Heading into the season, we knew that the Ohio Valley was going to be one of the tougher conferences in the country.
You may have missed it in all the other realignment news, but Belmont, one of the nation’s strongest mid-major programs, jumped from the Atlantic Sun to the OVC. That league already included Tennessee State and NBA prospect Robert Covington, Morehead State, and, obviously, Murray State.
But as we round out the second week of conference play, the team at the top of the OVC standings and with the best record in the conference is … Eastern Kentucky?
Who saw that coming?
I know Murray State didn’t, because the Racers found themselves on the wrong side of a beatdown on Wednesday night. EKU used a 24-0 first half run to take a 31-11 lead in Murray. They would eventually push that lead to 22 points in the second half before Murray State finally made things interesting, trimming the deficit to five in the final minute.
The Colonels play small ball because they have to. They don’t have anyone in the roster over 6-foot-8, and the big guys they do have aren’t exactly Ed Daniel. They force a ton of turnovers and shoot a ton of threes, but they can’t rebound to save their life — they allow opponents to grab 40.8% of the available offensive rebounds, good for 344th in the country — and struggle to prevent opponents from getting good looks.
But they are winning, and that’s what is important.
Maybe the OVC is going to be more fun than we thought.
(Image via EKU athletics)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.
USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.
Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.
The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.
Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.
Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.
The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.
They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.
Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
- Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
- Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.