NCAA March Madness: Poole, Canaan Give Murray State a Chance

Manav KhandelwalAnalyst IIMarch 16, 2012

Canaan (3) and Poole (11) celebrate a win in the OVC Tournament.
Canaan (3) and Poole (11) celebrate a win in the OVC Tournament.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In a game that seemed promising for the Colorado State Rams, the Murray State Racers dominated the second half, racing (no pun intended) to a 17-point win.

Now, the Racers had their detractors throughout the season, and analysts called them overrated because of a lack of competition. Even though 30-1 is no fluke, experts still said they weren't an elite team, just an average one that wouldn't make noise in the NCAA tourney.

Even after going 2-0 against the AP Top 25 in convincing fashion, Murray State still didn't get much love from the selection committee, becoming the first one-loss team seeded as low as sixth.

And what did they do? Rebound from a tough first half to wallop No. 11-seed Colorado State.

Murray State is no Cinderella. An Elite Eight appearance shouldn't shock many because Murray State has more than a fighting chance. They have a real opportunity to succeed. And that opportunity comes from guards Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole.

Canaan was proclaimed one of the best guards in the country when he was named as a First-Team All-American due to his athleticism and ability to get to the hoop and shoot the three-pointer. Isaiah averaged over 19 points per game in the regular season while shooting an incredible 46.4 percent from three-point range.

There were also several instances where Canaan's ability to score—and score in the clutch—saved his team from defeat. In a double-overtime game against fellow Madness team Southern Mississippi in late November, Canaan scored 36 points and added eight rebounds in a 90-81 win. 

In losing just their second game of the year 72-68 to Tennessee State, Canaan kept the Racers in it the whole way, scoring 31 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Canaan's backcourt mate, Donte Poole, is no pushover either.

In Murray State's win over the Rams in the Round of 64, Poole scored the Racers' first eight points to keep them from falling behind by double digits early on. He was the main reason Murray State wasn't finished midway through the first half, and his offensive outburst only added to his defensive value.

Poole held Rams star guard Wes Eikmeier to only 10 points on 4-of-12 (33 percent) shooting from the field, and only 1-of-5 (20 percent) from three-point range. Eikmeier averaged nearly 16 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc before facing the daunting Poole.

Poole is averaging 14 points and two steals per game himself.

If Murray State wants to make a deep run and perhaps even reach the Final Four, they'll need these guys to play as well as ever.

They'll have to face a Marquette team featuring a formidable guard/small forward combo in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Both are averaging over 17 points per game and are some of the best offensive players in the country. Poole and Canaan will be instrumental in winning that game, as they are in nearly every game.

However, that shouldn't be something Racers fans lose sleep over. Canaan and Poole have been very consistent, and are why I (and many others) have them making runs as far as the Elite Eight and beyond.