Ohio Valley Conference

VIDEO: Murray State ‘Racer Mania’ dunk contest highlights

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Thursday night Murray State held its annual “Racer Mania” event, which also signaled the start of a new era. With Steve Prohm now the head coach at Iowa State, Matt McMahon takes over a team picked in the preseason to win the West Division of the OVC. And those preseason expectations come in spite of the fact that four starters, led by lottery pick Cameron Payne, have moved on.

Preseason All-OVC forward Jeffrey Moss will be asked to lead the way, and Thursday night two guards who began their college careers at other Division I schools put their athleticism on display for the home folks. Demarcus Croaker, who began his college career at Texas and is expected to factor into the Racers’ perimeter rotation, took on Tulane transfer Jonathan Stark (he’ll have to sit out this season) in the final round of the team dunk contest.

And they threw down some impressive dunks as well, with the 6-foot-4 Croaker edging out the 6-foot tall Stark. Above are highlights from the contest, with Dustin Brown responsible for the footage.

Ohio Valley Conference Preview: Belmont reigns supreme

Craig Bradshaw (AP Photo)
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game didn’t lack any drama. Taylor Barnette drilled a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to send the Belmont to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. It handed Murray State, which was undefeated in conference play, an invitation to the NIT.

The Bruins and Racers are expected to top their respective divisions again this season despite going through two very different offseasons.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, entering his 30th season, brings back four starters. Barnette, the OVC Tournament MVP and Craig Bradshaw, the Ohio Valley Preseason Player of the Year, make up the conference’s top back court, while Evan Bradds mans the frontline after a breakout sophomore season. Belmont is one of the nation’s best mid-major programs year-after-year, and that shouldn’t change this season.

Murray State, however, experienced an offseason of change. In April, Cameron Payne left for the NBA, becoming a lottery pick that will continue his career alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Then in June, head coach Steve Prohm left to take over the Iowa State program. Despite the coaching change and the loss of three of its top four scorers, Murray State remains a contender in the OVC. First-year head coach Matt McMahon has an all-OVC caliber guard in Jeffery Moss, the lone returning starter. Justin Seymour also returns, but the perimeter will be enhanced by the additions of Texas transfer Damarcus Croaker, Chattanooga transfer Gee McGhee and JuCo transfer Bryce Jones. 

In total, there are four new head coaches in the league: McMahon, Dan McHale (Eastern Kentucky), Rick Ray (Southeast Missouri State) and Jon Harris (SIU-Edwardsville). 

Even after graduating two all-OVC players, McHale and the Colonels could still be Belmont’s toughest challenge in the East Division, relying on the returning back court of Ja’Mill Powell and Isaac McGlone. Morehead State won five of its last six games, narrowly losing to Murray State in the OVC Tournament semifinals, to close out 2014-15. The Eagles could build of last season’s strong push with Brent Arrington returning to lead the team’s hard-nose defense. But Jacksonville State poses as a deep sleeper, a cast of newcomers headlined by well-traveled forward Cameron Biedscheid.

UT Martin, coming off one of the better turnarounds in the nation a season ago, will likely be Murray State’s toughest competition in the West Division. Twymond Howard and Alex Anderson make up a solid 1-2 punch, while Myles Taylor, another double-digit scorer, returns from a shortened 2014-15 season. Chris Olivier transferring hurts Eastern Illinois up front, but Trae Anderson and Cornell Johnston should be enough to keep the Panthers in play this year.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “I think Belmont is the best team. They won the conference tournament last year. They have bulk of the guys coming back and they definitely have the best coach coming back.”
  • Sleeper: “I would say Morehead State. I think they’re going to have a really good team. They play hard, they play physical, they guard you. You really have to prepare for them. Heck, they were close to making the conference championship game last year.”
  • Star to watch: “I think Craig Bradshaw from Belmont. He can score from anywhere on the floor. He plays with a great motor and within the team concept. He can put points on the board, really quickly too.”


One of the best mid-major players in the nation, Bradshaw is coming off a junior campaign of 18.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, shooting 42 percent from behind the 3-point line. An intense competitor, the 6-foot-3 senior had arguably his best game against one of the nation’s premier defenses, scoring 25 points (10-of-19 shooting) and nine rebounds against Virginia in the NCAA tournament.


