Trio of teams fighting for top spot in OVC men’s basketball standings


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Kashawn Charles surveys the court in the Panthers’ game against Murray State on Jan. 17 in Lantz Arena. Eastern lost the game 72-46.

Ryan Meyer, Men's Basketball Reporter

Three OVC men’s basketball teams are in close contention for the top spot in the conference early in the season; Murray State, Morehead State and Belmont. After those three powerhouses, though, there is a significant drop-off to Tennessee State (7-10, 2-3).

In the case of Murray State and Belmont, this will be the last season the two teams can contend for the OVC championship, as they are moving conferences this summer.

The top individual performers in the conference are Tevin Brown of Murray State, who is averaging 18.4 points per game and set his school’s record in 3-pointers in a blowout over Eastern. Then there’s Johni Broome of defending OVC champs Morehead State, who is averaging a double-double this season. Broome is also averaging 3.3 blocks per game. Morehead State, who is on a six-game winning streak, will play Belmont Thursday at home.

Belmont appears to be playing a style of team basketball that has them leading the conference in assists, steals, turnover margin and three-point field goals made.

After beating Belmont by 22 on Jan. 15, Murray State had five games scheduled in a row against conference opponents under .500, with two apiece against Eastern and Tennessee Tech. They would take the first game against Eastern 72-46.

Two OVC teams are winless in conference games, Austin Peay and Eastern. Eastern has had four games postponed and have played multiple games with only eight players, their only two wins coming against Division III opponents. The Panthers, who have lost seven straight, are averaging less than 50 points per game in conference matches and do not have a player averaging more than 10 points on the season. CJ Lane is averaging 12.7 points per game in conference play.

The Panthers have trotted out more starting lineups than almost anyone in the nation, as head coach Marty Simmons has had to juggle the health and safety protocols and adjusting to his first year as Eastern’s coach. Eastern will play Murray State on Thursday and host SEMO on Saturday.

SEMO has Eric Reed Jr., who is averaging 21.3 points per game in four OVC matchups and is shooting 56.7 percent from three-point range in those same four games. Their lone OVC win came against Austin Peay.

Given that seven of the 10 OVC men’s basketball teams have losing records, both in-conference and overall, it’s likely that the OVC tournament will feature multiple teams below .500. A late-February matchup between Murray State and Belmont could determine the seeding of the tournament.


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]