October 7, 2011

Golden Eagles feeling preseason love from national media

CBSSports.com, Sporting News tab Tech preseason No. 1

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Preseason prognostications are rolling in from college basketball’s national media, and the consensus is that Tennessee Tech is a favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Golden Eagles have received first-place nods from the Sporting News and CBSSports.com and are picked to finish third in the league by Athlon Sports and Lindy’s preseason magazines.

CBSSports.com picked the Golden Eagles No. 1 in its predicted order of finish released this week, claiming the concentration of power in the OVC is shifting.

“Could this be the year that the Murray State and Morehead State stranglehold on the league ends?” writes Eye On College Basketball blogger Jeff Borzello. “The two teams have alternated NCAA tournament appearances for the last three seasons, but both squads lose multiple starters and in Murray State's case, its head coach. Several teams are capable of stepping up and filling the void.”

Borzello mentioned Tech’s string of seven-straight wins to end the 2010-11 season before losing to Morehead State in the OVC title game and the fact that the Golden Eagles return four starters, including “the inside-outside duo” of guard Zac Swansey and forward Kevin Murphy.

CBS Sports gave Murphy the nod as preseason player of the year in the OVC while also naming him to the preseason all-conference team. Joining Murphy on the squad were Southeast Missouri’s Leon Powell, Tennessee State’s Robert Covington, Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan and Austin Peay’s Tyshwan Edmondson.

Murphy was an All-OVC First Team selection by the conference a season ago and was also named to the All-Tournament Team. He led the team in scoring in 2010-11 and ranked third in the OVC, averaging 17 points per game. He averaged 24.3 points per contest over Tech’s three-game run to the OVC championship contest and became the 32nd member of the school’s 1,000 point club.

The Sporting News also gave the Golden Eagles the first-place nod, picking them ahead of second-place Austin Peay and third-place Murray State.

“Tennessee Tech appears ready to make a serious run at its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1963,” wrote Michael Grant of the Louisville Courier-Journal. “The Golden Eagles return four starters, led by 6-6 senior forward Kevin Murphy, who scored 30 points in the conference title game.”

Grant pointed out that Tech returns the league leader in assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio in senior point guard Zac Swansey.

Like CBS, the Sporting News also named Murphy the top player in the OVC and put him on the All-OVC team.

“It’s always good to know your team is highly thought-of by others,” said first-year head coach Steve Payne. “However, our players know that championships are won on the floor and not in preseason polls, and I think our conference has a lot of good teams in it. We’ve won NCAA Tournament games in each of the last three years, and winning this league is going to be a tall order for anyone.”

Tech previously received a first-place nod from the national blog Rush the Court in July. The blog listed the Golden Eagles’ experience and high number of veterans as well as their standing as one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league as primary reasons for the pick.

Tech opens the 2011-12 season at Miami on Nov. 11 with a 6 p.m. tip-off. The Golden Eagles play their first home game on Nov. 15, hosting Reinhardt at 7 p.m.

To order season tickets, call (931) 372-3940 or order online at TTUSports.com.

To see the full CBSSports.com report, click here.