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I bet you thought I forgot about UT Martin, didn’t you. Between OVC football media day, and an entire site malfunction, we’ve been quite busy.

If you’ve been following along, you should know where I think this team will fall, given I’ve ranked the other 11 teams. Which also means, you might already be thinking I’ve lost my mind.

UT Martin hasn’t had a single winning season under current head coach Jason James. They haven’t even been all that close, with a 12-21 record in 2010-11 the nearest they’ve come, if you even want to call it “near.” Just two seasons ago, they finished 0-16 in the conference, and a hapless 4-27 overall.

Yet, (spoiler alert upcoming for those that haven’t been following along) I have the Skyhawks ranked fifth. Not fifth in the division, fifth overall in the conference. The Ohio Valley Conference, the same conference they’ve had just 2 winning seasons in school history.

Yes, I know I’m piling on with the historical negativity, but it’s as much to show the contrast between a cloudy past, and a bright future.

Overview

UTM-Season-Preview

 

If you’re a Skyhawks fan, this year’s teem should feel really familiar, because there’s very little turnover. Last year’s squad featured just two seniors, so virtually the entire squad is back.

In a season where nearly every team is losing a star, that’s a very big deal.

Of course, it also means there’s very little room for additions and changes to a team that ultimately won just nine games last season. But it was just enough for the Skyhawks to make the trip to Nashville. So there’s absolutely no reason to believe, at a minimum, this team can’t do that again.

 

Burning Questions

How would you characterize Jason James’ future at UT Martin?

Not rock solid, but he’s not a lame duck coach either. A solid season will likely net an extension, albeit probably a short one. 0-16 is in their rear view mirror, there were mitigating circumstances (i.e. injuries) that season, and this team did make the OVC Tournament this past year.

Is Myles Taylor the best forward in the league.

Yes, because he’s the most consistent. On their best night, guys like Tyler Stone or Nino Johnson from SEMO can be explosive, but Taylor seems to have those 20 and 10 nights more often. He’s got to stay out of foul trouble, (fouled out nine times last season, four times in his last six games) and we still have to see how he comes off this injury. But if you’re giving me one frontcourt pick, I’m choosing Taylor.

Is Mike Liabo’s…let’s call it passion…a positive or a negative for UTM.

Is both an option? Because over the past two years, I’ve seen it both ways. I love passionate college basketball players, but Liabo has at times let his emotions get the best of him on the court. He a streaky shooter, but came up big late in the season, and had a terrific game for a shorthanded club in a loss in the OVC Tournament. I think the talent is there, if he could just find a way to focus that energy on the court.

Roster Breakdown

2012-13 Roster

G Justin Childs
F Tobias Dowdell
G Bobby Jones
G Mike Liabo
F Corderio Maclin (graduated)
G Omari Minor
F Pierre Mopo
G Dee Oldham
G DeMarc Richardson
G Terence Smith
G Khristian Taylor
F Myles Taylor
F Jeremy Washington (graduated)

 

2013-14 Additions

G Terence Durham
F Javier Martinez

 

Well, this is simple enough. Terence Durham is a JUCO point guard transfer, which will add some much-needed depth to the backcourt behind Terence Smith and Khristian Taylor. Fun fact: Durham played at Brehm Prep in Carbondale, the same school as Liabo.

Javier Martinez is a 6’7″ true freshman who could get some significant playing time. Outside of Taylor, there’s not a lot of frontcourt depth, especially with Jeremy Washington graduating.

And…that pretty well covers the changes

 

Predicted Starting Roster

G Terence Smith
G Khristian Taylor / Justin Childs
G Mike Liabo
F Tobias Dowdell
F Myles Taylor

Those names should look quite familiar. Depending on who has the better summer, Taylor or Justin Childs will likely be the second starter, although Dunham will likely have a chance to compete. Tobias Dowdell played limited minutes last season, but again there just aren’t a lot of options, unless you want to either start the true freshman Martinez or move Liabo to the four.

Closing Thoughts

This year, the OVC looks like it could be as wide open as ever, and in all honesty, UTM could be anywhere from 3rd in the conference through 11th.

So why do I think they’ll be on the high end when history tells me otherwise?

Because no team, even EKU, returns as much of their core production from last year. These guys have played together, many for two years now, and there shouldn’t be a more cohesive unit in the league.

 

Prediction: 5th

3rd in the West


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OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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