Conference: Ohio Valley
Coach: Ray Harper
Record: 20-14, 9-7 (t-4th)
Ratings and Rankings:
– Kenpom: 168
– RPI: 169
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked
Seeding: A lot of this will depend on just how many upsets there are in the conference tournaments this week, but I can’t see Jacksonville State climbing higher than a No. 15 seed. That said, they do have wins over Belmont and Tulsa, so that matters.
Names you need to know: The strength of this team is in the back court, where Malcolm Drumwright and Greg Tucker carry the load. Those two combined for 39 points in the upset win over No. 1 seed Belmont in the semifinals of the OVC tournament, and combined, they averaged 23.7 points and 6.4 assists.
Stats you need to know: Four. That’s how many national titles that Ray Harper has won in his career, two at the Division II level with Kentucky Wesleyan and two at the NAIA level with Oklahoma City. All told, during his time at those two jobs, he made it to a national title game nine times in 11 seasons. He also has now made the NCAA tournament three times in six seasons as a Division I head coach, all three of which came as an upset-winner of a league tournament. Long story short: the man knows how to win in tournament play.
Big wins, bad losses: Jacksonville State’s best win of the season came against Belmont, who won the OVC regular season title by five games, in impressive fashion. They also own a win at Tulsa, who finished .500 in the AAC this year.
How’d they get here?: After getting picked last in their division in the OVC, the Gamecocks finished 9-7 in the league and were the No. 4 seed in the tournament, but they upset Belmont and then smacked around UT Martin in the league title game.
Outlook: There are two things to like about this team: Ray Harper is coaching them and they have talented guards that have proven they can make plays in big games. But they’re very likely going to end up playing a top 10 team in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I can’t see them pulling off the upset.
How do I know you?: You probably don’t. The school has sent a few football players to the NFL, but this is the first time, since their move to the Division I level, that the Gamecocks have been relevant.
So congrats for that.