Mike Liabo's UT-Martin Skyhawks May Be Team to Beat in Ohio Valley Conference

Jeffrey SchmidtCorrespondent IIIAugust 9, 2011

The Ohio Valley Conference produced one of the best players in the nation last season in Kenneth Faried, and this season the OVC looks to have some promising talent as well. 

The UT-Martin Skyhawks may be one of the youngest teams in the conference, but they are also loaded with talent. 

The team finished with a 12-21 record in 2010, but a bright spot for the Skyhawks was freshman Mike Liabo, who averaged 11.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

Liabo is a consistent shooter from the perimeter and is also not afraid to take it to the rim if need be. 

As a shooter, Liabo is excellent off the catch and will hit some contested shots. He can make jumpers off the dribble when defenders close out on him, and he is not afraid to take a charge. With his size, he's also a good rebounder and gives a solid effort on defense.

You can check out Liabo's freshman highlight tape here as well as ESPN's evaluation that was listed above. 

His 33-percent shooting from downtown was second on the team last year behind then-freshman Troy King. The combination of King and Liabo will cause matchup problems on the perimeter for opposing teams.  

UT-Martin did lose their top two scores from a year ago—Benzor Simmons and Reuban Clayton—but Liabo and the rest of the Skyhawks are ready to make up for the duo's production.

The team has some tough early-season opponents in Louisville and Missiissppi State, but don't be surprised if the Hawks upset either of these two teams. 

This team will improve vastly from a year ago, and I expect them to compete for the Ohio Valley Conference title.

Murray State won the conference last year with a 14-4 record, but look for the Hawks to go 13-5 in conference play.

Tennessee-Tech, Murray State, and Austin Peay will all be viable contenders for the crown, so winning it won't be an easy task.