to find a legit second and third scoring threat, it’s hard to argue against a record like that at home. I learned that when Notre Dame beat Kentucky earlier this season. Still though, DeShaun Thomas is going to need help on the offensive end if Thad Matta and company are to keep that home record intact. Watch Aaron Craft, as he will be the X factor for the Buckeyes. He is averaging just under 10 points a game thus far but is capable of more. Watch the match-up between Craft and Johnson for Kansas. Johnson is turning the ball over frequently (25%) and Craft is one of the best ball thieves in the business. If he can create turnover and get the Buckeyes out on the run, OSU will be in good shape.
  • It’s tough to argue against Ohio State’s home record and they are still a very talented team, but I think Withey and the big guards make the difference in this contest. Look for Withey to shut down any second chance opportunities and defend the hoop against a slashing Thomas. Plus Kansas has this to inspire them.

More Great Action

#14 Missouri vs. #10 Illinois  6:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

  • Illinois’ win at Gonzaga may be the best win of the year thus far, along side Butler’s OT victory against Indiana. As it turns out, Illinois beat Butler as well, so it’s time to take John Groce’s team seriously. The guard match-ups should be excellent in this game. The keys for Missouri will be creating turnovers and getting offensive rebounds. The Tigers aren’t turning teams over like they have in the past but the addition of Alex Oriakhi has helped the rebounding situation tremendously. Mizzou ranks 7th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tigers will still have to contain Illinois’ Brandon Paul, however. If he gets loose like he did against Gonzaga, it will be another nice win for the Illini.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 04.09.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 9th, 2012

  1. Sometimes the coaching carousel is a strange creature. Later today, Trent Johnson will be announced as the next head coach at TCU. This would not be that notable except that Johnson is leaving LSU to take the job. Johnson has compiled a respectable 226-184 record in stops at Nevada, Stanford, and LSU, but that number is slightly inflated by three exceptional seasons at each stop where his team went 25-9, 28-8, and 27-8. Outside of those three seasons his record is 146-159. Now it may not be fair to exclude those three seasons because we could just as easily exclude his 9-20, 11-20, and 11-20 seasons, but it does point out some degree of inconsistency within his programs. Although Johnson still had a job at LSU perhaps he feared for his long-term security or had some issues with the administration there. In any event it does make an interesting situation when a coach left LSU to take over at TCU for a coach who went to Ohio, which is just about the exact opposite of what you would expect for most sports.
  2. After coaching at Florida International for three seasons Isiah Thomas was fired by the school on Friday. Thomas, who was a NBA legend as a player, but much less successful in his career afterwards, went 26-65. The initial thought that was perhaps with his name recognition and ties to Chicago he could bring in the type of players that would turn the school’s basketball program around. Unfortunately that was not the case and the team stumbled to a 8-21 record this season. Thomas appeared to be disappointed with the school’s decision and stated that he had been told he would get five years to turn the program around instead of the three years that he was given.  Thomas like most coaches who are fired claims that he was on the verge of turning the program around with several key incoming recruits. It will be interesting to see if the incoming coach will be able to keep those recruits and how Thomas will be viewed if those recruits can live up to his claims.
  3. After being led by Charlie Coles for sixteen seasons before he stepped down one month ago, Miami (Ohio) is set to introduce John Cooper as its next head coach. After being turned down by Arizona assistant coach James Whitford, the Red Hawks elected to pursue the Tennessee State coach, who led his team to the OVC championship game just three years after taking over a team that went 14-16 his first season. Perhaps, the most memorable moment of Cooper’s brief tenure at Tennessee State was their win over Murray State earlier this year giving the Racers their only loss of the regular season. Cooper will have a difficult task of following Coles, who was an icon within the program and the MAC. Fortunately for Cooper and the Red Hawks, we do not expect them to play Michigan any time soon.
  4. Later today, Eastern Illinois will introduce Jay Spoonhour as its next coach. Jay is the son of the well-known and well-liked late Charlie Spoonhour, who died of complications related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis earlier this year. Spoonhour’s coaching experience has been limited to time as an assistant at several programs and some time as a head coach at the junior college level including a national championship in 2001. His only head coaching experience came in 2004 when he acted as an interim coach for his father while at UNLV and went 6-3 during his brief run.
  5. Outside of the transfer of Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh there was some significant player movement as a few players announced that their plans for the NBA Draft. In one of the more surprising decisions we have seen, Khris Middleton has decided to leave Texas A&M forgoing his final year of eligibility. Based on what we have seen on mock drafts/draft boards Middleton is probably a late first/early second round pick. Given his injury issues this season, we figure it would have been better for Middleton to spend another year in college showcasing his skills while he is healthy, but perhaps Middleton thought it would be better to get a contract before another injury occurs. The people of Columbus have reason to celebrate as sophomore Deshaun Thomas has decided to return to Ohio State. Thomas, who had a huge NCAA Tournament, was projected as a borderline first round pick. Now with Jared Sullinger out of the picture perhaps Thomas can showcase his skills on a more regular basis. With Thomas returning expect to see the Buckeyes in the top 10 next season as they return most of their offense outside of Sullinger and have the potential to replace some of his productivity with one of their two primary recruiting targets–Amile Jefferson or Tony Parker. The last piece of news comes from Alabama where Tony Mitchell and Charles Hankerson Jr were granted releases by the school. While we expect Hankerson to transfer we are uncertain on Mitchell, who could consider entering the NBA Draft although we would advise against it. The more likely scenario is that Mitchell, who had discipline issues at Alabama, could be headed to another school.
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Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2012

