Belmont clinches top conference spot

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

There are only two spots in the OVC women’s basketball standings that are secure with two games left to play this season, the first-place spot and the last-place spot, the rest of the OVC standings rest on thin ice and could very well crack before the season’s end.

Belmont clinched the No. 1 seed in the OVC tournament with their current 16-0 record. Eastern secured a place at the bottom of the standings after its most recent loss to Tennessee-Martin on Saturday put them at a 1-15 record.

Outside of the Panthers and the Bruins, the conference’s other 10 teams have some serious jockeying for positions to do before the end of the regular season.

Tennessee-Martin and Southern Illinois Edwardsville are in a tie for second place with 12-4 records.

The Skyhawks will finish their season with road games against Morehead State on Thursday and Southeast Missouri on Saturday.

Southern will wrap up its season with a home game against Austin Peay on Thursday and will travel to Eastern on Saturday.

The Cougars clearly have the easier two games to finish the season, as they will play teams with worse records and will not be on the road for both like the Skyhawks.

With a record of 10-6, Morehead State sits in fifth place behind Jacksonville State (11-5) and will be watching the Gamecocks very closely on Thursday.

Morehead State on Thursday will have no walk in the park when they play Tennessee-Martin, but that game will be unquestionably easier than Jacksonville State’s Thursday game with Belmont.

Following that, Morehead State will play Eastern Kentucky (5-11) on Saturday, Jacksonville State will play Tennessee Tech (3-13).

Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri are in a tie for the sixth and seventh seeds in the conference, both with 8-8 records.

The two teams will both play teams with 12-4 records to finish their seasons and the other games coming against teams with 5-11 and 6-10 records.

Austin Peay plays Southern on Thursday and then plays Murray State (6-10) on Saturday.

Southeast Missouri plays Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin for its last two games.

The similarity between their remaining schedules means neither team has any room for error and could see the need for a tiebreaker at the season’s end.

Murray State holds the eighth and final tournament spot, but only holds a one game lead over Eastern Kentucky and a two-game lead over Tennessee State (4-12) for that final spot.

That makes the match between Murray State and Austin Peay extremely pivotal for both teams. Murray State will play Eastern on Thursday, which could be a game it can give itself for some cushion in the standings.

By the end of Saturday, the OVC standings could be almost recognizable or have the possibility to change very little.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]