As we enter conference play, we’re looking at the best, worst, and most likely scenarios that could play out for every OVC team.
After two sub .500 years, the Governors are hoping they can become conference contenders once again. So what did we learn in non-conference play? Turnovers are bad, and don’t trust the Governors outside of Clarksville.
Best Case Scenario: Let’s forget the record for just a second. Travis Betran is having a down start to the year shooting 8% worse from the field (a huge drop) and scoring nearly four points fewer a game. Though not as dramatic, Will Triggs has seen his production drop as well, although the improved play of Chris Horton could be a contributor. Where am I going with this? Simple: We haven’t seen Austin Peay at their best. They’re among the most up-tempo teams in the nation (even more so than Morehead State) which is going to pressure a lot of defenses that simply haven’t been up to snuff. While winning the conference is likely a task too tall, there’s little reason to believe the Governors couldn’t win the West Division. Their schedule is back-loaded, with some of their stiffest competition in the final two weeks of the year. If they can survive Round 1 with Murray State and SEMO in the upcoming week and a half, they could have a chance to gain some momentum before that comes around.
Worst Case Scenario: Oh, the turnovers. It’s bad, and not showing signs of getting any better. In their last two Division I games (vs Lipscomb and at ETSU) Austin Peay had 22 and 19 turnovers respectively. With teams like Eastern Kentucky and UT Martin among the best in the nation at forcing them, the Governors guards are going to under fire all season long. Road woes have been troublesome for the Governors as well. They have just one win on the road (although it’s also their best win of the season, RPI wise, at Youngstown State) and losses to Samford (RPI: 322) and Central Michigan. (RPI: 284) If you can’t win on the road, and you yak up a couple at home because of turnover issues, you’re looking at a six-seven win conference year. That’s OVC tournament bubble territory right there.
Most Likely Scenario: Sadly, we’ve seen transfers be amazing one year, and not-so amazing the next. I’m not sure we’ll see Betran return to 2012-13 like production, although you spin that to say “well, he has a better supporting cast this year.” He does, but the cast doesn’t cause his own shooting from the field to fall from 43% to 35%. It’s not a case of the support rising up. The turnovers will remain, because the Governors non-conference SOS (315th) doesn’t lead me to believe it’s because they were facing superior defenses. So, we’re leaning towards the worst-case, although the road woes will likely be less of an issue with shorter road trips. I expect them to finish around or just above .500, and be playing on the OVC tournament’s opening day.