Here’s a quick rundown of some OVC Tournament scenarios entering Thursday Night:
Clinched Tournament Birth: Belmont, Morehead State, Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State
Eliminated from Tournament contention: Eastern Kentucky, SIUE, Eastern Illinois
Okay, here’s where things get fun. Let’s start with the most basic of questions…who gets in? This will either be really easy, or really, really hard
The battle for the eight-seed
If Austin Peay loses either of their final two games (at UT Martin, as Southeast Missouri): Austin Peay is eliminated from OVC Tournament contention; Murray State and UT Martin are in, and your field is set.
If Austin Peay wins out:
I’m not sure that I can even begin to look at every possible scenario, since there’s a lot, but there are a few things I do know:
- They can’t win the division. SEMO and UT Martin both play Murray State over the final two games of the division, so someone has to get to 9 wins.
- Winning out means beating both UTM and SEMO.
- Possible 8-8 ties include…Tennessee Tech, Jacksonville State, Tennessee State, SEMO, UT Martin, and Murray State.
Let’s go one-by-one here…
- Tennessee Tech: Austin Peay lost the head-to-head.
- Jacksonville State: Austin Peay lost the head-to-head.
- Tennessee State: Austin Peay lost the head-to-head.
- Southeast Missouri: In this scenario, AP would have split the season series with SEMO.
- UT Martin: In this scenario, AP would have split the season series with UT Martin.
- Murray State: Austin Peay split the season series.
So, baring a weird three-or-four way tie I’m missing, five teams from the East are locks into the OVC Tournament, due largely to their wins over Austin Peay.
There are some scenarios that get the Governors in though — especially if UT Martin is involved, and Murray wins the division. Again, for this scenario to work, UTM has to lose out, and that means losing to the Racers. AP went 1-1 against Murray, UTM would be 0-2. That would likely put the Governors over the Skyhawks in a two-way or a three-way tie.
…but let’s say in this scenario SEMO beats Murray State tonight, and Morehead State stays ahead of the Racers in the standings. This is not good news — Austin Peay lost to Morehead State, but UT Martin beat them.
So, let’s look at scenarios that could keep teams in the West out of the tournament. This isn’t exhaustive, but more of a worst-case for every team involved:
UT Martin misses the tournament if: I just detailed this above, but if Murray wins out, Austin Peay wins out, and the Skyhawks lose out, it’s bye-bye UT Martin.
Murray State misses the tournament if: Very similar to above, it starts with Murray State losing out and Austin Peay winning out. Here — SEMO winning the division is very bad news for Murray State, as losing out means the Racers would have been swept by the Redhawks.
But this scenario also requires TSU to beat Belmont. In a three-way tie at 8-8 between TSU, Murray State, and AP, the Tigers and Racers would survive, and AP would be left out. If TSU is 9-7, then AP would win the tiebreaker, and Murray State left out. (Murray’s win and Austin Peay’s loss to Tennessee State being the difference in the two)
…also, let it sink in that in the final week of the season, we’re actually looking at a possible scenario where the Racers miss the Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament.
Southeast Missouri is safe because: Austin Peay’s only real advantage over SEMO is that they swept Eastern Illinois, which the Redhawks lost to. But in this scenario, there’s no way for EIU to finish above Tennessee Tech, who the Redhawks beat but the Governors lost to, so, the Redhawks are safe.
The West Mess
Alright, Belmont is the one-seed. The battle for the two-seed can also be really easy, or really, really hard. Of the three teams, two control their own destiny, (one is Murray State) and the reason is that SEMO and UT Martin don’t play again. So, let’s look at that tiebreaker first.
- SEMO and UT Martin split their series.
- Both play Murray State. For this scenario, let’s assume both beat the Racers, and win their other game to both get to 10-6. The second tiebreaker for division leader is record against the division. UTM would be 7-3. SEMO would be 8-2. SEMO, not UTM controls their destiny for the 2 seed.
Now, I really don’t even want to begin looking at a possible three-way 9-7 tie, but I guess we must. Again, let’s start with what we know right now:
- Heading into Thursday, SEMO is 1-0 against Murray State. If the Racers lose tonight, they cannot win a two-way tie with the Redhawks at 9-7.
