After this weekend, and looking at the remaining schedules, it’s looking more and more likely that at least one team could punch their trip to the OVC Tournament with a 6-10 record. This isn’t unprecedented by any means; in fact, it’s happened both years the conference has been in divisions. The only difference is this is the first year there are 12 tournament-eligible teams, so it’s a bit surprising.
That does change the math for teams like SEMO, UT Martin, Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State, three of which will be left home. So let’s go team-by-team and look at a few scenarios.
EIU is at six wins, and if they win either of their final two games, they’re in. If not, it could come down to tiebreakers. Here’s where they stand in head-to-head:
vs SEMO (1-1)
vs AP (1-1)
vs UTM (1-1)
vs JSU (1-0)
Unless the Gamecocks are involved, you have to move to the second tiebreaker. How does that go? This is current to right now, and assumes EIU loses out, and there aren’t any three-way ties. As seeds change, so could the tiebreakers
SEMO would beat EIU based on record against TTU (SEMO 1-0, EIU 0-1)
AP would beat EIU based on record against TTU (AP 1-0, EIU 0-1)
EIU would beat UTM based on record against SIUE (EIU 1-1, UTM 0-2) UNLESS UTM beats TTU.
Of course, if EIU beats Belmont, they jump ahead in all three tiebreakers, but they’d also be at seven wins, which is a lock. To make a long story short: EIU doesn’t want to be in a tie at 6-10. At least, not one with a tourney spot on the line.
Tennessee Tech is much in the same boat as the Panthers, except that have four to play, not two, and have a home game remaining. It would be much less likely for the Golden Eagles to fall to 6-10 than Eastern Illinois. But, for argument’s sake, let’s assume they do. With so much of their competition being in the West, most of the tiebreakers fall on the first line
vs SEMO (0-1)
vs EIU (1-0)
vs AP (0-1)
vs UTM (0-1 — this assumes they lose out)
vs JSU (1-1 — same assumption)
If they fell all the way into a two-way tie with JSU, Tennessee Tech will likely win out, unless JSU were to beat Belmont in their final regular season game. With their top win being over EKU, they’re in a fairly good position in a three-way tie that needs to go past head-to-head records. (i.e., SEMO, EIU and TTU all tied)
Austin Peay sits at 5-7, with games against Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky in the following week. Winning either of those games gives them a good advantage in any tiebreakers. AP’s is a bit harder to figure because they still play two of the teams in the race: SEMO and UT Martin. We do know from above that Austin Peay would beat EIU and TTU in the head-to-head. As for the teams they still have on the slate – Since they’ve beaten both teams once, they wouldn’t lose either tiebreaker head-to-head. It would go to the second line, which currently looks like this against SEMO
SEMO would beat Austin Peay based on record against SIUE: (SEMO 1-1, AP 0-2)
UT Martin still has too many variables. If the Skyhawks lose to TTU, then AP would win the second-line tiebreaker. If UT Martin wins, it could come down to record against SEMO. (Both teams are currently 1-0 with one game to go) There is a possibility of a coin-flip here, if UTM loses to TTU, beats AP and then both teams beat SEMO, AP loses out, UTM wins out and end up in a two—way tie.
SEMO sits at 4-8, and has quite a lot of control over their destiny, since they still play Austin Peay, Murray State, Jacksonville State, and UT Martin. It’s far too many variables to work out entirely, but I’ll go first line tiebreakers as of this moment.
vs AP (0-1)
vs JSU (0-0)
vs UTM (0-1)
vs EIU (1-1)
vs TTU (1-0)
The only teams they could possibly win a two-way tiebreaker with on the first line would be Tennessee Tech and possibly JSU if they beat the Gamecocks. The rest they would either lose, or need to go to the second criterion. With SEMO’s best win being over TTU, they would likely beat Eastern Illinois in a tie. Their 1-1 record against SIUE gives them the edge over Austin Peay as well. Much like Austin Peay, there’s a remote possibility of an unlockable tie with UT Martin if both somehow manage to get to 6-10, although SEMO would need to beat the Skyhawks, who would have to win out otherwise.
