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Golden Eagles picked seventh in men's basketball preseason poll

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Entering the 2009-10 basketball season, the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference in a vote of OVC head coaches and sports information directors. The Golden Eagles return four starters from last year’s squad that finished eighth in the league and advanced to the OVC tournament.

Eighth year head coach Mike Sutton has backcourt mates Frank Davis (10.0 points/game, 76 made 3-pointers) and Will Barnes (9.8 points, 2.7 assists/game) and forward Kevin Murphy (9.6 points, 2.9 rebounds/game) among the returnees. Sutton is the second longest tenured coach in the OVC.

“It’s not where you’re picked now, it’s where you finish,” Sutton said. “The teams that are playing their best basketball late in the year are the teams who have an opportunity to advance. Morehead State last year is a perfect example. They began the season with a few losses, and ended the season with a few losses, but they played their best basketball during the OVC tournament.”

The Golden Eagles will have a few fresh faces to blend with their returning talent. Freshmen Chase Dunn, Terrell Barnes and Jud Dillard along with junior transfer Byron Pickens will be available right away for the Golden Eagles, while Zac Swansey, who transferred for Georgia, must sit out a year before completing his final two years of eligibility.

“I think one of the strengths of our team is on the perimeter,” Sutton said. “We lost a second team all conference player, but I don’t know that he was a great offensive player. We certainly miss the length and the bulk, but we’ll make up for that with speed and quickness. Those young guys are going to have to play. In our league a lot of times young guys are going to have to come in and play as freshmen.”

Morehead State and Murray State each received 10 first-place votes and were picked as co-favorites for the 2009-10 season. It marks the 13th time in the last 21 years that Murray State has been picked the preseason favorite and second year in a row. Morehead State is tabbed first for the first time since the 1983-84 season (when they went 25-6 and won the OVC regular season and tournament championships). It marks just the third time since 1980-81 (when preseason polls were first available) that co-favorites have been picked in the preseason poll (it also happened in 1991-92 and 1994-95).

Austin Peay is picked to finish third in the poll after advancing to the OVC Championship game six times in the last seven seasons, including a two-point double-overtime loss a season ago. Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky were picked fourth and fifth, with Jacksonville State picked one spot ahead of Tech in sixth.

UT Martin was picked eight one season after winning its first regular season title since joining the OVC in 1992-93. The Skyhawks lost two-time OVC Player of the Year Lester Hudson to the NBA, and will be under first-year head coach Jason James. Tennessee State and Southeast Missouri will also be under the direction of new head coaches, and were picked ninth and tenth.

Tech’s 2009-10 season kicks off with an exhibition game on Nov. 5 against Bluefield. The regular season begins on Nov. 13 when the Golden Eagles visit Minnesota. In addition to playing at Minnesota, Tech’s non-conference schedule is highlighted by trips to Memphis, Kansas, Lipscomb and Southern Utah, with a tough home games against Oakland, Evansville and Ball State.

“It is a tough schedule. Those games you know are tough, but it’s the other games that make this schedule really tough,” Sutton said. “Oakland will be really good after winning their league last year, and Lipscomb is picked to win their league. We had a great game with Ball State last year, and they’re coming to our place. Evansville will be tough under a second-year head coach. The schedule will be so tough early it could be a little bit of a handicap. Our record may not reflect the quality of our team. It will be a challenge, but the kids will enjoy the opportunities to play in some of those venues.”

Tech’s first OVC test will be Dec. 5 at Jacksonville State. The 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held March 2, 5-6. The first round (March 2) will be held at campus sites (the top four seeds will host games) and the semifinals and finals will be held at the Sommet Center in Nashville. The semifinals will be carried live on ESPNU with the championship game being broadcast to a national audience on ESPN2.

The 2009-10 All-OVC Preseason Men’s Basketball team is headlined by Morehead State junior center Kenneth Faried. Faried is coming off a season where he was named OVC Defensive Player of the Year and OVC Tournament MVP.

Austin Peay’s Wesley Channels (16.5 points, 3.1 assists/game, 79 made 3-pointers), Eastern Illinois’ Romain Martin (15.4 points, 3.7 rebounds/game, 78 made 3-pointers) and Murray State’s Danero Thomas (12.5 points, 43. rebounds, 1.5 steals/game) were each second-team All-OVC picks last season and are each on the preseason team this year.

Murray State’s Ivan Aska (10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds/game, 52.7 FG%) and Isacc Miles (10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists/game, and the 9th triple-double in league history) were two of the five All-OVC Newcomer selections in 2008-09 who are also on this year’s All-OVC preseason squad.

The Preseason All-OVC team is rounded out by Tennessee State’s Darius Cox (10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds/game, 52.2 FG%), Eastern Illinois’ Tyler Laser (11.4 points, 3.1 assists/game, 96.2 FT%), Morehead State’s Maze Stallworth (12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds/game, 87 made 3-pointers) and Eastern Kentucky’s Justin Stommes (10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists/game, 41.9 3FG%).


2009-10 Preseason Predicted Order of Finish
 1.    Morehead State (10 first-place votes)        154
        Murray State (10)                                    154
 3.    Austin Peay                                             114
 4.    Eastern Illinois                                         105
 5.    Eastern Kentucky                                     93
 6.    Jacksonville State                                     86
 7.    Tennessee Tech                                      76
 8.    UT Martin                                                 55
 9.    Tennessee State                                       44
10.    Southeast Missouri                                  19


2009-10 Preseason All-OVC Team
Ivan Aska, Murray State
Wesley Channels, Austin Peay
Darius Cox, Tennessee State
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
Tyler Laser, Eastern Illinois
Romain Martin, Eastern Illinois
Isacc Miles, Murray State
Maze Stallworth, Morehead State
Justin Stommes, Eastern Kentucky
Danero Thomas, Murray State

Preseason OVC Player of the Year: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State