Today, it’s all about March. With the season winding down, many teams are in must-win situations today to keep their hopes alive for a top seed, or even just to make the OVC Tournament. So we’re focusing on the importance of each game moving forward.
For the first time in quite a while, no team is a double-digit favorite.
Here’s the First Word:
Game of the Day
Southeast Missouri 13-13 (5-7) at UT Martin 7-17 (4-8)
6:00 p.m. CST
It might not be the flashiest matchup, but it’s by far the most important for both teams. A win by the Redhawks could sew up a trip to the OVC Tournament, and put the Skyhawks backs up against a wall. On the flipslide, a UT Martin win puts pressure on Eastern Illinois, hosting Murray State today in Charleston.
Their first meeting in December feels like a decade ago. SEMO struggled to score on their home floor, but held UT Martin to 35% from the field. The Skyhawks have improved since that meeting on offense, and have won three of four heading into today’s matchup.
The battle of the frontcourts should be fun to watch. Nino Johnson had a double-double in their first meeting, and Tyler Stone was just one short, as SEMO got the better of the Skyhawks forwards. Myles Taylor has to have a good game for the Skyhawks to pull off a much-needed win.
Rest of the Slate
Murray State 18-6 (9-3) at Eastern Illinois 7-19 (4-9)
6:00 p.m. CST – ESPN3
Eastern Illinois is coming off a mildly surprising loss to Austin Peay. Murray State is coming off a downright shocking loss to SIU Edwardsville. Both teams are looking for a bounceback win today, but one team needs it.
The Panthers are half a game back of UT Martin for the final spot in the OVC Tournament heading into today, and the Skyhawks have an easier opponent in Southeast Missouri. With just two conference games left after today, a loss today puts the Panthers in must-win mode to get to the magic number of six, with Belmont next on the slate.
A win today guarantees the Racers the West Division, and at least a two seed in the OVC Tournament. But knowing Murray State fans, they’re not looking to be ranked No. 2.
Jacksonville State 15-9 (7-6) at Eastern Kentucky 20-6 (9-3)
7:00 p.m. EST
James Green is back on the sidelines for the Gamecocks today, who are coming off a hard to swallow loss on Thursday against Morehead State, getting called for a technical foul with 1.6 seconds to go in a tied game.
Eastern Kentucky is hoping to hold off Tennessee State for the 3-seed in the OVC Tournament, and stay mathematically alive, if nothing else, for the top overall seed. (Though losing the season series to Belmont makes it more challenging)
The Colonels dominates the matchup earlier in the season, winning by 11 in a game that wasn’t that close. EKU shot 51% from the field in the win, and held JSU to just 31%.
Tennessee Tech 9-15 (3-9) at Morehead State 12-14 (6-6)
7:30 p.m. EST
The Golden Eagles are another team in must-win mode. This is the first of two matchups against the Eagles in the next two weeks, and TTU probably needs to win three of four to finish the season. They’ll host EKU, a team they fought into the second half on Thursday, and also play UT Martin. Three wins isn’t out of the question, but a split with the Eagles is required.
Morehead State is looking for consistency, more than anything. The Eagles put up just 47 points last Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, but 85 on Thursday in a win over Jacksonville State. It’s been the tale of two Morehead State teams this year. It’s been this way all year, and there’s little reason to believe it’s going to change between now and the OVC Tournament in March.
Austin Peay 6-20 (2-10) at SIU Edwardsville 9-13 (5-7)
7:00 p.m. CST
Austin Peay may be reduced to playing spoiler, but the Governors haven’t given up on their season, pulling off a win at Eastern Illinois Thursday. Now they get an SIUE team coming off their best win since making the Division I transition. Will the Cougars be focused to take down Austin Peay for conference win number 6, a number that should be enough to make it to Nashville?
SIU Edwardsville won easily in Austin Peay a month ago, as the Governors struggled from behind the arc. AP is coming off a 9-17 performance from 3-point range against Eastern Illinois, and if they get going again, the question becomes can the Cougars get points without their leading scorer, Jerome Jones. They didn’t need too many points to beat Murray State, that won’t be the case in every game.
Three Things to Watch
- A win today by Murray State would give Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel as many wins in their 4-year careers as any player in Racers history. Given their rich history, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
- Jud Dillard is shooting 81% from the free-throw line on the season,15th best in the conference. During the month of February? 29-30. I don’t suggest putting him on the line.
- For you betting types, (or Pick ‘Em types) underdogs won all five against the spread on Thursday, three winning the games outright. Just food for thought.