Jacksonville State sits at 4-9, and needs a solid finish to get into the 6-win discussion. Being in the West, they also have a much cleaner head-to-head tiebreaker.
vs AP (1-0)
vs UTM (1-0)
vs EIU (0-1)
vs SEMO (0-0 –yet to play)
vs TTU (0-1 –another game to play)
We discussed a TTU / JSU tie in the Tennessee Tech section above. Short version: unless JSU beats Belmont, it likely doesn’t end well for the Gamecocks
UT Martin is still in the discussion as it’s still mathematically possible to get to 6-10, and to do so, they would beat at least two contenders on the list. There’s still a lot at play here, but let’s look at the current records against the other 5.
vs AP (0-1)
vs SEMO (1-0)
vs EIU (1-1)
vs TTU (0-0)
vs JSU (0-0)
To get to 6-10, they have to beat either TTU or JSU…or both. They also have to beat either AP or SEMO…or both. In other words, the worst case scenario is that they’ll hold one tie breaker on the first line, lose one, and tie in the other three. Best case scenario? They hold 2, lose one, tie two. It will all come down to who they beat, and where they finish.
Second line tiebreakers for UTM aren’t positive. If they beat TTU, that will be their best win, putting them over EIU and JSU, but not SEMO or AP. If they lose that game, but win the rest, it could fall to where SEMO lands in the final standings.
It should be noted that almost all the tiebreakers above assume a two-way tie. In the case of a three-way tie, overall head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker, followed by the same formula as head-to-head ties. With Belmont being the overall No. 1 seed, it benefits West Division teams, because they will be no worse than 0-1 against the Bruins, with East Division teams potentially being 0-2.
The race for the final single-bye isn’t over yet either. Don’t worry, I’m not going into another overly convoluted analysis here. EKU sits a game ahead of SIUE, but the Cougars hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colonels.
If Eastern Kentucky wins out, it’s obviously theirs to keep. But with another game against Tennessee Tech, and having to travel to a quite desperate Austin Peay, another loss isn’t out of the question for the Colonels.
But that being said, SIUE still has this little team called Belmont on theirs, and has to travel to Tennessee State, a team that’s proving to be a challenge for some teams.
How much does the 4/5 matter? It’s hard to tell, as the current OVC Tournament format is rather new. But dating back to the previous format, a sub-3 seed making the tournament finals wasn’t exactly rare. It’s happened nine times since 1990:
- #4 Tennessee Tech (2011, Lost to Morehead State)
- #4 Morehead State (2009, Beat Austin Peay in 2OT)
- #6 Tennessee State (2008, Lost to Austin Peay)
- #5 Austin Peay (2005, Lost to Eastern Kentucky)
- #4 Austin Peay (2001, Lost to Eastern Illinois)
- #7 Tennessee State (1998, Lost to Murray State)
- #5 Austin Peay (1995, Lost to Murray State)
- #5 Middle Tennessee (1991, Lost to Murray State)
- #4 Eastern Kentucky (1990, Lost to Murray State)
As you can see from the list, the No. 4 seed made four trips to the finals. No. 5 and lower? 5 trips. To let you know about the formats: Before 1992, the top overall seed hosted the tournament. Starting in 1997, the first round was held at campus sites, meaning that a sub-4 seed had to win their first game on the road. The current format began in 2011, and currently no team has gone from the first round to the finals.
In our first year here at OVC Ball, we covered basketball exclusively. There was actually a half-year before that where we got out feet under us. In our second year, we did limited football coverage, before expanding that this year.
So, now in our third year, we’re adding our third sport, also in limited coverage: baseball. We won’t be covering it daily, but will cover the major stories, and have weekly updates from the diamond.
If there’s a lot of interest, we’ll no doubt extend our coverage next spring. For now, though, we’re just dipping our toes in the water to see what comes of it.
Our first post, a look at some advanced statistics through the first weekend, is already posted.