We are exactly two weeks from the opening day of the OVC Tournament, and as far as end of season drama is concerned, there’s not much to be had. Barring what would seemingly be a miracle, the field of 8 is set, and has been for quite some time; it looks like we have a solid 2-seed; and the single bye might not be important enough to even discuss.
But what is important at this time is momentum. That’s what makes tonight’s games so important…if you can get a win tonight, you have just enough time to build that momentum heading to Nashville, but it’s not so soon that you become a target. (See: Tennessee State) Because tournament success isn’t necessarily about who is the most talented (although that helps) it’s about what team is playing their best basketball at that point in time. That’s how we get upsets, and that’s what has always made March so special.
And it’s the one thing that makes the Racers anything but a lock to win the OVC Tournament.
I stand by my comment, as infuriating as it apparently was for many Racers fans, that they are a better team now that they’ve lost. And it comes at a good time as well, as it gives the team enough time to become “great” again before hitting Nashville. And yes, to make that claim, I’m saying they weren’t great. The win streak was, but the Racers were hardly playing great basketball in the weeks leading up to their loss to Tennessee State. Unless the Racers win out, a challenge to say the least with 3 road games at top-4 OVC schools, and a home game against a great and motivated St. Mary’s squad, they may need to win the OVC tournament to get it. They may need to be that “hot” team come OVC tournament time just like the other 7 schools in the field.
With an overtime win over Jacksonville State last night, you couldn’t be blamed if you think Tennessee State might be on the backside of their run. They beat a you-never-know-whether-we-will-show-up-or-not Tennessee Tech team over the weekend, and barely scraped by Jacksonville State yesterday. The question is, did they peak last week? If they can hold on to the 2-seed, then the Tigers will also have a target on their backs.
While those are the teams with momentum, others, including Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay, who have struggled as of late, have one last chance to string together a few wins heading into Nashville. If you can go into the tournament on a 2 or 3 game win streak, it can be a huge boost of confidence. Of course, if you continue to struggle, the writing is on the wall to be a one-and-done team.
Seeding is important, to a point, but in my opinion, momentum is more so. Either way, we’ve entered the home stretch, and while a win tonight might be worth the same in the standings as one a win in January, they are hardly equal.
SEMO is celebrating a sellout, which is great. But I wonder: How many of those tickets ended up in Racers fans hands? SEMO feels they let one slip away almost two weeks ago, but as I said at the time, I’m not sure how true that really is. They’ve struggled some since then, but need a win tonight to keep dreams of a 2-seed alive. The Racers need a win to keep at-large hopes alive, and a win would make them sole OVC champions.
Morehead State has looked shaky of late. Austin Peay has looked…awful, and honestly, that may be being kind. Austin Peay does need at least one win to lock up an OVC tournament spot, but a Morehead State win would put them in good position for a bye.
Can the Cougars play spoiler and end EIU’s tournament chances? Can Eastern Illinois win 3 straight games? Can their fans get a high scoring game, just for watching so many games played in the 50s?
Anything could happen here. Seriously. EKU could win by 20. TTU could win by 30. Both teams could struggle to score 50. Take your pick. EKU is in the same boat as Austin Peay: needs a win to lock up a tournament spot. TTU needs a win to hold on to the bye.
Tigers need OT, but keep the win streak alive. Now have won 10 of last 11. JSU defense better than we’ve seen as of late, which is a good sign.