Busting Brackets

Ohio Valley Conference: 2024 conference tournament preview

A Wide Open Tournament in Evansville

Morehead State v Purdue
Morehead State v Purdue / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

This is the most wide open Ohio Valley Conference postseason tournament in history. Three teams tied for first place and a fourth team finished one game back. This is anybody's tournament to claim. With no at-large opportunities for OVC teams, this will be a 'Texas Death Match' in Evansville.

Since the OVC doesn't play a true round-robin schedule, Little Rock (20-11, 14-4) earned the tournament's top seed by having the better record against the other championship teams. Tennessee Martin (21-10, 14-4) and Morehead State (23-8, 14-4) split their regular season games and UT Martin split its with Little Rock. Morehead and Little Rock met only once with the Trojans prevailing on their home court.

Eight of the eleven of the OVC teams qualify for the Ford Center hosted event and the top two seeds enjoy a double-bye into the tournament's semifinals. Preseason favorite Morehad State who is the league's best team according to computer metrics, and fourth seeded Western Illinois (20-11, 13-5) receive a bye into the quarters.

The tournament begins Wednesday as fifth seeded Tennessee State (17-14, 10-8) faces eighth seeded Southern Indiana (8-23, 5-13)(6:30 pm on ESPN+). Sixth seeded Southern Illinois Edwardsville (16-15, 9-9) takes on seventh seeded Eastern Illinois (14-17, 8-10)(9:00 pm on ESPN+). Ironically, SIUE split its regular season games with Little Rock and Morehead State.

Wednesday's winners play Western Illinois and Morehead State on Thursday. If TSU and SIUE advance, they would both be playing teams they split with during the regular season.

Little Rock failed to qualify for the tournament last season, but climbed to the top of the standings this year and coach Darrell Walker was named the league's coach of the year. Morehead State's Riley Minix was tabbed as the OVC Player of the Year. Minix ranked second in the league in both scoring (20.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.9). The NAIA transfer racked up 18 double-doubles.

UTM's Jordan Sears (21.2 ppg) was the OVC scoring champion.

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Last season's tournament championship game was an overtime thriller. This tournament is so undefined and wide open that there is no predicting its champion, but Morehead State and UT Martin are both teams that feel like they deserve to win this championship.