What-to-know tourney previews: Ohio Valley Conference
The Ohio Valley Conference is usually Murray State's to lose, but not this season. Belmont rolled through the league, but needs to win the auto bid to ensure a berth in the dance.
The Bruins rolled through the Ohio Valley regular season, going 14-2, with the losses coming at Murray State and Tennessee State. But that doesn’t guarantee anything for Belmont. If they do lose in the next week and don’t get the automatic bid, they will be sweating come Selection Sunday. The RPI of 23 is great, but the Bruins have just one top-50 win -- over Middle Tennessee back in December. They are 10-6 away from home and had the second-best nonconference SOS in the country. Four sub-100 losses could do them in, though.
2. What are the chances we see Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan back in the tournament?
Isaiah Canaan returned to Murray State instead of going into the NBA draft in order to get back to the NCAA tournament. Well, it hasn’t exactly gone as planned, as Canaan’s Racers limped down the stretch to a 10-6 league finish, falling in four of their final five Ohio Valley games. They do have a win over Belmont, so it’s not as if the Racers are a complete pushover. Ed Daniel is a double-double machine, and Stacy Wilson is a solid wing scorer. Can Canaan carry Murray State on his back to a bid?
3. If Murray State isn’t Belmont’s biggest competition, who is?
Eastern Kentucky was actually within striking distance of Belmont down to the wire, although a loss in the season finale left them two games back. The Colonels are efficient offensively, and a variety of weapons, namely all-league performer Mike DiNunno. Meanwhile, Tennessee State was inconsistent throughout much of the regular season, but the Tigers are talented and do own a win over Belmont. Robert Covington and Kellen Thornton are a tough inside duo, and Patrick Miller runs the show.
Schedule: March 6-9 in Nashville, Tenn.
Title game: Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2
THREE BEST PLAYERS
- Ian Clark (Belmont)
- Isaiah Canaan (Murray State)
- Kerron Johnson (Belmont)
Conference RPI: 16
KenPom.com rating: 22
Sagarin rating: 21
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