Belmont picked as preseason favorite in OVC men's basketball pol - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Belmont picked as preseason favorite in OVC men's basketball poll, SEMO picked last

(Source: Raycom Media) (Source: Raycom Media)
(KFVS) -

In a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men’s basketball coaches and sports information directors, Belmont has been picked the preseason favorite for the 2016-17 season. It marks the second-straight year the Bruins have been tabbed preseason favorites.

Belmont, who has won three of the past four OVC regular season championships, picked up 16 of 24 first-place votes in being picked the preseason favorites as overall regular season champions. The Bruins were also tabbed the East Division favorites, picking up 16 of 24 first-place votes in that category, while Murray State was picked the West Division favorites.

In the overall champion voting, in addition to Belmont picking up 16 first-place votes, other teams with first-place votes included Tennessee State (6), Eastern Kentucky (1) and Morehead State (1). All the teams who received an overall first-place vote came from the East Division.

Since Belmont was picked as the overall champion, they were also an overwhelming favorite to take first place in its own division; the Bruins have finished first in the East in each of the first four years of divisional play. Belmont received 126 total points to top the East and were followed by Tennessee State (6 first-place votes and 106 points), Morehead State (1 first-place vote, 98 points), Tennessee Tech (62 points), Eastern Kentucky (1 first-place vote, 60 points) and Jacksonville State (40).

Murray State picked up 21 of 24 first-place votes and 131 points to be picked the West Division favorites. The Racers have finished at the top of the West Division in each of the first four years of divisional play. Eastern Illinois was picked second (95 points) and followed by defending tournament champion Austin Peay (2 first-place votes, 88 points), UT Martin (1 first-place vote, 82 points), SIUE (54) and Southeast Missouri (42).

Murray State Racers

A season ago Murray State finished tied with UT Martin atop the West Division, but after tiebreakers earned the No. 6 seed for the OVC Tournament, the first time in six years of the current format the Racers did not receive either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed and double bye to the semifinals. MSU topped Eastern Illinois in the first round before falling to Morehead State. Overall Murray State recorded its 29th-straight winning season, a streak that is tied for fourth longest in Division I behind only Syracuse, Kansas and Arizona.

This season second-year head coach Matt McMahon returns four players, including three who were starters last year. Among the returning players is Preseason All-OVC selection Bryce Jones who ranked 22nd nationally in free throw percentage (87.1%) in his debut season with the Racers. The point guard was fifth in the OVC in assists (4.2/game) while also adding 12.7 points/game in 31 contests. Also back is senior guard Damarcus Croaker (9.6 points, 4.5 rebounds/game) and senior guard Gee McGhee (9.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists/game).

Southeast Missouri State Redhawks

Southeast Missouri State returns four starters from last season which was Rick Ray’s first with the program. Among the returning players is senior guard Antonius Cleveland who has started 76 games over the past three seasons. A year ago he ranked fifth in the OVC in steals (1.6/game), ninth in rebounding (6.6/game) and 10th in scoring (15.2 points/game). Cleveland also added 61 assists and 15 blocked shots while hitting 43.7 percent from the field. Also returning is senior forward Joel Angus III who averaged 10.5 points and 5.9 rebounds/game while hitting 50 percent from the field.

For full rundowns of all other OVC teams, click here.

2016-17 Preseason OVC Men’s Basketball Predicted Order of Finish
Overall OVC Champion: Belmont (16 first-place votes)
Other Teams Receiving Overall First-Place Votes: Tennessee State (6), Eastern Kentucky (1), Morehead State (1)

East Division

  1. Belmont (16 first-place votes) – 126 points
  2. Tennessee State (6) - 106
  3. Morehead State (1) - 98
  4. Tennessee Tech - 62
  5. Eastern Kentucky (1) - 60
  6. Jacksonville State - 40

West Division

  1. Murray State (21 first-place votes) – 131 points
  2. Eastern Illinois - 95
  3. Austin Peay (2) - 88
  4. UT Martin (1) - 82
  5. SIUE - 54
  6. Southeast Missouri – 42

2016-17 All-OVC Preseason Men’s Basketball Team

The 2016-17 OVC Preseason Men’s Basketball Team is headlined by Belmont senior Evan Bradds who was named the OVC Preseason Player of the Year.

Bradds, the 2015-16 OVC Player of the Year, is the second-straight Belmont player tabbed Preseason Player of the Year (following Craig Bradshaw a year ago).

Overall nine different schools were represented on the team with Belmont and Tennessee State having two selections apiece and Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Murray State, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech having one pick apiece. The squad features four players who were either first or second-team selections last season. The team is comprised of seven seniors, three juniors and a sophomore.

Bradds led Belmont to a 12-4 Conference mark a season ago while leading Division I with a 71.4 percent field goal percentage (210-of-294). He also averaged 17.6 points (fourth in the OVC) and 9.2 rebounds (second in the OVC) and dished out 70 assists.

The other returning All-OVC selections from a year ago include OVC Defensive Player of the Year Tahjere McCall (9th nationally with 2.32 steals/game plus 14.6 points/game) from Tennessee State, OVC Freshman of the Year Nick Mayo (14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds/game, 60.7 FG%) from Eastern Kentucky and Austin Peay junior guard Josh Robinson (16.9 points, 2.6 assists/game, 83.4 FT%).

The Preseason All-OVC Team is rounded out by Belmont senior guard Taylor Barnette (10.6 points/game, 74 made 3-pointers), Southeast Missouri senior guard Antonius Cleveland (15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.6 steals/game), Eastern Illinois junior guard Cornell Johnston (11.0 points, 5.7 assists/game), Murray State senior guard Bryce Jones (12.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists/game), Tennessee Tech junior guard Aleksa Jugovic (12.1 points, 2.9 assists/game, 71 made 3-pointers), Tennessee State senior forward Wayne Martin (11.1 points, 9.1 rebounds/game) and Morehead State senior guard Xavier Moon (10.2 points, 2.6 rebounds/game).

2016-17 Preseason All-OVC Men’s Basketball Team

  • Taylor Barnette, Belmont
  • Evan Bradds, Belmont - (Preseason Player of the Year)
  • Antonius Cleveland, Southeast Missouri
  • Cornell Johnston, Eastern Illinois
  • Bryce Jones, Murray State
  • Aleksa Jugovic, Tennessee Tech
  • Wayne Martin, Tennessee State
  • Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky
  • Tahjere McCall, Tennessee State
  • Xavier Moon, Morehead State
  • Josh Robinson, Austin Peay

The 2016-17 season kicks off with an exhibition contest on October 28 while the first regular season games will be played on Friday, November 11. The 2017 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held March 1-4 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

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