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Austin Peay tops men’s list

Austin Peay tops men’s list
In a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men’s basketball coaches and sports information directors, Austin Peay received 10 first-place votes and was picked as the favorite for the 2011-12 season.
Last season, Austin Peay won 20 games, advanced to the semifinals of the OVC Tournament and played in the College Basketball Invitational.
It marks the first time since the 2007-08 season that the Governors have been picked as the preseason favorite (the team went on to win the OVC Championship that year). Austin Peay received 185 total points, which was four points ahead of Tennessee Tech, which received eight total first-place votes and was picked second.
Defending regular season champion Murray State picked up three first-place votes and was picked third (169), Tennessee State was picked fourth (145), defending tournament champion Morehead State received the other first-place vote and was tabbed fifth (128) and was followed by Southeast Missouri (106), Eastern Kentucky (90), UT Martin (73), Eastern Illinois (67), Jacksonville State (40) and SIUE (27).
Last year, UT Martin tripled its win output, going from four wins in 2009-10 to 12 with a very young roster.
After a slow start, the Skyhawks won seven of its last 13 games, earned the No. 8 seed in the OVC Tournament and topped No. 5 Tennessee State in the first round before losing to eventual runner-up Tennessee Tech in the tourney quarterfinals.
This year, Jason James has a team that will be just as young, as no player on the team has more than one year of Division I basketball experience and the squad only has one senior (Dane Smith).
Included in that youth are three talented sophomores who combined to win the OVC Freshman of the Week award eight times a year ago.
Mike Liabo (11.2 points/game, 52 made 3-pointers), Troy King (9.6 points/game, 50 made 3-pointers) and Terence Smith (11.3 points, 3.1 assists/game) will each see their roles grow in the UT Martin game plan this season.
Murray State is under the direction of a first-year head coach who was elevated from assistant coach.
After five years under Billy Kennedy, Steve Prohm is now the head coach of the Racers, who won their 22nd OVC regular season championship a year ago.
MSU lost a pair of All-OVC guards in B.J. Jenkins and Isacc Miles but return first-team All-OVC pick Isaiah Canaan, who led the Racers balanced attack with 11.7 points a game a year ago.
Published in The Messenger 10.25.11

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