College Basketball Preview: Ohio Valley

Photo: Eric Miller

The Ohio Valley had a successful 2012-13 season with three high-quality mid-majors in Belmont, Murray State, and Eastern Kentucky. These three are once again among the countries better mid-majors, and Southeast Missouri State will be much improved.

 

The East Favorites

1. Eastern Kentucky

Eastern Kentucky set a school record with 25 wins last season. Although the Colonels lost star point guard Mike DiNunno, they return all their other key players.

Returning in the backcourt are conference player of the year candidate Glenn Cosey, Corey Walden, Orlando Williams, and Tarius Johnson. Cosey led the Colonels last season with 15.2 points per game, and he also averaged 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals. With 80 three-pointers, he was one of the Ohio Valley’s best long-range shooters.

Walden also started and averaged 13 points and 1.7 steals. Williams added 7.2 points per game, and Johnson recorded 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds.

At forward, Eastern Kentucky returns Eric Stutz and Jeff Johnson. Stutz averaged 8.3 points on 62.7% shooting as a sophomore and posted a pair of double-doubles. Johnson contributed 3.9 points per game off the bench.

 

2. Belmont

Belmont returns a pair of starters in J.J. Mann and Blake Jenkins, and two reserve guards in Reece Chamberlain and Craig Bradshaw. Mann, a 6’6″ wing, averaged 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.9 steals last season and shot 38.8% on three-pointers. Jenkins anchored the post with 9.6 points per game on 59.1% shooting along with 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

Chamberlain will step into the role of starting point guard this year after averaging 3.6 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals as a redshirt sophomore. Bradshaw played only 9.3 minutes per game last season, but he was productive with 2.2 points per game and 15-of-39 three-point shooting (38.5%).

The Bruins also add Samford transfer Drew Windler, a 6’9″ stretch-four who averaged 14.4 points and shot 42.6% from beyond the arc two seasons ago.

 

The East Sleepers

3. Tennessee State
Photo: Eric Miller
Photo: Eric Miller

Tennessee State returns star point guard Patrick Miller (pictured) and starting forward M.J. Rhett, but it will rely on Michael Green and Jay Harris succeeding in starter’s roles and junior college transfer Kennedy Eubanks to be a productive on the wing.

Miller is one of the favorites for conference play of the year. Last season, he tore up the Ohio Valley for 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He nearly posted a triple-double against Belmont with eight points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Freshman forward Jamontae Davis, who was a three-star recruit on Scout and ESPN, should log solid minutes in the Tigers’ thin frontcourt.

 

The Rest of the East

4. Jacksonville State

Jacksonville State returns its backcourt duo of Brian Williams (13.1 ppg, 4.3 apg0 and Darion Rackley (13.7 ppg), but it will rely on the addition of a few transfers to fill out its frontcourt.

The Gamecocks return 6’6″ forward Nick Cook (5.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg), and former junior college players D.J. Felder and Jamal Hunter should start alongside him. Felder averaged 14 points and 8.8 rebounds at St. Johns River State and Hunter averaged 8.3 points, six rebounds, and 1.4 blocks at East Mississippi Community College.

 

5. Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech returns four starters and adds three quality transfers. If they played in the easier West Division, they would have a strong chance of finishing in the top three.

The most notable returners are Jeremiah Samarrippas (9.5 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Dennis Ogbe (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Entering the program are Nebraska transfer Josiah Moore and junior college transfers Jordan Johnson and Ty Allen. Johnson averaged 19.2 points and shot 48.2% on three-pointers at East Georgia State last season while Allen recorded 20.4 points per game at Lamar State.

 

6. Morehead State

Morehead State returns Angelo Warner and Bakari Turner to its backcourt. Warner is the Eagles top returner in minutes played last season, and he averaged 10.9 points and 2.5 assists. Turner added 8.2 points per game.

At forward, the Eagles return Chad Posthumus (7.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Drew Kelly (7.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg).

