Introducing Cinderella: Murray State punches bid with nation’s longest winning streak

Dave Winder/Murray State Athletics
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Conference: Ohio Valley

Coach: Matt McMahon

Record: 26-5 (16-2 OVC)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 65
RPI: 62
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: Many bracketologists currently have Murray State in the 12-14 range for seeding. While the OVC is a one-bid league, the Racers were clearly the best team in the conference this season. Murray State also has very respectable computer numbers for a low-major program. The Racers are going to be a fascinating seeding case for the committee.

Names you need to know: Senior guard Jonathan Stark will be one of the most potent perimeter scorers in the field as he put up 21.7 points per game on 41 percent three-point shooting this season. Besides for Stark, the Racers have other double-figure scorers on a balanced team. Senior double-double threat Terrell Miller Jr. is a productive interior presence who can also stretch the floor. Freshman Ja Morant was one of the best newcomers in the OVC this season.

Stats you need to know: The Racers enter the NCAA tournament riding a 13-game winning streak — the longest streak in the country at the time of their autobid. Murray State shoots the ball efficiently from the perimeter as they hit 38 percent as a team from distance.

Big wins, bad losses: Murray State played a light non-conference schedule as its best wins came against Southern Illinois and Illinois State — the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Racers have some respectable single-digit losses to ranked teams like Middle Tennessee and Auburn while also losing to Belmont, the OVC’s No. 2 team. The only bad loss for Murray State this season came against Jacksonville State in conference play.

How’d they get here?: Winning their final 11 regular season games, the Racers kept rolling into Evansville, as they took down Jacksonville State and Belmont in the conference tournament. Murray State avenged its only two conference losses this season in beating those two teams on the way to the conference tournament title.

Outlook: As the hottest team in the country, Murray State is going to be a terrifying first-round opponent for some Power Conference school. Stark is a legitimate go-to scorer who can take over a game and the Racers have other weapons who can also put up points.

How do I know you?: Murray State has made five NCAA tournament appearances since 2000, as the program has earned one win in each of its last two appearances in 2010 and 2012. Besides for being a regular in March Madness, the Racers have produced recent NBA point guards like Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne. Murray State has also been an early job for prominent coaches like Steve Prohm, Billy Kennedy, Mick Cronin and Mark Gottfried.