So it’s been 2 weeks since my last Power Rankings…and there’s not a whole lot of change, and I’d be seriously surprised if any team moved more than 2 ranks between now and the end of the year. While there have been upsets this year, very few have really been shocking, and most have happened on the underdog’s home floor. At this point only a UT Martin (or maybe even a Eastern Illinois win) would be a major upset or somebody beating Murray State, although, a road win by more than 5 points would be pretty big as well.
I was also challenged, more or less, by @tomviathoughts to explain my ranking in a Twitter friendly 140 characters of less. So, I’ll do so in italics before giving my usual longer explanation. Sadly, the italics are all you really need…
Here’s my Week 12 Power Rankings:
1. Murray State (9-0) All Season: 1
21-0. End of Story.
Do I even need to explain my reasoning here anymore? Is there anyone that’s going to argue? Because if there is, I seriously recommend that you find a new sport. Maybe golf is more your speed.
2. SEMO (6-2) Week 10 Ranking: 2
Only 2 losses. Better on defense, great on offense. Must survive 3 game week.
The Redhawks have a defining week, that can literally make or break the season. It starts tonight on the road against Eastern Illinois, where SEMO needs to prove they can win, even if it’s just against the Panthers. (SEMO nearly lost in Martin earlier this season in case your forgot) Then there’s a trip to Murray Thursday as the Redhawks get their first of two cracks at Murray State, and then host Tennessee State on Saturday.
If SEMO can escape the week with one loss (or possible even none) then the Redhawks have a great path to earning the double-bye. If they take 2 losses, they still have a game left against the Racers, meaning they’re likely to finish the season with at least 5 conference losses. If that happens, then the Redhawks are leaving the door open to one of the 4 teams currently with 4 losses.
3. Austin Peay (6-4) Week 10 Ranking: 4
Won 6 of last 7, loss was at SEMO. More balanced offensively.
The Governors have returned to form, winners of 6 of their last 7 games. The question continues to be can they weather their 0-3 start in the OVC. It will likely cost them a chance at the double-bye, but avoiding the first round of the OVC tournament is still very much in their grasp.
This recent stretch reminds me somewhat of last year’s Racers. They play a different style (read: much quicker) but have had an effective and balanced offensive attack. 4 different players have led the Governors in scoring the last 4 games, and 4 players are averaging 10 points a game this season. But let’s remember where that left the Racers: clinging to a OVC title, and losing in the first round of the OVC tournament, so that may not be a compliment. Especially to Govs’ fans.
4. Morehead State (5-4) Week 10 Ranking: 6
Where have Kelly, Profitt come from? Tyndall doing the most with the least. Just beat TTU.
Winners of 4 of their last 5, the Eagles are still in the hunt after losing their leading scorer. Going into conference play, I still wasn’t sold on the Eagles with Terrance Hill in the lineup. I am amazed with how well the Eagles have played as of late. Now, many of you will likely be quick to point out that Morehead State has won most of their recent games at home, but I’m also impressed by the Eagles non-conference win at Norfolk State.
Their schedule is also friendly going forward, including two games against both Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville. They’ll take on those two teams on the road this week, and if the Eagles lose even one, expect them to take a tumble in next week’s Power Rankings. These are not just winnable games, but games they should win.
5. Tennessee Tech (5-4) Week 10 Ranking: 3
Inconsistent, inconsistent, inconsistent. Capable of beating, and losing, to everyone. Like Morehead.
I’m still waiting for someone to explain the Golden Eagles to me. Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard are two of the most dynamic players in the league. With that kind of talent, I can’t understand why they’re straddling .500 in the league. I doubt this is the type of season Steve Payne was expected in his first official year in charge of the Golden Eagles, and with so much talent graduating this year, you have to imagine this season is TTU’s best chance to win the OVC tournament.
This is a team that’s still likely to be dangerous in Nashville, but I don’t see this team, especially, winning 4 games in 4 days, because that would require them going 4 games without a major letdown, something they’ve yet to prove they can do.
6. Tennessee State (6-4) Week 10 Ranking: 7
They’ve won 5 of 6, but who have they beat? Big tests this week.
As I said in this morning’s First Word, Tennessee State is on a great streak, but they’ve done so against (mostly) the basement of the conference. Their best wins are against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, both of which came at home. Their best road win? Eastern Illinois.
That being said, a win tonight against red hot Austin Peay, despite the fact it’s at TSU, would be impressive. A win Saturday at SEMO would end all doubt the Tigers are a threat come OVC tournament time.
7. Jacksonville State (4-6) Week 10 Ranking: 10
Winners of 3 straight, Gamecocks now in the Tournament field.
2 weeks ago, I had all but written off the Gamecocks. Yeah, that’s my bad.
The Gamecocks have scored 60 points in 3-straight games, and while for most every other team in the conference that wouldn’t be an accomplishment, that’s only the 2nd time this season the Gamecocks have put together that streak.
With UT Martin ahead on Thursday, JSU could put themselves 3 games ahead in the win column of Eastern Illinois, and all but lock up their spot for the OVC tournament.
8. Eastern Kentucky (5-5) Week 10 Ranking: 5
Going downhill quick. Only OVC win since SEMO came against UTM.
The good news for EKU, who is desperate need of it, is that they face Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville this week, before taking on Mid-Continent next week in another out of conference games that makes absolutely zero sense, especially in February. They also get EIU and SIUE again, as their final two games.
EKU has a great chance to get to 9 wins, (10 if they can pull an upset over either Morehead State or Tennessee Tech) but even if they do, I don’t know about their chances in Nashville right now. Their defense has been terrible in their last 3 outings, and statistically is 10th in the league in conference play, only ahead of UT Martin. It was 5th in non-conference play, a testament to just how easy their non-conference slate truly was.
9. SIU Edwardsville (3-6) Week 10 Ranking: 9
Lost 5 straight, 4 of which were by 10+ pts. Regressing like many expected.
It seems like an eternity since the Cougars were 3-1 in the league, yet it was less than a month ago. Things have taken a turn for the worst and I’m not sure how the Cougars dig themselves out at this point. The Cougars just gave up 76 points to a Jacksonville State squad that hadn’t scored 70 against any conference opponents this year. They gave up 49 points to Murray State in one half of play, and likely would have given up just as many in the second half if the Racers didn’t take the foot off the gas.
Things don’t look great down the stretch for the Cougars, including 3 games this week against Tennessee Tech, EKU, and Morehead State. They will also end the season on the Death Valley road trip.
10. Eastern Illinois (2-6) Week 10 Ranking: 8
A mess. 331st in SOS starting to expose Panthers record. 5 straight L, 4 straight by 10+
Somehow, EIU got an extremely back-heavy conference schedule. Last time out in the Power Rankings I said we would soon learn what the Panthers are made of. Well, we have. And it’s not been good.
Eastern Illinois isn’t just losing, they’re getting blown out on this losing streak. Their only 2 OVC wins are against UT Martin and SIU Edwardsville. Where do they get enough wins to make the OVC tournament? Their average point spread in conference play is -8, meaning even with the two double-digit point wins, they’re getting outscored on average by 8 points a game. A turn around here isn’t impossible, but still might qualify as a miracle.
11. UT Martin (0-10) Not Going Anywhere: 11
They’ve played a heck of a schedule. Didn’t do a lot of good…
Much like Murray, there’s not much need of an explanation here. The season is all but lost. The only question is do they manage an OVC win. They’ve been close, host EIU down the line, and get 2 shots at Jacksonville State.
Big question, which happens first: A UTM win, or a Murray State loss?