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4 more teams tip off Ohio Valley Conference play today, but before I get to the previews, I’m going to do something I haven’t wanted to do: talk about Murray State’s undefeated record.

Well, sort of. One of the major benefits of their record, and more so their press coverage as a result, comes in recruiting. But is it strong enough to pull a player from a high-major team? Maybe with a little help from a former Racer.

“I’m looking at playing time and how the teams run their offense,” said Glass. “I see a place like Murray State with how they play and my dad played their so that helps them be on my list.”

According to both Rivals and Scout, Tevin Glass, a 6’8″ combo forward, is “strongly” considering Murray State. Who else has contacted Glass? Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, and Auburn, to name a few.

So how does Murray State fit on the list. Doesn’t hurt that Glass’ father played for the Racers.

Glass is currently playing in the Beach Ball Classic, and was singled out for his play by Rivals. Could he be a future Racer? It’s possible, especially if the Racers keep their record squeaky clean late into the season.

But the Racers don’t hit the floor until Friday, but 7 other OVC teams do.

Here’s today’s First Word:

[Austin Peay (3-10, 0-0) at Eastern Kentucky (7-6, 1-0), 6:00 p.m. CST] If there’s any team that looking for the beginning of conference play as the start of a new season, it’s the Governors. They’ve made it through most of their grueling non-conference schedule (still have another game against Belmont) and are as healthy as they’re going to be this season. Despite their record, they’ve won 3 of the last 4.

Eastern Kentucky, on the other hand, is just hoping to keep the momentum rolling. They’ve won 4 of the past 5 games, thanks in part to controlling tempo even better over the same stretch.

And tempo will be the name of the game today, as one of the most up-tempo teams in the nation in Austin Peay faces on of the slowest-tempo teams in Eastern Kentucky.

But even if the Colonels can control tempo, they’re likely going to have trouble handling the Governors game in the paint. Over 60% of the Governors scoring comes from inside the arc (compared to less than 50% for EKU) and EKU’s 2-pt defense is 311th in the nation.

Austin Peay is going to have more trouble forcing tempo than Eastern will, despite the fact they’re in the top-60 in the nation in forced turnovers. That’s because, first, it’s easier to slow down a game than speed it up, and second, the Colonels are 9th in the nation in ball control (30th using tempo-free statistics).

[Tennessee Tech (8-5, 0-0) at SIU Edwardsville (2-7, 0-0), 7:00 p.m. CST] If you’re an SIU Edwardsville fan, you probably feel mixed emotions about tonight’s game. On one hand, it’s the Cougars first OVC conference game. On the other, it’s likely a tough matchup for team that’s been struggling, and has yet to defeat a Division-I team this season.

For the Golden Eagles, it’s just the beginning of the soft start to conference play that included UT Martin and Morehead State before facing the currently undefeated Racers.

The Cougars offense was heavily centered on the 3-point shot early in the season, but they’ve found it harder to fall in the month of December. They are able to force turnovers, but are only averaging 61.8 points a game despite being in the top 1/3 in the nation in possessions per game.

[UT Martin (3-11, 0-1) at Tennessee State (7-6, 0-0), 7:30 p.m. CST] Compared to the teams UT Martin has played as of late, Tennessee State should feel like a break. That’s not an attack on the Tigers, rather just how difficult the Skyhawks schedule has been.

But the time to complain about strength of schedule has passed, now winning is what matters, and Martin already as one game in the loss column in conference play.

The Tigers are 4-1 at the Howard Gentry Complex this season, and are hot coming into this game, winning their last 4.  The Tigers are hitting 37% from 3-point range, including a team high 24 3’s from 6’9″ forward Robert Covington, who still surprises many people with his incredible range for a big man.

It’s likely tonight’s game could be very sloppy. Both teams are great at forcing turnovers, almost as good as they are at coughing up the ball themselves.

[Jacksonville State (5-8) vs Colorado State (8-4), 8:00 p.m.] It’s an early game tonight! At least compared to last night. The Gamecocks will play their second game in 2 days at the Sun Bowl Invitational, but against a much more challenging opponent than their opening matchup.

The Rams are a legit 8-4 team: their losses came against Duke, Northern Iowa, Southern Mississippi, and Stanford, all solid teams. They also have a win against rival Colorado, and have won 3 straight.

The Rams will play a similar pace to the Gamecocks, but have the opposite strengths: They’re a great offensive team, but struggle on the defensive end. The don’t create turnovers like the Gamecocks, but hold on the basketball much better than Jacksonville State does. The biggest strength of the Rams: they’re hitting just under 45% from 3-point range, good for 2nd in the nation. The Gamecocks’ 3-point defense: 28th in the nation, holding opponents to 28.8% shooting.

It’s a classic “something’s got to give” game, and the Gamecocks are still getting healthy. But they are building momentum, winners of 2 straight since their OVC opening loss to Eastern Kentucky.


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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