The Byrd Cage

Welcome to March

In Game Posts on March 4, 2013 at 11:11 am

We have just finished watching our first season as a member in the Ohio Valley Conference. I wish we had time to go back and reflect on the great and wonderful things that we experienced for the first time.  For example, a coach’s decision to state that only his team could take down the mighty Bruins. Or the inexplicable tendency of the Prohm Stars to play only when they felt challenged. Or the greatness that is Ian Clark. But seeing as your calendar reads March, we must prepare you for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. In order to keep this article relevant, we will not discuss all teams that made the tournament and will focus on the contenders (I know, everyone has a ‘shot’, whatever). Let’s go!

No. 4 seed: Tennessee State Tigers

The Tigers, when fully healthy are a very impressive team. They have a well-balanced line up that features a tough guard in Patrick Miller, a great scoring forward in Robert Covington, and a big man in M.J. Rhett.  Occasionally you will see Jordan Cyphers get hot from outside and make some noise, but this team makes their living at the free throw line. In conference play, they are getting to line at a 50% rate (FTA/FGA). This is good. Not just good in the OVC, but good anywhere. They are making it count by knocking down 76% of attempts in conference when they do get to the stripe. In the last four conference games, the Tigers are attempting 28.5 FTs per game. That’s a lot of free, easy looks at the basket. In a semi-home environment, look for the Tigers to live at the line. Side note: College officiating is terrible in general but this conference takes it to a whole different level. It has to be tough to play in some of these games not having any consistency from the zebras. Oh well.

No. 3 seed: Eastern Kentucky Fightin’ Dinunnos

When the Fightin’ D’s came to Nashville, there was an instant dislike of all things Eastern Kentucky. It could be that they were the first OVC team to actually look competent against the Bruins or it could be that Dinunno was talking trash to five year old children. Whatever the case, this had instant rivalry written all over. All the Bruins fans remember is Dinunno making a mockery of Rick Byrd’s defense and raining in threes from as far back as his hairline. And we HATED it. It was quite an offensive show.  But nonetheless, the Bruins were able to beat the Fightin’ D’s twice with an asterisk: the Bruins never saw junior guard Glenn Cosey (119 Ortg). This may or may not matter, all I know is it takes some possessions away from Dinunno which for the Bruins will be a good thing. The wildcard here is if Neubauer admits he is a mediocre coach, stops trying, and goes iso to Dinunno all night. That would be fun.

No. 2 seed: Murray State Razzzzzooooorrrrrrrsssssss!!!!!

This is easily the most perplexing team in the conference. Murray State was gift wrapped the regular season title and decided not to take it. They had the easiest schedule in the conference (according to KenPom) and got the three top teams from the East Division AT HOME!! How they lost six games in this conference is unbelievable to me. They are clearly loaded with the most athletic, talented players in the conference. Isaiah is so good that I will only use his first name. Ed Daniel draws more fouls and causes more headaches down low than Boomer, and for completely different reasons. So why has this team dropped four of their last six conference games to teams with a combined conference record of 24-40? It may be time to look at what Prohm brings to this team as a head coach. He led his team to a magical season last year so it makes this argument difficult to craft, but this team has not maximized its talent night in and night out. There are many ways to judge the effectiveness of a coach. We can all agree that winning championships is what matters most and Prohm is certainly off to a great start in that regard, but we cannot ignore the warning signs. Prohm himself said after the Belmont win how he wished his team would bring that intensity every night. As a fan, I would be greatly troubled by that. It is the job of a coach to maximize their talent on the floor, and Prhom simply has not been doing that this year.  It is easy to ignore when you have Isaiah doing All-American things, but it certainly is not sustainable. And neither is losing at home, on senior day, to SEMO, by SIXTEEN! The Racers will be tough, like they always are, if Isaiah and the boys want to. Sorry Prohm, you have no say in the matter. But you knew that.

No. 1 Seed: The Mont

What looked like a clear upgrade in competition level, the OVC proved only to be a geographic convenience with a barely noticeable upgrade in competition.  With the loss of all interior presence to graduation, the move to the OVC felt a little daunting. And then SEMO came to town. This senior class picked up right where they left off and won another regular season conference title. The Bruins won 14 conference games by an average margin of 19 points. Without running the table, that’s about as dominant as it comes. We all know Ian has been remarkable all year. So remarkable in fact that he spent the last five games shooting a rough 7-33 (21%) from downtown and still managed to shoot 46.2% on the season.  Oh and became Belmont’s all-time leading scorer. While contributions from Ian are vital, the Bruins must have Kerron fully engaged on both ends of the floor. Early in the season, he didn’t seem to care about the basketball. However he has turned the ball over only 9 times in the past 6 games and has been getting to the foul line on a regular basis. This will be the recipe for an OVC title: high level of execution from Kerron and sharp shooting from Ian and The Hay Bailer. If those three guys are on top of their game, the Bruins are unbeatable.

Gambler’s Corner

For those concerned with such matters, the Bruins finished 14-13 against the spread this year and 9-7 in OVC play. The Bruins were also favored in all 16 conference matchups. With games being played in Nashville, I see that trend continuing in the tournament.

-Nick Broadhead

  1. Great work Nick. Coach Byrd seems anxious that Belmont’s students are on spring break. Though, having next to no-one present at a conference tournament hasn’t stopped us in the past.

  2. Nice write-up, Nick. This OVC tourney has the potential to be one we’ll be talking about for years. Clearly, Belmont is the favorite, but I believe that four others, yes four, have the potential to walk out of the Municipal Middle School Auditorium with the hardware. SEMO is lights-out from downtown lately, and I could see them making a 4-day run to the title. Unlikely, but possible.
    Oh, and fair warning, a blue-gold mist will be descending upon downtown Nashville Friday evening. Expect a couple thousand Racer faithful..maybe more.

  3. @RacerRambler – that’s what I’m afraid of. Apparently, Belmont Students will still be on spring break so this will be less of ‘home game’ for The Mont than we had hoped.

  4. If only SEMO had something that resembled a defense.

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