OVC Titans Produced a Mid-Major Classic Thursday Night

Posted by CNguon on February 8th, 2013

David Changas is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s OVC battle between Belmont and Murray State in Murray, Kentucky.

It was billed as the game of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference. The league’s perennial power and defending champion taking on the new kid on the block and winner of its first 10 games as a member of the conference. It featured two of the nation’s best guards much of the country has never heard of. While it appeared that Thursday’s matchup between OVC West Division leader Murray State and East Division Leader Belmont would not live up to the hype, a late charge by the Bruins to overcome a 14-point deficit with under 5 minutes to play to tie the game with under a minute remaining allowed it to do just that. Ian Clark, the Bruins’ three-point sharpshooter who came into Thursday’s game making an absurd 51.4% of his three-point attempts, despite attempting nearly 6.5 per game, made three in the final 2:30 to bring the Bruins all the way back from a deficit that grew to 15 points in the second half. But it was Murray State preseason All-American guard Isaiah Canaan who had the final say, as he broke the 74-all tie with a deep three with 35 seconds remaining to put the Racers back on top to stay on their way to a 79-74 victory.

“[Clark] stepped up for his team and I knew we needed it and I stepped up for ours,” Canaan said.

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

Isaiah Canaan scored 26 points in an impressive outing to help his Murray State squad hand Belmont its first conference defeat (AP)

While Thursday’s game may have no impact on which team makes the NCAA Tournament – Belmont may be able to make a case for an at-large bid, while Murray State’s resume is not impressive enough to merit such consideration – the game clearly meant a lot to both teams. Before a charged up, partisan CFSB Center crowd of 7,141, the Racers were effective until the final minutes in controlling Clark and his backcourt mate, Kerron Johnson, who sat for the final few minutes because of his ineffectiveness, and exploiting their athletic advantage in the front court on the way to the victory. The Racers have not been nearly as dominant this season as they were last year on their way to a 5-seed in the Big Dance, but they have positioned themselves to make a run in the OVC Tournament championship and their third NCAA Tournament bid in the past four seasons with Thursday’s victory. The game clearly meant a lot to Murray State coach Steve Prohm, who expressed relief and satisfaction with his team’s effort after the game. “We needed this game,” Prohm said. “We needed it to test us and see where we are as a team. There was a different vibe out there tonight, with the crowd, the energy, the emotion, and the big plays.”

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The National Spotlight Is Gone, But Murray State Is Playing On

Posted by BHayes on January 27th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. He filed this report from Saturday’s game in Jacksonville, Alabama between Murray State and Jacksonville State.

A year ago, I was one of the many that made the journey to tiny Murray, Kentucky, to catch a glimpse of the team that was capturing the imagination of the college basketball world. By the time I arrived in Murray, the Racers had suffered their first loss (after 23 consecutive victories to open the season), but the hype machine was still steadily churning. College basketball’s most notorious hype generator was even in town that weekend; Dick Vitale screamed his way through a fantastic promotion of the Murray State basketball program, but the Racers really needed no help.  Isaiah Canaan boosted his All-American campaign by turning in an utterly brilliant display of marksmanship, the Racers improved to 26-1 by soundly defeating a battle-tested St. Mary’s team, and the 8,500 in attendance felt like it was closer to 20,000 strong that day. Murray had long been a town that loved college basketball and its Racers, but never had it been so articulately announced to the nation as that February afternoon.

Isaiah Canaan’s Presidential Campaign Had More Legs A Season Ago

Fast forward to today. The Racers were once again on my agenda, but this time a long ways from Murray. Jacksonville, Alabama – a small, sleepy town nestled in the Appalachian foothills – was where I had to drive to find Murray State. Steve Prohm’s team arrived with a 15-4 record but left 15-5 as Jacksonville State decided it was finally time to score its first victory over the school since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003. The Gamecocks are no pushover (now 6-4 in a sneaky-good OVC), but Murray State losing conferences games is still a relative novelty. On this day, a Saturday loaded with scores all across the country, the 65-64 final that flashed across tickers went largely unnoticed. When you consider the shock waves a January 26 Murray State loss would have delivered a year ago, it begs the question – where did everyone go?

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 23rd, 2012

David Changas is the RTC correspondent for the OVC.  You can follow him on Twitter @dchangas.

