Editorial

Murray State Favored For OVC Championship After Securing Regular-Season Title

Murray State claimed the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title last Thursday, leaving the floor 74-43 winners over Belmont. The victory was pretty convincing. And, in their two wins over Belmont, the second-best team in the league, the Racers posted a 55-point advantage, having beaten them by 22 points back in January.

The OVC hardly ever has a team go into a conference tournament under little pressure to win that also goes on to grab automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament. But that’s exactly the prospect the Racers were facing, only needing to secure a win over Southeast Missouri State to head to the MVC Tournament with a 28-2 record, including an 18-0 league posting.

They have since snatched a narrow 70-68 win against the Redhawks.

The Racers have been projected as a No.8 seed in the NCAA Tournament by CBS Sports Bracket Expert Jerry Palm but could go as high as No.6 if they don’t lose again before selection Sunday.

“They perform at that level every night. That’s why they’re so good,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said after the regular season clinching win against Belmont. “They did a good job adjusting to the zone Belmont started out in. Thought our guys did a good job finding Tevin, and he shot the ball with great confidence. K.J. did as well from three.”

The follow-up win over Southern Missouri saw the Racers become just the sixth team in the league’s 74-year history to go unbeaten in conference games and the first since it expanded to an 18-game format. As it turns out, the last time this happened, Murray State was the team who accomplished it by going 16-0 in the 2014/15 season.

Of course, everyone is excited about the upcoming March madness period but there are conference tournaments still to play. The OVC tourney kicks off this Wednesday and Murray State is going into it as the betting favorites. Fans looking to bet on the outcome of the tournament could look to the various Ohio sports betting sites for the best odds, offers, and promotions.

The tournament will throw up its championship game on Saturday and will be played at a neutral venue in Evansville, Indiana. The qualifying teams in the conference are listed below, as well as the odds on their chances.

Murray State 28-2 (18-0 in conference, -185 odds to win tournament)

Belmont 25-6 (15-3, +250)

Morehead State 21-10 (13-5, +800)

Southeast Missouri State 13-17 (8-9, +2500)

Tennessee State 13-17 (8-10, +5000)

Austin Peay 12-16 (8-10, +10000)

Tennessee Tech 10-20 (7-10, +10000)

SIU-Edwardsville 11-20 (5-13, +20000)

The teams that finish in the top four will get a bye to the quarterfinals while the top two will get a bye to the semifinals. Murray State and Belmont only need two wins but Morehead State and Southeast Missouri need to win three. The other four teams would have to win four games in four days.

The Racers are a cut above the rest in the OVC. They’ve only lost twice all season, with one of their defeats being handed out by the Auburn Tigers, who are among the favorites for the NCAA Championship at 13/1.

The path to the tournament is quite favorable for Murray State. As noted above, they get a double-bye and only need to win two games in the OVC tournament in order to clinch the title. They’ll also avoid Belmont and Morehead State in the semis as they’re the top seed and only need to beat one team boasting a winning record for the season. This makes Murray State the outright favorite to win said tournament.

The OVC has mostly been a one-bid league and only twice has a team gotten an at-large bid in the history of the conference.

The Racers will still have a shot at getting into the NCAA Tournament even if they experience setbacks due to its 28-2 record and unblemished conference mark. Of course, you won’t find a mid-major team willing to leave its destiny in the committee’s hands.

The winner of the OVC tournament will get an automatic bid to feature at March Madness and, should that be Murray State, they’ll be almost sure to be the only team from the conference to get a bid. If another team wins, we could see two teams from the conference go to the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in history.

If we’re taking the regular season into consideration, it becomes clear that the OVC is a league in which the teams are far apart. There are three teams boasting north of 20 victories – the rest of the teams in the conference have all posted losing records.

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