#51 Murray State: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #51
Conference Rank: #1 Ohio Valley Conference
2009-10: 31-5, 17-1
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Billy Kennedy (84-44 at Murray State, 186-170 overall)
Murray State was so close to being the darlings of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. With all the attention going to Butler, many forget that the Racers beat Vanderbilt in the first round and lost to the Bulldogs in the second round by a mere two points. Coach Billy Kennedy loses a couple starters from that team, but returns five key roleplayers along with the three starters. Add a couple impact newcomers and the Racers can easily go ten deep again this year.
Key Losses: C Tony Easley, G Danero Thomas
Junior college point guard Jeff Reese brings some more experience to an already experienced backcourt, but he should find it difficult to see too many minutes this season. The more important junior college transfer is sophomore Brandon Garrett. This team needs size to replace Tony Easley and Garrett, at 6-9 and 200 pounds, fits the bill. He should compete for a starting job right away. Shawn Jackson has some size too and is capable of playing a significant role off the bench as a freshman. Chris Griffin is another relatively big body who can eat up some fouls and play at the three or four spot.
Coach Kennedy has a problem in the backcourt. Isacc Miles is the point guard who makes this team go, B.J. Jenkins led the team in scoring last year and Isaiah Canaan was named the conference’s top freshman in 2009-2010. So what is the problem? All three of them probably should not start or this will be a very small team. Canaan came off the bench every game last year and still was second on the team with 10.4 points per game and connected on an incredible 48.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. That is a great sixth man and ideally that is where he will stay. Miles and Jenkins are not bad shooters either and this team does not necessarily need all those three-point shooting options on the floor at the same time.
For the time being Ivan Aska will have to play a little bigger than he did last year. After averaging 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season as the starting power forward, the 6-7, 230 pound junior should be ready to handle more minutes at the five spot. Jeffery McClain, a 6-6 senior, would then likely step into a starting role at the four spot. McClain was a very productive player off of the bench last season and the veteran should be ready to play closer to 25 minutes per game. He is not a great scorer, but Aska can handle that. What McClain brings to the table is some very strong rebounding and the ability to do the dirty work in the paint. Like the rest of the frontcourt, Edward Daniel’s playing time will depend on the development of the newcomers, but Daniel had a decent freshman campaign and is a pretty good at rebounding and blocking shots.
Who to Watch:
Replacing do-it-all small forward Danero Thomas could be the biggest problem Murray State faces this season. Putting Canaan in the backcourt is one option, but that would make this a very small team. Jewuan Long would not add much more size and he will pretty much be a versatile backup player for the perimeter. That leaves Donte Poole. At 6-3, the junior forward has the size and the tenacity to hit the glass and attack the basket. He would not be the next Thomas, but at least he has the size to play the small forward spot.
Murray State should dominate the Ohio Valley Conference yet again, but the bigger question comes in March. This team will have opportunities early in the season to get some big wins against probable NCAA opponents and if they win some of those games, the Racers should be on the bubble even if they falter in the conference tournament. Then it becomes a question of how far this team can go in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Isacc Miles, Senior, Guard, 9.7 ppg
B.J. Jenkins, Senior, Guard, 10.6 ppg
Donte Poole, Junior, Forward, 4.8 ppg
Jeffery McClain, Senior, Forward, 3.8 ppg
Ivan Aska, Junior, Forward, 10.3 ppg
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