Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ohio Valley conference tournament preview

This is part 6 of a 32-part series that will take a look at every conference and conference tournament in the country.  We'll recap who's playing and what the stakes are for each team in the conference.

The standings:
Belmont 12-4 (20-10)
Morehead St 11-5 (18-11)
Tennessee St 11-5 (20-9)
Tennessee Tech 11-5 (19-10)
Eastern Kentucky 6-10 (15-16)
Jacksonville St 4-12 (8-23)
Tennessee-Martin 10-6 (18-13)
Murray St 10-6 (16-13)
Eastern Illinois 9-7 (13-16)
Austin Peay 7-9 (14-17)
SIU-Edwardsville 3-13 (6-22)
SE Missouri St 2-14 (5-24)

Tournament format:
Here's some unusual setups.  First, in a 12 team conference, only the top 8 are playing.  Presumably this helps prevent some upsets, and also the top teams (read:  Belmont and Murray in years past) from digesting RPI calorie bombs in the quarterfinals.

Next, we got a double bye situation.  The top 2 seeds get a double bye to the semis and the 3/4 seeds get a single bye.  And divisions matter.  Tennessee-Martin has the 5th best record, but since they won the West, they get a 2 seed and the second double bye.  Murray St lost the tiebreaker with them for the West, and careen all the way to the 6 seed.  What a mess.

Nashville is a neutral site host.  4 straight days from Wednesday March 2 to Saturday March 5.


The matchups:
1) Belmont vs. the winner of 4) Tennessee St and 5/8) Tennessee Tech/Austin Peay
2) Tennessee-Martin vs. the winner of 3) Morehead St and 6/7) Murray St/Eastern Illinois

The stakes:

I've had the conference leader most of the year on the 15 line.  That seems low for a conference with Belmont and Murray in it, and one who has a conference RPI of 21.  The 15 seeds were more a consequence of other leagues producing better top teams than usual (i.e., UALR in the Sun Belt, Chattanooga in the SoCon) that are pushing Belmont/TTU down the board a bit.  Once a few upsets happen, it's likely Belmont would get to the 14 line and maybe even 13 (assuming they win, of course).  Belmont has wins over Valpo and Marquette, so they're competent.

If someone else wins the conference tournament, it'll be a trickier situation.  Most of the other RPIs of key teams range in the 120-150 range.  Probably a 15 seed, but things can happen.

There could be an interesting situation with the Vegas/CIT/CBI tourneys.  Plenty of candidates, and most of them worthy.  TTU, TSU, Morehead, UT-M, Murray St...all 5 over .500, all 5 reasonably deserving a postseason bid, although Murray and UT-M are a step behind the other 3 in the RPI.  If anything, the conference tournament could be really competitive from the 2nd round on.

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