Murray State (0-0) at Valparaiso (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Away Record: MSU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: Two of the most prominent mid-major programs in the nation will collide on opening night as the Murray State Racers take on the Valparaiso Crusaders in a non-conference matchup at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Racers ended the 2012-13 season at 21-10 with victories over Auburn, St. John's and Belmont highlighting coach Steve Prohm's second tour with the team. Prohm's inaugural season with the Racers began with 23 consecutive wins before Murray State's loss to Marquette in the third round of the NCAA Tournament left the rookie head coach with a 31-2 record. The Racers lost a great deal of what made them great, including guard Isaiah Canaan, who is now a member of the NBA's Houston Rockets. The school has had no trouble reloading to finish with a winning record in Ohio Valley Conference in every year since 1987. Prior to the first game of the season, the Racers' replacement for Canaan has already changed due to the recent announcement that redshirt sophomore guard Zay Jackson will transfer.
The Crusaders graduated all five starters from last season's team that finished second in the Horizon League in scoring (71.7 ppg) on a league leading 48.9 percent shooting from the floor. Coach Bryce Drew's team was dangerous from beyond the arc as well, hitting on 37.2 percent of its 3-point field goal tries. Although Valparaiso is the defending Horizon League champion, its totals of 26 overall victories and 13 conference wins from a season ago will most likely be out of reach unless a Crusader has a breakout season.
This will be the second consecutive season the Racers and Crusaders square off. Valparaiso defeated Murray State, 66-64, in last season's meeting at the CFSB Center to tie the all-time series up at one win apiece.
Prohm will now hand the keys over to freshman guard Cameron Payne, who was named Mr. Basketball in Tennessee for his work as an assist machine. Payne will be joined in the MSU backcourt by the team's leading scorer among returners Dexter Fields (6.5 ppg) and after Thanksgiving, Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp, who started all seven of his games with the Tigers. Prohm hopes to keep the frontcourt fierce with junior college transfers Jonathan Fairell (6-7, 225) and Jarvis Williams (6-8, 210). Sophomore guard Jeffery Moss has potential to lead the team in scoring, while Williams has potential to average a double-double.
Senior guard and former USF Bull LaVonte Dority showed off his ability to fill it up with 8.6 ppg after joining the Crusaders in the second semester of last season. He is joined in Valpo's backcourt by Jordan Coleman, who posted 4.4 ppg in his first year with the team since transferring from Hawaii. Alabama transfer Moussa Gueye provides Drew with a defensive anchor and rebounding presence, but his offensive skill set is very limited.
Both of these squads have taken a step backward since their last meeting. There is a decent chance for both to overcome the losses in talent due to the excellent coaching on both sides. Valpo will rely heavily on 3-point shooting throughout much of the season, which means it will win games it shouldn't and lose a few to inferior opponents.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Murray State 68, Valparaiso 65
11/08 10:42:24 ET