LJ Bryan, Morehead State Eagles, OVC Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The OVC Tournament.


The Ohio Valley Conference features a new opportunity this year. In the recent past, the league has been dominated by Murray State and Belmont. However, in a series of realignment moves this past offseason, those two programs ended up in the Missouri Valley Conference.

For the first time since 2009 (!), the league’s one seed in the OVC Tournament belongs in a different set of hands; not the Lancers or the Bruins, but rather the Morehead State Eagles.

2023 OVC Awards

Player of the Year: Phillip Russell, Southeast Missouri State

Freshman of the Year: Cameron Haffner, Eastern Illinois

Transfer of the Year: Jr. Clay, Tennessee State

Coach of the Year: Preston Spradlin, Morehead State

First Team:

  • G: Phillip Russell, Southeast Missouri State (18.2 PPG, 5.1 APG, 2.7 RPG)
  • G: Jr. Clay, Tennessee State (18.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 4.8 RPG)
  • G: Parker Stewart, UT Martin (16.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)
  • F: Jaylen Sebree, Tennessee Tech (15.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 41.0 3P%, 1.0 SPG)
  • C: Alex Gross, Morehead State (12.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 57.5 FG%, 2.1 BPG)

Second Team:

  • G: Mark Freeman, Morehead St (14.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • G: Ray’Sean Taylor, SIU Edwardsville (15.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G: KJ Simon, UT Martin (14.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • F: DeAntoni Gordon, Little Rock (13.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 SPG)
  • C: Jacob Polakovich, Southern Indiana (12.8 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 56.3 FG%)

OVC Tournament Simulation

First Round – Wednesday, Mar. 1

5. Southeast Missouri State (15-16, 10-8) vs. 8. Lindenwood (11-20, 6-12) – 7 p.m. on ESPN+

Despite the record discrepancy, Lindenwood actually took the latest regular-season matchup between these two foes in double overtime. However, on a bigger stage, the clearly more capable team will prevail.

Dan’s Pick: 5. Southeast Missouri State

6. SIU Edwardsville (18-13, 9-9) vs. 7. Southern Indiana (16-15, 9-9) – 10:30 p.m. on ESPN+

In a conference of low-ranking mid-majors, I like to look for teams that do a thing or two particularly well. In Southern Indiana’s case that is rebounding (26th offensively, 57th defensively) and outside shooting (16th in 3PT%). Look for the Screaming Eagles to be a sleeper in this bracket.

Dan’s Pick: 7. Southern Indiana

Second Round – Thursday, Mar. 2

4. Tennessee State (18-13, 10-8) vs. 5. Southeast Missouri State – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+

You’ve already seen both names show up a few times in this article and for good reason: Jr. Clay and Phillip Russell know how to score and do so a lot. Russell and SEMO get the upper hand out of this one though. A relatively deep rotation for the Redhawks is critical when playing games in consecutive days.

Dan’s Pick: 5. Southeast Missouri State

3. UT Martin (18-13, 10-8) vs. 7. Southern Indiana – 10 p.m. on ESPN+

Again, Southern Indiana’s hot shooting, combined with physicality on the boards will bring them far. The Screaming Eagles are one of the worst defensive teams in the conference. However, UT Martin may not take advantage of that too much, ranking 319th in Shot Quality’s spacing on offense.

Dan’s Pick: 7. Southern Indiana

Semifinals – Friday, Mar. 3

1. Morehead State (21-10, 14-4) vs. 5. Southeast Missouri State – 8 p.m. on ESPNU

The OVC Tournament rewards its two highest performing regular season teams with automatic paths to the semifinals. In this case, it will mean Southeast Missouri State will be tested against a well-rested Morehead State squad. As the team that’s already the conference favorites, it is difficult to justify picking against the Eagles.

Dan’s Pick: 1. Morehead State

2. Tennessee Tech (15-16, 11-7) vs. 7. Southern Indiana – 1-:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Southern Indiana’s cinderella run continues! Despite earning the 2 seed in the conference standings, Tennessee Tech ranks in the bottom half of the conference in nearly every analytical model. The wins happened to come at convenient times but the Golden Eagles’ overall resume is underwhelming.

Dan’s Pick: 7. Southern Indiana

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 4

1. Morehead State vs. 7. Southern Indiana – 7 p.m. on ESPN2

Finally, a trip to the NCAA Tournament is on the line. These two regular season matchups were decided by a combined nine points, with the latter going to overtime. Morehead State took both games while holding Southern Indiana well below their season average each time. Look for tempo to control this one; and Morehead’s slower, deliberate pace tends to dominate more often than not. A 4-game OVC Tourmanet run for Southern Indiana will come to an end and Morehead State will be going dancing!

Dan’s Pick: 1. Morehead State

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