Mid-Major Radar: Murray State Has Ingredients to Be Effective in March

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIJanuary 10, 2010

If you examine the Ohio Valley's top 15 scorers, you'd notice the conference's No. 1 team is not represented. That's right, the Murray State Racers don't have a single player averaging more than No. 15 Nick Murphy's 12.4 points per game.

However, coach Billy Kennedy and the Racers prove a team can win without a pure scorer and are 13-3 thanks to one of the most balanced attacks in the nation. Six Racers average more than nine points per contest.

Take a look at the country's top scoring teams. Murray State is currently at No. 38 with 79.3 points per game. Of the 37 teams ahead of the Racers, only Syracuse has as many scorers averaging better than nine points per contest.

Statistically, Murray State is incontrovertibly the OVC's superior team. The Racers lead their conference in scoring, scoring defense (61.8 ppg), field goal percentage (51.8 percent), field goal percentage against (39.1 percent), three-point percentage against (30.6 percent), blocked shots (5.7 bpg), and steals (11.4 spg). They are also second in rebounding behind Kenneth Faried and Morehead State.

While Murray State failed to pick up a "big" win in OOC play—they fell by five at Cal, six at a strong Louisiana Tech squad, and 11 at Western Kentucky—they have absolutely steamrolled their conference competition.

The Racers have won three of their five conference matches by at least 20 points. Today, they downed Austin Peay by 16 points on ESPN2.

Think they'll run the table? An 18-0 conference record is not inconceivable. 

Think they'll make noise in March? Also, not inconceivable.

Yes, Ivan Aska and Isaiah Canaan, the Racers' two leading scorers, are underclassmen. But, remember—the balanced attack. The four other Racers averaging over nine points are all juniors and seniors.

Among those upperclassmen are Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins, Murray State's two guards. Experienced floor generals are essential to mid-major success in March.

Shooting 35.6 percent from deep, the Racers are a decent three-point shooting team. They certainly don't live and die by the three, but their shooting ability could keep them close with the big boys—they shot 8-of-21 from beyond the arc in their narrow loss at Cal.

If Murray State wants to advance in March, they'll need to improve their foul-shooting. The Racers are currently shooting 66.6 percent from the charity stripe.

As Memphis and many other tournament teams have proved, it's difficult to win in the Big Dance with a bad rate from the line.

Photo from ovcsports.com

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