Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
1 Belmont def. 8 SIU Edwardsville
5 Murray State def. 4 Jacksonville State
3. Eastern Kentucky def. 6 Austin Peay
2 Morehead State def. 7 Southeast Missouri
1 Belmont def. 5 Murray State
3 Eastern Kentucky def. 2 Morehead State
1 Belmont def. 3 Eastern Kentucky
The Bruins have been the top dog of the OVC all season. Doubt has only recently crept in after a 21-game win streak was snapped by back-to-back losses. Basic stat categories indicate Belmont is elite. During conference season, Belmont was top four in scoring defense, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, rebounding margin, and turnover margin while pacing the conference in points per game and field goal percentage. It isn’t just simple stats that tell the story though. 19 of Belmont’s 24 wins were by 10+ points and they rank Top 15 in D-1 in advanced stats like effective field goal percentage and floor percentage. As long as the Bruins shake the mini-slump they are in, another conference tournament win is in the cards.
Never mind that the Racers are 0-4 against their first round matchup (Jacksonville State) and their expected second round matchup (Belmont). Murray State is a balanced team with high marks in scoring, rebounding, assists, and defense. That’s not where the intrigue comes from. The Racers are a hit-or-miss team going 6-4 in February with all of their matchups decided by 9+ points. In each of their six wins last month they scored at least 76 points. Junior forward KJ Williams has given stability to Murray State averaging 15.3 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. March is a month filled with surprises and Murray State shapes up as a potential disrupter.
Matchup to Watch
Eastern Kentucky vs Austin Peay
Terry Taylor was once again named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and will be leading Austin Peay. The senior guard averages a conference-high 21.7 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. The Governors face an Eastern Kentucky team that plays one of the fastest-paced offenses in basketball. The Colonels have the highest three-point shooting percentage in the OVC but also put up 26 attempts a game. They also attempted 77 more shots from the floor than any other team in the conference. Hopefully this matchup turns into a slugfest with high entertainment value.
Featured Image courtesy of goracers.com
“From Our Haus to Yours“