Southeast basketball teams to begin OVC play

Monday, December 24, 2012

The tuneups are out of the way for the Southeast Missouri State basketball teams.

Now it's time for the Redhawks to jump into their Ohio Valley Conference schedules that will ultimately determine just how their seasons are judged.

Southeast's men tip off OVC play Saturday with a noon game against Tennessee-Martin, part of three straight conference home dates to begin league action.

The Redhawks, after Saturday's OVC opener in which they should be heavily favored, also should be solid favorites Jan. 3 against Austin Peay before their Jan. 5 showdown with powerhouse Murray State that will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

Southeast's women tip off conference play Dec. 31 at first-year OVC member Belmont in a 2 p.m. New Year's Eve matchup before hosting Austin Peay Jan. 5 and Murray State Jan. 7.

Both Southeast squads have shown enough during nonconference action to give their fans optimism entering OVC play.

Southeast's men (8-6) probably should have at least a couple more wins by now, but that doesn't change the fact that they are expected to be a major OVC factor after being picked second in the West Division behind Murray State.

It also doesn't detract from the fact the men are continuing their impressive resurgence under fourth-year coach Dickey Nutt, who has rejuvenated a program that ranked among the nation's worst when he took over.

The Redhawks have clinched their first nonconference winning record since the 2003-04 season, and Southeast also has its most nonconference victories since the 2000-01 squad went 10-4 in nonleague play.

Southeast arguably has the best inside duo in the OVC with junior forward Tyler Stone and sophomore forward Nino Johnson.

If the Redhawks get solid guard play -- and things have trended upward in that area recently -- then there is no reason they can't finish among the OVC's elite squads.

Southeast's rebuilding women (5-7) have displayed marked improvement after winning just seven games during Ty Margenthaler's first season last year and posting eight victories each of the previous two campaigns.

While the Redhawks might not be quite ready to challenge for a high OVC finish, they certainly appear much better than their preseason prediction of last place in the West Division.

Working in the favor of Southeast's men, but working against the Redhawks' women -- on paper at least -- is that the OVC East Division looks much stronger than the West from top to bottom on the men's side, while it's the opposite for the women.

That's significant because teams play squads in their division twice but face teams from the other division only once.

But that's all on paper. This week OVC teams will begin deciding things on the court.

As always, I'm really looking forward to the 68th annual Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament that tips off Wednesday at the Show Me Center.

No matter how many games are close or how many are blowouts, the 16-team boys basketball event is always a must-see for area hoops fans -- myself included.

An especially interesting aspect of this year's tournament is that, although defending champion Charleston is a huge favorite -- it will be a challenge for anybody to play the top-seeded Bluejays within single digits -- there appears to be quite a bit of parity among the next six or seven seeds if not deeper.

This looks like the best chance in several years for a small school not named Scott County Central to reach the finals.

Leopold and Advance, the sixth and seventh seeds, appear to have the best chance of making that happen, especially since they're in the bracket opposite Charleston.

If the seeds hold, Leopold -- the only undefeated squad in the field -- will play third-seeded Notre Dame, while Advance will meet second-seeded Central in what could be highly interesting quarterfinal matchups.

That's assuming Leopold can get by 11th-seeded Oak Ridge, which will be filled with confidence after recently being the first Class 1 school since 2008 to beat SCC.

See you at the Show Me Center.

Area high school girls basketball teams, if they didn't already know it, certainly know it now -- beware of Saxony Lutheran, not only this year but for the next few seasons.

The Crusaders, with their influx of talented freshmen, put on quite a show last week in winning the Kelso Supply Holiday Classic at the Show Me Center for the first time.

Saxony's only previous victory in the area's premier girls basketball tournament came via forfeit. The Crusaders broke through at the event in a big way despite being seeded just fourth among eight squads.

Saxony took out top-seeded Notre Dame in the semifinals and second-seeded Central in a thrilling 45-43 final to capture the title.

Four freshmen started for the Crusaders in the tournament and three more saw action. That group did most of the team's scoring.

It's going to be fun following the Crusaders' progress over the next several years as they make a push to the state tournament -- perhaps as early as this season.

The Show Me Center will host a big-time high school boys basketball game Jan. 31.

The regular-season matchup between major rivals Sikeston and Charleston, originally scheduled to be played in Charleston, was moved to the larger facility. The varsity game will be played about 7:30 p.m., following the 6 p.m. JV contest.

Ticket prices are $25 for limited availability courtside seats, $12 for reserved seats, $7 for adults general admission and $5 for students general admission. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 4 at the Show Me Center Box Office and online at

Sikeston and Charleston already have played once this season, host Sikeston winning 71-61 in the championship game of the SEMO Conference tournament.

Jacksonville State didn't venture far from its roots to find its new football coach.

South Alabama defensive coordinator Bill Clark was hired last week to succeed Jack Crowe, who was fired Nov. 30 after the second-longest coaching tenure in school history.

Clark, 44, is a Jacksonville State graduate, although he did not play college football due to an injury that ended his playing career in high school.

Clark, a native of Anniston, Ala., which is near Jacksonville, was a two-time state champion high school coach in Alabama.

Happy birthday to my good buddy and local baseball legend John "Doc" Yallaly, who turns 81 this week -- although you wouldn't know it by looking at him.

Doc, one of Cape Girardeau's all-time most beloved sports personalities, managed the Ford & Sons American Legion baseball team for 40 years and still is heavily involved with the program.

Here's wishing everybody a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the new year.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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