NCAA Tournament Cinderella Teams

by Matthew Stevens | March 9th, 2006

For the sixth time in a decade, Murray State will carry the banner for the Ohio Valley Conference into the NCAA Tournament. The Racers rolled to 64-48 victory over Samford in the OVC Tournament Championship.Murray State will be a scouting nightmare for its first-round opponent. Because unlike most mid-majors that advance to the NCAA Tournament, the Racers are not carried by a significant star player that must play well in order for them to win. Balance is what has gotten Murray to this point.

Murray State currently projects to a 14-seed, with a chance of drawing Gonzaga as a first-round opponent.
Here’s why Murray State may get the OVC’s first NCAA win since 1989:

1. Full Court Press – No team epitomizes its nickname more than Murray State. The Racers will push the ball with their guard duo of Trey Pearson and Virginia transfer Keith Jenifer. All five players on the floor press for 40 minutes after made baskets and every player on the floor can score.

2. Depth – Every player Mick Cronin puts on the floor is a danger to put the ball in the basket. While the Racers only have one player over 6-foot-6, all parts are interchangeable. The stat sheet for the Racers reads like a elementary team that tries to get everyone a basket: Only two players average double figures in scoring but eight average at least 20 minutes and 5 points per contest.

3. Coaching – Did I mention Mick Cronin? The former Louisville assistant and 2005-2006 OVC Coach of the Year learned his style and coaching strategy from one of the game’s best Tournament coaches in Rick Pitino. Cronin has been rumored as a candidate for the permanent Cincinnati position if Interim coach Andy Kennedy is not asked to return. Cronin is on the cusp of taking over a major program, and a good tournament performance would elevate his stock.

4. Tested by Quality Competition – Usually OVC schools aren’t prepared for a first-round battle against a major school. With close nonconference losses to Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Southern Illinois, the Racers may actually be due for a big win.

Believe it or not, Murray State’s lineup may feature more athletes than its first-round opponent (Gonzaga in particular). If MSU can dictate the pace of play, the Cinderella slipper might just fit…

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