OVC crowns Belmont and Jacksonville State

Belmont celebrates winning the 2017 womens OVC basketball championship.

Belmont celebrates winning the 2017 Womens OVC basketball championship.

The Ohio Valley Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments presented by VistitMyrtleBeach.com, returned to the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on March 1-4, 2017.

The Belmont women’s team won its second-straight OVC Tournament Championship while the Jacksonville State Gamecocks men’s team won its first OVC crown to punch its first-ever appearance in the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

“Eastern Kentucky did a great job at the start of the game throwing the first punch and just getting us on our heels,” said Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer after the game. “I think with their tenacity to push the tempo on both ends of the floor and they put a lot of pressure on the glass we had to expend a lot of energy boxing them out and getting quality shots. We were up 10 at half time but it did not feel like it because of how hard we had to work to get shots. It is crazy to think about what we just did .We won 25 of 26 games. We just won 21 in a row, 19 in conference. We never once talked about records or championships. It is truly amazing; and I am blessed to be a part of this. I cannot thank God more for this. It is more then I deserve. We have the 1st ticket punched.”

Jacksonville State celebrates winning the 2017 mens OVC basketball championship

Jacksonville State celebrates winning the 2017 mens OVC basketball championship

Jacksonville State Senior Greg Tucker said “It’s just a great feeling to be honest I mean I really can’t explain it,” about reaching the NCAA Tournament. “We’re just all happy that we got the job done.”

“Just excited, happy, especially for these two guys, but for everybody in that locker room, but especially these two guys,” Jacksonville State Head Coach Ray Harper said about Greg Tucker and Erik Durham.

“They go out their senior year with an NCAA Tournament appearance. You know, we’re trying to build something at Jacksonville State. You got to walk before you run, but we decided to run a little quicker than anyone thought. Look, we’re not a football school, we’re not a basketball school, we’re going to win in every sport. I don’t know why some schools get labeled a basketball school or a football school. You’re either going to be committed to every sport or you’re not. And we have an athletic director that convinced me that we were committed to winning in basketball.”

The combined men’s and women’s championship have been held at Municipal Auditorium 12 times: 1994, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The men also held its championship at the venue in 1989. Prior to the tournament being at the end of the season, the 1967 men’s tournament was also held at Municipal Auditorium in December of that year. The move to Municipal Auditorium has kept the championships in Nashville, a place it will have been held 23 times in the last 24 years; the other times at the facility now-known as Bridgestone Arena. The only year the tournaments have not been held in Nashville during that stretch was 2002, when it was held at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

Next year the tournament will be held in the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. The date of the 2018 OVC Basketball Championship is February 28 – March 3, 2018.

“We are excited about the opportunity to take our flagship championship to another region of the OVC footprint,” said OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche. “We look forward to the opportunity to partner with the City of Evansville and the Evansville Sports Corporation to provide an outstanding experience for our student-athletes and fans.

The Ford Center, which opened in 2011, is a 10,000-seat arena located in the core of Evansville’s downtown district. The 290,000-square foot facility serves as home of the University of Evansville’s men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as the Evansville Thunderbolts of the Southern Professional Hockey League. The Ford Center has serves as host to numerous sporting events and concerts on an annual basis. Evansville is the third-largest city in the state of Indiana with a population of nearly 120,000 in the city limit and 300,000 people in the metropolitan area.

Future OVC Basketball Tournament dates include February 28 – March 3, 2018, March 6-9, 2019 and March 4-7, 2020. Those sites are yet to be determined.