Three Man Weave: Murray State

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JoeD
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Three Man Weave: Murray State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:39 pm

2. Murray State
Key Returners: Darnell Cowart, Tevin Brown, KJ Williams, Anthony Smith, Jaiveon Eaves, Brion Whitley, Devin Gilmore
Key Losses: Ja Morant, Shaq Buchanan, Brion Sanchious, Mike Davis
Key Newcomers: Noah Kamba, Matt Smith, Demond Robinson, Chico Carter Jr., Jason Holliday (JUCO)

Lineup:

Outlook: Murray State has developed into somewhat of an OVC powerhouse over the past 20 years or so and last season enjoyed yet another banner year in program history. The Racers split the OVC regular season title with Belmont and knocked the Bruins off in the OVC Tournament Championship to earn their second straight bid to the Big Dance. Once in the main event, Murray State took it to an unsuspecting Marquette squad before ultimately succumbing to Florida State. Ja Morant, a generational talent and one of the best ever to put on a Murray State uniform, has gone to the NBA Draft, and reigning OVC DPOY Shaq Buchanan has graduated, but the Racers still have a wealth of talent to give Belmont a run at the top of the OVC standings.

Nobody can replace the production Morant brought to the table last season, but McMahon has a couple options to run at the point in two incoming freshmen. Noah Kamba, a 3-star recruit, is a true facilitator who loves to play in transition and likely has the inside track to starting on day one. Chico Carter Jr. impressed in Murray State's Bahamas tour, nearly notching a triple-double in the final contest despite playing only 22 minutes. Carter is more of a score-first PG than Kamba, but both can run an offense. It'll be interesting to see if head coach Matt McMahon continues the transition-based attack he gravitated towards last season after playing relatively slow his first three years at MSU. Morant's presence demanded the Racers play at a breakneck pace, allowing him to wreak havoc on opposing teams with his quickness and athleticism. Without Morant, it's likely we see McMahon dial down the tempo in 2019-20.

Another focus of Murray's offense last year was attacking the rim, which the Racers did better than majority of teams in the country. MSU ranked 5th in FGA% near the rim last season, scoring most of its buckets off dribble penetration, transition layups, or offensive rebounds. McMahon has plenty of depth and rebounding in the frontcourt to continue the onslaught on the boards, but Morant and Buchanan's departures might suggest a shift towards a more shooting-based attack. Like his pace trend during his first three seasons at MSU, McMahon's squads also shot significantly more threes from 2015-16 to 2017-18 compared to last year.

Tevin Brown will likely lead the Racers in scoring this season, showing signs in the Bahamas when he averaged over 20 PPG during their three-game stint. Brown is primarily a three-point shooter and has a good chance at eclipsing 300+ 3PA in 2019-20. Last season, Brown started all 31 games for the Racers as a freshman and shot an impressive 37.6% from downtown on 229 attempts. 77.1% of Brown's shots came from outside the arc and 93.3% of his makes were assisted, meaning MSU will still need the creation of Kamba / Carter to complement the smooth-shooting Brown.

The fifth starting spot outside of two forwards, a point guard, and Brown will be a hotly contested battle between several viable options. Jaiveon Eaves, a team leader and one of the few seniors on the squad, played well in the Bahamas and appears to be the favorite to start early on. He'll need to improve on sub-par shooting numbers posted during his first two collegiate seasons. Brion Whitley probably remains a shooting reserve off the bench; he knocked down 44.7% of his 38 3PA in 2019-20. JUCO transfer Jason Holliday is an aggressive combo guard and two-way player who can score from anywhere on the floor and defend multiple spots. If McMahon wants versatility, Holliday is probably the best option on the wing. Redshirt freshman DaQuan Smith will also see plenty of run after losing most of last season to injury. He can function as another ball handler in addition to being a scoring option on the perimeter. Athletic wing Matt Smith can play either the 3 or 4 with his size and shooting ability and should also see the floor in year one.

Murray's frontcourt is super deep and sure to keep the Racers among the best offensive rebounding teams in the OVC. Darnell Cowart, an OVC All-Newcomer Team member last year, returns after seeing his playing time explode in the second half of 2018-19. Cowart ranked in the top three in the OVC in both OR% and DR% last season, got the foul line at a high rate, and punished smaller defenders on the block. He was the 11th highest used player in the league last year and will be a central piece of Murray's offense in 2019-20. This is Cowart's go-to hook move:

Forward KJ Williams lined up next to Cowart majority of last season and Murray was absolutely ELITE when the pair shared the floor:

Like Cowart, Williams is very strong on the offensive glass.

Redshirt senior Anthony Smith also returns this season after missing most of 2018-19 after starting MSU's first four contests. Smith has turned in sky-high rebounding and block rates during his collegiate career and will be a great option off the bench in a backup role - he'd start for nearly every other team in the league. Devin Gilmore will see run at the 4 with his ability to control the glass at just 6'6" - like Eaves, Gilmore is seen one of Murray's team leaders. Freshman Demond Robinson may not contribute immediately in the crowded frontcourt, but his gigantic wingspan (7'5") makes him a potential defensive nightmare.

Speaking of defense, MSU will likely be strong on this end again this season, but the loss of Morant and Buchanan will make the perimeter unit much less potent. Brown was an excellent defender on the wing last year (one of the nation's best from a PPP standpoint) and Kamba has the quickness to an on-ball pest. The Racers excelled last year at taking away the three-ball and held opponents to just 28.9% from outside the arc (4th best nationally). That number likely regresses towards the mean in 2019-20, but McMahon's squad should still do a good job limiting open perimeter looks. Despite all of the frontline girth, MSU was rather weak defending the paint last year - perhaps with Anthony Smith back in the fold and even more depth, the Racers will turn that performance around this season.

Bottom Line: Morant was the 4th highest used player in country last year and dominated every facet of MSU's offensive attack. McMahon will be challenged to implement a new scheme and develop once-role players into go-to scoring options. The team trip to Bahamas is bound to do wonders for early-season chemistry and it appears MSU will still be one of the top OVC teams behind the shooting of Tevin Brown and post play of Darnell Cowart.
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JoeD
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Re: Three Man Weave: Murray State

Post by JoeD » Tue Oct 29, 2019 3:39 pm

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Re: Three Man Weave: Murray State

Post by murraygrad05 » Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:43 pm

Murray State has developed into somewhat of an OVC powerhouse over the past 20 years or so and last season enjoyed yet another banner year in program history.

Um... somewhat for 20 years? :doh:
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Re: Three Man Weave: Murray State

Post by racerlover » Tue Oct 29, 2019 7:15 pm

murraygrad05 wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 6:43 pm
Murray State has developed into somewhat of an OVC powerhouse over the past 20 years or so and last season enjoyed yet another banner year in program history.

Um... somewhat for 20 years? :doh:
I was going to say that 20 years should be damn near 35-40 years.
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Re: Three Man Weave: Murray State

Post by smidge34 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 6:15 am

The “powerhouse” era really started with the 90s decade so 30 would be about right.
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