Sports, Thrill of Victory

Three-Point Play: Belmont and TSU off to hot OVC starts

With college football season officially over, college basketball is starting to heat up around Music City. And the good news is that there are some outstanding teams taking the floor.

Several mid-state teams are starting to find their groove, so let’s get right to what’s going on with some of the Nashville-area programs.

Belmont's Dylan Windler added even more energy to the Belmont vs. Murray State game with this huge dunk. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Belmont’s Dylan Windler added even more energy to the Belmont vs. Murray State game with this huge dunk. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

1. Belmont still perfect in OVC

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Belmont Bruins are the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference.

It’s a reality that shouldn’t surprise anyone. We discussed Belmont heading into OVC play with a target on their back, and thus far, they’ve handled it masterfully.

The Bruins are off to a 4-0 start after beating Murray State on Thursday, which was obviously a game filled with a tremendous atmosphere and a lot of emotion.

The Racers came into Nashville as double-digit underdogs, a scenario that hadn’t happened for them in the OVC in almost 15 years.

As expected, the final tally didn’t result in a double-digit win for the Bruins. Behind Evan Bradds’ 23 points on the night, Belmont captured an 81-73 win.

Next up for Rick Byrd’s team is a home game with Austin Peay on Saturday night. Although the Governors got off to a slow start, they’ve played in a lot of close games since then and could give Belmont a challenge.

But the Bruins should win the game. And if they do, they’ll remain at the top of the OVC standings.

However, they aren’t alone up there right now.

2. TSU side by side with Belmont at the top

Joining Belmont as the only undefeated team remaining in conference play is the Tennessee State Tigers.

Head coach Dana Ford has his TSU playing at a high level in the early portion of its OVC schedule. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Head coach Dana Ford has his TSU playing at a high level in the early portion of its OVC schedule. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

TSU’s non-conference slate gave us signs that this team could be worth watching, and sure enough, the Tigers have jumped out to a quick 4-0 start themselves.

TSU has simply been on a roll. After losing by just five at Tennessee before the start of the new year, the Tigers have reeled off four consecutive OVC victories to give them a huge amount of momentum.

But it’s only going to get tougher from here.

And all that starts with a home tilt against Murray State on Saturday. After that? A trip to Belmont next Saturday? And then after that? A trip to Cookeville to face a Tennessee Tech team that is 4-1 in the conference.

That’s where we will find out even more about this TSU team.

They’ve played tough competition thus far, but there’s no doubting the fact that this upcoming stretch will be the most difficult they’ve faced this season.

3. Vandy finds momentum after Auburn win

No one is saying that the Auburn Tigers are an SEC title contender. But there’s no doubting the fact that the Vanderbilt Commodores beating them on Wednesday was a huge win.

Starting 0-3 in the SEC was not where Kevin Stallings wanted his team to be. And the Auburn game was as must-win as it gets.

Dropping to 0-4 would have been impossible to come back from. Luckily, the Commodores are now at 1-3 in the league and are an Alabama win away from inching closer and closer towards getting back where they want to be.

The Crimson Tide will also be filled with confidence heading into Memorial Gym on Saturday night.

Avery Johnson’s team knocked off previously unbeaten South Carolina earlier in the week, although “knocked off” may be too big of an understatement.

Alabama destroyed the Gamecocks by 23 points, and will certainly bring that confidence into the meeting with Vandy.

Luke Kornet's triple-double against Auburn should give Vandy fans hope going forward. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Luke Kornet’s triple-double against Auburn should give Vandy fans hope going forward. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

But with Luke Kornet back in the lineup, Vandy should be just fine. Kornet posted only the second triple-double in the program’s history in the win over Auburn, so he’s clearly going to be a major factor going forward.

While Alabama may have gotten the best of South Carolina, it’s going to take an even better performance to knock off the Commodores.

And-1:

The MTSU Blue Raiders are riding a hot streak of their own right now. Kermit Davis’ team has won three in a row after losing its Conference USA opener to UAB.

A road win over Old Dominion on Saturday would be massive before returning home to face North Texas and Rice next week.

Anything else I should know about in Nashville-area hoops this week? Let me know on Twitter.