Ray is coming off of a three-year tenure with the Bulldogs in which he finished 37-60 in the league with a 13-41 record in SEC play.
Also a former assistant coach at Clemson, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Indiana State, Ray brings head-coaching experience to the OVC program who hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2000 after transitioning from the Division II level.
The Redhawks hired Ray after other finalists, Michigan State associate head coach Dwayne Stephens and Virginia Tech assistant coach Isaac Chew, reportedly dropped out of the running for the job.
Southeast Missouri State parts ways with head coach Dickey Nutt
Southeast Missouri State has parted ways with head coach Dickey Nutt. The news was first reported by ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman.
The head coach of the Redhawks since 2009, Nutt took a program in dire need of an overhaul and built them into a respectable team in the Ohio Valley Conference. Southeast Missouri State finished in second in their division in back-to-back seasons and posted winning records before the team finished 13-17 in 2014-15.
In six seasons at the helm, Nutt finished 80-107 overall and 42-59 in the OVC. Nutt also coached for 13 seasons at Arkansas State and has a career 279-304 record. The 55-year-old Nutt has only coached one team to the NCAA Tournament in 19 seasons and no appearances since 1999.
While Murray State was labeled the preseason favorite to win the OVC back in October, Steve Prohm’s team won’t lack for challengers. Of course there’s Rick Byrd’s Belmont Bruins, and another team to keep an eye on is Southeast Missouri State. A key reason why Dickey Nutt’s Redhawks are capable of contending is the presence of senior guard/forward Jarekious Bradley, who’s one of the best players in the OVC.
Coming off of a season in which he was a second team All-OVC selection Bradley’s gotten off to a good start in 2014-15, averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Bradley’s scored in double figures in all seven games he’s played in this season, most recently scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds in the Redhawks’ 55-54 win over Southern Illinois Wednesday night.
Bradley’s final two points in that game came on a turnaround jumper with eight tenths of a second remaining, giving SEMO its second consecutive win and third in the last four games. The lone defeat during this current stretch was a four-point loss at Missouri.
The Ohio Valley is one of the few conferences that is still broken up into divisions, and the most interesting of the two divisional races this season will be in the east.
Belmont has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country under head coach Rick Byrd. In the last nine years, the Bruins have won seven regular season titles and six conference tournament titles despite playing in two different leagues. Byrd has done it by building a program that slowly-but-surely develops the guys on the team into stars at this level, which is why he should feel complete confidence in Craig Bradshaw filling in for J.J. Mann.
Belmont’s issue will be in the front court, where they have to replace both starters — as well as “Big Chad” Lang — which is part of the reason why I think that Morehead State will win the East Division. Sean Woods returns four starters from last year’s 20-win team, including his entire back court. It’s headlined by Angelo Warner, a 6-foot-2 senior that averaged 17.5 points a season ago, numbers that could bump up this season if he shoots better than 32.6% from three. With a handful of Division I transfers and a number of JuCo imports joining the ranks this season, Woods will have the depth, particularly in his back court, to make Morehead’s full-court press quite lethal.
While those two programs battle it out supremacy in the East, Murray State looks like they are clearly the team to beat in the West. It starts with Cam Payne, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who came out of nowhere to become one of the best freshman in the country (more on him in a bit). He’s not alone, however, as Steve Prohm returns four starters, including workhorse forward Jarvis Williams, Jeffery Moss and Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp, who should be even better this year after missing the first half of last season. Throw in Utah transfer Justin Seymour, and the Racers should be better than the team that went 13-3 in the league and won the CIT. Remember, they were supposed to be a year away last season.
Eastern Kentucky loses a number of key pieces from last season, including Glenn Cosey, but with Corey Walden and Eric Stutz back, the Colonels should be a factor. Southeast Missouri State will be without Tyler Stone and Lucas Nutt, but they bring back three starters, including Jarekious Bradley, and look like the second-best team in the West. One team to keep an eye on: SIU-Edwardsville. They return four starters and their top six scorers from a team that went 7-9 in the league last year. With five seniors on the roster, if they are going to make a move, this is the year to do it.
