1/19 Bidwell's Blog: Come back soon, Ivan
As this amazing run continues for 12th-ranked Murray State, Racer fans may have noticed it's getting tougher and tougher to get each win. No one should be surprised. While the rest of the nation quickly dismisses the Ohio Valley Conference as a bad league, the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference quickly dismisses any fear toward Murray State. Despite being #12 in the country and unbeaten, do you think ANY school in the OVC is intimidated by the Racers? The short answer is no. That's why, especially on the road, there are few games left on Murray State's schedule that will be a blowout.
With that said, you have to give the Racers a bit of a pass for the last five games without Ivan Aska. You can't take a team's best inside presence out of the lineup for a month and expect things to just continue to roll along smoothly. They haven't, especially when it comes to rebounding. Some quick numbers:
-In the 14 games with Aska, Murray State had a +3.4 rebounding margin. In the 5 games without him, they have a -3.4 rebounding margin.
-In the 14 games with Aska, Murray State outrebounded nine opponents. In the five games without him, they've outrebounded only one.
-In the 14 games with Aska, Murray State allowed 10.3 offensive rebounds a game. In the five games without him, they've allowed 14.2 offensive rebounds a game.
With that said, the Racers are still 19-0. Steve Prohm has done a masterful job of pushing the right buttons with Aska out to keep this team unbeaten. It hasn't always been pretty, but it's ultimately been effective.
As things have worked out, Aska's injury happened at the same time Murray State really started their meteoric rise in not only the polls but also in terms of national publicity. It's easy for people, especially those who had never heard of Murray State a month ago, to bang on the team and their record saying they haven't played anybody. It's easy to look at a 66-60 win at Morehead State and say the Racers "aren't a Top-10 team." It's easy to be negative. It's the "era of angry" we live in now. Is Murray State one of the best ten teams in the country? Who knows. But I do know if you take the best post-player off any of the top teams in the country, they'll all take a hit. I'm interested to see how this team plays once Aska returns to full-strength.
I watched the Murray State "All-Access" program on ESPNU last night. First of all, what an amazing recruiting tool for the basketball program. ESPN did a good job of highlighting the first-class facilities. You also got to see a Steve Prohm practice. Prohm came off as a very positive coach -- who isn't a raving lunatic -- and a guy that cares a lot about his players. That wasn't an act for television. I assume DVD's of that program will be sent to more than one recruit in the coming months.
As a basketball fan, I was hoping to learn something new from the program. For me, that didn't really happen. I enjoyed the locker room stuff because I love that kind of stuff you don't see everyday. Other than that, there wasn't really anything presented that was new to me. Of course, the program's intended audience wasn't me.
Two major negatives of the show were the music and the spelling. I suppose the banjo was meant to be a tip of the hat to Kentucky's bluegrass roots. It didn't work here at all. There is also no greater worry for me on a daily basis than misspelling somebody's name on TV. When I saw ESPNU had the wrong spelling of the Suiter family, over and over and over, it was cringe-worthy.
I got a fantastic phone-call last night from a woman named Susan. Here's a transcript of her voice-mail: "Jeff, I'm calling to find out why in the world you are not covering the Murray State games. I find this terribly embarrassing and am very upset about it. Thank you."
I'd like to send out my best wishes to Susan because apparently she's just woken up from a three-month coma and doesn't have a working television.