Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Preview

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Expected to be a tight race for the top spot between Murray State and preseason favorite Morehead State, the Ohio Valley Conference was Murray State’s race to lose from early December. That is when the Racers knocked off Morehead State by 30 points and sent a message. Murray State went on to get off to a 16-0 start before falling to Morehead in the next-to-last game of the season. Morehead finished in second at 15-3, two games back of Murray State. Three teams tied at 11-7, while five teams finished below .500. Eight teams make the conference tournament, so each team had at least six league wins.

Favorite: How can I not go with Murray State as the favorite? The Racers went 17-1, with 12 of those wins coming by double-figures. The Racers are excellent at both ends of the floor, forcing turnovers and difficult shots defensively, while crashing the offensive glass and ranking fourth in the country in effective field-goal percentage. They are extremely balanced on offense, with five players averaging between 10.2 points and 10.7 points, and another putting up 9.5 per game. B.J. Jenkins can shoot, and Tony Easley is a solid inside player.

Contender: Pegged to win the league in the preseason, Morehead State stumbled somewhat down the stretch, losing three of seven games before beating Murray State in the next-to-last game. The Eagles are dominant on the glass, getting plenty of second opportunities and protecting the defensive boards. They also force plenty of turnovers. Kenneth Faried is one of the better mid-major big men, while Maze Stallworth can fill it up from the perimeter.

Sleepers: Eastern Kentucky won 20 games this season, and its offensive ability is enough to keep them in any game. They take care of the ball exceptionally well and are very accurate from inside and outside the arc. The Colonels have plenty of guys who can knock down threes, ranking second in the country in percentage of points from beyond the arc. Justin Stommes and Josh Taylor are the main cogs. Tennessee State might be the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament, but the Tigers won five of their last six conference games and are peaking. They force turnovers and knock down threes effectively. Robert Covington is an inside-outside forward who can score and board, while Jacquan Nobles can get hot from outside.

Prediction: Despite the number of teams who have a chance to pull an upset or two in the conference tournament, the automatic bid is going to come down to the top two teams: Murray State and Morehead State. Both teams are very good on the glass and force turnovers. The difference will be Murray State’s balance. The Racers have so many options on the offensive end of the floor, with multiple players capable of scoring from inside or outside the arc. Kenneth Faried will need to put up a career game if Morehead State is to pull the upset – it won’t happen. Murray State is going to be a team to watch in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

1 comment:

  1. As much as I would love to see the Panthers upset Murray St it would be a shame if the Racers did not make the tournament. With six players averaging between 10-11 ppg this has to be one of the most evenly distributed teams in all of college basketball if not the most. No smaller Conference team deserves a bid more than Billy Kennedy's squad.