There was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, that Austin Peay was a feared name in the Ohio Valley Conference. For six straight seasons, the Governors won at least 10-games in the conference, during a span of six straight winning seasons.
It’s only been two years since that streak ended. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Over the past few seasons, the OVC stock as a mid-major conference has been rising. Between Murray State’s unbelievable season two years ago, to one of the highest conference RPI’s ever this past year, the OVC is riding high.
…and Austin Peay is being left behind.
But the OVC has always been a conference of wild swings. Teams rise as quickly as they fall. Austin Peay is hoping an offseason filled with major changes swings in their favor, as the Governors look to restore the pride to the program with a history of winning.
Can this program make a complete transformation in the course of just one summer? Only time will tell, but we’re not the waiting type.
The 2012-13 season was an unmitigated disaster in Clarksville. Despite the benefit of playing in the seemingly weaker division of the conference, Austin Peay managed just four conference wins, finishing last in the OVC.
It was also the Governors second straight 20-loss season, the first time that’s happened since 1992-93. Though it hasn’t, and never would be said, you have to believe the team’s woes contributed to head coach Dave Loos‘ decision to step down as the school’s athletic director. But that might be good news for the basketball program. For the first time since 1997, Loos’ focus will be entirely on his team, as he tries to catch up to a conference that’s seeming running away from him.
Overshadowed by the team’s struggles, Travis Betran is emerging as one of the league’s elite scorers. The 6’3″ transfer averaged over 17 points a game as a junior, and hit a bevy of clutch shots late in games, although poor defense as a team often led to defeats.
The Governors also featured the OVC freshman of the year, Chris Horton. The 6’8″ forward finished eighth in the league in rebounding, pulling down 6.8 per contest. He also added 8.2 points per game, and could be on pace to be one of the league’s best in the frontcourt before his collegiate career comes to an end.
It’s clear Austin Peay has a few good pieces, but can they be put together form a complete picture. The defense must improve, and the Governors must get tougher in the paint if they hope to not only compete, but succeed in a tough conference.
How much better can Austin Peay get in just one summer?
A lot, actually. There’s a lot of changeover, and Loos wasn’t shy going to the JUCO ranks to find talent that can make an immediate impact. There’s also a reason to believe the conference may fall back a bit this season. A lot of talent is graduating, more than in most years, and quite a few teams are losing more than half of the their production from last season. How far they can rise will likely depend on how quickly a team with quite a few new players can come together.
Is Loos really on the hot seat?
Well, no. Not yet, and likely not this year at all, even if they struggle. But make no mistake, there is some concern starting to build in some members of the fanbase. A third losing season, and those rumblings could grow. But a solid season, even if the Governors aren’t back at the top of the conference, will show growth, and likely lead most to write off those last two seasons to Loos being overloaded as AD / head coach.
What has been wrong with the Governors defense?
Fundamentals and toughness played a solid part last year. For instance, the Governors averaged more than 5 blocks a game, 21st in the nation, but were not a good rebounding team. If you have the size to get blocks, you should have the size to get rebounds. Especially in the frontcourt, guys were caught out of position, often leaving their feet in an attempt to get a block, only to be fooled by a shot fake, and give up an easy layup. The perimeter defense struggled especially in conference play, as the guards just weren’t quick enough to lock down shooters off screens.