COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Tech men's basketball team returns four starters from a team that rode a late-season hot streak all the way to the Ohio Valley Conference championship game in 2010-11, and the national press is taking notice.
The Golden Eagles have been a popular choice to win the OVC in 2011-12 among early prognosticators in the media, including Rush the Court, a national college basketball blog that put the first-place target on Tech’s backs this week.
In addition to placing Tech first in its power rankings, Rush the Court also recognized rising senior point guard Zac Swansey as the league’s “Buzzworthy” player.
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 first-place nod.
“Late bloomers in 2010-11, the Golden Eagles are poised to make a run at their first NCAA tournament since 1967,” OVC correspondent Catlin Bogard wrote for the blog. “Forward Kevin Murphy, the OVC’s second leading scorer last season behind Faried, and the OVC’s leader in assists and steals, as well as guard Zac Swansey, both return for the top scoring squad in the conference last season.
“The team’s top rebounder, rising junior Jud Dillard, will likely move into a permanent starting role, as will senior Zach Bailey. In all, the Golden Eagles will feature seven seniors, making them one of the most experienced teams in the OVC.”
Following Tech in Rush the Court’s power rankings were Tennessee State in second, Southeast Missouri in third, Murray State in fourth and Austin Peay in fifth.
Swansey, the league leader in assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio in 2010-11, received special recognition.
“Clutch players in college basketball are rare, but five of Tennessee Tech’s 18 wins last season came from a game-winning shot from guard Zac Swansey,” Bogard wrote. “Swansey is anything but a selfish player, though, finishing seventh in the NCAA last year in assists. Swansey is a great candidate for OVC Preseason POY honors with his superlative ability to find the open man in one of the nation’s fastest offenses (26th in the nation).”
Rush the Court also recognized former Tech head coach Mike Sutton, who continued to lead the Golden Eagles despite battling Guillain-Barré syndrome for the past six years. This season marks the first for Tech in the post-Sutton era, as longtime associate head coach Steve Payne takes the reins of the program.
“Mike Sutton has been one of the most inspirational stories in college basketball over his nine seasons with the Golden Eagles,” Bogard wrote. “…Sutton will be missed on the bench this fall not only by his team, but the conference as a whole.”
To see the full Rush the Court report, click here.