  1. Yesterday, the eyes of the college basketball world were fixated on a hypothetical operating room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall underwent surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid. Right now information on the procedure and the outcome is limited outside of the usual useless PR information we always get. For right now we are getting conflicting reports with some people saying that Marshall hopes to play while others are saying it is unlikely he will play. In reality, the only people who are capable of making that prediction are Marshall and the orthopedic surgeon who operated on him. Over the next four days you will hear plenty of “experts” speculate on Marshall’s potential to play take it with a grain of salt because without looking at the imaging of Marshall’s wrist, examining it, or being in the operating room everything is just conjecture. That goes for all of these anonymous orthopedic surgeons that everybody is citing.
  2. After a solid, but unspectacular Kyle Cain appears to have decided that he will be transferring from Arizona State.  Cain, who is originally from Illinois, becomes the 11th scholarship player to transfer from Arizona State in the last four years.We are not sure how much Cain’s suspension earlier this season factored into his decision to leave, but something does not seem to be working in Herb Sendek‘s program and we imagine that the school’s boosters are going to be making a lot of calls.
  3. After he took time off earlier this season for an unspecified medical condition, which he never came back from, we suspected that we might not be seeing Bobby Cremins for much longer and yesterday he confirmed our suspicions when he announced his retirement. While Cremins was fairly successful during his six years at College of Charleston, he is best known for his time at Georgia Tech where he made it to five Sweet Sixteens including an Elite Eight in 1985 and a Final Four in 1990.  Cremins finishes his career with 579 wins, which ranks him 46th all-time among Division I coaches.
  4. With all of the focus in the state on whether or not Shaka Smart will head to Illinois to take over as head coach, the team’s former head coach, Bruce Weber, may be in line to get his old job back at Southern Illinois. According to a source, Weber is expected to interview for the job although the school has reportedly refused multiple attempt at confirmation. Weber went 103-56 in his first stint at the school including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2002.
  5. While Weber may be taking over at Southern Illinois, another well-known coach is looking at Eastern Illinois. According to a report, Dick Versace has expressed interest in coaching at the school. Versace, who will turn 72 in less than four weeks, is most well-known for his time at Bradley where he was named National Coach of the Year in 1986 and for his time in the NBA where he coached the Indiana Pacers before becoming an analyst for TNT then working with the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. Versace says he got developed the desire to coach again while helping out Rollie Massimino and feels that he can do the work necessary to compete at a high level. While we would not discount Versace for his age as he is not much older than two very notable Big East coaches, we do have our reservations about someone who has not coached since 1998 and at that point he was serving as an assistant. For their part, Eastern Illinois is yet to respond publicly to Versace’s interest in their position.
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Morning Five: 01.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2012

