Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 7:00 PM
The Belmont Bruins were a popular darkhorse pick in many media circles in recent seasons. The media kept getting embarrassed! Though it’s been a bit of a down year for Belmont by those recent standards…the computers don’t love them nearly as much as they usually do…the Bruins are still clear favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournament that begins Wednesday Night.
They’ll get a run for their money from perennial OVC power Murray State. And, things should be very intense because there’s no chance anyone from the league will get an at-large berth this season. That should make for some great semifinal and championship action.
Here’s the schedule for this event that will be played over the next four days. All games will be played at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. Note that only eight teams from the 12-team league are in the postseason tournament.
Tennessee Tech (5) vs. SIU-Edwardsville (8)
SE Missouri (6) vs. Eastern Illinois (7)
Morehead State (4) vs. Tech/SIUE winner
Eastern Kentucky (3) vs. SEMO/EIU winner
Belmont (1) vs. Morehead section survivor
Murray State (2) vs. E. Kentucky section survivor
Championship game matching the semifinal winners
The Ohio Valley is one of many leagues that have staggered the brackets in a way that gives their best teams a chance to advance. When you only get one bid, you don’t want some seventh seed mucking up proceedings! Belmont and Murray State can rest until Friday’s semifinals. They’ll face a tired team in a back-to-back when they first take the floor. The combination of that PLUS superiority is usually enough to dissuade Cinderella stories. Let’s see if the computer ratings from college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy or USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin suggest any surprises that might be in store.
Computer Rankings by Seed
1…Belmont: #112 in Pomeroy, #120 in Sagarin
2…Murray State: #158 in Pomeroy, #169 in Sagarin
3…E. Kentucky: #144 in Pomeroy, #157 in Sagarin
4…Morehead State: #184 in Pomeroy, #172 in Sagarin
5…Tennessee Tech: #265 in Pomeroy, #271 in Sagarin
6…SE Missouri: #245 in Pomeroy, #235 in Sagarin
7…E. Illinois: #292 in Pomeroy, #303 in Sagarin
8…SIU-Edwardsville: #285 in Pomeroy, #296 in Sagarin
It’s interesting that the computers don’t necessarily line up with the seedings in a few places. That may help you pick some winners in the early rounds. But, it’s very hard to find a true darkhorse. The worst four teams in the brackets are WAY off the pace, and have things stacked against them schedule-wise. Eastern Kentucky would get the nod from the computers over Murray State in the semifinals, which could make things interesting.
Most important to us is that Belmont is way below where the computers usually have them. And, the computers were historically overrating them anyway. Maybe dropping further back in the Dance seedings will give them a better chance to pull off a first round surprise if they destined for a return to the NCAA’s.
For more nuts-and-bolts handicapping, let’s go to Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive rankings, which account for both pace and schedule difficulty.
Pomeroy’s Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Ranks By Seed
1…Belmont: #47 on offense, #211 on defense
2…Murray State: #112 on offense, #218 on defense
3…E. Kentucky: #81 on offense, #243 on defense
4…Morehead State: #208 on offense, #166 on defense
5…Tennessee Tech: #247 on offense, #251 on defense
6…SE Missouri: #125 on offense, #323 on defense
7…E. Illinois: #261 on offense, #292 on defense
8…SIU-Edwardsville: #249 on offense, #296 on defense
Nobody plays defense in this league! Hey, that should make for some entertaining games to watch over the last two days. But, it’s VERY hard to take the ultimate survivor seriously in the Big Dance with such awful defensive marks. The eventual winner will have to shoot lights out in their first NCAA matchup to have any chance to make headlines. It’s #4 seed Morehead State that grades out best defensively. That’s mostly by default.
Let’s take a quick look at some ATS notes before calling it a day.
Most Underrated ATS
Murray State 15-9-1
Only one team managed to show a meaningful profit for backers this season. That’s #2 seed Murray State. Maybe that foreshadows a good tournament for a side that’s been better than expectations all season.
Most Overrated ATS
Eastern Illinois 9-16-1
Morehead State 11-16
Be wary that the market has been overshooting the mark with these two all season.
We’ll continue to preview as many tournaments as possible here on the pages of the NOTEBOOK this week and next. JIM HURLEY will be picking his spots in terms of selections. The major conferences are finishing up regular season action…and will probably dominate the card in terms of selections. But, if the exclusive team handicapping approach of NETWORK finds a tournament edge…YOU’LL GET IT!
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Back with you tomorrow to preview the Missouri Valley Conference tournament featuring Wichita State. The MADNESS has begun. And it’s MADNESS not to sign up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for the biggest month on the basketball calendar! Let’s go make some money!