  • Evan Bradds, Belmont: The anchor in the middle for the Bruins, the 6-foot-7 junior averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 boards per game, shooting 69 percent from the field, second in the nation in that category.
  • Chris Horton, Austin Peay: One of the bright lights for the Governors in 2014-15, Horton averaged a double-double: 13.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Tops in the conference with 2.3 blocks per game.
  • Twymond Howard, UT Martin: One of the top newcomers in the league from a season ago, the 6-foot-6 forward recorded five of his six double-doubles during conference play.
  • Jeffery Moss, Murray State: A long, athletic guard who can connect from three should see a bump in his offensive numbers with Cameron Payne in the NBA and two of the Racers’ other double-digit scorers gone from a season ago.



East Division

1. Belmont
2. Morehead State
3. Eastern Kentucky
4. Jacksonville State
5. Tennessee Tech
6. Tennessee State

West Division

1. Murray State
2. UT Martin
3. Eastern Illinois
4. Southeast Missouri State
5. Austin Peay
6. SIU-Edwardsville

Former Rhode Island forward to complete eligibility at Eastern Kentucky

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Jarelle Reischel, who played one season at Rice before transferring to Rhode Island in 2012, was one of three players who left Dan Hurley’s program at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Reischel’s playing time decreased while at URI, as he played just over nine minutes per game as a redshirt junior.

With one season of eligibility remaining, Reischel has committed to Eastern Kentucky where he’ll play for new head coach Dan McHale. News of Reischel’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

Reischel will be eligible immediately, and he’s a versatile forward who can help McHale as he looks to build upon the success enjoyed under Jeff Neubauer.

In his first season at Rhode Island, Reischel played more than 19 minutes per game and averaged 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest. He’s one of five players who will join the EKU program this summer, and there’s history between Reischel and his new head coach.

McHale was a member of Kevin Willard’s coaching staff at Seton Hall during Reischel’s first navigation of the recruiting process, with the 6-foot-6 forward picking Rice over the Pirates and Penn State. McHale obviously didn’t get to coach Reischel then, but he will in 2015-16.

SIU Edwardsville announces that head coach Lennox Forrester will not return

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Tuesday afternoon SIU Edwardsville announced that head coach Lennox Forrester will not be retained. The Cougars finished this season with a 12-16 overall record, going 8-8 in Ohio Valley Conference games and losing to Eastern Illinois in the first round of the OVC tournament.

Forrester, whose first season at SIUE was the program’s last as a Division II member, ends his tenure with a record of 82-146. The 12 wins this season represent the most the Cougars were able to win in a single season under Forrester’s watch. And the lack of on-court success is what athletic director Dr. Brad Hewitt cited in his announcement of the move.

“This was a difficult decision, coming after a thorough and thoughtful evaluation of the past eight years of work,” Dr. Hewitt said in the release.  “I would like to thank Coach Forrester for his dedicated service to SIUE and his leadership in developing young men of character. These student-athletes have represented the University and the men’s basketball program in a positive manner.

“Ultimately, our won-loss record and program support are not where we believe it should be.”

Four of SIUE’s top five scorers are seniors, led by guard Kris Davis who was the team’s lone double-digit scorer at 14.3 points per game. Junior Donivine Stewart, who was third on the team with an average of 8.6 points per game, is the lone player among the top five with eligibility remaining.


Introducing Cinderella: Meet the Belmont Bruins

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Video credit: Scott Anderson

Conference: Ohio Valley

Coach: Rick Byrd

Record: 22-10, 11-5 OVC

Rankings and ratings:

Kenpom: 148
RPI: 120, per NCAA’s official numbers
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: 15

Names you need to know: Craig Bradshaw (17.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg), Evan Bradds (14.1, 7.1), Taylor Barnette (10.8, 2.6)

Stats you need to know: The Bruins are one of the best shooting teams in the country. They rank ninth in effective field goal percentage (56.3%), sixth in two-point field goal percentage (55.9%) and 47th in three-point percentage (38.1%). Belmont scores 40 percent of its points by way of the three-pointer, and they enter the tournament averaging a little more than 74 points per game.

Tendencies: This is a team that leans on the three-point shot, as noted above. Nearly half of their field goal attempts on the season have been three-pointers, and this isn’t a group that scores a whole lot from the foul line either. They’ll show both man and zone looks defensively, and the Bruins essentially have an eight-man rotation.

