Lovell’s Notebook: OVC thoughts, Seton Hall, and more

In College Basketball by Blake Lovell

Regular season college basketball will be played in a little over a week.

I’m ready.

This season, I’ll be doing a regular column with random thoughts on lots of different conferences/teams/players in the world of college basketball.

Let’s dive into today’s notebook.

– The Ohio Valley Conference should boast an intriguing regular season title race this year. While most preseason projections have Belmont at the top, it seems to be a three-team race between Rick Byrd‘s squad, Murray State, and Jacksonville State. The Racers have the likely OVC Player of the Year in Jonathan Stark and a highly skilled senior forward in Terrell Miller. The Gamecocks will be led by Malcolm Drumwright and Norbertas Giga, with the latter scoring 30 points in the team’s NCAA Tournament loss to Louisville. These three teams could finish in any order, and it will make for some exciting games this year.

– As for the rest of the OVC? There is rebuilding to do at several schools (Matt Figger will have Austin Peay back in the mix sooner than you think), but the team I’m most intrigued by is Tennessee State. While Dana Ford lost two key players in Tahjere McCall and Wayne Martin, the fourth-year head coach adds several JUCO talents to go along with returners like Darreon Reddick and Ken’Darrius Hamilton. Ford said at OVC Media Day that the Tigers would need to rely even more on defense this season, and if they cut down on the turnovers (326th nationally last year with 15.1 tpg), they could be a sleeper team worth watching.

– The more I look at Seton Hall’s roster, the more I love it. It’s not just the experience factor in having Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington, and Desi Rodriguez leading the way, but it’s also about this team’s grit and toughness. You need those qualities to win close games in the Big East and in the NCAA Tournament. The Pirates are sure to be a force on both ends of the floor, and they may be my Big East favorite at this point.

– Here’s your friendly reminder that there is only so much that you can take away from exhibition games, so don’t get discouraged if your team doesn’t look like the ’96 Bulls.

– Another friendly reminder that Mike Brey is still the most underrated coach in America.

– Vanderbilt transfer Samir Sehic was impressive in Tulane’s exhibition win over LSU on Tuesday. The 6-9 forward had 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench and should give the Green Wave a boost in the paint this season.

– I’m still firmly on the Oakland bandwagon. I wrote about this team back in July after we talked to Greg Kampe on the Marching to Madness podcast, and the Golden Grizzlies have tremendous depth across the board. Kendrick Nunn‘s 40 points and 10 rebounds in a scrimmage against Central Michigan showcased that point. Scrimmage or not, that’s a solid stat line.

– If you like lots of points and an up-tempo style, you need to watch Casey Alexander‘s Lipscomb squad play this season. This team was Top 10 nationally in points per game last year (85.0 ppg) and returns pretty much everyone. Power conference teams like Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Purdue better defend Garrison Mathews and company when they come to town, or things could get very interesting.

– Kostas Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, will have a lot of eyes on him this season. Anthony Grant told us last week that the 6-10 freshman has been cleared for full-contact practices after suffering an injury this summer, and how he progresses could determine where the Flyers land in the Atlantic 10. Dayton will need him to play a major role after losing so many significant contributors from last season.

– It looks like Tennessee’s entire team grew this offseason, and Ken Pomeroy uses that to take an entertaining look at why size matters in college basketball.

– There’s still time for you to send me your most underrated mid-major team and underrated mid-major player heading into the season. My answers below.

– My most underrated mid-major player heading into ’17-18: Southeast Missouri sophomore Denzel Mahoney. He was stellar in his freshman season with the Redhawks, scoring 20 or more points in 10 games. He also shot 38 percent from 3, grabbed 4.4 rebounds per game, and played nearly 30 minutes per contest. I can’t wait to see what he does for an encore.

– My most underrated mid-major team heading into ’17-18: Samford. Scott Padgett has a versatile roster to work with, thanks to his top six scorers returning from last year’s 20-win team. Alabama transfer Justin Coleman joins the mix as well and gives the Bulldogs incredible backcourt depth. This isn’t a team I’d want to play in March.

– Speaking of underrated, the guys over at College Court Report are doing their #Underrated351 countdown on Twitter highlighting one player on every team that deserves some attention heading into the season. Get ready to get lost in this thread for a while:

– Over at his new college basketball Patreon page, Joseph Nardone has a good read on Vermont’s Anthony Lamb. The 6-6 sophomore led the Catamounts in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots last season, and he’s only getting better from here.

– You might not know who Alabama freshman guard Herb Jones is right now, but you will soon enough. When I talked to Avery Johnson back in September, he compared Jones to a “young Scottie Pippen.” People I’ve talked to in the past few weeks can’t stop raving about Jones and how big an impact he could have for the Crimson Tide this season.

– Stock rising:

  • Stanford (have the talent to crack the Pac-12’s top four)
  • Middle Tennessee State (good luck guarding Giddy Potts)
  • Mercer (all five starters return for this sneaky good SoCon team)
  • P.J. Washington (Kentucky freshman is the real deal)
  • Bill Walton (his stock is always high)

– The November 10 games I’m most looking forward to: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia, Samford at Arkansas (upset alert), Missouri State at Western Kentucky, Memphis vs. Alabama, Iowa State at Missouri, Georgia Tech vs. UCLA.

– Today’s parting thought: When’s the next domino going to fall in the FBI’s investigation?

Blake Lovell is a national college basketball writer for College Hoops Watch and other media outlets. He’s also the host of the Marching to Madness podcast and founder of SoutheastHoops.com. You can follow him on Twitter @theblakelovell.