Most of the national media's obsession with mid major basketball conferences comes right about this time every year.
Usually Dick Vitale or some other talking head screams for hours about how the mid-major conferences are being under represented in the NCAA tournament.
Murray State is the exception to that rule.
The Racers won their conference, the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), for the 12th time in the last 15 years. In that time, Murray State has a record of 182-50 against the OVC. In fact Murray State has been on fire in its league in the last few seasons. Since the 1998-1999 season, the Racers have posted a 67-19 record in the OVC. Most importantly Murray State has been to the NCAA Tournament eleven times.
Of Murray State's last 165 games, the Racers have won 121 of them with wins over Arkansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech. So there is no doubt that Murray State is not the traditional mid-major team that is struggling.
With this being Murray State's 11th entry into the NCAA tournament it is important to note that they have not done well at all in the NCAAs. Murray State has compiled a 1-11 record in NCAA Tournament game. The Racers' only NCAA win came in 1988 when they beat NC State 78-75 in the first round.
Even with past failures in the NCAA tournament, it is important to note that Murray State is on a run of sorts. The Racers have won 10 or their last 11 games. That run is even more impressive considering that Murray State has played with basically only seven players due to injuries.
Justin Burdine is the main reason for Murray State's success. He is averaging 20.4 point a game with nearly three rebounds a game. Lately Burdine has been unstoppable. The senior guard has scored over 20 points the last three Murray State games and is averaging 23.6 points per game in that stretch. While not an outstanding free throw shooter, Burdine has been shooting lights out from the floor (50%) and from behind the arc (41%).
But the key statistic regarding Burdine is that without him in the starting lineup, Murray State struggled going 4-6. With Burdine in the starting lineup, the Racers are 15-6.
So goes Burdine, so goes the Racers.
Dean Legge can be reached here: email@example.com