It's never fun to be told that you'll end up at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to teams in your conference. Less likely teams have surged to exemplary seasons, but for now, here are your bottom four of the Ohio Valley Conference in 2015-2016.
Last year: 5-26 (2-14) (Last in OVC East) THEY DIDN'T WIN AN AWAY GAME
Departures: Jay Harris (11.1 ppg), Xavier Richards (6.7 ppg) (5 "bottom of the roster" transfers)
Key Returners: Marcus Roper (10.0 ppg), Christian Mekowulu (8.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Demontez Loman (4.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg) Darreon Reddick (7.7 ppg)
The Tigers were an unfortunately easy pick for the worst team in the conference. After coming in at worse than 300th in the nation in points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage, the Tigers have a long way pathway to success. For a team that struggles to move the ball, the play of returning guards like Reddick and Roper will have to jumpstart this team for Coach Dana Ford and crew. Roper has shown himself capable of providing a spark, and hit 7 treys in a game in a memorable February contest against Eastern Kentucky. Ford, the youngest coach in D1 at 31 years of age, yielded a team last year that had just one senior on its roster and two players with previous D1 experience, and was probably the youngest in the nation. At least there is returning experience. And of course, there was the time it finished a game with four players on the court...
Last year: 12-18 (4-12) 5th in OVC East
Departures: Charles Jackson (13.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg) Dwan Caldwell (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Key Returners: Terrance Rowe (11.4 ppg, 2.7 apg), Josiah Moore (8.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg) Ryan Martin (sat out after transferring in)
Returning for the Golden Eagles in 2015-2016 is a respectable nucleus in guys like Terrance Rowe and Josiah Moore, though it'll be hard to climb the ladder in the OVC after losing two bigguns like Charles Jackson and Dwan Caldwell. Enter transfer Ryan Martin who comes in from South Plains College. Martin is a banger around the bucket and someone you don 't want heading to the bucket as an opposing defense. The big Brit Martin will pick up some of the slack on the boards after helping lead his squad to the quarterfinals of the NJCAA tournament, and he will likely have the help of talented young big men who will hope to carve out a spot for themselves in their first year on campus. Another name to be on the lookout for is Serbian guard Aleksa Jogovic, who led the squad in free throw percentage and with a 1.7 assists to turnover ration while playing in 17.9 minutes per game as a freshman and will play big minutes likely off the bench.
Last year: 12-19 (5-11) 4th OVC East
Departures: Darion Rackley (15.1 ppg) DJ Felder (10.0 ppg 5.5 rpg), Avery Moore (9.1 ppg)
Key Returners: JaQuail Townser (7.9 ppg, 3.3 apg)
The Gamecocks are a presenting a bit on the lean side coming into the year after losing four starters. The largest returning athlete with experience for the 'Cocks is 6'9" 210 lb Deitrich Cole and the pickin's are slim after that. This might be a point of concern for Coach James Green's squad. JaQuail Townser has proven himself to be a versatile guard who can rebound and pass, and he sure will have to up the ante in all aspects of his game as the lone-returning starter. He showed his worth with a 24-point performance against Winthrop in December, and Gamecock fans will sure be looking for more of that comes this season. The program has a noticeable upside, any team in the conference that can take down Belmont as it did last February is worthy of respect. It's just hard to garner how this team that loses almost the entirety of its starting lineup will fair, especially a team that was near dead-last in the country in field goal percentage a season ago. It's time for the Gamecocks to stop relying on contested jumpers and get going to the hoop more.
Last year: 8-22 (3-13) Last (6th) in OVC East
Departures: Ed Dyson (9.5 ppg) (Chris Freeman 9.5 ppg)
Key Returners: Chris Horton (13.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg), Josh Robinson (9.9 ppg) Khalil Davis (9.8 ppg)
Picked to finish last in the OVC East in the conference media poll is Coach Dave Loos' squad, who returns a respectable trio of starters, but still has questions to answer when it comes to success in OVC play. Though several starters return, nothing about this bunch lends itself to the belief that Austin Peay will climb up the ladder in conference play. Transfers John Murry and Kenny Jones will likely make a difference, the latter not not sturdy of frame but will lend a hand on the inside after averaging 13 points per and 8 boards a game at Owens Community College. Jones just a complement to returning big man Chris Horton an aggressive and skilled rebounder who was eight in the nation in rebounds per game at 11.1 per a year ago while acting as an intimidating force around the basket, and a solid backcourt in Josh Robinson and Khalil Davis. The Governors will get tested early in the season when they trek to Maui, and are slated to play Vanderbilt and Indiana, look at these matchups to see if we can expect great things out of the Clarksville squad.