Minnesota-Tennessee Tech BB Preview

Minnesota has outscored their Division II instate competition 212-96 in easy victories over Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Moorhead. The Gophers open the regular season at home Friday against Tennessee Tech. Tubby Smith will see a familiar face on the Golden Eagles' sideline in head coach Mike Sutton, who was an assistant at five different stops.

Mike Sutton begins his eighth season as head coach at Tennessee Tech and has compiled an 114-100 overall record in seven years. Sutton is the second longest tenured coach in the Ohio Valley Conference and has made remarkable comeback from suffering Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in April 2005 just months after capturing the OVC championship and OVC Coach of the Year honors. Sutton spent much of that summer paralyzed and clinging to life. However, he returned to the sidelines during the 2005-06 season and led Tech to back-to-back 19 win campaigns. Sutton was presented with the Most Courageous Award by the United States Basketball Writers' Association, following the team's 19-12 performance in 2005-06.

Sutton and Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith have had a long friendship. Sutton was hired by Tubby Smith as an assistant for the 1979-80 season at Hoke County High School in Raeford, N.C. Before the season began, Smith left for an assistant coaching position at Virginia Commonwealth University, leaving Sutton behind but only temporarily. The next year, the two were reunited as assistants at VCU, helping the Rams advance to the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

Sutton then left the college ranks and became head coach at Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, Va., taking over a downtrodden program that had tallied a 1-19 record the previous season. Sutton turned the program around during his 13-year career from 1981-94, leading the team to the Class AAA State Championship in his final season. His coaching efforts earned him The Associated Press Coach of the Year award for 1993-94. Sutton compiled a 176-122 record at Meadowbrook before rejoining Smith at Tulsa. He followed Smith to coaching jobs in Georgia and Kentucky.

While coaching the Wildcats, Sutton's duties included on-floor coaching and off-campus recruiting. He helped lead Kentucky to three Southeastern Conference regular season championships and three SEC tournament titles. The team played in the NCAA tournament all five seasons he was with the Wildcats, claiming the national title in 1998 with a 35-4 overall record.

Sutton came to Tennessee Tech and in his first season, he guided the 2003-04 Golden Eagles to a 20-12 overall record and a third place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference regular season before falling in the league's championship game, one step short of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee Tech finished 12-18 overall and 6-12 in Ohio Valley Conference play last year. The Golden Eagles return four starters, but must replace Daniel Northern, the team's most valuable player, who finished as the leading scorer and rebounder.

The strength of the team is in their backcourt with four returning performers. They lack size, but the Golden Eagles could often utilize a three-guard attack. They welcome back senior point guard Elijah Cunningham Muhammad (5.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg); 6-1 senior guard Will Barnes (9.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.7 apg); 6-1 sophomore guard Zach Bailey (4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); and 6-2 senior Frank Davis (10.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg), the team's top returning scorer. Davis led the team in three-pointers (76-of-177) and three-point percentage (42.9). He was seventh in the OVC in three-pointers made and second in three-point percentage.

Kevin Murphy (9.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg), a 6-6 sophomore wing, started 19 games and averaged 20.3 minutes per game.

The biggest question will be the team's inside play as they don't have a player over 6-foot-8 on the roster. Junior forward Alfred Jones (4.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore forward Bassey Inameti (3.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg) are the top returnees. Jones started 11 games and averaged 12.4 minutes per game and Inameti had seven starts and averaged 11.9 minutes.

Junior college transfer Byron Pickens and 6-8 freshman Terrell Barnes will be asked to step in quickly.

Murphy led Tennessee Tech with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double and Davis scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half as the Golden Eagles defeated Bluefield College to an 85-78 exhibition win.

Elijah Muhammad added 16 points, six rebounds and four assists from senior and Jones chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.

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