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As far as storylines go, you couldn’t do much better than this. The defending Ohio Valley Conference tournament champions, against the new school in the conference threatening to end it’s reign. For two teams whose history are barely intertwined, it makes for an exciting matchup to conclude a fairly straightforward tournament.

In fact, if the Bruins win out today, we will have without an upset during the entire tournament.

But the straightforward nature sets up not only a battle between the top seeds, but a battle between two of the top fan bases in the league. Belmont is in their backyard, but it was Murray State filling up the arena for the semifinals.

For Murray State, a win is their only path to an NCAA Tournament bid. For Belmont, they may have another path, but they’ll be sweating it out with a loss tonight.

 

[1] Belmont 25-6 (14-2) vs  [2] Murray State 21-9 (10-6)
6:00 p.m. CST
Murray State won season series 1-0

If you’re expecting a defensive slugfest, you’re probably going to be very disappointed. Both teams are coming off 80-point performances, and both have a co-Ohio Valley Conference player of the year that’s a sharpshooter from three-point range.

In their first matchup, the free throw line played a huge role. The Racers got to it more than twice as much as the Bruins, helping Murray State earn a five-point win. Murray led throughout that game, holding off a late Belmont rally to send the Bruins to their first Ohio Valley Conference loss.

Ed Daniel was a non-factor in the first meeting, something Racers will likely look to change tonight. It wasn’t foul trouble, as Daniel played 35 minutes, but Murray State just didn’t get their forward a lot of touches (although they didn’t need them) but I’d be surprised if they don’t push the ball inside more tonight.

Belmont shot the ball well, as the Bruins usually do, but lost the turnover battle and only drew 12 fouls against the Racers. Expect the Bruins to be more aggressive, and drive to the basket more during this second matchup, something they did well last night against Tennessee State.

With both teams playing last night, will fatigue come into play? Both teams generally take a lot of jump shots, so the more aggressive team could have an advantage, especially late in the game.

Of course, the matchup everyone will be wanting to see is Isaiah Canaan vs Ian Clark. Clark has been in a mine-slump as of late, which Belmont head coach Rick Byrd declared “over” after Clark’s monster second half. Canaan is the higher scorer of the two this season, but Clark has been the more efficient, and has more weapons around him on the court.

Both teams are experienced in tournament finals, with Belmont’s experience coming in Atlantic Sun finals, and the Racers playing in their second straight. Expect a huge crowd, and an electric atmosphere in Nashville tonight.


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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