Things have gotten better in the past week for the OVC as a whole. Last Friday, we noted the OVC was just 4-17 against teams from Division I. The week since? 12-14, including Eastern Illinois’ loss earlier today. Three schools remain winless against Division I: SIUE, (0-3) Tennessee State, (0-3) and the aforementioned Panthers. (0-6)
As I’ve mentioned before on here, this is important for one reason: NCAA seeding. If you want an OVC champion to have a chance of being a 14, or higher seed, giving them a realistic chance to win a first-round game, non-conference matters greatly — you need not only quantity of wins, but quality of wins. While the RPI is far from normalized, the OVC has three wins against current top-200 RPI teams according to BB State. That’s three better than last week, but they simply need more.
There are a few chances for top-200 RPI wins this weekend:
- Austin Peay vs SF Austin
- Portland vs Murray State
- UT Martin at Nebraska
- Belmont at Ohio
- Valparaiso vs Murray State
- Eastern Kentucky at BYU
- Tennessee Tech at Tulane
- Drake vs Murray State
Root for the OVC, everyone.
Here’s a thinker for you: If your team isn’t called for at least one charge a game, your not playing good offense.
It’s not that I’m advocating playing out of control, it’s that I’m advocating teams playing aggressive offensively. When you look at teams struggling offensively — Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State, Tennessee State — one statistic jumps out:
Those teams are not getting to the free-throw line.
The top three teams in the OVC in “free-throw rate,” which is a tempo-free stat that determines how often teams get to the charity stripe, are 12-2. The bottom three teams? 4-11. (SIUE is actually last in the OVC here) Since they changed the rules last year, there have been more fouls called per game. If you’re not taking advantage of that, you’re leaving points on the board. Points that many OVC teams desperately need.
You don’t need great big men to get to the free-throw line either — guards that drive are going to draw fouls.
The rule isn’t going away. You might as well find a way to use it to your advantage.
Two Division I transfers are currently my co-favorites for newcomer of the month, an award that doesn’t really exist, but kind of makes more sense than having one each week. Belmont guard Taylor Barnette, formerly from Virginia, and UT Martin forward Twymond Howard, who played one year at Texas-El Paso, are both having big impacts for their teams.
Barnette is a three-point sharpshooter that’s going to be a matchup nightmare for OVC backcourts. Barnette is hitting better than 52% from three-point range on the year, and he 43% in limited action with the Cavaliers. He has a great touch, and he’s the perfect offense to get open looks.
Howard is partially the reason teammate Myles Taylor‘s scoring is at it’s lowest level in his career. (That’s not a bad thing for Taylor, or UTM.) He’s not the biggest of guys, but uses his size well, has a good touch at the rim, averaging 14.8 points and pulling down more than six rebounds.
Sometimes, these players just need the right opportunity. Both are getting that with their new teams, and both will be around for at least another year.