Basketball

See where EKU, Morehead fit in OVC basketball coaches’ preseason voting

Dan McHale is entering his third season as head coach at Eastern Kentucky.
Dan McHale is entering his third season as head coach at Eastern Kentucky.

Entering head coach Dan McHale’s third season at Eastern Kentucky University, the Colonels seem poised to get back in contention for an Ohio Valley Conference men’s basketball championship.

Getting all the way to the top is another matter, at least according to the preseason coaches’ poll.

Eastern Kentucky was picked to finish fourth in the OVC this season in voting conducted by the league’s coaches and sports information directors announced Tuesday.

Colonels 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Asante Gist and 6-9 junior forward Nick Mayo were voted to the preseason All-OVC team. Plus, the Colonels expect a boost this season from 6-8 former Lafayette High School star Jackson Davis, who transferred from Butler and is eligible to return to the court after sitting out last season.

In McHale’s first two seasons at EKU, the Colonels finished 15-16 and then 12-19. Even though Eastern looks positioned for a breakout, the league has gotten no easier.

For the third year in a row, the coaches voted Belmont to win the league. The Bruins have captured four of the past five OVC regular-season championships. Belmont received 18 of the 24 possible first-place votes.

Jacksonville State and Murray State, voted to finish second and third, respectively, each collected three first-place votes. Morehead State, entering Preston Spradlin’s first full season as head coach and fielding a youthful roster, was picked to finish ninth in the 12-team OVC.

Murray State senior guard Jonathan Stark was voted OVC Preseason Player of the Year. Last season, Stark led the OVC and ranked 13th nationally in scoring at 21.9 points per game. He connected on 42.5 percent of his three-point attempts.

Women’s voting

The OVC’s women’s basketball coaches and sports information directors also gave Belmont the preseason nod, directing 22 of the possible 24 first-place votes to the Bruins.

Morehead State was voted to finish in fourth place, Murray State in a tie for eighth and Eastern Kentucky 10th.

OVC coaches’ polls

MEN

1. Belmont (18 first-place votes) — 235 points

2. Jacksonville State (3) — 213

3. Murray State (3) — 212

4. Eastern Kentucky — 139

5. Tennessee Tech — 137

6. Eastern Illinois — 135

7. Tennessee State — 125

8. Tennessee-Martin — 114

9. Morehead State — 89

10. Southeast Missouri — 82

11. Austin Peay — 63

12. SIU-Edwardsville — 40

WOMEN

1. Belmont (22 first-place votes) — 242 points

2. SIU-Edwardsville — 199

3. Tennessee-Martin (2) — 198

4. Morehead State — 192

5. Tennessee Tech — 133

6. Austin Peay — 120

7. Jacksonville State — 111

8. Murray State — 101

8. Southeast Missouri — 101

10. Eastern Kentucky — 83

11. Eastern Illinois - 64

12. Tennessee State – 38

All-OVC teams

MEN

Matthew Butler, Tennessee-Martin

Malcolm Drumwright, Jacksonville State

Amanze Egekeze, Belmont

Norbertas Giga, Jacksonville State

Asante Gist, Eastern Kentucky

Aleksa Jugovic, Tennessee Tech

Austin Luke, Belmont

Denzel Mahoney, Southeast Missouri

Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky

Terrell Miller, Murray State

Jonathan Stark, Murray State

Preseason OVC Player of the Year: Jonathan Stark, Murray State

WOMEN

Ke’Shunan James, Murray State

Darby Maggard, Belmont

Kylee Smith, Belmont

Grace Lennox, Eastern Illinois

Yaktavia Hickson, Tennessee Tech

Sally McCabe, Belmont

Donshel Beck, SIU-Edwardsville

Miranda Crockett, Morehead State

Ashton Feldhaus, Tennessee-Martin

Kendall Spray, Tennessee-Martin

Myah Taylor, Tennessee-Martin

Preseason OVC Co-Players of the Year: Darby Maggard, Belmont; Sally McCabe, Belmont

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