What will the conference do if the entire East division makes the OVC Tournament? UT Martin and Jacksonville State are doing their part to make that a reality: On Sunday, the Skyhawks scored just 15 first-half points, yet somehow forced overtime before falling at Southeast Missouri, while Jacksonville State grabbed a 13-point halftime lead an held on just long enough to upset Morehead State. If the tournament started today, UT Martin, Austin Peay, SIUE, and Southeast Missouri would be out.
The OVC divisions mirror what most 12-team conferences have done in the past. But, most 12-team conferences don’t eliminate teams before the conference tournament, and there’s a new trend of conferences getting rid of divisions, even if they have uneven scheduling. (i.e. the SEC) Even if a third team from the West Division manages to sneak in, there’s the feeling that a team from the East would only be left out because they had to play in the East.
The conference isn’t likely to get rid of uneven scheduling, as 22 conference games (out of 28 games allowed by the NCAA) in a true home-and-home round robin is too much, and would all but relegate the conference to play-in game on a near annual basis. But given how important controlling costs is to these small school, would the school presidents be willing to eliminate divisions, which are based on geography, if it causes a rise in travel costs? Or, alternatively, would they eliminate divisions for standings, but keep them for scheduling purposes? (Which is what they’ve done on the women’s side)
there’s a new trend of conferences getting rid of divisions, even if they have uneven scheduling
Either way, this isn’t the first year of a power imbalance between the divisions, but it’s building towards a worst-case scenario. For the coaches that have been vocal in the past about the current setup, this season is only adding fuel to the fire.
Murray State wins two straight, back atop the West: Well, that didn’t take long. The Racers continued their dominance of Eastern Illinois, (the Racers are 42-9 against EIU, and winners of 10 of the last 11 meetings) and had few problems with SIUE to get to 4-4 in conference play, and back to .500 overall. The Racers offense has been better, especially in the first half of games, but it’s their defense that’s the star. Murray held the Panthers and Cougars to a combined 37.5% shooting and just 7-33 (21.2%) three-point shooting.
Tennessee Tech splits in Death Valley: …which is a desirable result, truth be told. Aleska Jugovic is a player of the week nominee, after posting back-to-back 20+ point efforts, but the Golden Eagles offense had the off night we was coming in their loss at Morehead State. That being said, Tech was in a position late against the Eagles, despite all but 11 points coming from just three players. (Jugovic, Torrance Rowe, and Ryan Martin) This is the week where TTU can become a contender, or fall back to the pack: TTU gets both Tennessee State and Belmont in Cookeville.
Belmont tops TSU, last remaining team undefeated in OVC play: It feels weird waiting until the fourth item on this list to get to the OVC leaders, but in reality they’re doing what most of us expected them to do. Their non-conference schedule was brutal, and it was clear that the Bruins were a better team than their record showed. They’re even winning in the way we expected: by just outscoring everyone. The question now? Will they trip up, and against who?
This is the week where TTU can become a contender, or fall back to the pack
JSU has won three of their last four, head into a brutal four-week stretch: …and with a few stops in Richmond, it could have been four straight wins for the Gamecocks. But their next six games? Both matchups against Belmont, Tennessee State, and Tennessee Tech. Two wins out of the six put JSU in a solid spot heading in to the final week of the season to make their first conference tournament since 2012.
- The last four halves for UT Martin continue the Skyhawks trend of just being unpredictable, in the worst way possible. Against Belmont, the Skyhawks held the Bruins to 32 points and 35% shooting in the first half, and give up 50 points off 46% shooting in the second. Against Southeast Missouri, UTM trailed by 17 at the half, held SEMO to 23 second-half points to force OT, and then lose by eight. Part of the issue, their offense, which was up-and-down, is now just down; The Skyhawks have been held under 37% from the field in each of their last three games.
- Southeast Missouri is on a two-game winning streak, (for the second time this year) and KenPom has an interesting prediction for their next three games. The site gives the Redhawks a better chance of beating Murray State at home in two weeks than beating SIUE on the road on Thursday.
- Eastern Illinois are proving to be OT warriors. The Panthers win over Austin Peay on Saturday puts the Panthers 3-0 in overtime games this year. EIU is 4-3 in games decided by six points or less (two possessions) this year.
- Forget the Cougars losses on the road this past week: SIUE gets the next four games at home, and is favored in three of them, according to KenPom. But the path to seven wins (or even six to be in OVC Tournament contention) likely means winning four of their five final games in Edwardsville.