Top Storylines

  • Can Murray State Repeat Its Success?  Last year, the Racers took the college basketball world by storm by being the nation’s last remaining undefeated team after starting 23-0. They lose several key contributors, but another run to a second-round NCAA Tournament win is realistic, and coach Steve Prohm proved he can coach in his first season at the helm. Should Murray State win the league’s automatic bid, it likely will not come with a lofty five-seed as it did last year, but any team with potential All-American Isaiah Canaan leading it in March will be dangerous.

Isaiah Canaan Is The Early Favorite For OVC Player Of The Year And Has A Shot At Even Higher Accolades. (Getty Images)

  • Belmont Arrives:  In an effort to raise its overall profile, Belmont left the Atlantic Sun and certainly will add cachet to a league coming off its best year in recent memory. The Bruins have been a dominant force in the A-Sun for the past dozen years, earning the conference’s automatic bid in five of the last seven. Their addition to an already formidable league raises its profile that much more, and though Murray State is the league favorite, Belmont will draw attention to the OVC in this and years to come.
  • Who is Robert Covington? With all of the hoopla surrounding Canaan and Murray State, plus the arrival of Belmont, the player who isn’t the subject of enough discussion is Tennessee State big man Robert Covington. The 6’9″ senior finished third in the league in scoring and second in rebounding last year, and is projected by some to be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  He scores, rebounds, and shoots the three proficiently, and has an NBA physique.  A player of the year caliber season should be expected from Covington, and the presence of NBA scouts will be commonplace at Tiger games.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

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SEC Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 27th, 2012

  1. South Carolina landed its new head coach, luring Frank Martin from Kansas State to come to Columbia. A strained relationship with his AD has been cited as the reason Martin was looking for a chance. “Frank is just looking to be happy,” a source said in a Kansas City Star report. “He wants to work at a place where he has the full support of his athletic director and president. He wants to be left alone so he can do what he does best — coach.” Martin apparently felt he could no longer do that at K-State.
  2. Mississippi State received news on multiple fronts on Monday. On the player front, the Bulldogs lost a pair of players, Renardo Sidney to the NBA Draft, and DeVille Smith to transfer. A third Bulldog, Arnett Moultrie, has decided to delay his decision until Wednesday on whether he too will leave for the NBA. On the coaching front, one of the rumored candidates to take Rick Stansbury’s former job, Murray State’s Steve Prohm, agreed to a new contract that will extend him there through the 2015-16 season.
  3. On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press released its All-America team and one player earned the acclaim as a unanimous selection – and it wasn’t presumptive Player of the Year Anthony Davis of Kentucky. Of the 65 ballots, he appeared on 63 of them. Scott Reid of the Orange County Register and Scott Mansch of the Great Falls (MT) Tribune were the duo who left Davis off their ballots. As CBS Sports‘ Jeff Borzello wrote “To be honest, that’s mind-boggling. There is absolutely no case that can be made against Davis being a first-team All-American. What’s the logic, other than not simply paying attention? If you believe Robinson is the best player in the country, that’s fine. I disagree – as do most of the Player of the Year awards – but that’s not the point. There are still four other spots on the All-American team – and Davis needs to be on there in some form.”
  4. In six postseason games (two SEC Tournament and four NCAA Tournament games) in which he averaged 16.5 points per game and shot 53.1% (42.9% on threes, one Gainesville Sun writer surmised that Florida freshman Bradley Beal boosted his NBA Draft prospects. “Either way it goes, if I leave, I still played a great year of college,” Beal said before the NCAA Tournament. “I enjoyed it. If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it.”
  5. In a season recap on Indiana’s season, the possibility of the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry ending because of SEC expansion merited a couple of paragraphs of attention. From Sunday’s Indianapolis Star: “IU athletic director Fred Glass said Friday morning that the sides have had some preliminary discussion, but it will likely be June before a decision is reached.”
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Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2012

