That’s Debatable: How Will Murray State’s Season Finish?Posted by WCarey on January 26th, 2012
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.
This Week’s Topic: With Syracuse’s loss last Saturday, Murray State is the last unbeaten team. How do you see the rest of the Racers’ season playing out?
Kenny Ocker, Correspondent
I honestly think Murray State is going to go undefeated until the NCAA Tournament. Morehead State doesn’t have a return trip to face the Racers, the matchup against Austin Peay is a home game, and so is the BracketBusters game. If that happens, Murray State will probably get the courtesy of a #4 seed from the committee, and that may mean that the Racers actually get a pretty clear path to the Sweet Sixteen. I don’t see them going any farther than that, simply based on the intense level of scrutiny and attention that will be given to a team that hasn’t seen another NCAA Tournament-bound team since early December. But it’s going to be one hell of a fun story to follow for the next couple of months, regardless of when there is finally a blemish on Murray State’s record.
Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent
Murray State is a real tough team for me to get a read on because of its schedule. Sure it’s 20-0 but with only one or two quality wins, I don’t think anyone can say with certainty just how good this team is. I believe Murray State is a borderline top 25 team. Going forward, it should be able to win out in the regular season and will likely take the OVC Tournament title as well now that Ivan Aska has been cleared to play. Playing with a target on your back every night is never easy but this team is good enough to run the table against the incredibly poor completion its conference offers. The Racers’ final three games are on the road and that’s where they’re most likely to fall as the pressure mounts and they don’t have the home crowd behind them. Plus they will get a still to be determined BracketBuster matchup, another possible stumbling block. With an RPI in the high 30s and an SOS well over #200, I don’t see this team getting more than a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It has the potential to make a run but I foresee it bowing out in its first or second NCAA game.
Walker Carey, Correspondent
Looking at Murray State’s remaining slate of games, I am not seeing any conference game that I think the team could potentially lose. I think it will be very interesting to see who the Racers are matched up against in their BracketBusters game. If the Racers draw a tough opponent (someone like St. Mary’s or Long Beach State), I think the perfect season could end there. If the Racers are able to defeat their BracketBusters opponent then I am almost entirely certain the team will enter the NCAA Tournament with a perfect record. If Murray State goes into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, I believe it should be given a #4 seed or a #5 seed. I believe the Racers have much too talented of a backcourt to be an early round upset victim, so I think they will definitely get past the first weekend, but that will be all, as I see the Racers’ season ultimately ending by getting blown out by a #1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen.
Evan Jacoby, Columnist/Correspondent
As author of the Tracking The Four piece, I’m heavily following the Racers and their pursuit of perfection. They have tough road games remaining at Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee Tech in mid-late February. But their toughest task will be the BracketBuster game against another top mid-major opponent (Long Beach State? George Mason? Creighton?) that is scheduled by ESPN and will take place sandwiched between those two road tests. I expect Murray State to lose at least once during that stretch and head into the Big Dance with one or two losses as a #5 or #6-seed. I think they will win one game in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps another depending on the matchup, though the Sweet Sixteen is their ceiling. Isaiah Canaan, Donte Poole, Ivan Aska, and a collection of role players is a solid bunch that I expect to make some noise but by no means will they be able to knock out a #1 or #2-seed in the round of 16.
Kevin Doyle, Columnist/Correspondent
Remember two years ago when Murray State knocked off Vanderbilt in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, and then nearly beat Butler in the Second Round? If you do, several integral pieces of that squad are now upperclassmen and understand what it takes to win in a tournament setting. If we, as fans, have learned anything from the runs that George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth have made in recent years, it is that experienced teams who have a formidable point guard play are battle tested become quite dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. For strong play at the PG position, look no further than Isaiah Canaan who is one of the best in the business and a legitimate candidate to earn All-America honors. Assuming the Racers roll through the rest of the regular season and conference tournament unblemished, I believe they will earn no worse than a #4 seed and will be in a good position to reach the second weekend of the Tournament.
Matt Patton, ACC Microsite Correspondent
I see the Racers losing one game – especially if they come out flat in their BracketBusters game. It is really, really hard to win close to 30 straight games even against lesser opponents. Having said that, a loss does not affect my opinion of Murray State’s talent or postseason prognosis. The fact is the team is borderline Top 25. Its weak schedule makes it difficult to say exactly where it should sit in the rankings, but I think its resilience should make it a difficult out in March. But if the Racers grab a top-five seed in the Big Dance, I also think they will stand a good shot at being upset. This team knows how to win, but so do the rest of the teams in the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, the Racers will go as far as their backcourt can carry them. I see that as the Round of 32, but I would not be shocked to see them make the Sweet Sixteen depending on the match-ups.
Connor Pelton, Pac-12 Microsite Correspondent
Murray State’s first loss won’t come until the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s hard to believe, but the rest of its (announced) schedule is so bad, I can’t see it falling until the Dance. However, it will be interesting to see who ventures into Murray, Kentucky, for BracketBuster Weekend. This is traditionally one of the best weekends of the season, and the whispers are Cleveland State, St. Mary’s, Wichita State, or Nevada will be taking on the Racers. I can see each one of these teams winning, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they draw a lesser opponent like Western Illinois. The only other possible trip-up before the Dance would come in the OVC Tournament, which is played February 29-March 3. Crazy things happen in conference tournaments, but considering the field is led by 10-9 Southeastern Missouri State, I’m not giving it much of a chance.
Andrew Murawa, Pac-12/MW Correspondent & Pac-12 Microsite Correspondent
At this point in the season, I’m continually putting Murray State somewhere in the middle of my Top 25, not necessarily because I really think they’re one of the 25 best teams in the nation, but because that big ol’ zero on the right side of their record is an achievement worth recognizing. But, I don’t believe that zero will still be there when the Racers name shows up in the bracket on Selection Sunday. The most obvious challenge remaining on the regular season schedule comes on the weekend of February 18 when they will host a BracketBusters game, likely against either St. Mary’s or Long Beach State. While their home crowd will give them an advantage against a visitor coming across the country in the middle of conference play, that’s the day the dream season hits the first bump. They’ll win the rest of their regular season games and sneak through their two games of OVC Tournament on a neutral site, to enter the NCAA Tournament as 30-1 team, earning a #4 seed. They’ll then immediately be the most-picked-against #4-seed in the history of the brackets and reward their doubters with a loss to a high-major also-ran like Stanford or North Carolina State.