We are one week through the college basketball season, and it’s been a bit tough on the OVC. The conference as a whole is 12-18 in it’s first week, and ranked 23rd in conference RPI according to BB State. It’s not that the conference has been bad, they just haven’t had those “transcendent” wins they had last year, that made the nation kind of take notice.
But there haven’t been many horrendous losses either. Here’s what we learned in a bit ho-hum first week of the college basketball season.
1) Adjusting to the new foul rules is more difficult than first thought
It feels like you have two options: foul, or allow teams open layups and shots. Neither are all that great of options for head coaches across the nation. Can defense still be played under the newly adopted foul rules? No, at least not the way it’s been played. But that’s kind of the point. It’s meant to open up scoring, which coaches don’t really want to see when it’s the opposing team with the ball. When opposing teams are shooting 70% or worse a game from the line, coaches will accept the fouls, because in the end it means fewer points.
I don’t know if these rules will be adjusted in the next few season. In a way, they’re achieving their goal by increasing scoring. But they’re not increasing offense, which is what the rule makers intended.
1A) Foul shooting is a now a commodity
Forget your speed, your athleticism. Can you draw fouls? Can you shoot free-throws? You have a spot waiting on my Division I roster.
1B) No, really. Austin Peay could use you
37% Austin Peay? 37%. The Governors were 7-19 from the charity stripe in their loss to Memphis this week. I can hit 37% of my free-throws.
2) This is the year of the newcomer
Southeast Missouri has Jarkevious Bradley. Tennessee Tech has Ty Allen. For UT Martin, it’s Marshun Newell. Cameron Payne is a playmaker for Murray State. You need to learn these names, and there’s honestly a few more as well: Reggie Smith at Eastern Illinois, Donivine Stewart at SIUE. I’m probably leaving some out.
With so much talent graduating last year, we new a new batch of players would step up to be the new stars of the conference. But due to injuries, suspension, and just slow starts, it’s not last year’s second tier that’s shining bright early. It’s these guys, most of whom will be back next season.
3) The East is still the better division
Eastern Kentucky is solid. Belmont proved last night they can score with just about anyone. Tennessee Tech is much improved. Morehead State could be a spoiler. The East Division looks like it’s four teams deep, although Jacksonville State and Tennessee State have been highly disappointing. The West hasn’t shown much yet.
4) …Southeast Missouri would like a word
The West doesn’t appear as deep, but SEMO absolutely looks like a contender. Despite the suspensions, and a player leaving before opening night, the Redhawks are showing they could be a true threat in the conference, with playing St. Louis tight for a half, and blowing out an NAIA opponent. The backcourt, which was a concern of head coach Dickie Nutt, has been spectacular, and now we get to see what they can do back at full strength.
5) A lot can, and will, change between now and conference play in the West Division
UT Martin will get Myles Taylor back soon. Murray State will have the services of Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp in December. Southeast Missouri gets Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson back this week. The West has had a rough opening week, made rougher by apparent injuries to SIUE’s Kris Davis and Eastern Illinois’ Sherman Blandford. The landscape, especially in the West, will undergo a major transformation between now and January.
6) Where are the three-point shooters?
In games against Division I opponents, the OVC has struggled from behind the arc. J.J. Mann hit 38% behind the arc last season. This year? 1-16. Darion Rackley hit 38% last season. He’s 4-18 this year. Nine teams are shooting below 32% from behind the arc so far this year, and two are below 20%. Some of the guys off to a good start: Glenn Cosey (12-30, 40%), Orlando Williams (8-15, 53%) and Angelo Warner. (7-15, 46%)
7) Murray State may be cursed
Since the 31-2 season, here’s a list of things that have happened to the Murray State basketball team:
- Zay Jackson arrested
- LaTreze Mushatt tears Achilles
- Isaiah Canaan, one of the most sure-handed guards in the league, dribbles a ball off his foot in overtime of the OVC championship game
- Demarcus Croaker commits to Murray State, but decommits for Texas before he can sign.
- Zay Jackson returns, tears ACL and LCL going for a dunk in practice, leaves the school
- and this week…forward Zay Henderson breaks his hand in practice
I’m probably missing a few things, but those are the one’s that come to mind. It’s really not been a good two years for Murray State, and this season is already off to a bumpy start. Here’s hoping for clearer skies ahead.
8) Tennessee State may be this year’s Tennessee Tech
They can’t score. Patrick Miller is carrying the team on his back, much like Jud Dillard did last year for the Golden Eagles, and you can’t win games with one guy in college basketball. If I’m the Tigers, I’m going full Eastern Illinois: chew clock, chew clock, and chew clock some more.
9) Tennessee Tech may be this year’s Jacksonville State
The Golden Eagles are a good team this year, with a lot more talent than last. But I can’t help but feeling they’re going to get overlooked in a stacked East Division. They’ve shown they can score, that they can rebound, and their defense hasn’t been terrible. That’s good for them, and I think this team could be a serious threat no one will be talking about.
10) The Battle of the Boulevard, Round 2 is the best game of the upcoming week.
Round one at Lipscomb was fun: amazing storylines with former Belmont assistant Casey Alexander taking over the Bisons, an amazing game. And this week, they do it all over again at Belmont Wednesday. I love this rivalry, that they’re willing to play a home-and-home. Without a doubt, the best game of the week.
Some other matchups worth noting:
- Tonight: Morehead State at Xavier. Eagles have looked good, but face their first test
- Saturday: Central Arkansas at SIU Edwardsville. SIUE has been outclassed by their first two opponents, but can they compete against a mid-major?
- Saturday: Southeast Missouri at IUPUI: Stone and Johnson are back, so just how good are the Redhawks.
- Sunday: Belmont at No. 12 North Carolina. I have no faith the Bruins can stop the Tar Heels, but can they score with them?