OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE PREVIEW
-1. SAMFORD. The Bulldogs have come a long way in a short amount of time since joining the OVC. They played pretty solid ball all through conference play last year and advanced to the championship game of the conference tournament, but failed to qualify for the NCAA. This year they have four starters coming back and are as talented and experienced as anyone else in the league. They did lose J. Robert Merritt
, who was the OVC player of the year a season ago, but they Travis Peters returning at center, who is a very good scorer and rebounder. Guards Jerry Smith and Randall Gulina make up a solid back court as well. The thing that this team does best is move the basketball. They are a tremendous passing team. If they have a weakness its a lack of quickness. That could be a problem against more athletic teams, but the Bulldogs generally play under control and do a good job of dictating the pace of the game.
-2. TENNESSEE STATE. The Tigers did not live up to expectations last year due to injuries and inconsistent play. Despite the fact that they lost two all conference players, they still have the potential to be very competitive this year if they can gel as a team. Guard Bruce Price
, who was injured six games into the season, but averaged 19.3ppg in the games that he did play in, returns to the line up. He will really have to step up in order for this team to finish toward the top of the league and contend for the title. Reilly Ervin is another good guard who can score and pass the ball. Clarence Matthews is a very talented forward who can score and rebound very well. This team has what it takes if they can play consistent basketball all season long.
-3. JACKSONVILLE STATE. The Jaguars had one of the best backcourts in the conference last year, but unfortunately none of those them are returning to this years squad. They do appear to be talented underneath with the likes of Courtney Bradley and Dorien Brown, both of whom are good scorers and rebounders. They will really have to step up this season if Jacksonville State wants to continue to build on last years strong finish down the stretch. The back court is a problem, but if Will Ginn, who was an outstanding junior college player, can step up this team should be okay.
-4. AUSTIN PEAY. The Governors were playing pretty well down the stretch last season, but lost their two leading scorers. They have always been a strong defensive team and that isnt likely to change, but inexperience, especially in the front court, could be a problem this year. Fernandez Lockett and Drake Reed really need to step up big underneath. The guards will also have to step up to replace Maurice Hampton, who was one of the better guards in the league last year.
-5. TENNESSEE TECH. The Golden Eagles got off to a great start to conference play last season, but really faltered down the stretch. Considering how they lost a great deal of their scoring and rebounding, it will likely be a rebuilding year for them. Still they have two very good guards in Anthony Fisher and Belton Rivers. Both came off the bench last year, but both averaged over 12ppg and will be big time contributors this year. Head Coach Mike Sutton is still suffering from Guillan-Barre Syndrome and that could impact his coaching effectiveness somewhat, but his assistants do a good job of helping him run the practices.
-6. MURRAY STATE. The Racers have always been among the best in the league, but they lost four starters, most of their scoring and rebounding, and their head coach from last years team. Billy Kennedy (formerly of Southeast Louisiana) takes over as head coach, but he has his work cut out for him this year. Forward Shawn Witherspoon, who is a good scorer and rebounder, is the lone returning starter and he will really have to step it up this year. Other than him the Racers will have to rely on newcomers and guys who formerly came off the bench. This is a great program and theyll be back on top before too long, but this could be a very long year for them.
-7. EASTERN KENTUCKY. The Colonials had a sensational back court last year, but lost both starters (who were also all conference players) for this years team. They dont have anyone who is all that proven to take their places. They return all the key components to their front court, including Darnel Dialls, who was the teams best rebounder a season ago. Still, this is a team with a lot of gaps to fill and it will. Its hard to say who, if anyone, will step up and be the leader.
-8. EASTERN ILLINOIS. The Panthers are still in the building process. They won just six games last year and five of those came in conference play. On top of that, they lost their leading scorer. Three starters return, all of which are solid and experienced players. Mike Robinson is a good all around guard who can both score and pass. However, as a whole this team isnt very deep and they appear to have more weaknesses than strengths.
-9. TENNESSEE MARTIN. The Skyhawks lost both their starting guards from a season ago, which also made up a great deal of their scoring. They have three starters returning and although they are all solid, none of them appear to be stand out players like their guards were a season ago. This team appears to be lacking in talent and experience and it could be a long season for them.
-10. SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE. The good news for the Redhawks was that they won their second to last game of the season. The bad news is that they lost thirteen in a row prior to that. The worst news is that as bad as they were a season ago, their best player and leading scorer is not back this year. Their top returning player is forward Andrais Thornton, who averaged 7.9ppg and 6.6rpg last year. Terrick Willoughby also returns to the lineup, who averaged 9.8ppg. All and all, this is not a very good team. They did undergo a coaching change and have two transfers (Michael Rembert, Brandon Foust) who are eligible, so its possible that they could improve.
-11. MOREHEAD STATE. The Eagles won just four games last year, and although they have four starters coming back, that isnt necessarily a good thing when those four starters managed only four wins a season ago. Shaun Williams is a strong forward (16.4ppg, 6.4rpg) and Quentin Pryor is a pretty good guard. They dont have much of a bench though and wins could once again be hard to come by. They also underwent a coaching change in the hopes of breathing some new life into the program, so we may see some improvement this year.
RANDOM ORDER OF FINISH
-For those that missed my first blog entry, each conference preview will also include a random order of finish. It sounds just like what it is. Teams are drawn at random and placed in order. The purpose for this is to demonstrate that at the end of the season, generally every single major and minor media preseason preview (including my own) isnt all that more accurate than simply randomly picking the teams.
2. Murray State
3. Tennessee State
4. Austin Peay
5. Eastern Illinois
6. Eastern Kentucky
7. Jacksonville State
8. Tennessee Martin
9. Tennessee Tech
10. Southeast Missouri State
11. Morehead State
-Please feel free to send me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether its good or bad. Some conferences are harder to research and write about than other conferences, so every comment and critique helps so long as its constructive