In the Ohio Valley Conference, one team has stood head and shoulders above the rest since 2016.
The Belmont Bruins have strummed their collective guitars (they’re from Nashville, Tennessee - home of Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll”) to the tune of 43 straight conference wins (the second-longest current streak behind the behemoth known as UConn), and finished with an undefeated conference record for the second season in a row (18-0).
While the Bruins have the obvious advantage, women’s college basketball has shown us over the years that nothing is guaranteed. So grab your guitars, tune your strings and get ready to play. The OVC Tournament has arrived.
#1 BELMONT (28-3, 18-0) VS #8 MURRAY STATE (11-18, 7-11)
This opening round matchup will definitely be good to watch with your morning coffee and peach cobbler. The Racers, while definitely overmatched, played a competitive game during their lone matchup on Jan. 17, only losing by five. But Murray State hasn’t been to the dance since 2008, and Belmont isn’t going home this early. WINNER: #1 BELMONT
#2 UT MARTIN (17-13, 13-5) VS #7 SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (14-16, 9-9)
The “Battle of the Hawks” was closer than their respective records would suggest. While the UT Martin Skyhawks swept the season series, they only won both games by a total of eight points. If the Redhawks can win the rebounding battle (and the stats are in their favor in that department), then I think we could see an early upset. WINNER: #7 SOUTHEAST MISSOURI
#4 JACKSONVILLE STATE (18-11, 12-6) VS #5 MOREHEAD STATE (21-10, 12-6)
Don’t let the records fool you: the Jacksonville State Gamecocks swept the season series, which allowed them to get the higher seed over the Eagles. Don’t get it twisted, Morehead State knows how to outscore their opponents, But if the Gamecocks can force the Eagles to utilize their three-point shooting (they only averaged 3.9 a game), then Jacksonville State will walk away to the semifinals. WINNER: #4 JACKSONVILLE STATE
#3 SIUE (16-13, 11-5) VS #6 AUSTIN PEAY (16-13, 9-9)
Identical overall records? Sure. But that’s where the similarities end; the Cougars outright owned Austin Peay, beating the Governers by 23 in 12 in their two meetings. DOn’t be surprised if it’s more of the same. WINNER: #3 SIUE
#1 BELMONT VS #4 JACKSONVILLE STATE
It’s hard to make up ground when you lost to the other team by 47 points in the season series. A true gambler would pick Jacksonville State for the upset; i’m not a gambling man. I go for the team that literally put Jacksonville State’s offense to sleep. WINNER: #1 BELMONT
#7 SOUTHEAST MISSOURI VS #3 SIUE
The most improbable game in the tournament will have the most surprising of results. SIUE won by eight in the first match-up, but Southeast Missouri shot over 50 percent in the most recent match-up to win by 10. I think the team with the most dominant bench wins the game. WINNER: #7 SOUTHEAST MISSOURI
#1 BELMONT VS #& SOUTHEAST MISSOURI
Grab your sweet tea and black-eyed peas for this defensive jewel of a game. The no. 2 and no. 3 scoring defenses in the Ohio Valley will definitely give the fans what they want. In the end, though, Belmont has the highest scoring offense in the Ohio Valley Conference (no. 22 in the nation), and they are the only team in the OVC that has even sniffed the Top 25 this season. Try washing that stat down. WINNER AND OVC CHAMPS: #1 BELMONT
The first-round match-up between Belmont and Murray State starts at 1 p.m. CST.