I saw one sportswriter last night ask if Austin Peay’s double overtime lost at Austin Peay was “something they could build on.” It’s February 20th. A team shouldn’t be so much building as refining at this point of the year.
But it does bring up a interesting point worth noting: every OVC team has a glaring weakness with the OVC Tournament a month out. I’m not talking about small, somewhat troublesome, nitpicky problems; I mean big gaping holes that are ripe for exploitation. Don’t believe me? Here’s a full list:
- Belmont: Rebounding
- Murray State: Free-throws
- Morehead State: Half-court offense, turnovers
- Eastern Kentucky: Defending in the paint, rebounding (size in general)
- SIUE: Defending in the paint
- TTU: Offense (just that entire side of the basketball)
- Eastern Illinois: Three-point shooting (maybe the least “exploitable” of the bunch)
- Austin Peay: Free-throws, turnovers
- Southeast Missouri: Turnovers, forcing turnovers, three-point defense
- Jacksonville State: Half-court offense
- UT Martin: Defense (when they don’t get steals…)
- Tennessee State: Too many to mention
Again, in my view, these are big problems, and every OVC teams has at least one. That’s what could make this OVC Tournament so interesting: there’s not a team that feels like a “sure thing” to make the finals. (Let’s be honest, most people knew Belmont and Murray State were making the finals a year ago. Same thing with the Racers two years ago) But this year, you could make a case for every team to lose every game.
It’s why, in my opinion, the byes are as important as ever. And why, if you’re Eastern Kentucky, you want to hold onto that four-seed with all your might.
After some…lackluster crowds for recent television games, I’ve had the same discussion with a few people: are TV games special anymore? Five, or especially ten years ago, when ESPN came to an OVC arena, it was a big deal. Fans came out in droves. That still happens on occasion when there’s an especially big matchup, but it kind of feels like TV games have lost their prestige.
There are a few reasons I can think of for this being true: there are more TV games than there used to be, so they’re not unique experiences. They also seems to be consolidated among just a few teams, instead of spread out across the conference. There’s also the OVC Digital Network, which makes every game televised, even if just on the internet.
Whatever the reason, there’s little doubt it’s impact: fans don’t get excited for them like they used to. There are far too many empty arena’s on television, which doesn’t give others a great impression of the conference.
Another issue that’s come up in the past: should the OVC allow all 12 teams into the OVC Tournament?
No. They really shouldn’t. This season is a great reason why.
My problem doesn’t have anything to do with a “bad” team winning the OVC Tournament: it’s not often a sub-four seed even makes the finals, much less wins. But one of the things making this part of the season so exciting is that there are six teams playing for something: a bid to Nashville.
Sure, they would be playing for seeds now. But that’s no where near as exciting as playing to extend your season. It’s part of what makes the tournament so exciting in the first place: that you’re one loss away from the year being sent home. That’s the kind of atmosphere that we’ll have tonight in Cape Girardeau, in Belmont with Eastern Illinois…one that wouldn’t exist if everyone got in.
That’s why we should keep things the way they are. This is one area the OVC has right, that a lot of other conferences do not.