Payne represents Tech men's basketball at OVC Media Day, Golden Eagles picked fifth in preseason poll

Payne represents Tech men's basketball at OVC Media Day, Golden Eagles picked fifth in preseason poll

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Exactly two weeks stand between the Tennessee Tech men's basketball team and the start of the 2018-19 regular season. With the season within arm's reach, head coach Steve Payne represented the Golden Eagles at the Ohio Valley Conference's annual media day Tuesday morning in Evansville, Ind.

"It is always a good place to come to," Payne said of Evansville and the Ford Center. "They like basketball here in Evansville. The facilities are great and the event is awesome. I'm happy to be back for OVC Media Day because it means basketball season is right around the corner."

The 2018-19 edition of the Golden Eagles will look significantly different than that of 2017-18, with 11 newcomers joining the ranks of the purple and gold. With four of five regular starters – as well as the team's top five scorers – gone from the lineup after graduating, plenty of opportunities are available for a number of Tech players to make their mark on the new season.

"It's just part of the process," Payne explained of the adjustments. "We had a great senior class last year and we will certainly miss those guys. You know you're going to go through this as a coach. It doesn't get easier and you miss them like a family, but it creates a lot of opportunities for these new guys to come in and play.

"We had a quote on our practice plan yesterday that was pretty appropriate for it. Someone asked Hall of Fame football player Mike Singletary what he liked best about the game. He said "the opportunity to play it." Our new guys have the opportunity to play every day and enjoy it. They get to play at a great university and in a great facility and, hopefully, be one of the better teams we've had."

For the second-straight season, OVC play will feature 18 contests, pairing with 13 non-conference match-ups for a 31-game schedule for the Golden Eagles. Just like last year, Tech was selected fifth overall in a vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors. Also, in a vote among the conference's media members, Tech was again selected fifth overall.

"We lost a lot of good players in the league after last year," Payne said. "There are some good ones back, some NBA prospects back. I think Jacksonville State, Belmont and Murray State are the teams with the most skilled guys and all-conference guys back. I always think there is a dark horse, always a team that comes from nowhere, has a great year and competes for a conference championship. I would not expect this year to be any different."

For the Golden Eagles to be one of those teams with the chance to hoist a trophy at the Ford Center in March, Payne knows there are some keys to the season that must be attained.

"We're bigger than we have been in the past, so defensively we have to be better," Payne explained. "We have to rebound better. For us, the biggest key is taking care of the basketball. Turnover margin is one of the most important things we can control. We're going to play hard, we're going to play good defense, we're typically going to rebound the ball at a good rate. We will have some guys that can shoot it, but at the end of the year, it comes down to whether or not we can take care of the basketball to get more shots."

The Golden Eagles open the 2018-19 regular season Tuesday, Nov. 6 on the road, taking on in-state foe Memphis in a 7:00 p.m. CT contest. Tech will take on Presbyterian in its home-opener on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 6:00 p.m.

2018-19 Preseason All-OVC Men's Basketball Team
Shaq Buchanan, Murray State
Ledarrius Brewer, Southeast Missouri
Jason Burnell, Jacksonville State
Christian Cunningham, Jacksonville State
Lamontray Harris, Morehead State
Fatood Lewis, UT Martin
Terrell Lewis, Eastern Illinois
Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky
Kevin McClain, Belmont
Ja Morant, Murray State
Terry Taylor, Austin Peay
Dylan Windler, Belmont

Preseason Player of the Year: Dylan Windler, Belmont

2018-19 Preseason OVC Men's Basketball Predicted Order of Finish
Selected by OVC Head Basketball Coaches and Sports Information Directors)
1. Belmont (8 first-place votes) – 227 points
2. Murray State (9) – 221
3. Jacksonville State (7) – 211
4. Austin Peay – 188
5. Tennessee Tech – 135
6. Eastern Kentucky – 118
7. Eastern Illinois – 116
8. Tennessee State – 101
9. Southeast Missouri – 82
10. Morehead State – 78
11. UT Martin – 77
12. SIUE – 30

2018-19 Media OVC Preseason Men's Predicted Order of Finish
1. Belmont (6 first-place votes) - 137 points
2. Murray State (5) – 135
3. Jacksonville State (1) – 118
4. Austin Peay – 110
5. Tennessee Tech – 75
6. Tennessee State – 71
7. Eastern Illinois – 66
8. Eastern Kentucky – 62
9. Southeast Missouri – 54
10. Morehead State – 41
10. UT Martin – 41
12. SIUE - 25

Preseason Player of the Year: Dylan Windler, Belmont

Photo by Thomas Corhern