Craig's Magical College Basketball Tour: Covering The OVC Tournament

Tonight the tour takes its first step into March Madness.

One bid leagues are what make these first few weeks of March fun.  In the Ohio Valley Conference, and in the vast majority of conferences around the country, teams must win their tournament to make it to the Big Dance. Usually, we don't really hear much about these conferences until their championship game ends up on ESPN, but this week I'm going to take you through the entire eight-team tournament. 

The OVC has introduced a new format to their conference championship this year.  They've awarded those who had the best conference seasons, giving the first and second place teams byes all the way until the semifinals.  The third and fourth place teams have byes into the quarterfinals.  Teams 5-8 play each other in the opening round, and that is what I will be seeing tonight.

For the full bracket, go here.

As a way to get the CougCenter community involved, I want to see who you guys want to root for.  Choosing a team can be for a variety of reasons.

For instance, the top seed is 2010 CougCenter tournament thread favorite Murray State.  You may be a front-runner and choose them based on that, or you could be choosing them based off of all the amazing Flight of the Conchords references.  If you are like my boss, you are rooting for them because you actually attended the school (you didn't think people actually attended Murray State did you?  You just thought it was this basketball team that occassionally screwed up your bracket).

Maybe you want to choose a team based off the hilariousness of their name.  For instance, the second seed is Morehead State.  I know many of your minds already take up residence next to mine in the gutter, so there is no explanation needed there.

Or like Jeff Nusser, you can choose based on a team's chant.  Nuss is going with Austin Peay based soley on the fact that he can yell,

"Let's Go Peay!"

Maybe there are personal reasons for rooting for a team.  For example, the eighth seed is UT Martin.  One of the kids from the group home I work at is currently attending there.  I helped him pick the school and apply.  I took him on a campus tour.  I have that tie with them (but I'll probably just pull for Morehead State.  How can you not root for Morehead?)

The rest of the teams are (5) Tennessee State (who will be playing about a mile away from their campus),  (6)Eastern Kentucky, and (7) SE Missouri State.  After the jump I'll have a mini-preview using Ken Pomeroy's log5 calculations and take a look at today's opening round matchups.

Here is Pomeroy's log5 calculations for the tournament (which he posted on Basketball Prospectus here).  The numbers are the chance each team has of winning each game.

Round 1 Semis Finals Champ.
2. Morehead St. 100 100 60.3 36.4
1. Murray St 100 100 73.9 36.1
3. Austin Peay 100 79.6 35.4 19.5
5. Tennessee St 75.5 44.3 13.7 4.2
4. Tenn. Tech 100 48 11.5 2.7
6. E. Kentucky 72.4 17.4 4 1.3
8. UT Martin 24.5 7.7 1.2 0.1
7. SE Missouri St 27.5 2.9 0.3 0.05

Morehead State at 108 (kenpom ranking), Murray State at 120, and Austin Peay at 125 are clearly the best teams in the tournament.  Austin Peay would have similar chances to win as the top two, but Murray State and Morehead State benefit from the extra bye.  Austin Peay and Morehead State actually tied for second, but Morehead gets the tiebreaker.  That's a pretty huge tiebreaker.  Austin Peay must now win three games in three days to advance to the NCAA tournament.  They are in the same spot as Tennessee Tech, who is ranked all the way down at 230 on Kenpom.

While those are the top teams with the best chance to win, tonight's games feature the potential cinderellas.

Game 1: #293 UT Martin vs. #226 Tennessee State

Kenpom predicts: Tennessee State 75-68 with 75% confidence.

Top players:

Kenny Moore, TSU  (105.6 ORtg, 18.3 DR%)
Robert Covington, TSU (108.1 ORtg, 19.1 DR%)

Terence Smith, UTM (100.0 ORtg, 21.2 ARate)
Benzor Simmons, UTM (105.5 ORtg, 17.5 DR%)

Game 2: #296 SE Missouri State vs. #219 Eastern Kentucky

Kenpom predicts: Eastern Kentucky 69-63 with 73% confidence.

Top Players:

Spencer Perrin, EKU (115.0 ORtg, 18.1 DR%)
Justin Stommes, EKU (108.6 ORtg, 21.6 ARate)

Leon Powell, SEMSU, (112.2 ORtg, 76.0 FTRate)
Lucas Nutt, SEMSU, (104.5 ORtg, 24.4 ARate)

I'll have daily recaps of the action and quick previews of the next games as I go along.  The first two games can be seen on OVCSports.com.

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