Does defense still win championships?
This is actually a serious question.
This year is the year that offense died across college basketball, and it’s without a doubt hit home in the OVC, evidenced yet again by Morehead State’s dreadful offensive performance on the road at UAB. Here’s the thing though: Morehead State isn’t alone in struggling to actually score points.
Last year, the national average for OPPP (offensive points per possession) was 1.02. This year? It’s 0.98.
While it may not seem like it, .04 is significant when you consider there are 65-70 possessions in an average game. The OVC has fallen even farther. Last season, the OVC averaged 1.04. This year? 0.95, a difference of nearly a tenth a point per possession. That averages out to 6 to 7 points per team per game.
That’s actually up from two weeks ago, where the same number for the OVC was 0.92, so there’s progress being made.
I think it’s fair to say that three teams are standing out so far this year in the OVC: Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, and UT Martin.
Those three schools rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the conference in OPPP. Where are they defensively? 3rd, 4th, and tied for 6th.
So who’s the best defensive team? The same Morehead State team that fell on the road last night after shooting 34% from the floor. In the “year of the defense,” as some pundits have called it, having a great offense might actually be a much more dangerous weapon.
There are a lot of good games tomorrow in the OVC, and they’re stretched across the day in case conference title games in college football isn’t your thing.
The most interesting of the bunch may be the nightcap: Austin Peay travels to friend of the OVC, Southern Illinois, (playing their third of five OVC games this year) who is coming off a pretty dominant win at SIUE earlier this week.
Why is it interesting? For one, Austin Peay has had an entire week to prepare for the Salukis, and the Governors, in my opinion, have a better defensive backcourt to matchup against Anthony Beane, who was simply dominant against the Cougars.
The Governors have played just well enough on the road this year to lose, and SIU is a good OVC-level test for Austin Peay.
If I were putting together a short list of most disappointing OVC teams in November, Murray State would be on that the list. Expectations (set by people like us, to be honest) were through the roof for this year’s Racers squad. Those expectations…haven’t panned out.
So, like countless coaches before him (and him…in previous seasons) Murray State head coach Steve Prohm has a new philosophy for his team.
Drive the piling.
Obviously, the saying is more than just a hashtag for twitter. (Although it is very much that) It’s also changing how the Racers are doing things. According to the Murray Ledger & Times, Prohm held a full practice the same day as the game against Berea college this week, usually more of an off-day thing. Instead of instantly focusing on Western Kentucky following that game, who the Racers face tomorrow, they spent a day only working on making themselves better.
Right now, it’s clear the Racers need a new approach to…something. Record aside, Murray State hasn’t played all that well in too many of their losses, are an uncharacteristic 11th in overall rebounding percentage in the OVC, and their shot selection has been questionable at times.
Their issues mostly seem fixable. (Depth is one I’m not so sure about…) And Coach Prohm hopes to make this new philosophy of his stick before conference play begins next month.