Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Preview

Click here for a complete index of all the conference tournament previews.

After running neck and neck with Samford and Tennessee Tech, Murray State pulled away with the Ohio Valley Conference title down the strech, winning the league by a full three games over Samford. Seeds two through seven were only separated by three games, leaving only one team, Tennessee-Martin, in the conference tournament with a conference record below. 500. In other words, the OVC Tournament should be an exciting tournament.

Favorite: Murray State came into the season as the co-favorites, along with Eastern Kentucky. However, after beating EKU by 29 in early December, it was clear who the class of the OVC was. The Racers are a balanced and deep team that uses 10 guys per game. Shawn Witherspoon is a very good inside player, while sixth man Trey Pearson is one of the better guards in the conference. Six other players average at least five points per game, led by Darnell Hopkins and Justin Orr. Murray State is also the best defensive team in the conference, holding teams below 60 points per game.

Contenders: Samford, after looking like a candidate to win the conference, lost four of their last six to finish in second. They have an excellent frontcourt duo in J. Robert Merritt and center Travis Peterson. Guard Randall Gulina is a good scorer on the perimeter. Moreover, the Bulldogs are the best shooting team in the league, both from inside the arc and outside the arc. Tennessee Tech is another team that is very deep and balanced. They split with both Murray State and Samford. The three-headed guard attack of Anthony Fisher, Belton Rivers, and Milone Clark form one of the best perimeter trios in the conference. Inside, Derek Stribling and Amadi McKenzie are solid performers.

Sleeper: With several teams bunched together in the 4-7 seed range, there is a group of teams that could potentially make a run. However, the team that has the best chance is Tennessee State. They have won 3 in a row, and 5 of their last 6. Kareem Grant is one of the best forwards in the conference, and fellow frontcourt mate Clarence Matthews is the best rebounder in the OVC. In the backcourt, Wayne Arnold is a very good perimeter scorer, while Reiley Ervin is an excellent distributor.

Prediction: I hate going with the favorite, but there is no choice here. Murray State is the best team in the conference. They have several players that can beat you on a given night, and their depth and balance are usually too much for teams to handle. The inside-outside duo of Trey Pearson and Shawn Witherspoon will lead the Racers to an OVC title and the automatic berth. There are plenty of teams from the bottom of the bracket that will give Murray State a run in the title game, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment