Now that the year in Ohio Valley Conference basketball has come to an end, it’s time to begin our look to next year’s team. Yes, already. We call it our Ridiculously Early Previews.
The OVC’s recent relevance among mid-majors isn’t a product of luck. The conference, not long ago all but an afterthought when it came to future NBAers, has had two of it’s player drafted over the past two years, and this year will easily extend the streak to three when Isaiah Cannan is picked up late in the first round or early in the second, according to most projections.
We knew heading into this past season the league would be rife with talent. Canaan, an All-American, was returning. Belmont was bringing in an experienced senior class. In fact, over half of the OVC first-team were juniors, meaning that talent would return.
But now they’ve graduated. The co-players of the year are gone. Four of the five top scorers in the OVC are leaving. Just one of the six players on the OVC all-first team, Patrick Miller, is returning. Same on the five-member second team, with SEMO’s Tyler Stone the only returnee.
You could make the argument that this year’s senior class was one of the most talented in the conference’s recent history.
So who will take the torch? Who is the early favorite to win the 2013-14 player of the year? Two favorites are mentioned above, but there’s three other’s lurking that could stake their claim in the upcoming season.
Patrick Miller, Tennessee State
There was only one player in the OVC to average double-digit scoring and five assists a game, and that was Miller. The Tennessee State guard led the league in assists, and was 11th in scoring with over 14-points a game, making him especially deadly with the ball in his hands.
There are some questions as to what miller’s role will be next year. This past season, Miller had options; not only could he score himself, he had two great options in Robert Covington and Kellen Thorton. They’re both graduating and taking their 32-points a game with them, which could force Miller to be more of a scorer, and less of a distributor.
Miller shot many more three’s this past season, but just shot 33% behind the arc. His 42% overall shooting was about even from his sophomore year. He’s probably got a few more points-per-game in him, but I would be surprised if he could match the 21 scored by Cannan this season, and even more surprised if he could do so efficiently.
Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri
After a breakout sophomore season, many (including myself) expected Stone to become the OVC’s dominant big man. That didn’t happen, and you could make the argument he wasn’t even the most dominant on his team down the stretch as Nino Johnson has a terrific second half of the year when he could stay on the court.
Stone has, in my opinion, a slightly bigger upside that Johnson, and is a much better scorer. Stone had six double-doubles last year, all of which came before February.
Johnson could be Stone’s biggest challenge to being the player of the year, as the two will be battling for points and boards all season long. The backcourt, which will be mostly new next year, could also play a big factor; If you don’t have guys that can get you the ball, it’s going to be hard to be effective as an interior player.