Let’s be honest — this is all about 2-8 at this point. Here’s our final pre-OVC Tournament power rankings:
Even if Murray State somehow loses this week, they’re not getting moved off the one-line in our Power Rankings; They’re five games up on the rest of the conference. This Saturday showed why this year doesn’t feel like the last 20+ game winning streak for the Racers: Murray doesn’t appear to be feeling any pressure, and the rest of the league just isn’t as good this year as it was that season.
Since EKU was edged in Murray, the Colonels only loss came while shorthanded at Belmont. Assuming they’re healthy entering next week’s OVC Tournament, EKU could be a very dangerous opponent if they can avoid upset themselves. Two of their five conference losses are to teams that likely won’t make the OVC Tournament. The good news — EKU is the No. 2 seed, and earn a double-bye if they win out.
Their loss at SIUE last week is both somewhat concerning, but also largely unsurprising. SIUE has done a masterful job of holding home court this year, but the concerning part is that Martin is struggling to string together wins. Their last 10 games — lose, win two, lose, win two, lose, win two, lose. They’ll need to win three in Nashville if they’re going to steal an OVC Tournament Title.
I’ve said multiple times this year that I wouldn’t count out a Rick Byrd coached team in Nashville in March, but the Bruins are 11th in league play in overall defensive efficiency. The Bruins have lost eight times since December 11th — all of them on the road. The tournament is in their backyard, but they need fans to show up to the Muni.
The Cougars get the nod for No. 5 thanks in large part to their current three-game winning streak, which all came in the comforts of the Vad Pad. The problem is that outside of Edwardsville, they’ve won just once. All year. That win did come this month, at Southeast Missouri, but Edwarsville is a long way from Nashville. It will be interesting to see if they get road win No. 2 on Thursday in Clarksville against a struggling Governors squad.
Morehead State is on the wrong side of almost every tiebreaker for a simple reason: they’ve beaten who they’re supposed to, but have just one win combined in seven games against the top three teams in the West, and top two in the East. They’re now second-worst in the nation at sending opponents to the free-throw line, and that’s just not a formula for winning tight games in Nashville.
Yes, I know the Gamecocks are on the outside looking in, and no, I don’t think they get in, but Jacksonville State is hanging by a thread thanks to their current three-game win streak. The problem: they have to make the original ‘Death Valley’ road swing with their tournament lives on the line. One area the Gamecocks haven’t gotten enough credit for this year — they lead the OVC with the lowest turnover rate, and are second in forced turnovers. But, sadly, ball control is only so important when you’re shooting 26.8% from three-point range.
Since their 6-0 conference start, EIU is a paltry 3-6. Their win against Southeast Missouri last week did show that Chris Olivier has recovered, and a full-strength EIU could be a tough out. Head coach Jay Spoonhour told me earlier this season the team’s goal was to go .500 in the conference. On that front: mission accomplished.
A win Saturday against Austin Peay, and Southeast Missouri is into the OVC Tournament. Of course, they could be in before then if Jacksonville State loses Thursday. We spend a lot of time talking momentum this time of year, and the Redhawks don’t have it, losers of three straight. Redhawks need a good win against Austin Peay to boost their confidence heading into the likely 5-8 game on Wednesday in Nashville.
The Golden Eagles also make the original ‘Death Valley’ road swing to end the season, which could make for a miserable end to a disappointing season. The interesting thing is — TTU not only won eight non-conference games, three were against teams ranked in the top-150 of KenPom. (North Florida x2, Chattanooga) The defense has been a big letdown in conference play, and they lose some talent (notably Dwan Caldwell) next season.
TSU’s last win came on the final day of January, but the Tigers have been great against the spread in February. Sadly, that doesn’t mean much other than sportsbooks aren’t high on TSU. New head coach Dana Ford wanted his team to play defense, and for the most part they have, ranked sixth in OVC play in defensive efficiency. But, you still have to score in basketball, and the offense needs some serious work in the offseason.
Every team in the OVC, including Tennessee State, has won at least two games since Austin Peay last won, now more than a month ago. The Governors have broke 70 just once in that streak, despite continuing to be one of the more up-tempo teams in the conference. There are issues on both sides of the ball, as the Governors rank 11th in offensive efficency, and dead last defensively in conference play. The good news: Chris Horton is just a junior.