Right now, we could be in the middle of an incredibly exciting race for the second double-bye: five teams within a game in the loss column of earning the No. 2 seed, and avoiding the seemingly impervious Racers until the conference tournament final.
Following Belmont’s loss last night to Eastern Kentucky, there are currently three OVC teams with three losses: the aforementioned Bruins, UT Martin, and Eastern Illinois. EKU and Morehead State have just four losses.
So why does only one division get a shot of being the two-seed in Nashville in March?
Without a doubt, the OVC’s divisions are sapping excitement out of this year. On one side of the conference, we have a seemingly untouchable leader, completely overshadowing two fantastic teams on the rise. On the other, we have a team one-game over .500 in the conference still within a stone’s throw of winning the division.
…this isn’t the first time this has happened, either.
The first year that the OVC split into divisions, Murray State won the west at 10-6, still two games clear of Southeast Missouri for second, while Eastern Kentucky, who finished with a better record, had to play from a single-bye.
But here’s my real question: why did the conference decide, after just two years, to get rid of the divisions for women, and not men? In what world does that make any sense?
This summer, this needs to be fixed this. The OVC needs to do what the SEC did years ago — get rid of the divisions, and let the top records stand for themselves. Give UT Martin and Eastern Illinois, two teams who have had outstanding starts to their conference campaign’s, a chance, and stop penalizing teams because they play in the stronger division.
This decision doesn’t fall on the conference, but the coaches and athletic directors. How many times do you need to see teams get burned, or watch your program get burned, before a change is made?
The East Division champion may very well finish with a better record than the West Division runner-up. But we’re still losing the chase, the part of conference play that’s so exciting to watch.
If it’s not good enough for the women to keep, why are we keeping it for the men?
One thing we’re actively working on is introducing more video on the site, and that starts with game highlights. I didn’t have the time this morning to go through more than one game, but did get these highlights posted for Belmont at EKU. Just a preview of what’s to come in the year ahead.
Eric Stutz has been an eight and four guy his entire career, averaging those figures each of his first three seasons. it took awhile, but he’s finally exploding this. Stutz put up a career high 27 points in last night’s win over the Bruins, hitting 11-12 shots from the field. For the season, the EKU forward is averaging 15 points and six rebounds, well above his previous averages. This isn’t just a one-hit wonder kind of thing either: in his last six games, Stutz is averaging 20 points, and has hit 42-63 (66.7%) from the field. He’s been on a tear, and is a big reason why I posed the question yesterday if the East is EKU’s to lose.
…Or These Career Nights
UT Martin’s Marshun Newell notched a pair of career-highs: 23 points, 17 rebounds as UT Martin won on the road at Austin Peay. Newell is just 6’3. He hit 8-12 from the floor, 4-5 from three-point range, and is the first Skyhawk to have a 15+ rebound game since 2008. And while we’re on the theme of career-highs, UTM’s Alex Anderson also set a new career-high with 19 points.
Morehead Bounces Back
While their record might not show it, Tennessee State has been solid defensively throughout most of OVC play, which makes the Eagles 52% shooting from the floor all that more noteworthy last night. The Eagles didn’t really struggle in the win, which keeps the Eagles a half-game up on EKU, and a game back of the Bruins for the East Division lead. Morehead State got a big night from Karam Mashour, who posted 21 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Possibly even more impressive: The Eagles only committed 16 fouls, their fewest of the season.
Murray State’s win streak keeps on rolling, and there are still no signs of the Racers playing ‘tight.’ With several members of the team (and the coach) fighting the flu, the Racers hit 51% from the field against the shorthanded Redhawks, who were without Jarekious Bradley after he failed the teams’s concussion protocol. (He’s questionable for Saturday as well) And while we’re on the theme of career-high’s tonight, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm just became the first head coach in Murray State history to have four-straight 20-win seasons.