There’s always been a general feeling that for whatever reason, teams don’t shoot as well at Municipal Auditorium during the OVC Tournament as they do during the season. Some say it’s because teams are tight, others say it has to do with the court itself. But, is it true?
I went back to last year and compared team’s three-point shooting percentages during the tournament to the regular season:
2012-13 Tourney: 91-285 (31.9%)
- UT Martin Tourney: 5-12 (41.6%)
Regular Season: 169-506 (33.4%)
- Tennessee State Tourney: 18-45 (40.0%)
Regular Season: 206-612 (33.7%)
- Murray State Tourney: 17-43 (39.5%)
Regular Season: 243-701 (34.7%)
- Eastern Illinois Tourney: 7-18 (38.8%)
Regular Season: 192-548 (35.0%)
- Eastern Kentucky Tourney: 14-51 (27.4%)
Regular Season: 307-865 (35.5%)
- Southeast Missouri Tourney: 11-42 (26.1%)
Regular Season: 256-644 (39.8%)
- Morehead State Tourney: 8-31 (25.8%)
Regular Season: 201-626 (32.1%)
- Belmont Tourney: 11-43 (25.5%)
Regular Season: 279-729 (38.3%)
There are two things I find amazing about last year’s numbers: Three-point shooting was one of two extremes, teams either shot the ball amazingly, or completely terrible. (The fourth best shooting team in the tournament was Eastern Illinois at 38.8%. The fifth best was Eastern Kentucky, at 27.4%. Just a gigantic difference) The second is the team that won the tournament, Belmont, was the worst three-point shooting team of the whole event.
There was also no correlation between a team’s ability to shoot the three in the regular season and their ability to shoot it in the tournament. The overall number, 31.9%, is worse that the season average in the OVC last year by about three percentage points.
For the teams that played two games, (all but Eastern Illinois and UT Martin) there was no real correlation that a team shot better or worse in the second game, which kind of busts the myth of teams “getting used to the surroundings,” or their “legs getting tired.” That’s not to say those things don’t happen, they just didn’t show up in last year’s numbers.
When I did the math for previous years, I got similar numbers.
2011-12 Tourney: 72-228 (31.5%)
2010-11 Tourney: 100-300 (33.3%)
The conference average for three-point shooting tends to be around the 34-35 percent mark during an average season. While a 3-4% drop may not seem huge, it’s noteworthy: Teams really do shoot the three worse in Nashville.
Just, as we saw last year, some teams shoot it way, way better than others.
So, who am I picking? I’m with them, picking Belmont to win it. I also agree with CBS, and have Murray State in the title game for the third straight year.
But what about the rest of the teams? Here’s what I think they can, and can’t make a run to the finals:
Can Make It Because: They have one of the best, balanced backcourts in the league. Glenn Cosey can shoot from deep, Marcus Lewis has great speed and can drive the basketball, and Corey Walden was just named defensive player of the year.
Can’t Make It Because: They’ll have to beat two teams with great frontcourts. Both Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri have great fowards who can attack the weak interior of the Colonels defense. Even if they get past them, they then get Murray, who blasted the Colonels inside in Richmond earlier this year. They can probably get past one. But not two.
Can Make It Because: They do the intangibles well. They rebound, they force turnovers, they get to the free-throw line. They do all the things you want a team to do in tight games.
Can’t Make It Because: They do the big things badly. Their half-court offense is troubling, forcing turnovers don’t help when you turn it right back over. They’re as cold as ice entering Nashville, and are on a tough side of the bracket with a Belmont team that swept the Eagles during the regular season.
…and for the first rounders, could one be the first to make a run to the finals? It’s hasn’t happened in the first three years of the tournament format.
Can Make It Because: The brackets are Golden for the Golden Eagles. They’ve beaten every team in the top half of the brackets at least once this year, and have played their best basketball down the stretch.
Can’t Make It Because: They can’t score enough points consistently. They have good games scoring but they’ve yet to string them together in succession. Their defense is better than average, but not good enough to shut down a team on a night they can’t get to the basket themselves.
Can Make It Because: They’re hot, and have two of the best 10 players in the league. They can score on just about anyone, and their up tempo style catches teams off guard quite often.
Can’t Make It Because: They have to get past two teams with fantastic backcourts, a weakness of the Redhawks all season. Both Eastern Kentucky and Murray State have guards that cause all kinds of matchup problems for SEMO, and they’ll be big underdogs to both on a neutral floor.
Can Make It Because: They’re being overlooked. So many people I’ve talked to are penciling SEMO into the next round, and many even the semifinals, and they forget that Eastern Illinois split with the Redhawks this season. EIU’s frontcourt is very strong, their defense is solid, and much like last year, they’re much improved from where they were just a few months ago.
Can’t Make It Because: They’re too inconsistent. Three win in three days is a tall order for any team, but especially one that seems to go from extreme to extreme, not just shooting the ball but defensively as well. On a good night, they can challenge the entire conference. On a bad day, they can be run out of the gym. 120 minutes of consistent play to make the finals? It might be the first time they would have done it all season.
Can Make It Because: They’re also being overlooked, and they’re still a great three-point shooting team. Sure, their season didn’t end in great fashion, but neither a loss to Belmont or a loss to an EIU team in a must-win situation is exactly a terrible loss. Their offense has been solid all season, and defensively that can shut down teams from behind the three-point arc.
Can’t Make It Because: They don’t have a good path. Their biggest weakness is defending the interior, and Morehead State is as good of a team inside as their is in the league. And while the Bruins don’t have size, their guards know how to get the ball in the paint. Falling to the eight seed put the Cougars on the wrong side of the bracket for a major run.