The Cats aren’t the only in-state team that will have to win this week in order to advance to the NCAA tournament. Murray State, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State are all alive in this week’s OVC tournament, and unlike a year ago, there is not a clear favorite among the three to advance. This year, Belmont won the regular season crown and Murray State finished two games behind them, good for a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. But Eastern Kentucky, the 3-seed, won a school-record 23 games in the regular season. The Colonels actually beat Murray State on the road by double digits in the only meeting this season between the two schools.
Isaiah Cannon has starred again this season, leading the league with 21.6 points per game, but the Racers aren’t the same as a year ago. They’ve lost a total of nine games and six in the conference, dropping four of its last six. Morehead has declined a bit in Sean Woods’ first season, but the Eagles earned a victory last night over UT-Martin to reach tonight’s conference quarterfinals against Tennessee State.
As you can see in the bracket below, Morehead State and Tennessee State tip off at 7:00 tonight with SE Missouri State vs. Eastern Kentucky to follow. Both Morehead and EKU are three wins away from an NCAA tournament berth and Murray State is just two wins away from returning to the Big Dance.
Courtesy of OVCsports.com, below are team notes for all three Kentucky schools:
Eastern Kentucky: Eastern Kentucky won at Tennessee Tech and lost at Tennessee State in overtime the final week of the regular season…That left the Colonels 12-4 in OVC play and earned the Colonels the No. 3 seed for this week’s OVC Tournament…The victory on Thursday night game EKU 23 wins this season, setting a new school record for victories in a season…Eastern Kentucky will be looking to break a five-year losing streak in the first round of the OVC Tournament; the team has not won in the event since taking the 2007 OVC Tournament title (where they bested Austin Peay 63-62 in dramatic fashion in the title game)…EKU has also won OVC Tournament titles in 1950, 1955, 1979 and 2005.
Morehead State: Morehead State split a pair of games in the final week of the regular season, winning 101-100 at Tennessee State before falling 72-66 at Tennessee Tech…The Eagles finished the Conference season with an 8-8 record which earned them the No. 5 seed for this week’s OVC Tournament…Morehead State has won at least one game in each of the past four OVC Tournaments, including winning the 2009 and 2011 Championships (with OVC Player of the Year and current Denver Nugget Kenneth Faried); the Eagles have also won OVC Tournament Championships in 1983 and 1984.
Murray State: Murray State saw its reign of winning three-straight OVC regular season championships come to an end this season, as the Racers were 10-6 overall, but did finish first in the West Division…The Racers lost four of its final six games overall including both games at home last week (to UT Martin and Southeast Missouri)…Despite that fact the team earned the No. 2 seed for this week’s OVC Tournament (due to finishing first in the West) and received a double bye to Friday’s semifinals…MSU is 5-1 in the OVC Tournament over the past three years, winning titles in 2010 and 2012…Overall Murray State has won an OVC-best 15 OVC Tournament titles (1951, 1964, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012)…Isaiah Canaan, one of 30 candidates for the Naismith Award, enters the week ranked eighth nationally in scoring (21.6 points/game)…Canaan currently has 1,999 career points and with one more point will become just the 17th player in OVC history (but third in as many years) to score 2,000 points in a career.