PRESEASON OHIO VALLEY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cam Payne, Murray State
Cam Payne played out of position throughout his freshman season, filling a role that was left vacant when Zay Jackson blew out his knee. But it didn’t matter, as the 6-foot-2 Memphis native finished the year averaging 16.8 points, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals while making Racer fans quickly forget about Isaiah Canaan.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-OHIO VALLEY TEAM:
Jarvis Williams, Murray State, Sr.: The bully inside for the Racers. Williams will play Ed Daniels to Cam Payne’s Isaiah Canaan.
Craig Bradshaw, Belmont, Jr.: The next great guard to come through Rick Byrd’s pipeline. Bradshaw averaged 15.7 points as a sophomore.
Angelo Warner, Morehead State, Sr.: Warner was the leading scorer for Morehead State a season ago and will be the best player on arguably the league’s most talented team.
Jarekious Bradley, SEMO, Sr.: Bradley, a 6-foot-5 forward, was the third-leading scorer in the conference last season at 19.0 points.
The preseason favorites to win the West Division of the Ohio Valley Conference will be shorthanded when they open their season on Friday night at Saint Louis due to a violation of team rules.
On Wednesday Southeast Missouri State head coach Dickey Nutt announced that forwards Nino Johnson and Tyler Stone, his two best players, have both been suspended for two games due to their breaking of an unspecified team rule. Stone (15.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg in 2012-13), a second-team All-OVC selection last season, was the preseason pick to win OVC Player of the Year this season with Johnson (11.1, 8.8) being a preseason All-OVC selection.
“I am disappointed to announce that Tyler and Nino will be suspended for the first two games,” said Nutt according to Catlin Bogard of OVCball.net. “No one is bigger than this program. We have rules and consequences in place and our players are held accountable.”
With Stone and Johnson out of the lineup the Redhawks’ chances of upsetting the reigning Atlantic 10 champions took a significant hit, and the task would have been difficult even if those two were able to play. Stone and Johnson will also miss the Redhawks’ game against Central Baptist on November 11, and they’ll be eligible to return when SEMO visits IUPUI on November 16.
This season, Murray State no longer has one of the conference’s all-time greats in Isaiah Canaan, aand Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson graduate as well. Belmont lost the back court of Johnson and leading scorer Ian Clark. That gives several teams then chance to take over the conference in 2013-2014.
Eastern Kentucky is one of the preseason favorites, bringing back two OVC all-newcomer selections in Glenn Cosey and Corey Walden. The Colonels return three other starters besides Cosey, but one of the starters they lost was point guard and all-OVC selection Mike DiNunno.
Southeast Missouri State is coming off a 17-win season this past year, and with Murray State without three key players — as well as sophomore point guard Zay Jackson, who tore his ACL earlier this month — the Redhawks should be able to make that jump atop the West Division this season. SeMo brings back Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson, a combo that makes up the conference’s best frontline.
Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay lead the group of sleepers this season in the OVC, while Belmont can’t be counted out. Rick Byrd has created a winning culture at the Nashville school, and the Bruins will contend if J.J. Mann, Reece Chamberlain and Samford transfer Drew Windler embrace their bigger roles this season.
PRESEASON OHIO VALLEY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Stone, Southeast Missouri State
Tyler Stone helped the Redhawks finish second in the West Division, behind Isaiah Canaan-led Murray State, last season. The 6-foot-8 Stone led the team in scoring at 15.5 points and was second in rebounding at 7.8 boards per game, which put him top-10 in the conference in both those categories.
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Patrick Miller, Tennessee State: The 6-foot-1 senior guard was the best playmaker last season with 5.9 assists per game. Miller is one of two returning starters following a junior campaign averaging 14.8 points per game.
J.J. Mann, Belmont: No more Ian Clark or Kerron Johnson or Trevor Noack. Rick Byrd will have to rely on more production from returning starter J.J. Mann. The 6-foot-6 wing is the only returner to average double figures last season.
Glenn Cosey, Eastern Kentucky: Leading an experienced Colonels team that returns four starters as well as Corey Walden. He put in 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Chris Horton, Austin Peay: The Austin Peay sophomore has a lot of upside after a freshman campaign that saw him average 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Governors also return Travis Betran, who averaged 17.2 points a night.