Conference: Ohio Valley
Coach: Dave Loos
Record: 18-17 (9-9)
Ratings and Rankings
– Kenpom: 219
– RPI: 195
– AP/USA Today: Unranked
Seeding: 16, likely headed to Dayton for the First Four
Names you need to know: F Chris Horton (19.2 ppg, 12.2 rpg), G Josh Robinson (16.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.6 apg), G Khalil Davis (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Stats you need to know: If there’s one thing this group does well it’s get to the foul line, as their free throw rate of 47.2 ranks sixth in the country. And thanks in large part to Horton and Kenny Jones, Austin Peay’s shooting better than 51 percent inside of the arc. Austin Peay isn’t a great three-point shooting team, as they made just 33.9 percent of their attempts on the season, but they shot 16-for-31 in the 83-73 OVC title game win over UT-Martin (on Loos’ birthday).
Big wins, bad losses: Austin Peay’s biggest win from a ratings standpoint came in the semifinals of the OVC tournament, where they beat No. 1 seed Belmont in overtime 97-96. That’s their only RPI Top 100 victory, with their first round win over Tennessee Tech representing Austin Peay’s only other win over a team ranked in the Top 150 of the RPI. Austin Peay’s worst losses came against Cal Poly (November 21) and Eastern Illinois (January 23). The Govs opened the season with losses at Vanderbilt and Indiana, with the Commodores likely to be in the NCAA tournament field and the Hoosiers the Big Ten regular season champions.
How’d they get here?: The Governors began OVC play 2-6, which could have been a devastating blow since only the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament. But they went 5-3 in the second half of their conference schedule and received the help needed to get into the tournament as the eight seed on the final day of the regular season. Once in Nashville the Govs got hot, winning four straight (including No. 1 Belmont in the semis and No. 2 UT-Martin in the title game) to become the first-ever eight seed to win the OVC tournament.
Outlook: Getting sent to Dayton wouldn’t be a bad deal for the Govs, as it would give them a shot at earning an extra financial unit for the OVC. That represents their best shot at getting a win in the NCAA tournament this year.
How do I know you?: Older college basketball fans may remember the slogan “The Fly’s open, let’s go Peay” that came into existence during the era of one of the program’s greatest players, James “Fly” Williams. There’s also their win over No. 3 seed Illinois in the 1987 NCAA tournament.
As for this year’s team you likely know the story of Dave Loos’s five year-old granddaughter Rhyan, whose father Brad is an assistant coach at Missouri. Rhyan’s ongoing fight against cancer has served as an inspiration, with “#RallyforRhyan” on the back of the players’ shooting shirts.