  1. He may not be coaching this weekend, but Frank Martin may have been more active yesterday than any of the coaches that will be coaching in the Final Four. The former Kansas State coach will become the next South Carolina coach. Rumors about this initially came up a few days ago from a source on Twitter that wasn’t well-established and took them down soon after they spread like wildfire. Now a few days later, it looks like there may be some validity to the rumors. Initial reports indicate that South Carolina is looking at paying Martin $2.05 million per year, which is a substantial raise from the $1.45 million per year he was getting at Kansas State. And of course there was the admission on Sunday that Martin routinely sent money to his former high school players when they needed it in college much like what Jamar Samuels reportedly got that led to his suspension.
  2. With  Dan Hurley leaving to take over at Rhode Island, Wagner was in search of a coach and they looked inside their program to hire Bashir Mason, who was acting as an assistant coach before Hurley left. At 28 (not a typo), Mason will be the youngest head coach in Division I (and younger than both of the RTC editors). From our research/Twitter query, the youngest coach in Division I history we are aware of is Bob Knight in 1965 (at 24) and in the modern era is Dane Fife in 2005 (at 25). Fortunately for Mason, Hurley left the program in better shape than where he found it.
  3. This morning UAB will announce Jerod Haase as its new head coach. Hasse, who will turn 38 on Sunday, has spent his entire college coaching career as an assistant under Roy Williams first at Kansas (five seasons) then at North Carolina (nine seasons). Of course, most of you will probably remember him as the co-captain on the great 1996-97 Kansas team that was upset in the Sweet Sixteen by eventual champion Arizona. It is probably not lost on Kansas fans that the game in 1997 against Arizona was in Birmingham. Fortunately for Hess, UAB plays at an on-campus arena so he will not have to battle those demons with every home game.
  4. Murray State put an end to any speculation that Steve Prohm would be leaving after his first year as they signed him to an extension that pushes his contract through the 2015-16 season. Prohm, who went 31-2 in his first season, was mentioned as a target for the Mississippi State job after a search firm put him on the short list. As you may remember Murray State did not react too well to that and now appear to have secured Prohm for at least a little bit longer. It should be pointed out that even with the new contract his increased base salary is still “only” $270,000 per year with an additional $30,000 for doing TV and radio. If it ever becomes about the money for Prohm, any team from a power conference would be able to produce an offer several times higher than that.
  5. A day after a report surfaced that George Mason and VCU, the premier basketball programs in the CAA, were headed to the Atlantic 10 the two schools and CAA refuted those claims. Of course, with the way the statements from the schools are written they could be making a move in the future as they are fairly well-crafted (outside of the occasional typo). Honestly, if we were George Mason or VCU we would be very tempted to move to the Atlantic 10 given the increased national exposure and the increased ability to earn an at-large bid from that conference compared to the CAA.If the schools do leave the CAA, it would be a devastating blow to the conference particularly in basketball.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 23rd, 2012

  1. The coaching search for the vacant Mississippi State job is moving along, even if some of the candidates are still coaching in postseason tournaments. This angered some athletic directors as was pointed out in the SEC Morning Five on Wednesday. While Murray State athletic director Allen Ward didn’t agree with tactics to recruit current Racers’ head coach Steve Prohm, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said it is common practice for athletic departments to hire search firms to aid in the process. “They can do a lot of groundwork and make connections, especially in a situation where people are playing and you want to be respectful but you also want to put feelers out,”Stricklin said regarding search firms. “I think, sometimes, especially in basketball, that’s helpful.” Candidates being mentioned for the Bulldogs job include Prohm, John Groce (Ohio coach), Chris Collins (Duke assistant coach), Joe Dooley (Kansas assistant coach), Kenny Payne (Kentucky assistant coach) and Frank Martin (Kansas State coach).
  2. As was also pointed out in Wednesday’s SEC Morning Five, Kentucky coach John Calipari has reiterated over and over that he will not use revenge as a motivation factor in the Wildcats’ upcoming game against Indiana. However, former Kentucky guard Cameron Mills points out that while coaches might say all the right things, but “the players are not robots. They are human beings.” Mills said, “nine times out of 10, the coach is saying (publicly) the opposite of what you’re feeling and saying privately.” And he would know a thing or two about  the revenge factor. Mills was on the court (and hit a HUGE shot) in the 1998 NCAA Tournament against Duke that avenged a 1992 loss to the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight. Both Indiana and Kentucky will play hard — it’s the NCAA Tournament. But we all know that the Wildcats have the one point loss in Bloomington in the back of their minds.
  3. There were four key factors in Kentucky’s loss to Indiana that led to the Cats’ demise. Kentucky did not take good care of the basketball (17 turnovers), did not guard the three point shot (Indiana was 9-15), did not limit fouls (Anthony Davis sat on the bench in foul trouble contributing just six points in 24 minutes of play) and did not hit free throws when it mattered most (10-17 from the line). As Calipari said, “that was four months ago,” and both teams look much different in March than they did on December 10th of last year.
  4. Florida freshman Bradley Beal didn’t become a good rebounder from simply always being in the right place at the right time. Some of what motivated Beal was seeing the Gators’ frontcourt players getting outhustled earlier in the year. “I stood around and watched Pat (Young) and all those guys get beat up down there, and I didn’t even try to go after the ball,” Beal said. “I really learned my lesson from that and I believe my rebounding has helped a lot. That’s just another way of me contributing.” And Beal has since made rebounding a priority. He is currently averaging 6.7 rebounds per game, and a cool 10 rebounds per game in the tournament.
  5. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin has been one of the keys in Florida’s recent success. He received playing time for his commitment on the defensive end, but it’s his progress on the other end of the court that has teammates taking notice. “He’s a great defender, but his offense is getting better and better,” said junior Kenny Boynton. Wilbekin isn’t lighting up opposing teams with double digit games, but he has hit a three pointer in each of his last four games. The Gators need all of the defense they can get, but now coach Billy Donovan can place Wilbekin in the game without feeling like he is a liability on the offensive end.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 21st, 2012

