For the past few seasons, the OVC has been in that awkward stage: Too many members to continue a true round-robin, but too few to split into divisions.
On July first of 2012, the conference finally grew out of the awkwardness, becoming a true 12-team conference in basketball.
The Cougars go full Division I
Make no mistake, the whole of the OVC wasn’t thrilled with the OVC announced the addition SIU Edwardsville. The biggest issue: virtually no one had heard of them, or knew where Edwardsville was. After losing Samford in 2008, many fans were hoping for another football team to join, and someone to replace a strong basketball program.
SIU Edwardsville was neither, at least not what fans hoped for. In the ’09-10 season, while still in the transitional stage, the Cougars played eight games against OVC opponents, and lost all eight.
So most of us, myself included, didn’t have high expectations for the Cougars for the 2010-11 season, playing a full OVC slate in their final year of transition. They were almost universally picked to finish last.
And then they did anything but. Two straight wins to open conference play, and were 3-1 before hitting a 6-game slide. But by the time it was over, the Cougars had six conference wins, five coming in a recently renovated Vadalabene Center. (Which is a nice play to watch a game, BTW)
On July first, the transition period ended. Now SIU Edwardsville plays for keeps.
Belmont makes the move
Football fans would be stiffled again by the announcement of Belmont to the conference the summer before. But basketball fans were absolutely ecstatic. The jewel of the Atlantic Sun, a true mid-major powerhouse making the jump to the OVC only legitimized what the conference has begun to establish over the past four years.
And you starting hearing the whispers from the corners: “2-bid conference”
It doesn’t appear the OVC is on that pace this year. Belmont and Murray State already have a combined five losses, and with the bottom of the conference as weak as usual in RPI terms, conference play is likely to slightly drag both teams down.
The question that remains: how good of a move is this for the Bruins. Big picture, they’re in the heart of the conference, saving the Bruins a lot of travel money.
But from a basketball point of view, the Bruins move was questioned. The Bruins have gone from a virtually automatic NCAA tournament bid to one that’s anything but.
Will it pay off? Only time will tell.