Tag:Ohio Valley
Posted on: March 3, 2012 4:39 pm

Tiny Dancers: Murray State

Bubble teams everywhere rejoiced on Saturday afternoon, as Murray State came from behind in the second half to beat Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley championship game. With the Racers already set for an at-large slot if they lost, the win prevented the OVC from getting two bids.

Murray State lost only one game all season, a close game to Tennessee State in early February. The Racers started 23-0 and were the last team to lose in college basketball this year. They are very efficient at both ends of the floor, with the ability to score in different ways offensively and also forcing turnovers and contesting shots at the other end.

Despite their gaudy record, there are some people who don’t believe in Murray State’s NCAA tournament potential. However, with multiple scoring options and an All-American in Isaiah Canaan, it’s tough to count them out in any game. First-year head coach Steve Prohm has done a tremendous job since taking over the program, and is a candidate for Coach of the Year.

Player to know: Isaiah Canaan. The explosive scoring guard is an All-American and capable of carrying the Racers on the offensive end. He’s difficult to stop due to his ability to drive and his deep range. Canaan is averaging better than 19 points per game and shooting 48.2 percent on 3-pointers.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-1 overall, 15-1 in Ohio Valley
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 13 seed, beat Vanderbilt 66-65 in the first round, followed by a 54-52 loss to Butler in the second round.
  • We’re thinking: 5
  • KenPom ranking: 47
  • Sagarin ranking: 41
  • RPI: 24
  • Best wins: Memphis, Saint Mary’s
  • Worst losses: Tennessee State
  • Notable stat: Murray State is one of the best shooting teams in the country, knocking down 41.4 of its long-range attempts.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:36 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 10:36 am

Championship game preview: Ohio Valley

Heading into the Ohio Valley tournament, everyone wanted to see two games: Tennessee Tech against Murray State in the semifinals for a third time, and a rubber match between Murray State and Tennessee State in the championship.

We got the first one on Friday night, when Murray State dominated Tennessee Tech in the second half en route to a 20-point win. We’ll get the second one on Saturday afternoon, as the only team to beat the Racers this season gets another crack at them.

Tennessee State beat Murray State back on February 9, but lost the rematch by 18 on its home court. The Tigers advanced to the title game by beating Morehead State in the semifinals, 59-52.

The key for Tennessee State will be forcing turnovers and limiting Murray State’s trips to the free-throw line. The Racers love to attack the rim and get easy opportunities at the charity stripe. On the other side, the Tigers have to take care of the ball and grab offensive rebounds for second chances. In the first meeting, Tennessee State had 15 steals; in the second one, just three.

If Murray State doesn’t win, it will still get an at-large bid, so bubble teams will be rooting for the Racers to hold serve in Nashville.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: February 27, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 2:58 pm

Eastern Illinois open after Mike Miller let go

By Jeff Goodman

Eastern Illinois coach Mike Miller has been let go. 

Ths school made an official announcement on Monday.

The Panthers finished 12-17 overall this season, 5-11 in Ohio Valley league play and failed to qualify for the conference tournament for the second straight year. 

Miller led Eastern Illinois to the OVC tournament in 2009 and the Panthers went to the semifinals in 2010, winning 19 games.

He leaves with a career mark of 75-130 in seven seasons at the helm. 

Posted on: February 27, 2012 1:01 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:06 pm

What-to-know conference previews: Ohio Valley

Murray State has dominated the Ohio Valley discussion all season, rolling into February as the lone undefeated team in the country before dropping one to Tennessee State. How heavy of favorites are the Racers in the conference tournament?

Murray State is clearly the No. 1 team in the league heading into the tournament. The Racers lost just one game all season, to Tennessee State back on February 9. They bounced back to win their final five games, including three games and a home contest vs. Saint Mary’s. Guard Isaiah Canaan is one of the best players in the country, while Donte Poole and a healthy Ivan Aska are quality secondary options. The way to beat Murray State is to get offensive rebounds and force turnovers.

Tennessee State carried that Murray State win to a second-place finish, winning nine in a row before the season finale defeat at home to Murray State. Robert Covington is a dominant inside player, and the Tigers love getting easy opportunities from the free-throw line. They get a bye to the semifinals, along with Murray. 

Outside of Murray, Tennessee Tech might have the most talent in the conference. The Golden Eagles have two of the league’s best players in Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard, who combined to average 38.6 points and 14.2 rebounds during the regular season. Throw in Zac Swansey and a couple of close losses to Murray, and they could be a sleeper. Don’t overlook Jacksonville State, either. The Gamecocks have won eight of 11 and play tough defense.