  1. On Tuesday night, the name of Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin emerged as a candidate for the vacant Illinois job. From Gail Fischer on CSNChicago.com: “On the surface, Martin seems like an intriguing candidate. He’s from East St. Louis, Illinois, where he won two IHSA state championships and played at Purdue under Gene Keady and alongside Matt Painter where they made it to the Elite Eight in 1995. He knows the Big Ten well. Imagine Martin battling Painter year in and year out.  Illinois/Purdue would be a nice little rivalry. Martin’s entire coaching staff at Tennessee is from Illinois.”
  2. Mississippi State had made contact with Murray State head coach Steve Prohm about its head coaching vacancy. The Racers’ Athletic Director Allen Ward voiced concerns over some of the tactics used by Bulldog brass. “A search firm, on behalf of Mississippi State, reached out to Prohm last week to gauge his interest in the Mississippi State job — while the Racers were still in the middle of their season. Ward says no one from Mississippi State has contacted him for permission to speak with Prohm, although that is just a professional courtesy rather than a mandate considering Prohm still has three years left on his contract. ‘I think there’s a right way to do things,’ Ward said Tuesday. ‘Considering we were still playing — it is what it is.'”
  3. One of South Carolina’s top head coaching targets, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, said through sources that he had yet to hear from the Gamecocks. Other candidates have emerged including Kansas State’s Frank Martin and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. On the Martin front, he “has been confirmed as a candidate with “heavy” interest in USC,” according to a source close to the situation. Regarding Amaker, “the possibility of Amaker returning to the South was substantiated by college basketball expert Seth Davis, who tweeted: ‘I’m hearing that South Carolina has potential interest in hiring Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to fill its coaching vacancy’.”
  4. Kentucky head coach John Calipari said he’s not planning on using revenge as motivation when the Wildcats face Indiana. “I don’t ever teach anger, because the physiology of that is really close to fear,” he said. “So if you try to make your team angry, and things don’t go right, it turns to fear within their bodies. So I don’t do it. That was like a season ago. Literally four months (ago). That’s so long ago, I had to watch the tape again to remember anything.”
  5. As Florida prepares for Marquette, the Golden Eagles’ star Jae Crowder complimented the Gator offense, but pointed out where his team might find success. “They are a great offensive team,” Crowder said of Florida. “They lack a few things defensively. Of course, they bring great pressure in the frontcourt and try to get you rattled a little bit. I think if we handle that, we’ll get a lot of things we want offensively.”
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #6 Murray State 58, #11 Colorado State 41

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Racers Win With Defense. From about the 10 minute mark of the first half, head coach Steve Prohm urged his players to crank up their intensity on defense. They obeyed. It changed the game. It’s often said that defense leads to offense, and even though (likely 1st-team All-American) Isaiah Canaan didn’t get his first bucket until almost 10 minutes into the first half, as the Racer defense clamped down, buckets became easier to come by. This continued into the second half, as the Rams were forced into turnover after turnover and Murray State capitalized.
  2. The Best Laid Plans… Things really got bad for CSU when they made an increased effort to drive-and-dish in the second half. It worked the first time they tried it. It failed the next four, and the Racers scored off each turnover. It was in the Rams’ head at that point. Even open shots weren’t falling for them and the anxiety was obvious…which led to more missed shots, and more miscues.
  3. Land of Canaan, Hornung of Plenty. Isaiah Canaan was the man with the most eyes on him to start this one, but the buzz in the place was largely about CSU junior Pierce Hornung as his rebound totals just kept climbing throughout the game. Looking forward to seeing more of him next year.