Big wins, bad losses: Their best win of the season was also their biggest, as the Bruins beat No. 25 Murray State in the OVC title game. Outside of that, Belmont’s best win was a one-point triumph over Western Kentucky in late-November. As for losses that won’t help their profile, Belmont lost to Wright State in non-conference play and suffered league defeats at the hands of Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State.

How’d they get here: After rolling past Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals of the OVC tournament, Belmont won two thrilling games to grab the automatic bid. Two Bradds free throws gave Belmont a 53-52 win over Eastern Kentucky in the semifinals, and Barnette’s three-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining was the difference in their 88-87 win over Murray State.

Outlook: Given their reliance on the three-point shot Belmont could be dangerous. But this is a team that’s had its fair share of issues defensively, and opponents are shooting nearly 51 percent inside of the arc. Against a team with bigger players who can find quality interior looks, Belmont may be in some trouble.

How do I know you?: The Bruins were a staple in the NCAA tournament as a member of the Atlantic Sun, making five appearances between 2006 and 2012. This is Belmont’s second NCAA berth in three seasons as a member of the OVC, and they lost to Arizona in the Round of 64 in 2013. Barnette began his college career at Virginia, and Belmont’s most famous fan is country musician Vince Gill, who’s a close friend of head coach Rick Byrd.

Ohio Valley Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Murray State's Cameron Payne (AP)
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source: AP
Murray State’s Cameron Payne (AP)

After rolling through the Ohio Valley Conference unscathed, the Murray State Racers enter the conference tournament as the heavy favorite. Led by Player of the Year Cameron Payne, Murray State enters the month of March as one of the most dangerous teams in the country, having won 24 consecutive games. It doesn’t hurt that they only have to win two games to get themselves into the Field of 68. The OVC has one of the easiest conference tournament paths for a No. 1 seed, as they get a double bye and face a No. 4 seed, at best, in the opening game. Eastern Kentucky and Belmont could challenge on the other side of the bracket, but look for Steve Prohm’s team to become a dangerous Cinderella candidate.

 READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

The Bracket


When: March 4-7

Where: Nashville Municipal Auditorium

Final: Saturday, March 7, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Murray State

Winners of 24 straight games, the Racers look like one of the nation’s best mid-major teams and a serious threat to win a NCAA Tournament game if they make the field. Cameron Payne is a star at guard and Jarvis Williams is a great second option inside.

And if they lose?: Eastern Kentucky

The Colonels made the NCAA Tournament last season and also get the benefit of the double-bye straight into the semifinals as the No. 2 seed. Eastern Kentucky also came closed to knocking off Murray State this season in the OVC, taking the Racers to overtime on Jan. 29 before losing by seven. With the duo of Corey Walden and Eric Stutz — both top-five scorers in the conference — the Colonels have reliable scorers.


  • Belmont: Winners of four straight games, the Bruins split with No. 2 seed Eastern Kentucky and beat them in the most recent meeting on Feb. 19.
  • UT Martin: The No. 4 seed in the tournament, the Skyhawks get a bye and only lost to Murray State, their potential semifinal opponent, by six points in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 28.

Player of the Year: Cameron Payne, Murray State

An obvious choice, as the 6-foot-2 sophomore was the conference’s leading scorer (20.2 ppg), second in assists (5.7 apg) and third in steals (2.0 spg). Payne is also shooting 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range and contributing 3.6 rebounds per game.

Coach of the Year: Steve Prohm, Murray State

Prohm took the Racers to the Round of 32 in his first season but he did something this season that even Mick Cronin and Billy Kennedy had never done at Murray State: go unbeaten in conference play. At 16-0, the Racers were the class of the league and Prohm has done a tremendous job rebuilding the program after that initial NCAA Tournament appearance.

All-Ohio Valley Team:

  • Payne
  • Corey Walden, Eastern Kentucky – The conference’s second-leading scorer (18.6 ppg) and leader in steals (3 spg). The 6-foot-2 senior is shooting 54 percent from the field.
  • Craig Bradshaw, Belmont – Already with a 40-point game under his belt, the 6-foot-3 junior averaged 17.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
  • Jarvis Williams, Murray State – A reliable second option to Payne, the 6-foot-8 senior averaged 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on 57 percent shooting from the field.
  • Eric Stutz, Eastern Kentucky – Shooting ridiculous splits (61 FG%, 46 3PT%, 80 FT%), the 6-foot-8 senior averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds per game.

CBT PREDICTION: Murray State over Belmont