  1. It seems like Ryan Boatright is having quite a bit of trouble with the NCAA this season. After sitting out six games to start the season for taking impermissible benefits (an airplane ticket from his AAU coach), the Connecticut freshman finds himself in the NCAA’s crosshairs again. As a result the school has decided to hold him out of competition until the NCAA makes a decision. While the school is not willing to disclose any more information at this time, at least one report suggests that the source of both this new allegation and the prior allegation is the ex-boyfriend of Boatright’s mother with a grudge against Boatright’s mother. While we cannot verify that report, we do find it interesting that the NCAA is going after Boatright again when we all know there are plenty of other athletes that have probably been involved in a violation of some sort especially with the seediness of the AAU circuit. And of course there is the issue of when the NCAA will make a decision, which would most likely be the deciding factor in when the school could let Boatright play again. As one local media member points out the last time took quite a while to figure out and there is no indication that this investigation will be any quicker.
  2. It was an eventful weekend for North Carolina. On Friday they announced that Leslie McDonald would redshirt this season as he continues to recover from a torn ACL in his right knee. As we mentioned before McDonald could have provided the Tar Heels with another outside shooting option, but as it is they already have plenty of scoring options. On Saturday, the Tar Heels submitted one of the worst performances by a national championship contender that we can remember in 33-point loss at Florida State. Things got so out of hand that Leonard Hamilton suggested to Roy Williams that he send his UNC team to the locker room except for the five players on the court before the FSU students rushed the court.
  3. Eastern Illinois received a commitment on Friday from former Connecticut reserve guard Darius Smith. Smith, who transferred from UConn after his freshman year, spent a year at a junior college in Idaho where he had to overcome injuries from a car accident and managed to put up solid if not spectacular numbers (8.4 points, 5.3 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 steals per game). For Smith, a coveted recruit out of Marshall High School in Chicago (the school Arthur Agee graduated from), this means a chance to prove himself at the Division I level in his home state.
  4. Yesterday, one of Bernie Fine‘s accuser admitted that he had lied about being sexually molested by Fine. Floyd VanHooser, who was the fourth individual to accuse the former Syracuse assistant coach of sexually molesting him, claims that his lies were born out of frustration with Fine for not hiring a lawyer for him to fight VanHooser’s latest criminal charges stemming from a burglary charge, one of dozens that he has reportedly been arrested for. While VanHooser’s claims, which were deemed to be not credible by the District Attorney at the time, can be taken off the list against the allegations against Fine, they should not necessarily lessen the credibility of the other accusers.
  5. As part of the ongoing debate on scholarship reform the NCAA announced its support for the $2,000 stipend proposal, but directed a working group to come back with a proposal for its implementation in April. In essence, the NCAA asked a committee to figure out a way that the proposal could work within the boundaries of Title IX and the financial differences between big-time and small Division I programs. While the press release indicates that the rules change could go into effect as early as the 2013-14 season, it does not explain how this would impact high school seniors who signed scholarship offers in the fall when they were promised the $2,000 stipend.
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Who’s Got Next? Britt Chooses Carolina, Jones To Duke And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on November 30th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Britt Chooses Carolina, Gives Tar Heels Top Two Committed Juniors

Nate Britt Will Be A Force In North Carolina's Backcourt. (ESPNHS)

Roy Williams Out To Early Lead In Class of 2013. With junior point guard Nate Britt‘s selection of North Carolina last night, head coach Roy Williams has now received commitments from the top two signed prospects in the Class of 2013 — the other being power forward Isaiah Hicks. Britt has dreamed of being a Tar Heel since the age of 11 and will form a nightmare backcourt with Class of 2012 point guard Marcus Paige (North Carolina) when the two are put together. North Carolina is in great shape at the point guard position over the next few years thanks to the duo of Paige and Britt and won’t suffer a large drop-off after sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall leaves. Britt is such a valuable prospect because of his outstanding ability to score in the mid-range, knock down perimeter shots, and his consistency in getting into the lane. He’s an intelligent player who can finish well around the bucket with both hands. Britt is also a great passer and does a good job of controlling the pace of the game. A couple of other top juniors North Carolina is going after includes small forward Troy Williams and power forward Julius Randle. The Tar Heels have a good shot with Randle, although they aren’t the favorite — that would be Kentucky.

