|UTM hoops squad picked to finish 2nd |
|Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2008 3:32 pm |
|NASHVILLE — The road to the Ohio Valley Conference championship may run through Murray State this season, or it could detour south and go through Martin. |
In a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men’s basketball coaches and sports information directors, the Racers were picked as the 2008-09 preseason favorite in the 10-team league. Murray State, who received 11 of 20 first-place votes, finished second in the OVC last season (13-7) and they return nine players and four starters.
Overall, Murray State totaled 149 points and was closely followed by UT Martin, who received six first-place votes (142 points).
It marks the highest preseason ranking the Skyhawks have received since joining the OVC in 1992.
Previously, UTM had been picked no higher than sixth in the preseason predictions (four different times).
The Skyhawks return senior guard Lester Hudson, the league’s reigning and Preseason Player of the Year, after an All-American season in which he finished fifth nationally in scoring (25.7 points/game) and Union City native Marquis Weddle, who earned Freshman of the Year honors from the OVC last year.
Last season, UT Martin was picked last in the preseason poll but Bret Campbell’s Skyhawks ignored those predictions and instead produced one of the best seasons in school history, winning 17 games overall, finishing fourth in the OVC (11-9) and making the semifinals of the OVC Tournament for the first time in school history.
A large part of that success can be attributed to Hudson, who made a major impact in his debut with the Skyhawks. He ranked in the Top 10 nationally in points per game (25.7, 4th), steals (2.8, 4th) and 3-pointers made per game (3.8, 10th) on his way to OVC Player of the Year honors.
Hudson also knocked down 124 3-pointers, which set the OVC single-season record, and recorded the first quadruple-double in NCAA Division I men’s history.
But Hudson did not do it alone, as he also had help from Weddle, as the two combined to form one of the top scoring backcourts in the country.
Weddle averaged 17.1 points a contest and hit 99 3-pointers in his first season with UTM. Overall the Skyhawks return four starters and eight letterwinners.
However, the task will be tough for UTM as Murray State has history on its side.
For starters, no team in OVC history has been predicted to finish first in the preseason more than Murray State, and the Racers have often proven the prognosticators correct, winning the OVC regular season championship 20 times.
Furthermore, the Racers are hungry aftar a rare title drought.
MSU head coach Billy Kennedy’s squad will be looking to win its first title since the 2006 season.
Kennedy, who is in year No. 3 with the program, returns four starters from last year’s team that was 18-13 overall, 13-7 in the OVC (2nd).
Among the returning players is junior forward Danero Thomas who averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds a contest last season.
Otherwise in the poll, defending champion Austin Peay received two first-place votes and was tabbed third (129 points) while Morehead State received one first-place vote and was picked fourth (118)
Tennessee State was picked fifth (108), followed by Tennessee Tech (77), Eastern Kentucky (59), Southeast Missouri State (57), Eastern Illinois (35) and Jacksonville State (26).