- But, what about a three-way tie? Same result, and here’s why: For this to happen, SEMO would need to beat Murray State, UTM would need to beat Austin Peay, and Murray State would need to beat UT Martin. The first tiebreaker would be three-way head-to-head. SEMO would be 3-1. Murray State would be 2-2, and UTM would be 1-3. SEMO would win the division.
- So what happens if Murray State wins tonight, and drops the finale to UT Martin? Well, there’s only two options: a three-way tie at 9-7, or UTM wins out and wins the division at 10-6.
- This three-way tie scenario works out a bit differently. In the three-way head-to-head, SEMO would be 2-2. Murray State would be 2-2, and UT Martin would be 2-2. The next tiebreaker is record against the division. It’s good news again for the Redhawks: they would be 7-3. UT Martin would be 6-4. Murray State would be 6-4. The Redhawks would win the division.
So, in summary:
- Murray State, SEMO control their own destiny. (Obviously, only one team does after tonight)
- Southeast Missouri wins all 9-7 ties, two-way or three-way. They would either have swept Murray State, or have swept Austin Peay, which neither UTM or Murray have done.
- UTM needs SEMO to lose to win the division. (They also need to beat the Racers, because they can’t overcome a season sweep by the Racers.)
The East is all about seeding
Okay, final set of scenarios here. There really is no easy way here — it’s going to be really, really messy, and the final seeds depend heavily on what happens in the West. So, there’s no way to even touch the, literally, dozens of possibilities that could happen here.
Here’s what I can say. So, let’s focus on the major points.
- If Morehead State wins out, they’re the three-seed. There, that was fun.
- Tennessee Tech has the tiebreaker edge against most teams in the East: They beat Belmont. The second tiebreaker, after head-to-head, is to go down the ranking seeds, and see who records against the one-seed, then two-seed, etc. TTU beat Belmont. No one else has, and only Tennessee State has the opportunity remaining. The problem for TTU is they’re badly positioned in head-to-heads against the West: they lost to Southeast Missouri, and they lost to UT Martin.
- Jacksonville State and Tennessee State are positioned better against the West: They both beat SEMO and UTM, but lost to Murray State. So, they’re rooting for the Redhawks and Skyhawks to win the division.
So, which teams can get to a top-4 seed and a single bye? Possibly all of them. Yes, even Tennessee State — it’s all because so few of them play each other. Let’s start with one scenario for TSU. (Like before, this isn’t an exhaustive list. This is more of a “best case scenario” type thing)
Tennessee State can get a top-4 seed if: TSU winning Saturday at Belmont is both obvious, and probably the least likely thing in this entire list to happen. Then, in the West, what’s a little more chaos? The easiest way is if only one of the current top three teams wins again, meaning only the division leader gets to 9 or 10 wins — and only Murray State can make that happen. So, for this to work, Murray must beat SEMO tonight, SEMO must lose Saturday, and UTM loses out. Okay, now to the East: TSU will be the beneficiary if Morehead State wins out and gets to 11-5. If that happens, and TTU and JSU both lose to EKU (also unlikely) TSU will be the only team in the East at 9-7.
As a note — if even just the first thing happens, and TSU beats Belmont on Saturday, their options open somewhat, as long as Jacksonville State loses out. (The Tigers lost both to the Gamecocks.)
Tennessee State really is safe to make the OVC Tournament: I even tried to look for a worst-worst-case scenario, involving Murray State, a team they lost to, and Jacksonville State, a team they were swept by. But since any 8-8 tie involves Austin Peay, TSU wins every tiebreaker I could come up with due to their win over the Governors.
Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State can get a top-4 seed if: They win out — and Murray State beats either SEMO or UTM. The fact they both play Morehead State plays a factor here. Either A) both TTU and JSU beat Morehead State or B) one or both lose. The point is: there’s not a way that all three of them can get to 10-wins, only two can. With Belmont, that’s three 10-win teams. The only scenario where two teams from the West can get to 10-wins is if both SEMO and UTM run the table, and that means they both beat Murray State. So, as long as the Racers win one, there can’t be five teams with 10-wins, meaning any 10-win team is a top-4 seed.
A lot more becomes clear after tonight. But hopefully this is a solid look at where teams stand. See something I missed? Please let me know in the comments!