Column: Looking at Eastern’s toughest OVC foes

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern men’s basketball team opens the season next week, starting off their 2020-21 campaign with a trio of tough road games against Wisconsin, Marquette and Butler.

But even after their difficult non-conference season comes to an end, the Panthers will have to face some challenging conference opponents.

Eastern finished sixth in the OVC last season, so let’s take a look at the five teams that placed ahead of them and what to expect from them this season.

 

Belmont

The Bruins won the OVC Championship last season after finishing in first place in the standings with a 15-3 conference record.

In addition to being a very good team, Belmont was also very balanced. They ranked first in the OVC in offense, scoring 79.6 points per game, and second in defense, allowing 67.9 points per game.

However, they enter the season without last season’s leading scorer Adam Kunkel, but will be returning their second leading scorer in Nick Muszynski, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season and ranked ninth in the OVC in scoring.

 

Murray State

Also posting a 15-3 conference record last season, second-place Murray State lost in the final’s of the OVC Tournament by one point to Belmont.

The Racers led the way on defense for the OVC last season, allowing just 64.7 points per game. They also performed well on offense, scoring 75.4 points per game to rank fourth in the conference.

They will be returning their top-two scorers from last season, Tevin Brown and KJ Williams, who ranked fifth and 14th in the OVC in scoring last season as sophomores.

 

Austin Peay

Last season’s third-place team, Austin Peay posted a conference record of 14-4 and had the second-ranked offense in the OVC.

They averaged 76.3 points per game, which helped them overcome a defense that was middle-of-the-pack, ranking seventh in the conference.

The Governors will be boosted by the return of senior Terry Taylor, who was named the OVC Player of the Year last season. He led the OVC in scoring with 21.8 points per game and his 11 rebounds also led the conference.

 

Eastern Kentucky

The Colonels finished fourth in the OVC last season and were the last team in the conference to post a conference record above .500.

They finished with a record of 12-6 against OVC opponents. They were also the highest-ranked team in the OVC to post a negative scoring margin on the season, but that was mostly due to a tough non-conference schedule.

Junior Jamaru Brown will return after a sophomore season that saw him average 18.4 points per game, the fourth-most in the conference.

 

Tennessee State

The Tigers took the eight-ranked offense in the OVC and the sixth-ranked defense and rode them to a fifth-place finish and a conference record of 9-9.

Although the offenseive and defensive ranking do not jump off the page, Tennessee Tech excelled in other areas. They ranked third in the conference in field goal percentage and second in rebounding margin.

Heading in to this season, they will be without three of their top-four scorers from a season ago, with the one returner being their leading scorer Carlos Marshall, Jr.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]