Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Preview

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The Ohio Valley Conference is going to have a wide-open tournament – indicative of the way its regular season turned out. Tennessee-Martin won the title by one game over Murray State and Austin Peay, with Morehead State finishing in fourth at 12-6 and Eastern Kentucky also having an above .500 record in conference play. Morehead State had the lead, but lost its final four games overall. UT-Martin and Murray State are the hottest teams heading into the tournament.

Favorite: Tennessee-Martin is not only the hottest team in the conference right now, but it also has the best player in the league – and one of the better all-around performers in the country. Lester Hudson is a phenomenal scorer and a legit NBA prospect who can carry this team if necessary. Marquis Weddle is an excellent sidekick offensively. The Skyhawks are 19-3 since starting the season just 2-5.

Contenders: Murray State has won 10 of its last 11 conference games, including a 15-point home victory over UT-Martin. They slow the pace of the game tremendously and force teams to adjust. Danero Thomas and Ivan Aska are a solid forward tandem, while Isacc Miles is the go-to-guy on the perimeter. This is a very balanced offensive team with a lot of options. Morehead State has lost its last four games, but it is still a threat. The Eagles have four guys averaging in double-figures, including the league’s best frontcourt in Leon Buchanon, Kenneth Faried and Maze Stallworth. Austin Peay has an explosive duo in guard Wes Channels and forward Drake Reed, one of the league’s best players.

Sleeper: Despite finishing fifth in the league and losing its last two games, don’t count out Eastern Kentucky. Mike Rose is one of the best all-around players in the conference, while Josh Taylor and Justin Stommes are also double-figure scorers. Before the two-game losing streak, the Colonels had won 11 of its previous 14 games.

Prediction: This is obviously going to be a wide-open league, with four teams finishing within two games of each other at the top of the standings. However, when in doubt, it is tough to go against the team with the conference’s best player: Tennessee-Martin and Lester Hudson. Hudson only scored below 20 points once and he had eight performances of at least 30 points. The nation will get a chance to see Hudson on a national stage when the Skyhawks reach the Big Dance.

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