In 2020-21, UT Martin took the OVC women’s basketball regular season championship away from the Belmont dynasty, but it wasn’t long before the Bruins beat the Skyhawks in the OVC Tournament Final to get back on top.
The 2021-22 season should be another exciting one for both Belmont and UTM, along with a few other teams, like Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri.
UT Martin will be without its superstar player and 2021 OVC Player of the Year Chelsey Perry, while Belmont will bring back all of its offensive talent, which makes the Bruins’ path to the championship easier. The Redhawks, who won the OVC Tournament in 2019, won’t have their top senior scorers from a year ago either.
The writing on the wall says Belmont will run away with it, but maybe the young talent on other teams who had some tournament experience last season will step up, make some big players, and turn this thing into a contest.
OVC Women’s Basketball Preview 2021-22: Belmont in Pole Position
The Favorites: Belmont, Murray State, Tennessee Tech
Head coach: Bart Brooks (5th season)
2020-21 record: 21-6 (14-3 in CONF)
Conference finish: 2nd
Belmont is coming off of a historic season after winning the NCAA Tournament game in program history, topping No. 5 seed Gonzaga, 64-59, in the first round of last year’s March Madness. 2020-21 OVC Freshman of the Year Destinee Wells led the way for the Bruins, averaging 17.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field. She scored a career-high 32 points against UTM in the tournament final last season, which earned her MVP honors of the event.
Wells will be the biggest factor for the Bruins this season; if she produces, the team will win. Along with Wells are seniors Conley Chinn and Jamilyn Kinney, who have tons of conference and tournament experience and will be the team’s leaders. Chinn posted 12.3 points and 4.8 boards per outing in 2020-21 and started in all 26 games for the Bruins, while Kinney has been the glue for this team, scoring just under 10 points per night and stealing 72 passes. She was also the team’s minutes leader at 828, proving her worth as a steady hand.
Belmont is unquestionably the favorite heading into the 2021-22 OVC women’s basketball season as the Destinee Wells era enters full swing in Nashville.
Head coach: Rechelle Turner (5th season)
2020-21 record: 12-8 (16-11 in CONF)
Conference finish: 5th
The Racers hung onto a top-five finish last season by picking up wins against Belmont, Tennessee Tech and SEMO, and they should be set for an amazing season as they bringing back all of their top players.
Macey Turley and Katelyn Young led the team in scoring, averaging 17.6 and 14.1 points per game, respectively, and they’re both still in the mix. Young had a great season on the defense end, too, blocking 14 shots and hauling in 9.3 boards per night, while Turley was also the team’s assist and steals leader.
As a team in 2020-21, Murray State out-shot opponents at the free-throw line and won the battle on the glass. Now with four seniors and that much more experience, if the Racers can replicate what they did well last season again, then they will most likely be the team to rival Belmont for the top of the standings.
Head coach: Kim Rosamond (6th season)
2020-21 record: 15-10 (12-8 in CONF)
Conference finish: 6th
Since head coach Kim Rosamond took over in 2016, Tennessee Tech has been one of the more successful women’s basketball programs in the OVC. It became a dangerous threat at home in Cookeville, sporting a 9-3 mark, though the road could be a daunting place – the team was 6-7 away from home. Will the Golden Eagles have that stark of a contrast at home and away again in 2021-22?
Tennessee Tech will bring back most of its starters from a year ago. Jordon Brock, who averaged 11.8 points per contest and shot 38 percent from the field, will return, as well as Anna Jones, who scored 11.2 points and pulled in 6.2 rebounds per game last year, plus shot 50 percent from the field. The offensive talent and experience this roster now boasts could really give the Golden Eagles enough to take on Murray State and Belmont.
Another important piece for this team is Jada Guinn, who absolutely dominated defensively for TTU. She can cause turnovers, win rebounding battles, and do a lot to take an opposing scoring guard out of the game. Guinn can contribute offensively as well, especially in distribution. She could be the key that allows Tennessee Tech to make a run for the championship.
The Contenders: SEMO, UT Martin, Austin Peay
Head coach: Rekha Patterson (6th season)
2020-21 record: 15-11 (13-7 in CONF)
Conference finish: 3rd
Like UTM, SEMO has lost some of its best players in the offseason, but it also has some young, experienced players who can hold their own. And with a coach like Rekha Patterson leading the way, this team should compete in the top half of the OVC.
Patterson took the reins in 2015 and led the program from last to first after winning the OVC Tournament in 2020. You can bet that she’s worth a few wins throughout the course of the season.
The team did lose Tesia Thompson and LeTrese Saine, who led the Redhawks in scoring with 18.7 and 10.4 points per game, respectively. They were both also a big part of what SEMO did on the glass, and losing their production there as well will definitely hurt. But Roshala Scott, who became the team’s top distributor, is back and will need to take a step forward into a lead scorer role to fill in the void. Sophie Bussard, who shot 40 percent from the field and started in all 26 games in 2020-21, will also be asked to put the ball in the bucket.
It will be a bit of a transition year for Southeast Missouri, but this team has enough talent to fight for one of the OVC’s top spots.
Head coach: Kevin McMillan (13th season)
2020-21 record: 22-6 (17-2 in CONF)
Conference finish: 1st
The Skyhawks had one of their most successful seasons ever last year, clinching the OVC regular season title and beating Belmont in the regular season. But this year, they’ll be without their best player from 2020-21, Chelsey Perry, who graduated in the offseason. Perry was one of the best players in OVC women’s basketball the last three years, averaging an astounding 22.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per night with 32 blocks to boot. She leaves a massive hole on this team.
But all is not lost. The Skyhawks are returning Paige Pipkin and Seygan Robins, who previously contributed some of the scoring effort. Robins is a big-time distributor of the rock and should offer more all around this season, including her 45 percent clip from deep. Pipkin will continue to bring it on the defensive end.
