This wasn’t the season Murray fans expected. Coming off their first NCAA tournament win since 1988, a one-loss conference campaign, things were looking great for the Racers.
And then the season started. And it became clear rather quickly these weren’t the same Racers. It was a dissapointing season to many Racer fans, despite the fact that they will add another banner to the CFSB center, and will enter the season as back-to-back OVC champions. The season ended in the OVC tournament semi-finals to a streaking Tennessee Tech squad, sending the conference champs to a NIT first-round loss to Missouri State.
But the biggest blow for the Racers came late in the coaching carousel, as Billy Kennedy moves on to Texas A&M, leaving long-time Kennedy assistant Steve Prohm taking over the reigns of the Racers. The good news is that the transition helped the Racers keep their strong recruiting class. The bad news is that with or without Kennedy, 4 seniors, 3 of them starters are gone.
In the backcourt, Miles and Jenkins, the two primary ballhandlers for Murray, are gone, but rising sophmore and last year’s leading scorer Isaah Caanan and rising junior Jewaun Long will give the Racers much needed experience at the guard positions. There are two more returning guards, both rising juniors, but neither have seen significant time on the court over their 3 years. JUCO transfer Stacey Wilson, though listed as a forward on Murray State’s athletic website at only 6’3″, will probably see minutes off the bench at the 2-guard or small forward positions, and both incoming freshman guards, Zay Jackson and Jaylen Bland are talented enough to make immediate impacts.
The Racers strength in 2011-12 is likely to be on the inside. Jeffrey McClain is leaving, but Ivan Aska, Donte Poole, and Ed Daniel all return for Murray. Only Daniel was a 20+ game started, but all three played at least 15 mpg last season, and all but Poole averaged more than 5 ppg, which is great considering no Racer averaged more than 12. Poole also doubles as a capable 3-point threat, hitting 22 3’s season.
Depth could be the make-or-break issue for the 2011-12 edition of the Racers, especially in the backcourt. Last year’s team was 8-10 deep on any given night. This year’s has 5 clear starters, and at least right now, a sizeable drop off. There’s still a lot of time to develop the 5 new players in blue and gold, but it’s a point of concern for a new coach.
So is this the year the Racers fall out of the top 4? I wouldn’t bet on it. There still is a lot of talent, and Murray, in my view, made the right pick for coach. But do the Racers add a 3rd banner in as many years? I’m not sure I’d make that bet either.