There has never been a more wide open Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Music City Madness will be four days of crazy and thrilling basketball. Any of the top six teams can win this uniquely wide open basketball excursion.
Belmont is the unquestioned favorite. They were the best regular season team (20-10, 12-4), and make it a habit of winning conference tournaments, winning two of the three OVC tournaments in which they've played. Municipal Auditorium, the host site is minutes from their Nashville campus, so they are the de facto ‘home' team, even though this is a ‘neutral' site tournament.
Unquestioned favorite, but not definitive favorite. Let us explain.
Belmont is 12-4 in OVC play with a perfect 6-0 record against the weaker West Division. Logically, three of their four losses came at the hands of the better East Division teams. They lost road games to Morehead State, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State, defeating those same teams at home.
With the double bye into the semifinal round of the tournament, Belmont and UT Martin each have a huge advantage.
Belmont's first opponent is likely to be either Tennessee Tech, playing their third game in three days or Tennessee State, playing their second game in two days. By the time they meet, the Bruins would have been off five days. Tournament basketball often provides surprises. Playing a second game in two days is sometimes better than being off for an extended period of time.
Plus, there are players the Bruins have had trouble defending this season. In Tennessee State's two games with Belmont, Keron DeShields scored 58 points and Tahjere McCall scored 49. As a matter of fact, the Tiger team scored 182 points in the two games. The Bruins defense failed to slow down the TSU offense very much at all.
It's practically the same story where Tech is concerned. The Bruins yielded 175 points in those two games. Once again there were key players that had monster performances. Torrance Rowe scored 53 in the two games. Ryan Martin had double-doubles in each game and when the Golden Eagles bested the Bruins they outscored them 38 to 22 in the paint.
That is one side of the bracket. Second seeded UT Martin won just one of the three games they played against Friday's likely opponent. They split with Murray State and lost to Morehead State. Even if Eastern Illinois would get by Murray State on Wednesday, and Morehead on Thursday, the Skyhawks earned only a split with the Panthers and their win was at home, in overtime. That side of the bracket is a crap shoot.
If championships are won with defense and rebounding, look out for Sean Woods' Eagles of Morehead State. The third seed leads ‘The O' in scoring defense (66.7), rebounding margin (+5.9) and steals per game (8.0).
Are you looking for a dark horse in this year's edition of Music City Madness? You might not have to look farther than Morehead State.