Though UT Martin won’t have Perry and others, it can still give Belmont a run for its money and contend in this league.
Head coach: Brittany Young (1st season)
2020-21 record: 12-11 (10-8 in CONF)
Conference finish: 7th
Austin Peay had a decent season in 2020-21, finishing sixth in the OVC. It’s bringing back a handful of starters from the previous campaign, but none of them scored in double figures last year. Even with this low scoring, the Governors still put up more points per game than their opponents, a sign of their efforts on defense. The team made its hay defensively and on the glass, and there’s a good chance it stays that way in 2021-22.
D’Shara Booker was the team’s top rebounder, and Maggie Knowles is back for her senior season after leading the team in scoring last year. Austin Peay should see both of those players’ numbers improve, plus its new young coach, Brittany Young, could shake some things up to give this team a better shot this year.
Stuck in Purgatory: Eastern Illinois, Morehead State
Head coach: Matt Bolant (5th season)
2020-21 record: 11-15 (9-11 in CONF)
Conference finish: 8th
Eastern Illinois was the best of the teams with losing records in the OVC last season. It had a solid offense that could hold its own against opponents but couldn’t pick up any major wins against top-tier teams.
The Panthers will have some of their top scorers again in 2021-22, including Abby Wahl and Lariah Washington. Wahl led the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game a season ago, plus she hauled in 7.4 boards per night. There are no seniors on this squad, but it does have five redshirt juniors to help lead the way.
The biggest issue for the Panthers will be points off the bench. This will come over time with the younger players getting more minutes, but will Eastern Illinois have that kind of time? It will need its inexperienced depth to grow up fast to have a chance of getting into the OVC Tournament this season.
Head coach: Cayla Petree (1st season)
2020-21 record: 7-16 (6-13 in CONF)
Conference finish: 10th
Morehead State didn’t show much in 2020-21, only putting together seven wins. COVID-19 was a factor as the team had to cancel quite a few games, only being able to play 23 by the end of the campaign. This season, things shouldn’t be as bad, but there’s still some serious question marks about this squad.
The Eagles struggled to score last year, and now their only two double-digit scorers have graduated. They are bringing back redshirt junior Lauren Carter, who averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game a year ago, but there isn’t much other experience on the roster. Almost all of the returning players have played less than 650 minutes in their careers, which might hurt when the Eagles play more experienced sides.
It might be an uphill battle for Morehead State this year.
The Basement: SIUE, Tennessee State
Head coach: Samantha Quigley Smith (1st season)
2020-21 record: 6-19 (3-17 in CONF)
Conference finish: 11th
SIUE struggled immensely last year. It had issues scoring, on the defensive glass, and generally defending the rim. Its defense was one of the worst in the OVC, and the team finished near or at the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories.
But it does bring back its two top scorers from 2020-21 in Ajulu Thatha and Mikayla Kinnard, who both scored 9.0 points per contest. The Cougars and first-year head coach Samantha Quigley Smith will have lots of work to do if they want to compete with for a spot in the OVC Women’s Tournament.
Head coach: Ty Evans (2nd season)
2020-21 record: 0-22 (0-20 in CONF)
Conference finish: 12th
There really aren’t many good things to say about TSU’s 2020-21 season. The team didn’t win a single game in 22 tries. The Tigers averaged about 50 points per game while allowing opponents 71. There isn’t a way to spin any of that positively.
The good thing for Tennessee State is that it returns its top two scorers from last season in Taylor Roberts and Andreana Wrister, who both scored almost 15 points per game each a year ago. The issue last season was that there weren’t many points coming from anyone else on the team, making it impossible for the Tigers to compete with teams like Belmont and SEMO. The lack of assisted buckets for TSU illustrates how much the ball stuck in a few hands.
This year’s team will definitely be a bit better than last and will probably win a game here or there – another winless season should be avoidable – but with a majority of the OVC bringing back heavy hitters, the Tigers will have a hard time climbing out of the basement.
2021-22 OVC Women’s Basketball Players to Watch
Destinee Wells – Guard – Sophomore – Belmont
Destinee Wells is the preseason favorite for OVC Player of the Year after her stunning freshman performance. She led Belmont to an OVC Tournament championship and won tournament MVP after dropping a career-high 32 points on UT Martin. She averaged 17.9 points and 4.7 assists per outing, plus shot 40 percent from beyond the three-point line and 47 percent from the field.
She is by far the best player in OVC women’s basketball coming into this season. And with the help of senior leadership and the basketball knowledge of coach Bart Brooks, we should be set for an era at Belmont of the likes of Darby Maggard.
Macey Turley – Guard – Senior – Murray State
Macey Turley started in all 27 games last season for the Racers and will probably do the same this year. The All-OVC First Team superstar led her team in points per game (17.6) in 2020-21 and is currently the best free throw shooter in school history after three seasons, shooting 92 percent from the charity stripe last campaign.
With a team that is bringing so much back, Turley will also be a favorite for OVC Player of the Year and will probably lead the team on a conference tournament run. She is very tough to contain on the court with her quick feet and high skill.
Jada Guinn – Guard – Sophomore – Tennessee Tech
Jada Guinn is the early favorite for OVC Defensive Player of the Year after dominating on the defensive end for Tennessee Tech last season. The guard started every game in 2020-21 and averaged the most minutes per game on the team at 30.8, and her usage shouldn’t go down in 2021-22.
Guinn blocked 48 shots and assisted on 90 buckets last season and should be on pace to do the same or better this time around. She was the leading rebounder for TTU as well. Guinn will be one of the most important playmakers for the Golden Eagles and will have to have a great season for them to compete for the conference title.
2021-22 Men’s & Women’s College Basketball Conference Previews
Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.