 

The West Favorites

1. Southeast Missouri State

Southeast Missouri State has the best frontcourt in the Ohio Valley with Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson returning. Stone made the All-Ohio Valley Second Team last season with 15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He scored in double figures in all but three games and recorded six double-doubles. Johnson set the school record for blocks as a sophomore with 84 swats (2.5 per game), and he also averaged 11.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. Expect him to average a double-double as a junior.

The Redhawks also return pass-first point guard Lucas Nutt and sharpshooter A.J. Jones. Nutt averaged 5.6 points and 5.4 assists last season while Jones added 8.6 points and shot 30-of-70 from beyond the arc (42.9%).

Transfers Jarekious Bradley and Josh Langford will give the Redhawks solid depth. Bradley averaged 21.1 points and eight rebounds at East Mississippi Community College last season, and Langford, who is eligible after the first semester. averaged 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds for Auburn two seasons ago.

 

2. Murray State

Murray State lost its top four scorers and rebounders, but it is reloading with transfers and freshmen.

Junior college transfers Jarvis Williams and Jonathan Fairell will start at forward. Williams averaged 20 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks at Gordon State last season, and Fairell averaged 17.7 points on 66.7 field-goal shooting, 11.8 boards, and two blocks at Indian River State.

Freshman point guard Cameron Payne has a huge opportunity, as he will get to start for Murray State in his rookie year. Zay Jackson was expected to replace Isaiah Canaan at point guard after missing all of last season, but he will once again not see the floor after tearing his ACL and LCL in a preseason practice. Payne was ranked a three-star recruit by both ESPN and Rivals.

He will be joined by senior Dexter Fields and sophomore Jeffery Moss. Fields averaged 6.5 points and netted 56 three-pointers while Moss contributed 4.4 points per game.

 

The West Sleeper

3. Austin Peay

Austin Peay should make a move back towards the top of the conference this season. The Governors, who won only eight games last season, return leading scorer Travis Betran and two of the conference’s better forwards in Chris Horton and Will Triggs.

Betran was one of the conference’s best scorers last season with 17.2 points per game and he also ranked No. 8 in the league at 42.1% from beyond the arc.

Horton dominated the post for 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks in only 24.7 minutes per game, and Triggs posted 12.2 points, 5.3 boards, and two assists per contest.

 

 

The Rest of the West

4. Eastern Illinois

Eastern Illinois returns a pair of talented forwards in Sherman Blanford and Josh Piper. Blanford is the Panthers top returner in points (10.5 ppg), rebounds (6.4 rpg), assists (2.3 apg), and steals (1.2 spg). At 6’8″, Piper stretched the floor, averaging 10.2 points and 4.4 rebounds and shooting 52-of-134 (38.8%) on three-pointers.

The Panthers lost starting point guard Austin Akers, and they will rely on either on a transfer, either Reggie Smith or Donald Moore, to fill that hole.

 

5. Tennessee-Martin

Tennessee-Martin returns four starters from last year’s team, which struggled with a 5-11 Ohio Valley record. Myles Taylor, Terence Smith, and Mike Liabo will lead the way as the Skyhawks look to improve on that mark.

Taylor led the team with 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds last season while Smith and Liabo combined in the backcourt for 23.4 points and 4.4 assists per game.

 

6. SIU-Edwardsville

SIU-Edwardsville returns guards Kris Davis and Maurice Wiltz, although those two will not have much talent backing them up. Davis averaged 11.7 points and 3.6 assists while Wiltz averaged 8.3 points and three dimes in eight games. Although it is not a large sample size, Wiltz was deadly from three-point range at 14 of 29 (48.3%).

Ohio Valley Player of the Year

Patrick Miller, Tennessee State

Ohio Valley Defensive Player of the Year

Chris Horton, Austin Peay

Ohio Valley Freshman of the Year

Cameron Payne, Murray State

Ohio Valley All-Conference Team

Patrick Miller, Tennessee State

Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky

Blake Jenkins, Belmont

Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri State

Chris Horton, Austin Peay

 

*All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.

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