Star of the Game. I have to equivocate, here. Isaiah Canaan was excellent as expected (15/8), but we can’t just forget Pierce Hornung for Colorado State with a workmanlike 12/17 on 6-7 shooting. He got the biggest ovation of the night after fouling out.

Sights & Sounds. Murray State’s home gym, the CFSB Center, holds 8,600 people. The KFC Yum! Center holds 22,000. Colorado State filled a section, but between Murray State backers and Kentucky fans who had already taken their seats ahead of their game in the evening session, this was BETTER than a home game for Murray State.

What’s Next?  Murray State will get the winner of Marquette/BYU, but if you’re already talking up Murray State as the next Butler/George Mason/VCU, slow down. They were terrible from three-point range (5-17), only hit 50% of their free throws (13-26), were outrebounded (38-32), and only shot 39.2% (20-51). They only committed eight fouls the WHOLE GAME even though the defensive effort was commendable, and they only turned the ball over eight times, but they’ll have to clean things up considerably by Saturday if they want to move forward.

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Tracking The Four: Regular Season Recap, Postseason Prospects

Posted by EJacoby on March 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest — Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV — by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

It was a wild ride for our four teams this year, yet the most important games are just beginning. All four teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament and will have high hopes to do some damage in the postseason. But before Selection Sunday comes, let’s take a look at how each team finished its regular season and what its prospects are for postseason play. Murray State, of course, finished its regular season early and already completed its postseason tournament as part of one of the mid-major leagues that began Championship Week last weekend. The Racers are OVC champions and we will preview their NCAA Tournament outlook while looking at the other three teams’ conference tourney prospects.

Murray State Racers

Murray State Took Down the OVC and Looks Strong Heading into the Big Dance (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

  • Finished STRONG Because… – The Racers are on fire since losing their only game of the season and continue to look better and better. They finished off the season with impressive wins at Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech. That earned them a double-bye in the OVC Tournament where they only had to win one game before the finals, and oddly enough the two teams that Murray matched up with in the conference bracket were the two teams with which it had ended the season. Victories over Tennessee Tech (a blowout) and Tennessee State (a nailbiter) proved that this team can win in a variety of ways and that it is peaking heading into postseason play.
  • Resume Review – Murray State finishes tied with the nation’s best overall record at 30-1, which could be the outright best record if neither Syracuse nor Kentucky wins its conference tournaments. The Racers finished 17-1 against OVC competition with an RPI of #24. They went 3-0 against the RPI top-50, with good wins at Memphis and against Southern Miss on a neutral floor. Their only loss was a ‘bad’ one, at home against Tennessee State’s #117 RPI. Murray State’s Pomeroy/Sagarin/BPI/LRMC rankings are as follows: #45/#40/#33/#29. Very solid all-around.
  • Seed Projection – Since all of its games are now completed, we can start projecting Murray State’s NCAA Tournament seed accurately. This team is looking like a #5 or #6 seed according to the consensus bracketologists around the country, though I believe it is closer to a #4 than it is a #6. A #5-seed seems about right, which could possibly mean they’d play in Nashville or Louisville for their first two rounds next week.
  • Player DevelopmentsIsaiah Canaan is the runaway OVC Player of the Year and will receive consideration for national All-America teams as the stellar guard continues to play at an elite level. He averaged 19.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per gamein his final five contests and continues to shoot lights out from three. Ivan Aska has struggled down the stretch, failing to record double-digit scoring or rebounding games in any of his last five. Murray State will desperately need his contributions against the bigger opponent it is likely to draw in the first round.
  • Notable Numbers - Murray State’s +10.5 adjusted scoring margin is very similar to other potential #5- or #6-seeds like Louisville, Vanderbilt, and St. Mary’s. The Racers finished the season with the sixth-best three-point shooting percentage in the country (40.6%) and allowed opponents to shoot just 29.5% from three, ranked 16th best. That’s a tremendous margin. This team also finished with a top-15 free throw rate, true shooting percentage, and steal percentage. The Racers want to send high pressure defensively to look for steals, get out in transition, and hit open threes. This helps hide the fact that they are such a small team inside.
  • Preview & Predictions! – All that’s left for this team is the Big Dance. Therefore, it’s really impossible to predict success without seeing the bracket. However, I don’t think this team is going to be upset in its first game unless it gets a really rough matchup. Assuming a #5 seed, Murray should draw one of the middling bubble teams from a power conference, and it just has to hope it gets someone like Tennessee or Northwestern rather than someone like UConn (sporting great size). From there, we need to see the matchups before declaring whether this team could make the Sweet Sixteen.

