Wednesday, coaches from around the OVC gathered to be quizzed about their teams by some of the greatest sports journalists in the Ohio Valley
…and when they were done with that, that all had to sit in front of an iPad and answer questions from a dork with a blog wearing a headset. (waves)
In no particular order, here are some of the most noteworthy, funny, and interesting quotations from the head coaches at OVC Media Day.
Tennessee State’s Dana Ford: “Our league is going to be better this year from top to bottom…As much respect as I have for Murray State and Belmont, there’s going to be some teams that shock some people.”
He wasn’t just talking about his team either. Four teams in the East received first-place votes in the OVC preseason poll, including Ford’s Tigers, who finished second in voting for the conference title, not just the Eastern Division. Morehead State (no surprise) and Eastern Kentucky (?!?!) also were voted to win the East.
This sentiment about the league was shared by Belmont’s Rick Byrd as well, who particularly pointed to the bottom teams in the conference getting stronger thanks to some great new coaches.
Morehead State’s Sean Woods on his team’s penchant for fouling: “It’s a mystique. Perception becomes reality. I think that when people look at my teams, they just assume that and it’s just how it’s going to be.”
Every Eagles team under Sean Woods has ranked in the bottom-25 nationally in how often they send opponents to the free-throw line. Last season, it bit them a few times, including their OVC Tournament loss to UT Martin (Eagles were -18 in free-throw attempts) and in their overtime loss in the CBI finals to Nevada. (Eagles were -32)
In a lot of years, the Eagles dribble-drive offense has gotten their team to the free-throw line enough to (mostly) balance it out, but that didn’t happen last season, as the Eagles averaged 12 fewer free-throw attempts a game then their opponents.
I agree with Woods — their history probably doesn’t help, and neither will the new interpretation of rules that could potentially lead to more foul calls this season. (Woods isn’t a fan of the new rules interpretation. I agree with him fully)
SIUE’s Jon Harris: “We made 100,000, no, 120,000 shots this summer”
How would you like to be the guy responsible for counting that! That number breaks down to an average of 8,000 per player. (Assuming a 15-player roster) The Cougars need to make shots — they were 11th in the league in offensive efficiency last season.
Murray State’s Matt McMahon on last season being “disappointing”: “I look at last year, and it wasn’t disappointing for me…it’s disrespectful for Wayne Langston and Jeffery Moss to say it was disappointing because they did a great job of fighting and competing every single day.”
While I appreciate McMahon’s sentiment here, it’s hard to make the argument that for fans, the end result of last year was a bit lackluster. That’s not an attack on his players — there were a lot of reasons last season ended with just 17 wins, including injury and an early departure by an NBA talent.
Tennessee Tech’s Steve Payne: “I’ll be disappointed if we have a lot of turnovers because they call traveling.”
That’s one of the points of emphasis that referees will be looking for this season. The others include an increase in double fouls being called, and protecting the freedom of movement for ball handlers.
Jacksonville State’s Ray Harper: “I don’t understand it. When you look at the divisions, you should take the top four teams out of each division. You can’t say one team out of one division has a better record than the team in the other division and they get a higher seed because the schedules aren’t balanced…I’d have to look throughout the country but I’d venture to say the OVC is the only conference thoughout the nation doing that, and it just makes no sense.”
I actually looked this up — most conferences have gotten rid of divisions (including the OVC women) except two: the OVC and the Mid-American conference. The MAC’s divisions are completely useless — as tournament seeds are determined by overall record, with no deference given to division champions. (For example, Central Michigan won the West with a 10-8 record last season, but was the the fourth seed in the MAC tournament, having the fourth best record)
The OVC does guarantee a division champion a one or two seed — and only eight teams make the conference tournament. Every team makes the MAC’s.
Either way, I agree with Harper. The OVC is only one of two conferences in the men’s game using divisions at all, and they need to join the trend of the rest of the nation in getting rid of them.
Austin Peay’s Dave Loos on guard Jared Savage: “I’ll tell you what I love about Jared. He’s a guy that when he misses a shot, the basket moved. It’s not his fault.”
Loos added that Savage isn’t a player that gets gun shy after misses. We all saw what Savage was capable of during the Governors OVC Tournament run, hitting 19 three’s in the team’s four wins in Nashville. He’ll get plenty of chances to show that again this season — Loos says his team “will have to play differently” after the loss of Horton, which he added will mean the team taking more three’s.
Eastern Illinois’ Jay Spoonhour, when asked what does it take to win the West: “I don’t know, I haven’t done it yet.”
He didn’t actually say this to me — it was relayed to me by Edward Marlow of the Murray Ledger and Times. But it was such a good quote (and such a Spoonhour quote) I just couldn’t pass it up.
Belmont’s Rick Byrd: “No one has the potential to have the great game like Craig [Bradshaw] time and time again.”
…but there’s an upside. Byrd says Dylan Windler will take Bradshaw’s spot in the rotation, and while Bradshaw was great at getting steals, Byrd says Windler is a better defender overall due in part to his great length.
Byrd also acknowledged he was an offensive coach. You know, in case that was ever in doubt.
Tennessee State’s Dana Ford: “We don’t really work on offense a lot.”
Ford says some of the blame for TSU’s offensive struggles last year falls on him. He added that he could have let some of his guards loose more to score last year.
Later, he added, “Here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to let guys just play one-on-one and try to score. But if they do it as a team, they should be a little better offensively.” TSU was at the bottom of the league in assists-per-game last season, averaging just 9.4 per game. Second-worst? SIUE at 11.2.
SIUE’s Jon Harris, when asked who is the team’s on-floor leader: “It’ll be done by committee”
Leader by committee? Uh…okay.
Eastern Illinois’s Jay Spoonhour: “We had the fifth youngest team in the nation last year.”
…and they went 9-7 in league play. With a more experienced core, the Panthers could be an even tougher team this year.
Eastern Kentucky’s Dan McHale: “Our offense will be just as good this year”
After losing both Jarelle Reischel and Javontae Hawkins? He makes a good argument: “Neither of them had much Division I experience heading into last season.” McHale does return last year’s OVC Freshman of the Year in Nick Mayo. Of course, all that offense (EKU ranked 18th nationally in offensive efficiency) only helped the Colonels finish 6-10 in conference.
As for the defense, the Colonels have already taken a hit, losing Dujuanta Weaver to a torn ACL.
Jacksonville State’s Ray Harper on the Gamecocks offense: “The faster the better”
That would be quite the change for Gamecocks’ fans. Under James Green, the Gamecocks were in the bottom four in the league in tempo every year since 2011. At Western Kentucky, Harper’s teams didn’t play at a breakneck tempo, but were regularly in the top-half of Conference USA.
Tennessee Tech’s Steve Payne: “If we win the league in turnover margin, we’re going to win the league.”
Payne’s Golden Eagles had the second-worst turnover margin in the league last year, but that doesn’t fall on the offense. TTU’s 12.3 turnovers a game ranked fifth, but their 10.2 forced turnovers per game were nearly two fewer than the next worst. Tech has more size this year, which Payne says should help the team defensively.
UT Martin’s Anthony Stewart, when asked if the loss in the OVC championship game is motivating the players: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
Stewart gets points for honesty, because of course it is.
On an unrelated point, Stewart says to expect the Skyhawks to play a bit more up-tempo on offense this year than they did under Heath Schroyer, and they want to be more opportunistic on defense.