I’ve struggled over the past day and a half to really decide how important Murray State’s win over Southeast Missouri was on Thursday. Without a doubt, the overall impact would have been bigger had SEMO completed the comeback, having earned a win on the road with Murray still needing to travel to Cape Girardeau. Despite the great start by the Racers, it was a narrow win at home, which doesn’t exactly prove to me that the Racers are really a large step above the Redhawks, but likely even. As I hinted towards in Thursday’s Daily 3, the Redhawks were outmatched in the backcourt. But what really surprised me was the impact of Murray State’s Jarvis Williams. He notched 18 rebounds against, according to many people, the best frontcourt in the conference.
After this game, the West isn’t likely going to come down to the head-to-head matchups between Murray State and SEMO, which could very likely end even. It’s who takes care of business outside those games. Austin Peay is probably the third best team in the division, and it would do the Redhawks well to avoid an 0-2 conference start in Clarksville today. They have to dominate the paint, which UT Martin failed spectacularly doing Thursday night. (In related news, Chris Horton is a beast)
While I’m not sure it’s the path to winning the OVC, Racers head coach Steve Prohm probably has the formula for winning the West: Protect your home court, and split on the road. The Racers have shown they can do the former. The Redhawks…a little less. Neither has shown a lot yet on the road.
The East Division is a much different monster. Eastern Kentucky, led by Glenn Cosey‘s OVC record 10 three-pointers, squashed Eastern Illinois, although is anyone else at least a little concerned that they allowed one of the worst offensive teams in the league to score 81 points? Tempo played a big part, but EIU shot 53% from the field and got to the free-throw line early and often. Belmont looked almost disinterested, as Jacksonville State looked poised to potentially pull off the upset, although the Bruins fell asleep in the second half. And Morehead State reverted to 2012-13 form, going foul-happy to allow SIUE to keep a game much closer than it probably should have been.
Of course, worth noting, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky are on one of the longest road trips the conference offers, wheres as the Bruins are at the Curb Events Center. That Eastern division is so tight, one “wonky” loss on the road could hurt a team’s chances, but much like the West, I’m not sure the first night gave us any hint at a true “frontrunner.”
For reasons entirely unknown, Vegas really think’s TSU will win at home. The 1-13 Tigers were favored against Miami (OH), against Tennessee Tech, and again today. Generally, you give the home team four points or so, and they’ve been favored by less than that in all three of those contests, but it’s still odd.
Actually, the reason isn’t entirely unknown: As I showed on Thursday, the Tigers aren’t last in the OVC in RPI. The reason: they played the second toughest non-conference schedule. But, that being said, they’re still without a Division I win, although they appear to be getting closer in their previous two losses. I said it in the OVC Outlook, this team isn’t a winless conference team. But missing those two opportunities already are making an already tough task, qualifying for the OVC Tournament, even tougher.