The 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament bracket
- The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be played March 3-6 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind., with only the top-eight teams in the 12-team league qualifying
- Belmont and Murray State have won six of the last nine tournaments, but Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky are very live options here
- See the seeds, bracket, and full tournament preview, below
The Ohio Valley Conference tournament will tip off with a pair of quarterfinal games Wednesday at the Ford Center at Evansville, Ind., the site of the previous three tournaments after a 15-year run in Nashville, Tenn. The other two quarterfinal games are Thursday.
No. 1 seed Belmont and No. 2 seed Morehead State will play their first games Wednesday. As the perk for finishing 1-2 in the regular season, the winners of those games will have a day of rest before the semifinals Friday.
Editor’s note: as of 12:57 am ET, March 2nd, no sportsbooks had released OVC Tournament outrights.
2021 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Odds
|#2 Morehead State||TBD|
|#3 Eastern Kentucky||TBD|
|#4 Jacksonville State||TBD|
|#5 Murray State||TBD|
|#6 Austin Peay||TBD|
|#7 SE Missouri State||TBD|
|#8 SIU Edwardsville||TBD|
This was a two-bid league in the 2019 NCAA tournament, when Murray State and Belmont shared the regular-season title at 16-2. Ja Morant’s Racers won the OVC tournament and received a No. 12 seed while Belmont made the First Four as an at-large team. Each won one game in the NCAA tournament.
Two bids are highly unlikely this season, inasmuch as coronavirus concerns limited most teams’ ability to schedule potential resume-building contests against Power Six foes.
Two of the eight qualifiers enter the OVC tournament on a losing streak of two or more games. One is Belmont which, until last week, had won 30 straight league games.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Muszynski’s Injury Muddies the Picture
Belmont (24-3, 18-2) had clinched at least a share of its seventh regular-season title in nine seasons before an 81-67 loss at Eastern Kentucky on Thursday and an 89-82 overtime loss at Morehead State on Saturday, so the Bruins didn’t have much to play for.
The defeats came with a rather large disclaimer — 6-foot-11 junior Nick Muszynski, the Bruins’ leading scorer at 15.2 points per game — missed both with an undisclosed injury. His loss was felt. Morehead State 6-10 freshman center Johni Broome had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots in the Eagles’ victory Saturday.
Belmont coach Casey Alexander, in his second season since taking over for the legendary Rick Byrd, said he expects Muszynski to be back for the start of the OVC tournament but is not sure he will be 100 percent.
The Bruins cannot win without Muszynski, a two-time First-Team All-OVC selection. Belmont, which is 17th in Division I in field-goal percentage at 49.45%, shot 36.5% in both weekend losses. Muszynski is shooting 58.9%, also 17th in Division I.
Guard Grayson Murphy (10.6 points, 8.6 rebounds) is the Bruins’ other weapon. He had a triple-double in a previous victory over Morehead State and went for 24 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists Saturday.
The Bruins are on the better side of the bracket here, with top challengers Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky on the other side, but they need Muszynski to go far.
Morehead State on a Strong Run
Morehead State (20-7, 17-3) scheduled up this season with non-conference games against Kentucky, Richmond, Ohio State, and Clemson. All were losses, but the experience seemed to serve the Eagles well.
They have won four games in a row and 16 of 17 since a 65-51 loss at Clemson on Dec. 21. The Eagles’ only loss since was 73-58 at Belmont on Feb. 13. They have a program-record 17 OVC victories.
In a league that likes to run, Morehead State stands out for its play on the defensive end. It has allowed an average of 63.4 points per game and 40.4 field goal percentage, both league bests.
Freshman Broome leads a balanced attack in scoring (13.3) and rebounding (8.7) Six Eagles average at least 7.5 points and play at least 25 minutes per game.
Morehead State is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 games,
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Eastern Kentucky Will Push It
No. 3 seed Eastern Kentucky is the highest-scoring team in the league, which could make for a good matchup if the seedings hold and it meets defense-first Morehead State in the semifinals. They split two games in December, both winning at home.
The Colonels (21-6, 15-5) are averaging 82.9 points per game, 10th in Division I, and they rank third in Division I in KenPom’s adjusted tempo behind Coppin State and Monmouth. No. 1 Gonzaga is fourth.
Start guard Jomaru Brown and West Virginia transfer Brandon Knapper went down with early injuries, but freshman 5-11 guard Wendell Green Jr. (15.0 points, 5.1 assists) has taken over and leads four double-figure scorers. Brown, who average 18.4 points a game last season, played four games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
Green 23 points, five rebound sand five assists and was 12-of-13 from the foul line in a season-ending victory over Tennessee State on Saturday.
This and That
Fourth-seed Jacksonville State (17-8, 13-6) would have to get out of its regular season rut to make the finals. The Gamecocks are 0-6 against Belmont, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky and 13-0 against everyone else. They swept quarterfinal opponent Murray State.
Austin Peay’s double-double machine, 6-5 guard Terry Taylor, has carried his team for four seasons, and who is to say he could not go out with a bang.
Taylor leads the OVC in scoring (21.7) and rebounding (11.0), and he became one of five OVC players with 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds this season. Western Kentucky’s Jim McDaniels and Ralph Crosthwaite, Murray State’s Popeye Jones and Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried are the others.
Taylor leads Division I with 19 double-doubles, four more than No. 2 Kofi Cockburn of Illinois.
Muszynski must play if Belmont is to win, which opens the door for Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky. If outright tournament odds don’t open, consider betting Morehead State in particular on a game-to-game basis.
The pick: Morehead State (odds TBD)