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Last year, it took six conference wins to earn one of the coveted eight seeds in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, the race to make it to Nashville has come down to seven teams fighting for the final four slots.

While there is a real possibility that five wins could make it to Nashville this season, (due to the top-heavyness of the league) getting to six should be enough to all but lock a trip to Nashville. Seven wins, and you can get your hotel.

So which teams have the best chance? Here’s a breakdown of the teams with fewer than six OVC wins.

Morehead State (5-5)

Remaining Schedule: 

vs Eastern Kentucky
vs Jacksonville State
vs Tennenssee Tech
vs Murray State
at Tennessee State
at Tennessee Tech

Baring an absolute collapse, Morehead State is about as safe as it gets. They not only have two games remaining against two-win Tennessee Tech, but get to play the next four games at home, where they’re 8-3 on the year. Getting to six, or even seven wins shouldn’t be a problem.

 

SIU Edwardsville (4-5)

Remaining Schedule:

at Southeast Missouri
at UT Martin
vs Murray State
vs Austin Peay
vs Tennessee State
at Belmont
at Eastern Illinois

The Cougars have the edge with at least a one and a half game lead on the rest of the field, but their schedule isn’t friendly to them down the stretch. The Cougars edged SEMO at home, and lost to UT Martin, their next two road games. And at just 1-8 away from the “Vad Pad” this year, the possibility of the Cougars losing all four on the road is a serious concern.

If that happens, the Cougars will need to take two of their remaining three home games. Murray State has seemed vulnerable, but the Cougars were unable to finish the Racers off in Murray. Austin Peay is very winnable, and Tennessee State is back to full strength with Robert Covington back. So that’s not going to be easy.

This week may be the most important for SIUE. If they can at least split their games on the road this weekend, all they would need is one more win to get to six, which will likely be enough yet again to make it to Nashville. Seven would make the Cougars save, and while it’s possible it would require an upset of two.

 

Eastern Illinois (3-7)

Remaining Schedule:

at UT Martin
at Southeast Missouri
vs Austin Peay
vs Murray State
vs Belmont
vs SIU Edwardsville

Eastern Illinois has momentum, winners of three of the last four. That loss is an important one though, on the road last Saturday at SIU Edwardsvile, who they close out the season with.

The good news for the Panthers is they close out OVC play with four straight at home. The bad news is that Murray State and Belmont are among those four teams.

Much like SIU Edwardsville, this week’s road trip is key. Get a split, and you need to hold home court against Austin Peay and SIUE to get to the magical number of six. Lose both, and you’ve got to beat either Murray State or Belmont.

 

Southeast Missouri (3-7)

Remaining Schedule:

vs SIU Edwardsville
vs Eastern Illinois
at UT Martin
at Jacksonville State
at Austin Peay
at Murray State

I never thought the Redhawks would fall this far, where one could seriously consider whether they make the OVC Tournament. While they have, they do have an easier slate of remaining opponents than EIU and SIUE, who both still have Belmont.

The problem is Southeast Missouri has the final four games on the road. The “good” news, though is that SEMO is 3-7 away from Cape Girardeau this year. That’s as many road wins as SIUE, EIU, UT Martin, and Austin Peay combined.

Winning both this week would take a lot of pressure off the slumping Redhawks, in their final two home games of the season. But even if they split, picking up two wins of the road isn’t out of reach, with wins already over UT Martin and Austin Peay. Of course, those wins were early in the season, at home, and closer than many expected.

If Southeast loses both at home this week, it could be season over, barring an upset at Jacksonville State or at Murray State.

 

UT Martin (3-7)

Remaining Schedule:

vs Eastern Illinois
vs SIU Edwardsville
vs Southeast Missouri
at Tennessee Tech
at Murray State
at Austin Peay

No team has a better schedule down the stretch than the Skyhawks. Their one remaining game against the East Division is at Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin has momentum on their side coming off two big wins, including at home against Eastern Kentucky. Unlike other teams in this lead, UT Martin has multiple ways to get to six wins, although taking two of their next three at home would take off some pressure for the final road swing.

If the last two games are a sign of things to come, and not come kind of illusion, UT Martin looks like a favorite to make it to Nashville. Wouldn’t have said that a few weeks ago.

 

Tennessee Tech (2-8)

Remaining Schedule:

vs Jacksonville State
at Eastern Kentucky
at Morehead State
vs UT Martin
vs Eastern Kentucky
vs Morehead State

I’m not sure I see a road to six wins here. But five wins could be a real possibility, and as mentioned in the introduction, that could be enough under the right circumstances to warrant a trip to Nashville. But a lot of that could depend on a tiebreak. TTU holds the tiebreaker over Eastern Illinois, but not Southeast Missouri. Their game in two weeks against UT Martin is a must win, not only to get to five, but for the tiebreak over the Skyhawks.

Outside of UT Martin, the question is can TTU find two other wins. Thursday against Jacksonville State gives the Golden Eagles one of their best shots, the other being their season ender against Morehead State. TTU is decent on the road this year (3-10 is decent in the OVC) and could possibly even steal the game at Morehead State.

Still, the road is much tougher than teams in the West division. But unlike teams in the West, TTU has games against teams likely not playing for anything. (JSU, finale against Morehead)

 

Austin Peay (1-8)

Remaining Schedule:

vs Tennessee State
vs Belmont
at Eastern Illinois
at SIU Edwardsville
at Eastern Kentucky
vs Southeast Missouri
vs UT Martin

So not only does Austin Peay need the most wins, they also have the toughest remaining schedule, with the top three teams in the East Division still on their schedule.

Even if the Governors sweep their remaining games against the West Division (a tall order with just one conference win so far,) that would move Austin Peay to five wins, and a split with almost every team they could be in a tie with. Given their best win, record-wise, is against Morehead State, that actually bodes well for their chances if a tiebreaker moves past head-to-head.

But barring some big upsets down the stretch, it’s highly unlikely the Governors can string together enough wins. Not impossible. But about as close as you can get.

 

Predictions

Morehead State is a “lock” in my view. So that leaves three slots remaining.

UT Martin has the best schedule, and is playing their best basketball of the season. I like their chances to at least get to five wins, and very possibly six.

SIU Edwardsville has been up and down, but they’re already at 4-wins in conference play. Two more doesn’t seem out of the question.

That leaves the final slot. EIU, SEMO, or TTU. Eastern Illinois plays SEMO this Saturday. A win by Eastern Illinois would sweep the season series, and give them a huge advantage. A SEMO win gives the Redhawks life. But even if SEMO wins this weekend, EIU has a solid chance.

If EIU wins? Every games becomes a must win for the Redhawks.

 

Seed Prediction

5. Morehead State
6. SIU Edwardsville
7. UT Martin
8. Eastern Illinois


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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