If you ask people who have followed the Ohio Valley Conference this season, almost everyone is predicting an ‘anything can happen tournament.’
But not many people are predicting an Austin Peay upset. The Governors finished 9-7 in the ‘weaker’ West Division, while Tennessee Tech lost a three-way tie for second at 11-5 in the ‘tougher’ East Division. While the general public is expecting chaos, this isn’t on most people’s radars.
Austin Peay has a great chance to prove those people wrong.
The Governors are one of the more balanced teams in Nashville this week: they get great inside play from one of the best post guys in the league in Chris Horton, (pictured above) they have capable, if somewhat inconsistent guards in Khalil Davis and Josh Robinson, and are third in the league in forcing turnovers as a defense, in a season that no one is really forcing turnovers.
Horton could a huge key for the Governors, and not just for scoring. Tennessee Tech has been a poor rebounding team this season, and it’s something Austin Peay needs to pounce on. In their only matchup this season, which the Golden Eagles won in Clarksville, Austin Peay only out rebounded TTU by two — that number should be much larger.
Austin Peay won two must-win games to get to Nashville, but their opponents (SIUE and Southeast Missouri) weren’t of Tennessee Tech’s caliber, and neither of those wins were all that convincing. Two weeks ago, the Governors took UT Martin to overtime in Clarksville, and they’ll need that kind of effort to open the conference tournament with an upset.
Tennessee Tech’s offense has self-corrected, somewhat, from it’s historic pace early in conference play, but it’s far from having been tamed. Torrance Rowe enters the tournament off three straight 20+ point performances, and was held to single digit scoring just once throughout all of conference play. Combined with Ryan Martin‘s presence inside, and a second deep threat in Aleska Jugovic, TTU has a lot of weapons on the offensive end, and can simply out score a lot of teams.
Bu the Golden Eagles are solidly defensively as well, among a trio of teams within tenths of a percentage point in defensive eFG%, and must like Austin Peay, TTU doesn’t send opponents to the free-throw line often. The only thing it doesn’t do well — force turnovers, finishing last in the league in that category. They were minus-5 in turnovers in the first matchup against Austin Peay, and if that number gets bigger, that could keep the Governors in the game.
For a team that finished 4-12 in league play a year ago, this season has been an impressive turnaround. Had a few things gone their way, TTU might have avoided this first round game. They’ll need to put that disappointment behind them. Tech may be the favorite, but Austin Peay, in a lot of ways, presents a unique challenge. What the Golden Eagles do poorly, (rebounding, defensive turnovers) the Governors do well — which means an ‘off’ night could easily make TTU a one-and-done in Nashville.