Hurricanes picked to finish fifth in ACC
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — The Steve Payne era is set to officially get underway at Tennessee Tech this weekend as the Golden Eagles prepare to open the 2011-12 season with a 6 p.m. CST tip Friday at Miami (Fla.).
In addition to debuting a first-year head coach, the Golden Eagles will put a team on the floor which returns four starters and 87 percent of its scoring from a squad that advanced to the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship game a season ago.
Payne was promoted from his post as associate head coach in March, replacing the retiring Mike Sutton, who he had worked under at Tech since 2002.
Friday’s game features not just one head coaching debut, but two, as former George Mason chief Jim Larranaga will coach his first game at the helm of the Hurricanes.
Fans can view a live web stream at OVCSports.TV and can listen over the telephone via Teamline by calling 216-502-3200 and entering TTU’s team code of 0654.
Miami owns a 3-0 record over the Golden Eagles in the all-time series, but all three games have been hotly contested. Miami claimed a 67-59 victory in 2004-05 in Coral Gables and won in a high-scoring 111-101 affair in 1989. The first game of the series was played back in 1947 in the postseason NAIB Sectional. Miami took a 55-51 victory.
Tech returns its top three leading scorers from 2010-11 in senior guards Kevin Murphy and Zac Swansey and junior Jud Dillard. Murphy, the OVC Preseason Player of the Year and a first-team selection last season, averaged 17.0 points per game, while Dillard poured in 11 per contest and Swansey scored 9.7 while also dishing out 6.4 assists per game to rank seventh in NCAA Division I in the category.
The Golden Eagles are picked to finish second in the OVC in the league’s preseason poll while Murphy and Swansey were both all-league selections. Tech finished 20-13 a season ago and went 12-6 in conference play, finishing fourth. The Golden Eagles then advanced to the championship game of the OVC Tournament and earned a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Like the Golden Eagles, Miami also returns its top three offensive producers from 2010-11 in senior guard Malcolm Grant, a preseason All-ACC selection, junior guard Durand Scott and junior center Reggie Johnson, who will miss the first part of the season after undergoing knee surgery over the summer.
Grant averaged 14.8 points per game while setting a school record for most games started in a season with 36 while Scott contributed 13.6 points per outing. Johnson came up just shy of averaging a double-double, scoring 11.9 points and grabbing 9.6 rebounds per outing.
The Hurricanes were picked to finish fifth in the ACC in 2011-12 after going 21-15 overall and 6-10 in the conference a season ago, finishing ninth and playing in the NIT, where they advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Alabama.
Miami has played one exhibition so far this season, winning 88-78 over Division II Florida Southern on Nov. 3. The Hurricanes trailed for most of the second half before tying the game with just under six minutes to go and finishing on an 18-8 run.
After facing Miami, Tech returns home to prepare for its home opener against NAIA Reinhardt on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Eblen Center.
Season tickets for the 2011-12 Golden Eagle home schedule are currently on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or by calling (931) 372-3940.