Title game:
Saturday, March 3 on ESPN2 (2 p.m., ET)


  1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
  2. Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech
  3. Robert Covington, Tennessee State
  4. Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech
  5. Donte Poole, Murray State

Conference RPI: 21

KenPom.com rating: 24

Sagarin rating: 22

NCAA Tournament Locks: Murray State

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None 

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Austin Peay Governors: 2008, No. 15 seed, lost to Texas 74-54 in the first round.
  • Eastern Kentucky Colonels: 2007, No. 16 seed, lost to North Carolina 86-65 in the first round.
  • Jacksonville State Gamecocks: N/A.
  • Morehead State Eagles: 2011, No. 13 seed, beat Louisville 62-61 in the first round, followed by a 65-48 loss to Richmond in the second round.
  • Murray State Racers: 2010, No. 13 seed, beat Vanderbilt 66-65 in the first round, followed by a 54-52 loss to Butler in the second round.
  • Southeast Missouri State Redhawks: 2000, No. 13 seed, lost to LSU 64-61 in the first round.
  • Tennessee State Tigers: 1994, No. 14 seed, lost to Kentucky 83-70 in the first round.
  • Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles: 1963, lost to Loyola-Chicago 111-42 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 12:07 pm

Saint Mary's could be without Delly at Murray St.

Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova (ankle) will be a game-time decision against Murray State. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Goodman

You know that huge matchup we were all excited about between Saint Mary's and Murray State. It's turned out to potentially be a yawner like most of the other BracketBusters. 

Murray State is no longer undefeated, but this was still supposed be a measuring stick for a Racers team that remains somewhat of a mystery. But now the Gaels limp into the CFSB Center in Murray without starting guard Stephen Holt and potentially without star guard Matthew Dellavedova. 

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett told CBSSports.com that Dellavedova, the team's top player, will be a game-time decision with an ankle injury, and as of now it looks "doubtful." Holt, one of the team's most complete players, is out for the next couple weeks after suffering a partially torn MCL. 

Saint Mary's comes to Murray on a two-game losing streak following a 11-0 start in WCC play. There was the setback at Gonzaga, which wasn't much of a surprise, but then came a home loss to Loyola Marymount. The Racers are 25-1 with the lone loss coming earlier this month at home against Tennessee State. 

When this matchup was announced, it was the heavyweight bout for the BracketBusters. The WCC's elite team and one on the verge of cracking the Top 10 against the nation's last remaining team without a loss. 

The Gaels are struggling, No. 16 Murray State is no longer unbeaten and we may not even have the stellar point guard matchup between Racers guard Isaiah Canaan and Delly. 

However, it's still an important game for both teams -- maybe more so for host Murray. The Racers will need to win this one, especially if Dellavedova doesn't play. Despite its lofty ranking, Canaan & Co. can ill-afford a slip-up here with road contests against Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech to close out the regular-season. 

A couple more losses, in addition to coming up short in the Ohio Valley tournament, could mean sweating it out on Selection Sunday. 

Posted on: January 31, 2012 4:17 pm

Murray State focused despite St. Mary's looming

By Jeff Goodman

Murray State's players ran back to its locker room last night following practice, anxiously awaiting to hear its opponent on Feb. 18 in the BracketBusters event. 

Saint Mary's got the nod as the team that many feel will be the Racers obstacle to an undefeated regular-season, but Murray State star point guard Isaiah Canaan and his teammates aren't overlooking the next five Ohio Valley contests leading up to Feb. 18. 

"We made it clear right after we found out who we were playing that we need to take care of business," Canaan said on SiriusXM's Inside College Basketball on Tuesday. "We all realize it. We don't want anyone rushing the floor on us." 

Murray State puts its 21-0 mark on the line Thursday at home against second-place Southeast Missouri State. Then comes a road contest against Tennessee-Martin, followed by home dates with Tennessee State and Austin Peay and a road game at SEMO. 

Everyone is talking about the possibility of running the table -- and Canaan would be lying if he said the thought of going undefeated doesn't cross his mind at times.

"It has its pros and cons," Canaan said. "It's important and I'm sure a lot of our fans are enjoying it, but we've got to stay focused. It's motivation for us every game." 

The game against Saint Mary's, though, will give the Racers an opportunity to prove itself to the naysayers who don't feel that Murray State is worthy of a spot on the top four lines come March when the seedings are announced. 

Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:27 pm

Murray's OVC rivals don't downplay unbeaten talk

Jeff Borzello

There are four undefeated teams still left in college basketball, but only one is a real threat to finish the regular season without a blemish.

Murray State sits at 14-0, with two wins in the Ohio Valley over Tennesee-Martin and Eastern Illinois. The Racers have already defeated Memphis on the road, as well as Dayton and Southern Miss – this team is for real. Many people still think going undefeated is a pipe dream, but a closer look at the schedule reveals a decent shot. KenPom.com has Murray State projected to win every remaining game by double-digits, but gives them a 30.9 percent chance of going unbeaten.

If anyone were to be a believer in Murray State this season, it would be the Racers’ competition in the Ohio Valley.

