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Conference: Ohio Valley
Coach: Steve Prohm
Record: 30-1, 15-1 (1st)
Rankings and Ratings:
– Kenpom: 47
– RPI: 25
– AP/USA Today: 12th/9th
Seeding?: Murray State is in a bit of a unique position. They are the champions of a small, relatively off-the-radar conference, but thanks to a 23 game winning streak to start the season and a 30-1 record overall, they are not only a well-known team, they are ranked in the top ten. I’d set the over-under for the Racers at a five seed.
Names you need to know: Isaiah Canaan (19.4 ppg, 3.8 apg, 48.2% 3PT), Donte Poole (14.2 ppg), Ivan Aska (11.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Stats you need to know: The Racers don’t exactly play up to their nickname — they are 149th in the country in pace — but they do have a bit of a unique style of play. They are fourth in the country in three-point percentage, led by Canaan’s ridiculous 48.2%, and ninth in free throw rate. That’s a good way to make up for the fact that they don’t have much of an interior presence.
Tendencies: The Racers are not a very good defensive rebounding team because they aren’t a very big team. Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel are all of 6’7″. They make up for the second-chance points they give up with their ability to cause turnovers and generate steals. They are not a fast-paced team, but they are effective when they get out in transition. And when worse comes to worst, they put the ball in Canaan’s hands and let him go.
Big wins, bad losses: Murray State has beaten Memphis at Memphis, Dayton and St. Mary’s. Their only loss came to Tennessee State.
How’d they get here?: It took a late bucket from Jewuan Long, but the Racers were able to beat No. 2 seed Tennessee State — the only team to beat them — in the finals of the OVC Tournament.
Outlook: Murray State needs the right matchup to make a run in the tournament. If they play a team like, say, UConn or Mississippi State — someone with a lot of size — in the first round, there is a chance they could get upset. But they are a very athletic team with two talented playmakers in their back court — Canaan, who will be an all-american, can go for 35 on any given night — that will never be out of a game. OVC teams have confidence, too. Murray State beat Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 and Morehead upset Louisville in the first round last season.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.