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NCAA Basketball

Murray State Racers Have Competition in Nashville This Season

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio Valley Conference used to be Murray State’s playground, but they’ve got some competition for the crown this season.  The Racers enter the tourney as the two seed as Belmont picked up top billing in their first year.  Those two won’t see their first action until Friday because of the double bye format.

First round action begins this evening with the five thru eight seeds taking the court.  Morehead State takes on Tennessee Martin followed by Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois.  These four teams don’t figure to be much of a threat to the Racers or Bruins.  They will need to win two games if they even hope to get to the semifinals.

The three seed is Eastern Kentucky.  They finished the year 23-8, 12-4 in the OVC with a road win over the Racers to their name from January 9th.  EKU won seven of their last nine to close out the regular season and will be tough on anyone if they are hitting from long-range.  Mike DiNunno and Glenn Cosey are the top two scorers and take almost 14 three-point shots between the two per game.

The four seed is Tennessee State who handed Belmont one of their two conference losses.  When talking about the Tigers, you have to start with Robert Covington who is one of the best big men in the OVC.  He averages 16.8 points per game and is one of four players on the team to put up at least 10 points per contest.  In their win over Belmont they shot over 50% getting 25 points from Covington.

Belmont is a scary team for the rest of the country to see.  The Bruins beat Stanford, Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota State.  They are led by Ian Clark who scores 18.1 points per game and feature five seniors overall.  Kerron Johnson and J.J. Mann are also threats on the court.

Isaiah Canaan is a player that everyone should get to watch before he graduates.  The Racers guard put up 21.6 points per game adding four assists per contest.  Murray State just doesn’t have enough around him besides Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson.  They have lost four of their last six entering this shindig and will most likely lose to Belmont in the title game.

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2015 NCAA Tournament Profile: Belmont Bruins

Record: 22-10

Region – Seed: East – No. 15

RPI: 105

BPI: 54

Conference: Ohio Valley Conference

How They Qualified: OVC Tournament Champion

The Belmont Bruins have had success in the past, but this trip to the NCAA Tournament is a bit unexpected. Yes, Belmont won a share of the Ohio Valley Conference East Division title, but Rick Byrd has had better teams during his 29-year tenure in Nashville.

Byrd is an outstanding coach and he got his team playing well at the right time. Belmont has won seven in a row, including an 88-87 upset win over OVC regular season champion Murray State in the tournament championship game.

What You Need to Know:

Leading Scorer: Craig Bradshaw, 17.9 ppg

Leading Rebounder: Evan Bradds, 7.1 rpg

Leading Passer: Reece Chamberlain, 5.9 apg

Bad Losses: at Wright State, at Jacksonville State

Good Wins: Murray State

Byrd will have his team ready to play in the big dance. He has been there before, even though many of his best players haven’t. Junior guard Craig Bradshaw is an excellent shooter, while Evan Bradds is the main interior player for the Bruins.

Taylor Barnette is another outstanding shooter for Belmont, and he hit the game-winning shot in the OVC Tournament championship. Reece Chamberlain is an outstanding distributor at the point for the Bruins.

The OVC has had some success in the NCAA Tournament recently, but Belmont is probably a long shot to win a game. However, with Byrd’s experience on the bench, they will be a tough out.

Tim Letcher is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

The Belmont Bruins have had success in the past, but this trip to the NCAA Tournament is a bit unexpected.

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