Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tennessee Tech is ...

... the only place I've ever, ever, ever in my entire life, seen "The Wave" go around an arena three straight times. And not just a scant few waving up, I mean the whole Eblen Center.

Nice job Golden Eagles. Nice job.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Midseason Racer Report Card

(This was written pre-Jacksonville State)

It’s almost halfway through the men’s college basketball regular season (sadness, I know) and college teams around America have had about 15 games to prove themselves. Or not.

The Murray State men’s basketball team (7-8, 2-3 Ohio Valley Conference) is currently in need of a dose of confidence and a helping or two of victories. But the Racers are doing some things right midway through the season.

The Racers could make a run to the OVC Tournament championship game, but things might be a little hairy until then.

Take a look at my midseason report card:

Offense: C
Since the Racers have lost six of their last eight games, clearly they aren’t scoring enough points. They’re getting enough shots but those shots just aren’t going in. Chalk it up to inexperience (three of the starting five are newbies, and five of the available 10 are new) and playing eight of the last 10 away from home.

Defense: A-
The Racers are the best defensive team in the league, holding teams to just 42.7 percent shooting. However, when the Racers shut the top scorers down, someone off the bench always goes off for a career night.

Post production: B
The Racers have more post production depth than in the past, but starters Jeffery McClain and Ivan Aska are still undersized compared to their counterparts in the post. They’re also young. The Racers’ post players however, provide the most excitement and energy than anyone else on the team. Georges Fotso’s minutes off the bench against Austin Peay were some of the best in terms of defensive effort. His assignment, former Player of the Year Drake Reed, may have only gotten one pass in Fotso’s eight minutes on the court.

Point guard: A-
Kevin Thomas has the ability to be a go-to guy (think 21 points against UT Martin), but is so far inconsistent. His 1.7 turnover-to-assist ratio isn’t shabby, and he pushes the ball and sees players on the court just like a senior point guard should.

Shooting guards: B-
No one is making shots, but depth and talent overall are very good for being so young. Sophomore transfer Isacc Miles is oftentimes the only one keeping the Racers in games (his role as back up point guard I believe prevents breakout scoring). Preseason all-OVC pick Danero Thomas is fickle. He’s capable of lighting up for 20+ points, but we’ve only seen that once this season.

Bench: B
With two players injured (Tony Easley and Jewuan Long) and one player down already from departure, the Racers’ bench is likely the deepest of any other OVC school. No player on the team averages more than 28 minutes a game.

Coach: B
Coach Billy Kennedy and staff have brought in fabulous talent and navigate a tight ship with character kids. But while it can be hard to sort through a talented bench, the Racers may operate on too many line ups, preventing players from finding an offensive rhythm before they are taken out of a game. Kennedy’s quiet court demeanor serves him as both a gift and curse right now while the Racers struggle.

Leadership: C
When three of your few elder statesmen play off the bench and your lone starting senior isn’t vocal, leadership is going to lack. Sometimes I think the Racers are too nice on the court and to each other.

Toughness: B
The bodies of the Racers are built to run, not to battle. When they’re forced to battle, they get out-toughed. But McClain, Aska, and Miles give the Racers muscle and it’s staggering to think Aska, a freshman, is playing as well as he is with the OVC’s veterans.

Swagger: D+
To me, last year’s seniors not only took a lot of scoring with them when they left, they took all the braggadocio. This is a temperate team when things go wrong and when things go right. If the Racers find good leadership soon, they might find some swagger, too.

Fans: B -
Racer fans show up in good number, they just don’t do much once they arrive. The last two home games, I’ve listened to hearty cheering in only the last minutes of the games, fans negatively yelling at their own players and criticism of the officials. That’s a great atmosphere to come home to. When your team’s struggling, fans, that’s the time you’ve got to be the loudest.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Murray State's Saturday VIP

At Saturday's televised game against Austin Peay, the Murray State Racers will host a very important person.

Rosalyn Durant, the vice president of ESPNU, will be in attendance for her very first Ohio Valley Conference game.

Also in attendance will be OVC commissioner Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher.

"What better way to expose that individual to the OVC and OVC basketball than to attend really one of the most passionate rivalries that we have."

Stay tuned for my story on the impact of televised basketball games on Murray State in Sunday's news section.

This year, the OVC's contract with ESPN and its platforms gives the conference 14 exposures. Murray State received two of those. I asked the commissioner Friday if MSU's storied tradition and atmosphere during games played into his decision in handing out the games.

"At the end of the day, if you would track where our exposures are," Steinbrecher said, "we probably end up at certain schools more than others and it has to do with the fact their programs are more successful and their attendance patterns are stronger. So of course that filters in when you are creating your schedule."

Paint the Town Pink

The Murray and Calloway County girls basketball teams warming up for the rivalry game at Calloway County.

If there is a "Pink" theme going in somewhere in the country, you know I'm a supporter.

Some of you know my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in junior high. Anytime I can support a breast cancer awareness night, I'll go out of my way to help.

Friday night's cross-town rivalry between Murray and Calloway County high schools was no different.

Seeing the men, women and youngsters wearing pink almost made me cry tonight. I wish there were more folks wearing pink, but the rivalry took over the need to wear school colors. The Calloway student section was clad in it, though.

Although in the picture, they look red, I did have sparkly pink shoes. And a fuzzy pink sweater. And a sparkly pink ring. Oh, and earrings, too. I did my part.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thoughts on the Racers' game against Tennessee State

1. The Murray State men's basketball team collectively lacks swagger, which is a problem. However, newcomers Isacc Miles, Ivan Aska and Jeffery McClain are likely to show glimpses of swagger every now and then.

2. Removing freshman Donte Poole's redshirt was a good thing. In seven games played, he's averaging just over five points a game. Against Tennessee State he had six. By the time he hangs up his jersey for good, he'll be quite the basketball player.

3. The Lone Oak elementary students present for the game were emphatically more excited and better fans than the rest of the Racer faithful. After 40 days away from the Regional Special Events Center, no one but the Flash kids seemed really excited to see them.

4. It's a shame Georges Fotso didn't play basketball sooner in his life (he began play late in high school). He's got more heart for the game than anyone on the team. His post defense late in the game may just have bought the Racers a win.

5. Ohio Valley Conference officiating is, well, not so good lately. This makes four OVC games in four days that I have watched and the amount of no calls has been questionable. Then the make-up calls have been embarrassing. I'm no expert, but the referees set the tone for the physicality of a game based on what they will call and won't. In two men's games and two women's, the games have been very, very physical. I'm a big fan of letting the teams play it out on the court, but some one is going to get hurt soon.

6. The new pennants on the music stands of the Racer Band are a nice touch. But I do love the Racer Band at all times.

7. The Racers' two main weaknesses right now? Inbounding the ball and consistent offense. Their two main strengths? Post play and Kevin Thomas (almost five assists a game). Agree or disagree as you will.