Racers have company in newcomer Bruins
Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 12:02 pm
BRENTWOOD — In a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men’s basketball coaches and sports information directors, defending champion Murray State was picked the favorite in the West Division while newcomer Belmont was picked as the East Division favorite in the OVC for 2012-13.
This year marks the first for divisional play in the OVC, which now includes 12 teams for the first time in conference history.
Murray State led the West Division voting, picking up 22 of a possible 24 first-place votes (schools were not allowed to vote for themselves) and 132 total points.
Southeast Missouri State was tabbed second and picked up the remaining two first-place votes and 108 points. The West was rounded out by Austin Peay (92), SIUE (73), Eastern Illinois (49) and UT Martin (38).
Belmont picked up 21 of the 24 first-place votes and 131 points to be picked the East Division favorites.
Tennessee State was tabbed second and received the other three first-place votes and 109 points. The East was rounded out by Tennessee Tech (87), Morehead State (77) and Eastern Kentucky (56). Due to a NCAA APR penalty, Jacksonville State is ineligible for the OVC and NCAA tournaments this season and was not included in the preseason voting.
Last year Murray State accomplished several conference firsts on the way to a 31-2 season.
The Racers won both the OVC regular season and tournament championships, advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and was ranked as high as No. 7 nationally — the highest-ranking in school history and first OVC team to be ranked in the Top 10 since the 1970-71 season. MSU was the last undefeated team in Division I at 23-0 and the only team to be undefeated in road games (13-0).
Along the way, the Racers won the Great Alaska Shootout Championship and topped nationally-ranked Memphis and Saint Mary’s during the year.
After topping Tennessee State in the OVC Tournament championship game, the team earned a No. 6 seed in the West Region, marking the highest-seed earned by an OVC school since the tournament began seeding in 1979.
MSU bested Colorado State in the second round before falling to Marquette in the third round.
This season, second-year head coach Steve Prohm has two key starters returning, including first-team All-American Isaiah Canaan, who was named the OVC Player of the Year last season and who has been selected a preseason All-American this season. Canaan ranked 24th nationally in scoring last year (19.0 points/game) while also ranking sixth in 3-point percentage (45.6 percent).
Also back is forward Ed Daniel, who led the OVC with 1.5 blocks/game a year ago and hit 57.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Among the newcomers is junior guard Dexter Fields, who sat out last year after transferring from UAB.
After 11 years of competition in the Atlantic Sun Conference, Belmont became an official member of the OVC on July 1.
The Bruins have had tremendous success in recent years, appearing in the NCAA Tournament in five of the last seven seasons.
Head coach Rick Byrd has compiled a 545-284 record in 26 years at the Nashville-based school.
and returns 11 letter-winners and three starters from last year’s team that was 27-8 overall.
UT Martin returns four starters from last year’s team that was winless in OVC competition.
Among those starters is junior Mike Liabo, who averaged 15.2 points/game last season, and sophomore Myles Taylor, who was an OVC All-Newcomer selection after averaging 13.7 points and 5.2 rebounds/game. The team also returns sophomore Terence Smith, who averaged 11.3 points/game as a freshman in 2010-11 but missed all of last season.
The 2012-13 season kicks off with an exhibition contest on Oct. 30, while the first regular season games will be played on Nov. 9. The 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held March 6-9 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. Published in The WCP 10.25.12