Only eight teams in the 12-team Ohio Valley Conference make it to the conference tournament, which, despite having the perfect number of teams to play a traditional eight-team tournament, uses an odd format to determine a champion.
During the season, the OVC uses two divisions and the top team in each will earn an automatic double-bye into the semifinals, in this case the Belmont Bruins and Murray St. Racers. After that, the six best teams, regardless of division affiliation, get into the league tournament. The three and four seeds earn a bye into the quarterfinals while the five through eight seeds play in the first round.
At least things will all take place in one location, with the tournament making its home at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
March 6-9, Wednesday through Saturday
ESPNU and ESPN3 for the semifinals, ESPN2 for the final
The Belmont Bruins will be the heavy favorites coming out of the south division. The Bruins are the only team ranked in the top-100 by kenpom.com, checking in as the 40th best team in country with the Eastern Kentucky Colonels the next closest at 112th. Their opponents will have to contend with one of the nation's best offenses as the Bruins rank 16th in the country in scoring at 77.2 points per game and fourth in the nation in field goal percentage, averaging 49.6 percent per game.
Although the Murray State Racers are the fourth best team in the conference record-wise, they enjoy the second seed in the conference tournament and will benefit from a double-bye into the semifinals. It means they will have played the team they face at least once, if not twice, by the time the Racers step on the floor.
The Eastern Kentucky Colonels. The Colonels are seeded third in the conference tournament but, even in such a high position, they'll be at a disadvantage thanks to the odd setup for the tournament. Ranked 112th by kenpom.com, Eastern Kentucky made easy work of the Racers, their potential semifinal opponent, in their only meeting this season and scored enough to at least keep pace with the Bruins.
Players To Watch:
Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray St.: The leading scorer in the conference knocks down a blackjack worth of points on average with 21.6 per contest. He also dishes out about four assists per game each season, after averaging 19 points and 3.6 assists per game. His three-point percentage has dropped dramatically this season but he's still shooting well from the charity stripe at 81.2 percent.
Ian Clark, G, Belmont: The 6'3 senior has averaged in double-figures for points in each of his seasons at Belmont, including a career-high 18.1 points per game rate this season. Clark is also the conference's most dangerous three-point shooter, hitting 46.2 percent of his field goals from beyond the arc and 64 percent from two-point range.
Myles Taylor, F, Tennesse-Martin: If the Skyhawks have any hope of making it beyond the first round, they'll need a lot of help from their versatile sophomore. Not only is his 16.2-point-per-game rate one of the tops in the conference, his rebound rate of 7.2 per game will need to stay up there for Tennessee-Martin to win.
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