2019 Ohio Valley Tournament Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
The Legend of Ja Morant has been one of the most interesting subplots in mid-major basketball this year. The unstoppable Morant, a likely lottery pick in this summer's NBA draft, leads a high-flying Murray State team that is looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after its last cameo in The Big Dance.
But while Morant and Murray State get all the headlines, the Racers aren't the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
Belmont is actually the No. 1 seed in this tournament. They tied Murray State with a 16-2 league record, and the Bruins earned the tiebreaker thanks to dominating 79-66 win in Murray back on Jan. 24. Those two teams met in the OVC title game last year, and I am certain that both would love a rematch this Saturday.
The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held from March 6-9 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. Here is Doc's Sports 2019 Ohio Valley Conference preview and predictions, with my own projected odds:
The Favorite: Murray State (+110)
Morant is an All-American talent that has put up eye-popping numbers while making highlight-reel plays on the regular this season. He is averaging 24.1 points, 10.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game this year while shooting 50 percent from the field. Morant is surrounded by a bouncy, aggressive group of wings that love to get up and down the floor quickly. Fellow backcourt mate Shaq Buchanan started on last year's tournament squad, and the Racers have four players averaging double-digits. Murray State is riding a nine-game winning streak. But they lost both of their last two contests against the other two top seeds, Belmont and Jacksonville State.
The Contender: Belmont (-130)
The Bruins have absolutely dominated the OVC over the last month, and they are clearly the hottest team in the league. They don't beat teams; they destroy them. Belmont has won 13 straight, and most of those games haven't even been close. Their last 10 wins have come by an average of 23.4 points per game, and the last team to stay within 10 points of Belmont was Austin Peay back on Jan. 26. The Bruins are the second-best offense in college basketball, averaging 88.3 points per game. They are No. 5 in the nation in field goal percentage offense, making better than 50 percent of their shots as a team. When this team gets rolling, watch out. If they have a weakness it would be that this is a relatively young team, starting two freshmen and use a third off the bench. If do-it-all forward Dylan Windler gets in foul trouble, the young kids could wilt.
The Dark Horse: Jacksonville State (+900)
This team is the epitome of a dark horse because they went 3-0 against the league's two heavyweights this year. The Jaguars beat Belmont twice - including a 10-point win on the road to open league play - and they hammered Murray State by 20 in the only regular-season meeting. While Murray State and Belmont love to outscore teams, Jacksonville State is the best defensive team in the league. The Jaguars were surprise winners of this tournament just two years ago, and they will not be a pushover at all in their semifinal matchup with Murray State. Depth is an issue for the Jaguars, as they lean on just six
Early-Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Austin Peay (-7) vs. No. 5 Morehead State (6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 7)
Austin Peay has 21 wins, and they were in contention for the league title late into the season. The Governors closed the year with two straight losses, though, falling to Eastern Kentucky in a surprising upset last Thursday before losing to Murray State in the season finale. The Govs have one of the league's most experienced rosters, and they won a Christmas tournament this year, beating very good Campbell and Liberty teams in Florida. They also swept Morehead State during the regular season. But Morehead State only lost by three in the most recent meeting. And this is a decent matchup for the Eagles because neither team has any real size to speak of.
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Predictions: Morant is a special player. But Belmont getting the top seed is huge because that means that Murray State has to battle Jacksonville State in the semifinals the night before a potential championship rematch with the Bruins. Belmont and Murray State have been the two best teams in the league all season, and I do think that these two teams are on a collision course. And after getting hammered in last year's final, I think that Belmont will get some revenge with a title game win, denying America the chance to see Morant play in the NCAA Tournament.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has posted 10 of 12 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year next week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here .
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
Get all of this Weeks College Basketball Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Basketball Picks