For Belmont basketball, Tennessee State, Austin Peay and others: Here's the ceiling and floor this season

Mike Organ
Nashville Tennessean

College basketball bounced into action this week and local teams are eager to either pick up where they left off last season or start fresh.

Here's a look at the possible ceilings and cellars for some local teams:

Austin Peay men

Ceiling: Expectations aren't high for the Governors (1-0), who were considered one of the Ohio Valley Conference's best teams the previous three seasons. The league's coaches picked them sixth in what will be a rebuilding year, so cracking the top five in coach Nate James' first year would be big. 

Cellar: With a young roster the Governors could fail to be competitive with the conference's top teams — Belmont, Murray State and Morehead State.

Austin Peay women

Ceiling: The Governors, picked fifth in the OVC, play some nasty defense, making them capable of upsetting some of the teams that were picked ahead of them.

Cellar: If returning All-OVC guard Yamia Johnson doesn't get some help from her teammates, Austin Peay (0-1) could drop to the bottom of the league.

Belmont's best ever? Transfer madness missed Belmont basketball, leaving Bruins with maybe their best team ever | Estes

Big improvement:How Tennessee State's basketball team went from last in the OVC to being picked fifth

Belmont men

Celling: The Bruins are loaded with one of their best rosters ever, and that is saying something. Advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time is not out of the question.

Cellar: The Bruins, in their final year in the OVC, could fail again to win the conference tournament and get left out of the NCAA Tournament a second straight year. They opened the season with a 92-80 loss at Ohio. 

Belmont women

Ceiling: Coming off the best season in program history, which included a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament, provides the Bruins (1-0) with the confidence it will take to get back, especially with every starter returning.

Cellar: The Bruins have dominated the OVC over the last two seasons but were upset by Southeast Missouri in the conference tournament championship in 2019-20 and did not get in the NCAA Tournament. That could happen again if they slip up along the way.

Lipscomb men

Ceiling: With Ahsan Asadullah and K.J. Johnson back, the Bisons should return to the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship for the third time in four years and win it for only the second time. They began the season with a 105-98 win over Birmingham Southern.

Cellar: The Bisons could lose some conference games they should win, as they did in the second half of the 2020-21 season, and fail to take advantage of having senior Asadullah, one of their greatest players of all time.

Lipscomb women

Ceiling: With Kentucky transfer Dorie Harrison, a former Hillsboro star, back Lipscomb could continue its steady improvement for a fourth straight year. Lipscomb went 4-25 (2018-19), 7-23 (2019-20) and 12-10 (2020-21). 

Cellar: If the Bisons (0-2) don't fix their tendency to go through scoring lulls, they could fail to get in the A-Sun Tournament. Only the top eight teams get in. 

Tennessee State men

Ceiling: It wouldn't seem the bar would be set very high for the Tigers, who won only four games in 2020-21. But it is because of the excitement coach Brian "Penny" Collins generated in the offseason by overhauling the roster. The Tigers could make some noise in the OVC Tournament.

Cellar: If the players Collins brought in aren't any better than the ones who left, TSU could finish last again in the conference. The Tigers lost to Alabama A&M 82-73 in their first game. 

Tennessee State women

Ceiling: A big step forward already has taken place. After going 0-22 last season, the Tigers won their first game under second-year coach Ty Evans by beating Fisk 94-48 on Tuesday. Beating some OVC opponents is the next step.

Cellar: Evans has the Tigers playing a difficult non-conference schedule. They could get beat down along the way and go winless again in the league.  

Tennessee Tech men

Ceiling: If some of the transfers coach John Pelphrey brought in blend well with Jr. Clay, who could end up being one of the program's greatest players of all time, the Golden Eagles could make some noise and finish in the top half of the OVC standings.

 Cellar: If Tech has a another disastrous start like last year, it won't recover and will post a losing record for the fourth straight season. The Golden Eagles lost to Memphis 89-65 in the opener.

Tennessee Tech women

Ceiling: With every starter back, the Golden Eagles (1-0) are one of the few teams capable of unseating Belmont as the OVC's best team.

Cellar: Tech could fail to live up to expectations again this season and get booted early in the conference tournament. 

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.