Ohio Valley Conference Preview
by David Smotherman
Racers try to run away with it…again?
This season the Ohio Valley Conference seems be split into three levels. There are the two serious favorites (Murray and Tech), three more knocking at the door (Morehead, Peay and Eastern Ill.) and four teams looking for some respect (SEMO, TN State, EKU, and Martin). But when it is all said and done, look for the Racers and Golden Eagles in a classic championship showdown in Nashville.
1. Murray State
Just as it has been for what seems like decades, the road to the Big Dance starts (and probably ends) with Murray State University. The Racers, led by pre-season 1st team selection James Singleton, have won nine of the last 15 OVC Tournament championships. Returning four starters from last year’s squad that won the OVC Tournament, the Racers are ready to run, but another championship won’t come without a serious fight.
2. Tennessee Tech
The Golden Eagles return seven lettermen and three starters from last year’s squad that finished 27-7, won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT (losing a close game to eventual champion Memphis). Tech will give MSU a run for their money and the whole thing could come down to another 1-point championship game. Can new coach Mike Sutton help end the four-decade NCAA drought? Will see what pre-season 1st team selections Cameron Crisp and Damien Kinloch have to say about it. It could be very, very close.
3. Morehead State
While they might not make the championship this year, Morehead should be able to improve on last season’s record and not making it to the final four in Nashville would be a disappointment. Ricky Minard, who has been a 1st team OVC fixture since being named freshman of the year in 2000-01, will try to continue his scoring success which had him finish ranked 10th in the nation in points per game last season.
4. Eastern Illinois
Eastern, led by honorable mention All-American (not to mention the OVC pre-season player of the year) candidate Henry Domercant, will try to secure the all-important 4th seed and 1st round home game during the OVC tournament. They will be in a fight with the Austin Peay to the end, with the winning edge, and home court, going to Domercant’s Panthers.
5. Austin Peay
The Governors will face an even battle with Eastern Illinois and Morehead for the three through five positions. Every game is critical because one win or loss has you on the road in the first road of the tournament instead of hosting a game. I have them as the odd man out, but they could easily surprise and end up in the top four.
6. Southeast Missouri
Sophomore Guard Derek Winans will lead a team that looks for some new found respect in the conference. A finish of higher than 6th might seem improbable, but not impossible. Look at it this way, nobody thought much of SEMO’s football team this year either and look what they have done.
7. Tennessee State
TSU has Garrett Richardson, but they could also have more NCAA infraction concerns. It might just be too much distraction to handle. Not that the Tigers won’t give up without a fight.
8. Eastern Kentucky
Looking at last years record would make you think that the Colonels were completely over-matched. But closer scrutiny shows they were competitive in a lot of conference games. Senior Guard Shawn Fields will lead a team that may not be able to compete for the top half of the OVC, but will be able to pull some upsets and may surprise a lot of fans this season.
It is tough be the odd man out and unfortunately this dubious honor will probably go to the Skyhawks this year. But hey, if I’m wrong, all the Martin fans can e-mail me about it. And don’t feel to bad, they have the best Rodeo team east of the Mississippi (actually one of the best period).
All-OVC First Team:
Cameron Crisp, TTU
Henry Domercant, EIU
Damien Kinloch, TTU
Ricky Minard, MHSU
James Singleton, MSU
All-OVC Second Team:
Shawn Fields, EKU
Garrett Richardson, TSU
Marquis Sykes, MHSU
Cuthbert Victor, MSU
Derek Winans, SEMO
Player of the Year:
Henry Domercant, Eastern Illinois
Coach of the Year: