The Ohio Valley Conference standings are starting to take shape as all of the conference's members have now played nine or 10 games. A couple squads are taking fans by surprise and others are being criminally underwhelming. So here are five thoughts about where everything stands right now with an emphasis on the last week of play.
1. Tennessee Tech's success and win over Belmont
If anyone wasn't taking the Golden Eagles seriously before this week, well, it's time to wake up. Scoring an emphatic home win against Belmont provides fans with what is likely the best in-conference win for anyone in the OVC this season. Tech is now 8-2 in OVC play. As OVC Ball noted, Tech did this largely in part to turning the Bruins over, maintaining possession themselves, getting to the free throw line, and working hard around the bucket to gain the advantage. Torrance Rowe garnered OVC POTW honors after scoring 22.5 ppg, 3.5 apg and 3.0 rpg in wins over Belmont and an 81-79 victory against in-state foe Tennessee State.
2. Eastern Illinois atop the West?
So after a miserable start to the season, who would have thought that the Panthers were capable of winning five games out of six over any stretch? Despite struggling to keep SIUE off the offensive boards, EIU picked up comfortable 60-46 win on Saturday, just two days after defeating UT-Martin (another team that continues to underwhelm but could pick up the pace yet). The Panthers have benefited immensely from the return of Demtrius McReynolds, who put up 27 points in the game with the Skyhawks. Another way they're doing this is by controlling the ball. As the Journal-Gazette/Times-Courier's Justin Rust notes, EIU just doesn't turn the ball over.
3. The OVC East is fun at the top
Okay, so we have a one-loss team, two two-loss teams and a three-loss team all jockeying for possession in the crowded East. Those teams are Belmont, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State and Morehead State, with Tech and the Bruins likely to emerge as the final top contenders for the East. MSU is the most likely among these teams to drop off.
Three of Belmont's last four games are against the likes of TSU, TTU and MSU. Two of TTU's final three opponents are against MSU and Belmont. If TSU surges by some chance, its season finale against Belmont could be impactful when it comes to OVC tournament seeding. Two of MSU's final three games are against TTU and TSU. This and more is enough reason to pay close attention to the final weeks of OVC play.
4. We see you Keron Deshields
Though Deshields didn't necessarily have to put up any gaudy numbers in Tennessee State's easy road win at Jacksonville State, he did put up a herculean effort in the loss to Tech. Deshields posted a night of 37 points on 19 shots. He made 12 of 14 free throws and nailed 5 treys to keep the Tigers hanging tight with the Eagles. Mighty impressive.
5. Eastern Kentucky U where are you?
You've got some work to do now. The Colonels offense has dipped and they have lost three straight in the previously friendly confines of McBrayer Arena. But seriously, sitting at 3-6 in OVC play probably wasn't the ideal situation for Dan McHale and crew at this point. Meanwhile Nick Mayo just keeps on keepin' on. He won his fourth straight OVC Newcomer of the week award.