“It’s not even close,” Eastern Kentucky head coach Jeff Neubauer said. “It’s more than head and shoulders above the OVC. We played Arkansas of the SEC, and Murray is head and shoulders above them. The only team we played that compares to Murray is Mississippi State, and I think Murray is better than they are as well.

“The fact they’re not ranked in the top 10 is insulting to them. They’re certainly a top 10 team, if not better.”

Neubauer, not surprisingly, fell short of projecting Murray State to go undefeated. His Colonels face the Racers on Wednesday – projecting a loss by his troops would likely be counterproductive.

With that said, Neubauer isn’t the only one who thinks Murray State is at a different level than everyone else in the coneference this year.

“They’re the best team in the league, without a question,” Tennesee-Martin head coach Jason James said. “They’ll run into some tough games, but I do think they’re the best team in our league.”

It remains to be seen where these tough games will come from. The Ohio Valley was expected to be wide-open at the top heading into the season, but the projected favorites have all faltered. Tennessee Tech has been inconsistent; Austin Peay is 2-12 against Division-I competition; and Tennessee State struggled early in the season.

They’re little question Murray State will win the OVC title.

“They’re very favorable to probably win the regular season title this year, just on how hard they’re playing,” SIU-Edwardsville head coach Lennox Forrester said. “You’re not 18th in the country by accident. Those players are buying in; they’re playing with a swagger.”

Looking for potential pitfalls is difficult. Murray State gets seven of its next 11 games at home, where the Racers have been very tough to beat in recent years. However, the Racers do finish with three road games at Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech – when the pressure will be at its peak.

It’s only January 3, but the discussion is beginning to pick up momentum. For his part, Murray State head coach Steve Prohm is downplaying the idea.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “After Wednesday night, we’ll be halfway through our season. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at.”

Photo: AP

Posted on: December 12, 2011 1:19 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 11:23 am

Murray State could really go undefeated

By Gary Parrish

MEMPHIS -- Back before the season started, well before Murray State had won a single game or received any votes in a Top 25 poll, Steve Prohm sat down with each of his players individually for what amounted to a question-and-answer session. He asked them all sorts of things about themselves, their teammates and the team in general. And at one point the first-year coach wondered what senior Jewuan Long expected the Racers to accomplish this year.

"I told him if we execute in every game like we're supposed to and do what we're supposed to do, there's no team on that schedule we can't beat," Long said. "[I told him] I wouldn't be surprised at all [if we go undefeated in the regular season]."

And Prohm's response?

"He just went on to the next question," Long answered with a smile.

But there's no way for Prohm to avoid the undefeated conversation now, is there?

Murray State built a double-digit lead in the first half, squandered it, then built another and held off a late Memphis rally Sunday to beat the 21st-ranked Tigers 76-72 here at FedExForum. So the Racers are 10-0, ranked 24th in the CBSSports.com Top 25 (and one) and -- just as Long kinda predicted months ago -- well on their way to becoming the first Division I men's basketball team to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated since UNLV did it in 1991.

And that's not hyperbole.

It really could happen because the Racers are really good. And because they play in the Ohio Valley Conference. Which means their toughest games are in their rearview mirror. For proof, consider that -- barring injury, academic casualty or suspension -- Murray State figures to be favored in every game it plays the rest of this regular season. That doesn't mean the Racers will win every game, of course. Favorites lose all the time. (You saw Kentucky on Saturday, right?) But the fact remains that when Murray State takes the court the rest of the way -- both for home games and away games -- the Racers will be expected to win those 40-minutes of scheduled basketball, and there's not another team in the country that we can say that about.

Not bad for a rookie coach of a team picked third in the preseason OVC poll, huh?

"Life is good," Prohm replied when asked what he would've said in the preseason if somebody told him he'd be, on a Sunday night in December, 10-0 and coming off a win over a Memphis team that was ranked ninth in the preseason coaches poll.  Which means, right now, life is good for the man who was promoted to head coach last May when Billy Kennedy left for Texas A&M.

"It's a huge win but we've got to keep everything in perspective," Prohm said. "It's still just 10 games."

But, again, it's the toughest set of 10 the Racers will play. They already own wins over three Conference USA schools (Memphis, UAB and Southern Miss) in addition to a 17-point victory over the Dayton team that just beat 16th-ranked Alabama by 12 points. Yes, Murray State still has two games against preseason OVC favorite Austin Peay, which just won at Tennessee. But there's not a game left on the schedule that'll present anything close to the kind of challenge Memphis and its home crowd and all those athletes presented Sunday.

And Murray State handled that well.

The Racers almost led from start to finish.

They were up 11 with less than two minutes remaining.

It was a defining win for the school, the team and the coach.

"But this can't be the pinnacle," Prohm said. "We want a lot more."

21 more, to be exact.

That's how many more games Murray State will play before Selection Sunday.

And every one of them seems very winnable.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com