Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ohio Valley Conference tournament preview

This is part 6 of a 32-part series previewing every conference tournament in the country.  We'll detail what you need to keep track of in each tournament and the various stakes for each team.

Final standings:
Belmont 15-1
Morehead St 10-6
Jacksonville St 9-7
Tennessee Tech 8-8
Tennessee St 8-8
Eastern Kentucky 5-11
Tennessee-Martin 10-6
Southeast Missouri St 9-7
Murray St 8-8
Austin Peay 7-9
Eastern Illinois 6-10
SIU-Edwardsville 1-15

Tournament format:
What a mess.  First, even though they have east and west divisions, that doesn't impact tournament seeding.  And while the league has 12 teams, only 8 make the conference tourney.

And then the format itself.  Top 2 teams have a double bye to the semis, 3rd and 4th have a single bye to the quarterfinals.  Convoluted structures!  At least this tournament is 4 straight days, from Wednesday March 1 to Saturday March 4, at a neutral site in Nashville

The matchups:
1) Belmont vs. 4/5/8) Jacksonville St/Southeast Missouri St/Tennessee St
2) Tennessee-Martin vs. 3/6/7) Morehead St/Tennessee Tech/Murray St

The stakes:
OVC is RPI 23.  However, Belmont is powering a lot of that, all the way up to 21-5, RPI 58.  There's no Top 100 win, though, so don't get any ideas that they're at-large relevant.  In fact, their best win is RPI 148.  Much like Vermont, they'll be a test case for the selection committee on how much RPI matters compared to other metrics in the room when it comes to seeding.  And I think they're a half-step behind Vermont.  This feels like a 14 seed, doesn't it?

The rest of the league has been merely mediocre at best.  They barely have one team (TSU) in the RPI Top 150.  I think there's a fair chance for a different team in this league to avoid Dayton, but it's a possibility that it happens.  It'll depend what other unexpected winners emerge.  What doesn't help is 2nd place was just 10-6 in conference, so no one established themselves as a quality team.

As for the CIT, Jax State, Tennessee St, and UT-Martin are over .500.  (Morehead has the 3 seed and is just 14-15!).  I'd project TSU and UT-M in the CIT if I were still doing that kind of madness.

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