All season long, there’s been quite a difference between Murray State and Belmont—the OVC’s best two teams—and everyone below them. Teams that perhaps could have been spoilers to this duopoly, namely Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, Eastern Kentucky, all seemed to disappoint this year.
Now, the field is all set for the OVC Tournament, which will be held for the first time at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. This change of scenery is especially notable since Nashville was a reliable host city, given that it’s where 23 of the past 24 events were held.
This season, with Murray State and Belmont looking tough while possessing double-byes, it’s difficult to think of many teams that could upset either of them. However, the two teams with the best chances of doing so are Jacksonville State, last year’s OVC Tournament champion, and Austin Peay, the No. 3 seed who defied expectations this year (they were projected to finish in 11th place this year).
Some points of note are that SEMO, which finished 7th in the standings this season, cannot compete because of APR violations. Also, SIUE managed to take the 8 seed over UT Martin and Morehead State due to in-season tiebreakers over those teams.
How to Watch
The first two rounds of the OVC Tournament will take place on the OVC Digital Network, a site anyone used to watching OVC hoops is well acquainted with. The semifinal round will air on ESPNU on March 2nd, and the title game will be broadcast on March 3rd on ESPN2.
Honestly, I don’t see how Murray State doesn’t win this tournament. They have been rolling since losing to Belmont in mid-January, winning 11 straight games. Jonathan Stark looks like the OVC Player of the Year. Ja Morant has emerged as a freshman phenom. Terrell Miller is a monster on the boards. The Racers are clearly the team to beat.
However, there are a few other teams itching for a chance to take them down. Jacksonville State is familiar with taking down No. 1 seeds, doing so to Belmont just last year. They split the season series with the Racers, but their inconsistency is so scary. They can easily drop three games in a row before turning around and beating Belmont. It’s quite hard to peg them.
Belmont, the OVC Tournament’s No. 2 seed, will also have its eye on another NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bruins beat Murray State in their only meeting of the season, but they should really be thankful that they are not on the same side of the bracket as the Gamecocks, who beat them twice this year already.
Finally, there’s Austin Peay, the No. 3 seed that is also the dark horse. Defying all expectations this season, the Governors managed to win 12 OVC games, sweeping Jacksonville State in the process. Matt Figger has worked wonders in his first season after replacing legendary head coach Dave Loos. Winning an OVC Title would be icing on the cake, especially given what the media thought of them heading into this year.