With a 24 game winning streak and an undefeated conference slate, Voice of the Racers Neal Bradley says the Murray State Racers Men's Basketball Team has had an amazing transformation from the start of the season: from 2-4 to the point where they may be in the NCAA tournament, to be ranked 25 in the AP poll and 24 in the USA Today poll, to running the table in the OVC, which has never been done in conference play by any Murray State Team is remarkable. Tracy Ross says it's been fun to have these Sounds Good discussions with Bradley because there's been nothing but good news. They recap the last few games, the OVC honors and take a look at what's ahead.
Vs. Austin Peay, Feb. 21, 89-54
Bradley says this game is an example of the different directions the programs are headed. The Racers extended their winning streak, while for Austin Peay it was their 20th loss in the season. For three of the past four years, Austin Peay has lost 20 or more games. The Racers took control early and kept their lead to coast to victory.
Vs. Eastern Illinois, Feb. 26, 65-57
It's one of those games when you talk about what it takes for a team to run the table in conference play, Bradley says. This is one where a normal team would probably lose the game. The Racers didn't shoot very well - under 32% from the field and barely over 30% from the three-point range, yet they still one the game. They took care of the ball, rebounded well and defended well. Those rebounds forced Eastern Illinois to give up 17 more shots for the Racers. Also, it was Senior Night, which is a good night to win.
Vs. UT Martin, Feb. 28, 73-67
This was a tough game, Bradley says, "Not your momma and daddy's old UT Martin where you go down and name the score." UT Martin's coach Heath Schroyer's done a good job and is probably runner up for coach of the year (after MSU's head coach Steve Prohm). Most teams could go toe-to-toe with their starters and give up points but their bench isn't nearly as strong as it should be. UT Martin was up slightly at halftime, the Racers came back in the second half. Cam Payne came out strong in this game with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Bradley says it's no surprise Cam Payne was named OVC Player of the Year and Steve Prohm OVC Coach of the year. He says it's surprising that TJ Sapp didn't make it on an All-OVC-First Team or Second Team. He says, "[TJ Sapp's] not a big stats guy, but he's so good defensively and from a leadership standpoint there's probably not a better leader in the Ohio Valley Conference. So a little bit of a surprise there."
If the Racers are upset in the OVC Tournament, is there any chance for an at-large bid? Bradley says they have the resume for it. They don't have the signature win that you need against a top 50 or top 100 team. They've played well on the road, though, and have the big winning streak. "I think it's best that the Racers take it out of the committee's hands and take care of business themselves," he says.
Murray State are two games away from the "big dance" and will play the winner Friday night of the game between the 4th seed UT Martin and tonight's game between Morehead State and SEMO. All of these teams gave the Racers a certain degree of difficulty in recent games. Bradley says if he got to pick, he'd prefer to face off against Morehead State since they'll have just played two games. The Racers have an advantage because whoever they play will have just come off playing the night before. If Thursday is a long game, in double or triple overtime, that could work favorably for the Racers. Personally, he thinks it'll be a match against UT Martin.
In the final, will the game be against Eastern Kentucky or Belmont? Bradley thinks it'll be Eastern Kentucky. As long as Corey Walden (named OVC Defensive Player of the Year) is in good shape, they have what it takes to get to the championship. If the match is between Murray State and Eastern Kentucky, whoever the OVC sends to the tournament will be a great representative. EKU has the signature win against Miami, too. Bradley sees the Racers doing pretty well if they get to the tournament.