The Murray State Racers won their second straight Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship last year, but were upset in the Semifinals of the OVC Tournament and missed out on the league's automatic bid into the Big Dance. New head coach Steve Prohm has the pieces needed to cut down both sets of nets this March.
Prohm takes over for Billy Kennedy, who left this offseason to become the head coach at Texas A&M. He inherits a roster that has experience in the starting lineup, but also has several newcomers who will compete for minutes off the bench.
Last year's leading scorer, Isaiah Canaan returns for the Racers. He will need to take over the leadership role in the backcourt and become more of a distributor this year. Freshmen Jaylen Blend and Zay Jackson will battle it out for the backup job.
Jewuan Long and Donte Poole were key reserves last season and now, likely, step into the starting lineup on the wing. UMKC transfer Latreze Mushatt will also push for a starting spot and brings more size to the wing than the 6-1 Long and 6-3 Poole. Mushatt started 28 games, and averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in his last season at UMKC. JUCO transfer Stacy Wilson and freshman Tyler Rambo add more depth on the wing.
The Racers picked up a key transfer this offseason in Dexter Fields of UAB. He must sit out this season though, per NCAA transfer rules, but will be an asset in practice.
There isn't a ton of size in the frontcourt, as only two players stand taller than 6-7. Ivan Aska returns to the starting lineup, where he will likely be joined by Edward Daniel. Both players are springy and make up for their lack of size with their tremendous work ethic. Brandon Garrett, played sparingly last season, will need to take on a bigger role off the bench. Freshman Harly Nussman (6-10) adds some needed size to the frontcourt but does not possess a high skill level.
Murray State has relied on their depth and balance the past two seasons, but unless the newcomers on the bench acclimate themselves sooner than expected, the starters will be asked on to carry the bulk of the load this season. Still, the Racers are without question the team to beat in the OVC.
Player to Watch: Ivan Aska, PF
The former OVC Freshman of the Year saw his scoring numbers take a surprising dip last season. After averaging 10.3 points per game in each of his first two years with the Racers, that number dropped to 7.6. Part of the reason was due to a slight cutback on his playing time but also because his field goal percentage went from 58.8% as a sophomore to 45.8% as a junior. With a lack of experience in the frontcourt, Aska must take on a bigger role especially as a scorer.
Key Non-Conference Games:
111/20 at UAB
11/26 vs. New Mexico State/Central Michigan/Southern Miss/UC-Irvine (Great Alaska Shootout)