What They’re Saying

  • Junior Matt Jones on selecting Duke: “It’s the way they play and [head] coach [MikeKrzyzewski, everybody respects him and what they stand for with academics on and off the court. They can get me to the next level as a person and a man and as a player to continue to improve my game.”
  • Junior Julius Randle on  how Matt Jones’ commitment affects him: “I have to do what’s best for me and find the best fit. I know Matt pretty well and I don’t think he’s going to put pressure on me. He’ll tell me that if I don’t go to Duke he’ll love me either way.”
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Checking In On… the Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by cbogard on November 18th, 2011

Catlin Bogard is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. You can also find his musings online at OVC Ball or on Twitter @OVCBall.

The Week That Was

  • Rough Week For Big Men: Two of the top big men in the conference have already missed games this year due to injury. SEMO’s Leon Powell injured the same knee that caused him to miss an entire season two years ago in the Redhawks’ final exhibition game. Powell did not play in their opener against Missouri, but did return against Harris Stowe, shooting a perfect 8-8 from the field. Austin Peay’s John Fraley is out of the hospital after suffering a concussion in the Governors opening game against Middle Tennessee. Fraley was sorely missed on the Governors’ trip to California, and could miss a couple of weeks according to the Leaf-Chronicle.
  • It Hasn’t Even Been Close: The Ohio Valley Conference isn’t off to the best of starts, with only ten wins in its first 29 outings. But what’s surprising is how many haven’t even been close. Of the conference’s 19 losses, 14 have been by double digits. The exceptions? Tennessee Martin’s nine-point loss to Ohio, Austin Peay’s nine-point loss to Middle Tennessee, Eastern Illinois’ seven-point loss to Indiana State, Tennessee State‘s three-point loss to Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri State‘s one-point loss to Bradley.
  • The Flip Side: Not everything is bleak in the OVC. The Racers are off to a 3-0 start, after a big win on the road against the favorites to win the MEAC, Morgan State. Tennessee Tech held a late second half lead against Miami before things fell apart in the closing minutes. And while there haven’t been a lot of wins, there haven’t been any embarrassing upsets for the conference either.

Just A Week Into The Season, Steve Prohm's Racers Are The Only Remaining Undefeated Team In The OVC. (Ricky Martin/Ledger & Times)

Power Rankings

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RTC Conference Primers: #23 – Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by cbogard on October 12th, 2011

Catlin Bogard of OVC Ball is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference. You can find him on Twitter @OVCBall.

Readers Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • 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 DeBauche told 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.

Predicted Order of Finish

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RTC Summer Updates: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2011

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.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • 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, Steve Payne 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)

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Checking in on… the OVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

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.

Power Rankings

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

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RTC Conference Primers: #20 – Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 15th, 2010

Greg Waddell of The Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Murray State (17-1)
  2. Morehead State (15-3)
  3. Austin Peay (11-7)
  4. Eastern Illinois (11-7)
  5. Eastern Kentucky (10-8)
  6. Jacksonville State (8-10)
  7. Tennessee Tech (8-10)
  8. Tennessee State (6-12)
  9. Tennessee-Martin (3-15)
  10. Southeast Missouri State (1-17)
  11. SIU-Edwardsville – ineligible for conference tournament

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G:  Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (10.4 PPG, 50% FG, 48% 3-pt)
  • G:  B.J. Jenkins, Murray State (10.6 PPG, 1.8 SPG)
  • F:  Anthony Campbell, Austin Peay (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
  • F: Justin Stommes, Eastern Kentucky (14.2 PPG, 52% FG, 42% 3-pt)
  • C: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State (16.9 PPG, 13 RPG, 56% FG)

Isaiah Canaan appears on ESPN First Take after a half court shot from his knees against SEMO:

6th Man

  • Isacc Miles, Murray State (9.7 PPG, 47% FG)

Impact Newcomer

  • 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)

Predicted Champion

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.

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Summer School in the Ohio Valley Conference

Posted 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.

Kenneth Faried's return to Morehead State spells trouble for the rest of the OVC in 2010-11. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Power Rankings:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 »
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