Syracuse Orange

  • Finished STRONG Because… – The Orange finished on a 10-game winning streak and have locked up an NCAA Tournament #1 seed regardless of what happens in the Big East Tournament. The Orange will receive a double-bye and don’t need to play until Thursday, where they will already be in the quarterfinals. Their final five wins were all by 10 points or less, so the scoring margins have not been dominant but the experience of closing out close games should be just as important for Syracuse going forward.
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Evaluating Murray State’s Chances In March Madness

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2012

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after observing Murray State at the OVC Tournament this weekend.

If it is possible in college basketball to win 30 games in relative anonymity, Murray State has done it.  The Racers, who became a story in college basketball when they were the last team undefeated team this season, capped off a remarkable run to capture the Ohio Valley Conference championship with a 54-52 victory over conference runner-up Tennessee State Saturday in Nashville.  But while the Racers dominated their league (their only loss coming to the same Tennessee State team on February 9) and ascended to a rare Top 10 ranking that they have held for a good portion of the season, most of America still doesn’t know a lot about this team, which is led by first-year coach Steve Prohm.

Murray's Dream Season Continues, But Now As OVC Champions

The discussion surrounding the Racers over the past few weeks has not been whether they would make the NCAA Tournament without winning the OVC automatic bid – that became a foregone conclusion after Murray State’s BracketBuster win over St. Mary’s – but where they would be seeded.  While Prohm said after the game that a look at the Racers’ body of work would justify as high as a #2 seed, he admitted that a “four, five, or six” is more likely.  What is most important to him is that his team’s loyal fans – and they dominated the crowds in Nashville over the weekend – have a chance to see them play. “I just want proximity. Nashville, Louisville. Somewhere where our fans can come and support our guys,” Prohm said.

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Tracking The Four: Hitting the Home Stretch

Posted by EJacoby on February 28th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

The final week of the regular season is upon us. One of our teams, Murray State, even begins its postseason as the Ohio Valley Conference tournament begins later in the week. This is a crucial time for teams to build confidence and polish their resumes heading into the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look at how all of our teams are playing right now as they head into the home stretch.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Anthony Marshall and UNLV Are Locked In Again (Las Vegas Sun/S. Morris)

  • Trending UP Because… – After dropping two in a row, the Rebels recovered nicely with back-to-back double digit wins in the past seven days. More importantly, their top conference competitor lost both its games, setting up for a crazy finish to this season. UNLV (24-6, 8-4 MW) is tied with New Mexico and San Diego State atop the Mountain West with just two games to play. The Runnin’ Rebs have still lost three straight road games and will look to end that streak when they head to Colorado State on Wednesday.
  • This Week’s Key CogChace Stanback. The swingman led the team in scoring in both wins last week, averaging 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game. The senior shot a fantastic 9-13 from three-point range in the victories.
  • Play of the Week – After a turnover, Anthony Marshall misses the layup but Mike Moser finishes strong with a putback jam against Boise State on Wednesday.
  • Talking Point – Coach Dave Rice on getting the win over Air Force on Saturday: “It was very important to us to get our swagger back. Our swagger is our defensive intensity.”
  • Handicapping the Race - Who’s going to win the Mountain West? The Rebels have a tough draw down the stretch with bubble team Colorado State on the road, followed by Wyoming at home in the season finale, a team they lost to earlier this season. New Mexico, meanwhile, gets two home games against the bottom feeders of the conference.
  • Stats Central – UNLV’s average scoring margin of +19.4 points in home games this year ranks 11th in the country. But its road margin is just +2.0, hence the 6-6 record in true road games this season.
  • What’s Next? – As mentioned, the Rebels take a trip to Colorado State on Wednesday (10:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network) before drawing Wyoming at home on Saturday (10:00 PM ET, The Mountain) to finish their regular season.

Murray State Racers

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