Don’t worry, you’re not about to have a physics lesson here. In this week’s Power Rankings, I lament how weak the conference appears once you get past the top-3 teams, and it really quite is. On the whole, the OVC is having a down year, and the non-conference win-loss record (24-45 against Division I teams) proves it. But put into historical context, while the OVC appears worse from top-to-bottom compared to the conference’s past few years, it’s really not all that bad.
Going back to the first year OVC won a NCAA tournament game (in modern times…) the OVC has never really been a non-conference powerhouse. These records are against Division I teams only
- 2013-14 (so far): 24-45 (.348 winning percentage)
- 2012-13: 63-83 (.432)
- 2011-12: 56-77 (.421)
- 2010-11: 31-75 (.292)
- 2009-10: 42-67 (.385)
- 2008-09: 32-64 (.333)
Again, in all but last season, the OVC notched an NCAA Tournament win, even so in the year the conference lost over 70% of their non-conference bouts. It really only takes one team, and you could make the argument the OVC has three right now.
But it feels like it only has three. Through the first three weeks, the conference really feels split between the has (Belmont, EKU, and Morehead State) and the has-nots, with very few in-between. Even so, the OVC currently ranks 22 in the RPI according to BB State, and is far from their lowest lows when it comes to non-conference wins.
Morehead State (6-2) vs Gardner Webb (3-4)
5:00 p.m. EST
Las Vegas Invitational
The Eagles have been out west for more than a week now, and wrap up their long road trip against a Gardner Webb team that’s faced Xavier, Missouri, and Northwestern already this young season.
Morehead State is off to their best start since the ’83-84 season, and a win tonight would give them their best start in 45 years. In last night’s win over Chattanooga, the Eagles shot a ridiculous 72% from the field, and took just five three-pointers the entire game. While their up-tempo nature has led to quite a few points this season, they’re far from being one of the more efficient offenses: they turn the ball over at a high rate, (21% of their possessions end in turnover) and are shooting 44% from the field on the year.
One positive is that the Eagles are actually fouling less than a year ago, which is a rarity throughout the conference. Morehead State’s defense is much approved from last season, as they continue to force turnovers and are defending the perimeter about as well as anyone.
Gardner Webb could challenge the Eagles on the 3-point line. Guards Isaiah Ivey and Naji Hibbert are both shooting near 40% from behind the arc, but the Bulldogs prefer to run their offense through the paint. Forward Donta Harper is off to a strong start, averaging 13 points a game, but has struggled pulling down rebounds against must larger forwards.
Southeast Missouri (3-2) vs Northern Kentucky (1-4)
6:30 p.m. CST
Cure UCD Classic
Since their opener at St. Louis, you’d be hard pressed to say SEMO has played a tough schedule. That may appear that it really doesn’t change much tonight, but NKU is coming off a win against 4-2 Tulane, SEMO’s opponent tomorrow night, and narrowly lost at Purdue to start the year. Northern Kentucky is likely better than there record shows, and honestly we just don’t know if SEMO is yet or not.
If the Redhawks game notes are to be believed, Nino Johnson will get his first start of the year, alongside Jarekious Bradley and Tyler Stone, with just two true guards in the backcourt. It should give the Redhawks a decided advantage on the interior, where the Norsemen have especially struggled so far this year.
Defense as a whole has been troublesome for NKU this year: They’re ranked 336th in defensive points-per-possession, 13th worse in the nation, but their opponents are shooting 55% from inside the three-point line, a real weal point. One reason: There are no players taller than 6’7 on NKU’s roster, and this team is extremely young, playing no seniors, and just a single junior.