As of now, no team has been eliminated from Ohio Valley Conference tournament consideration. There is at least one possible path for every team in the league (except Jacksonville State, obviously) to make the OVC Tournament in two weeks.
But that could change today.
A loss by Austin Peay would mean they could only get to five conference wins, and there will be at minimum seven eligible teams in the conference with six OVC wins at the end of the year.
Either SIU Edwardsville or Eastern Illinois will have at least five wins. No matter what else happens, Austin Peay can’t win a tiebreaker, straight up or three-way, against either.
The Governors are 12-point underdogs on the road at Eastern Kentucky.
Game Of The Day
Austin Peay 7-20 (3-10) at Eastern Kentucky 21-6 (10-3)
7:00 p.m. EST
It could be the biggest blowout of the day, but no game has any more at stake. Austin Peay is looking to keep their season alive, while Eastern Kentucky is looking to tie the school record for most wins in a season.
Austin Peay has already picked up two season-saving wins on the road in the past week, and did so with great three-point shooting, hitting 50% from behind the arc in their last two games. EKU has struggled against good shooting teams throughout the season, so the Governors may be able to take advantage again.
Of course, the Governors defense has made things much harder on their offense all season.
Eastern Kentucky is also in a must-win situation if they want to be the No. 1 overall seed in the OVC Tournament. A loss and a Belmont win would put EKU two games behind with two to go, and Belmont holds the tiebreaker thanks to two head-to-head wins. The Colonels currently hold a 5-game win streak heading into tonight’s game.
Murray State 18-7 (9-4) at Morehead State 13-14 (7-6)
7:00 p.m. EST – ESPN3
Murray State is simply looking to stop the bleeding. After picking up arguably their best two wins of the season at home a week ago, the Racers are coming off of two straight losses to teams with losing records. Now they travel to Morehead State, where Murray State has lost three of the last four meetings.
The Racers are coming off one of their worst defensive performances of the season, losing despite hitting 15 three-pointer’s at Eastern Illinois. While for some the offensive exhibition was long overdue, a barrage of easy backdoor plays allowed the Panthers to shoot 56% from the floor.
Morehead State is in no-man’s land. At 7-6, they’re a lock to make the OVC Tournament, but they’re likely too far out to compete for a single-bye, trailing Tennessee State by two games with three remaining.
Southeast Missouri 14-13 (6-7) at Jacksonville State 15-10 (7-7)
7:00 p.m. CST
Southeast Missouri isn’t a lock to make the OVC Tournament, but they’re close. A win tonight at Jacksonville State would seal the deal. The concern for the Redhawks is that all of their OVC wins come against team’s with losing records, and have just one road win in conference play.
At this point in the season, each team’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly well defined. Despite having two of the best rebounders in the league, Southeast Missouri struggles as a whole to rebound. They also force the fewest number of turnovers in the conference, but generally limit their own turnovers. It’s the exact same things I’ve been saying since November (seriously, look up a First Word in November. I’d be amazed if two of those three points above weren’t in there) and doesn’t appear that it’s going to change anytime soon.
I’m starting to wonder if Jacksonville State’s practice restrictions due to APR are starting to have an impact. The Gamecocks have won three straight including a head-scratcher to Tennessee Tech. All three games were on the road, which could have an impact as well. No team is worse at rebounding than the Gamecocks, and they’re mostly average across the board statistically.
Tennessee State 15-11 (9-4) at SIU Edwardsville 9-14 (5-8)
7:00 p.m. CST – Fox Sports Midwest
There’s no better way to sum up SIU Edwardsville than by looking at last week. After their first ever win over Murray State, the Cougars allow Austin Peay to make a huge run in the first half, losing a game that was never competitive.
What does seem to be clear is the Cougars aren’t missing Jerome Jones, suspended for the season, as much as some may have expected. Their scoring, so far, hasn’t been majorly impacted, although there are reasons to be concerned about the defense after allowing the Governors to shoot 57%
Tennessee State is hoping to not have a Cougar-sized meltdown coming off their win of the season, beating Belmont last Thursday. The win very much keeps the Tigers alive for the OVC Tournament three-seed, which would allow the Tigers to avoid the one-seed (likely Belmont) until the tournament finals.
It also appears Robert Covington is close to 100%, coming off of a 25-point performance against the Bruins, and double-double in the Tigers loss to the Racers.
Belmont 20-6 (11-2) at Eastern Illinois 8-19 (5-9)
7:00 p.m. CST
Speaking of the Bruins, Belmont is looking to bounce back from their second loss of the conference season against a team coming off their best win of the year. (It’s today’s theme, apparently) Eastern Illinois win over Murray State put the Panthers in much better shape to make an OVC Tournament appearance, but have just two games remaining.
After a 10-0 start, the Bruins have lost two of their last three, leaving many searching for answers. Rebounding has been a concern for quite some time, but one common thread in both recent losses is the Bruins sent both opponents to the free-throw line more than double their own attempts. The Bruins aren’t a team particularly known for fouling, but it’s been more of a concern as of late. Belmont’s three-point happy offense doesn’t lend itself well to getting to the line, with Kerron Johnson being a notable exception.
Eastern Illinois has won five of their last eight conference games, moving from 0-6 in the OVC to a team contending for the final OVC Tournament spot. All of their wins have come against the West Division, but the Panthers also haven’t played an East Division team in five weeks.
A battle over tempo could be key to keeping this game close. Eastern Illinois is the slowest tempo team in the conference, Belmont the fastest.