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Of the major collegiate or pro sports — there’s no longer offseason than the wait for college basketball. Most teams in this conference are eliminated in the first week of March, and by April it’s all over. Even for teams with a long tournament run, it’s been eight months since we saw kids lace up their shoes, put on the jersey’s, and play the sport we love.

It’s a long time by any measure — plenty of time to think back on the best moments, but also plenty of time to forget the worst.

This sport is marked by unpredictability. Every year, even day, there are countless examples of how just how vulnerable even the best of teams can be. It’s part of what we love so much.

It’s the combination of the two that makes today so exciting.

Unlike any other sport, one player can turn around teams. One game can be a launching pad for the season to come. New coaches can completely reinvigorate a roster, and even a fan base.

This may be the shortest season , on a calendar, of the major sports. But no sport bring more hope on it’s first day. And no sport brings more anguish when, for some, it all goes wrong. The next four month are a roller coaster like no other.

Check your straps. The wild ride begins today.

 

Jacksonville State
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Marshall
1-0 (0-0 CUSA)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

The line for this game surprised me a bit. JSU is 4.5 point underdog — which means they would be about even if this game happened to be played a neutral court. It’s a very winnable road goad in that respect.

Tempo is going to be key here. Marshall is coached by Dan D’Antoni, who has spent the greater part of the last decade as an assistant under his little brother, NBA coach Mike D’Antoni, who is know for fast-pace offenses. It’s easier to slow down a game, which the Gamecocks will certainly look to do — if you can keep from turning over the ball. They didn’t do a good job of that in their exhibition games.

The Gamecocks didn’t shoot the ball well in those games either — against lesser competition. The Gamecocks need a bit of spark to get the season off to a win on the road.

 

Belmont
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Wright State
1-0 (0-0 Horizon)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

This is virtually a toss-up, and that’s really not all that surprising. For the second straight year, Belmont starts a season without their “star” from the year before — but they’ve plenty of talent on the bench. Wright State has gone through more of a transition, graduating five of their top six scorers from a year ago.

Both teams are very similar in style: both are unselfish and want to share the ball on offense. The Bruins had a much more explosive offense a year ago, and do return more players. It makes this an interesting test: Belmont’s very capable of winning this game. We’ll see how they adjust to live after Mike D’Antoni.

 

Savannah State
0-1 (0-0 MEAC)
Eastern Kentucky
1-0 (0-0 OVC)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

On paper, this isn’t all that close. Savannah State is a completely new team — graduating virtually everyone from last year’s team. EKU has gone through a significant amount of turnover as well — but they’ve also had four games overseas this summer, a “secret scrimmage” and an exhibition game to begin to gel.

Two big questions: Can EKU rebound? (They were outrebounded by eight in their exhibition win over NAIA Urbana) And who can step up to help Corey Walden?

 

Houston
1-0 (0-0 CUSA)
Murray State
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

The Racers are 12.5 point favorites — against an American conference opponent. That says a lot about the expectations surrounding the Racers this year, and a bit about Houston. They have a new, high profile coach in former IU and Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson, fresh off major NCAA recruiting violation that kept him out of college basketball for five years. But the Cougars lost multiple transfers, and Sampson brought in 6 JUCO players just to fill holes.

Jonathan Fairell‘s hip injury is a bit of a concern — we’re told he will start tonight. Tyler Rambo may or may not play due to an academic issue.

 

Piedmont International
NCCAA
Tennessee Tech
1-0 (0-0 OVC)
Final
Harris-Stowe
NAIA
SIUE
1-0 (0-0 OVC)
Final
Reinhardt
NAIA
Tennessee State
1-0 (0-0 OVC)
Final

TTU By The NumbersSIUE By The NumbersTSU By The Numbers

Our longstanding tradition of not previewing games against lower-division opponents continues this season — although I did break down some numbers for you all. So what should you watch for in these games?

See who performs well off the bench — there will likely be a lot of minutes to go around. Often, lower-division opponents miss shot — can your team keep them off the offensive glass.

And just remember: don’t overreact. A close game, especially for the first 20 minutes or so, isn’t necessilary a bad sign on it’s own. A blowout doesn’t mean much of anything.

 

Eastern Illinois
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Missouri State
1-0 (0-0 MVC)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

EIU is a big underdog. Missouri State returns the bulk of last year’s team — coming off a 20-win season — which ended at the hands of another OVC team in the CollegeInsider.com tournament.

One thing of note:  Don’t expect a track meet.

We saw a few good things from Eastern Illinois one exhibition: they didn’t turn over the ball — and they hit free-throws. The one thing they didn’t do: defend the perimeter, which was a struggle last year as well. Missouri State has three guards that shot better than 39% from deep last season — so that needs to be fixed, pronto, or things could get out of hand.

 

Southeast Missouri
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Loyola-Marymount
1-0 (0-0 WCC)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

It looks like both teams will not be a full strength: Jarekious Bradley is not making the trip west with the Redhawks, and we’re not sure exactly what’s going on, but Evan Payne didn’t play in the Lions exhibition and isn’t listed as a projected starter in the school’s game notes, leading us to believe he may not be available, whether by injury or suspension.

We know SEMO can score — that hasn’t been in doubt for years. But even their offense last year, their most explosive, statistically, yet, wasn’t enough to put the Redhawks over the hill, so to speak. If the defense isn’t better — it’s hard to see this team improving, and challenging Murray State over the course of the season in the West Division.

 

UT Martin
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
Marquette
1-0 (0-0 Big East)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

It’s a new era, a new team — but an old problem: a money-game heavy schedule, that kicks off on the road at Marquette. There’s no more Buzz Williams for the Golden Eagles — it’s a Duke prodigy in Steve Wojciechowski at the helm.

We all know UT Martin’s recent woes — the question is, can they be turned around in a single year? Myles Taylor has lost significant weight — and bulked up some muscle. New head coach Heath Schroyer brought former UNLV guard Deville Smith with him to Martin. They appear more talented, but how far will that take them?

 

Morehead State
0-1 (0-0 OVC)
UNLV
1-0 (0-0 MWC)
Final

By The NumbersPreview

The Eagles are shorthanded for their trip out West, as two LSU transfers will sit out. UNLV, on the other hand, can’t seem to keep players — and it’s not just Deville Smith. The Rebels lost more than 3/4 of their scoring production from last season.

Both teams love to run — so if you like up-and-down the court basketball, this is your game.

The Rebels are solid favorites — a win here could really lead credence to Morehead State being in the discussion to compete for a conference crown this year.


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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