NCAA Basketball has reached that crucial part of the season. Members of small conferences are set to trade blows in their conference tournaments in an effort to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. If a team in these lower level conferences does not win their respective tournament, their season is over, whether they dominated the regular season or not.
In the Ohio Valley Conference, that team is Belmont. Belmont has been one of the better small conference teams during the regular season, placing them atop the OVC. Thanks to their regular season success, they have earned themselves a double bye. As a result, they will only need to win two games to make it to the Big Dance.
Things will tip-off on Wednesday, March 1st. Play will continue for the next three days, with two games a day on both March 2nd and 3rd. Things will then conclude on Saturday, March 4th. This will be the first conference tournament to conclude, meaning the winner will be the first official entrant into the Madness of March. You can check out the seedings and bracket below.
(2) UT Martin
(3) Morehead State
(4) Jacksonville State
(5) Southeast Missouri
(6) Tennessee Tech
(7) Murray State
(8) Tennessee State
— MSU Eagles (@MSUEagles) February 26, 2017
The first day of play will see two games. The first of those games will pit Southeast Missouri against Tennessee State, with the winner getting to face number four Jacksonville State. While there is not one thing that makes them stand out, in this game, it will be Tennessee State who comes out on top. This will be thanks to their ability to create possessions, while Southeast Missouri cannot. Final score prediction, Tennessee State wins 74-73. They will then continue to surprise, as they will conquer the overrated Jacksonville State by a score of 74-69.
On the bottom part of the bracket, we see Tennessee Tech going up against Murray State. This should be a rather entertaining one actually. While Murray State is not that great on defense, they do have a rather solid offense when you compare them to Tennessee Tech. Murray State comes out on top, 77-74, for the right to take on Morehead State. Morehead State will be a complete 180 compared to Tennessee Tech, as they can score, but are pretty bad on the defensive side. This one goes down to the wire, with Muray State once again pulling the upset, 80-79.
In our first semi-final, we will see the surprise Tennessee Tech taking on the top-seeded Belmont. And this is where Tennesee Tech’s cinderella run comes to an end. Belmont will have no issues dispatching with the lower seed, as they simply will outclass them in this one. Give me Belmont by a score of 75-68.
So who gets to take on Belmont in the final? We have UT Martin taking on the tournament’s other cinderella, Murray State. As much as I want to see Murray State’s run continue, the only thing in the stats that tells me they could is their ability to throw up shots. But just because they shoot the ball more than their opponents on average, the other numbers point to UT Martin taking this one. I will take UT Martin by the score of 79-77.
After upsets were the talk of the start of this one, the Ohio Valley Conference championship game will come down to the top two teams. And this one will simply come down to defense. While UT Martin is strong on the defensive side, Belmont is still stronger. This one will be close at the half, but then Belmont will close things out with a 78-71 win to send them dancing.
So what do you think? Will Belmont be able to conquer their Ohio Valley Conference opponents to hear their name called on Selection Sunday? Or will someone step up and take down the Bruins? Tell us in the comments!