No. 11 Murray State bides time before NCAA tourney

COLIN FLY AP Sports Writer Published:

Murray State accomplished its season-long goal of reaching the NCAA tournament. Now, the 11th-ranked Racers must wait -- and wait and wait -- to see what comes next.

Senior guard Donte Poole said he's already lived the longest 1.1 seconds of his life during the final play of the Racers' victory in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship on Saturday, but the coming days certainly will drag on even more.

The soonest Murray State (30-1) will play again is next Thursday -- a layoff of at least 11 days.

"That 1.1 seconds in the OVC championship was the longest 1.1 seconds of my life, but these 11 days are going to be long," Poole said. "We've just got to make sure we stay focused, stay hungry."

Murray State has a lot it can build off from its rally over Tennessee State for a 54-52 victory that was capped when senior Jewuan Long made a floater and the Racers held off the Tigers.

"For me to make that shot, it could've been anybody," Long said. "I was going to make the right play. At the same time, any of our players could've done that."

The Racers are currently one of three men's Division I teams with 30 wins -- along with No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Syracuse -- but unlike those major conference schools, the Racers will be forced to sit and wait until the NCAA tournament.

Long said they'll use the time wisely to prepare even though they won't know their next opponent until Sunday.

"I would hope it would go by quick, but I believe it's going to go by a little bit slow because it's just the anticipation. We're excited to go to the NCAA tournament," he said. "I know what we're getting into. It means more practice. We're just ready to get back on the floor and play."

The Racers took Sunday and Monday off and coach Steve Prohm is still deciding how to bridge the layoff. He plans to fill the time with scrimmages, weightlifting sessions and individual workouts before the selection show.

"I think it's a very small window (to relax). We can't become too complacent, we can't become too comfortable. Wherever we go, we've got to make sure we're ready because from this point on, there's no more chances," Poole said. "It's one and done, either you do what you've got to do and move on or you don't and you lose.

"A lot of teams might become too comfortable, they might be happy with the success that they had so far, but I just think that allows teams to get beat and we're not ready to stop this journey we've been on."

In the meantime, Prohm believes Murray State can make a strong case to be a No. 2 seed in the tournament.

"We have like five or six top 100, 125 (RPI) wins, so when you factor that into the equation and then you look at the fact we're 30-1, you have to sit back and say, 'Wow,'" Prohm said. "You're not just 30-1 by mistake. Now, do I think we're going to get a two seed? Probably not. But, four, five or six if I'm a betting man."

Most pundits are picking the Racers to fall somewhere between those numbers, commonly landing a five or six seed. If that happens, Murray State would face either one of the final at-large teams or one of the highest seeded conference tournament winners -- a team that could have similar experience as the Racers did in 2010.

Poole, Long, Isaiah Canaan, Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel played as a 13 seed when the Racers beat Vanderbilt in the first round before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Butler.

"It speaks to great upperclassmen. We've got three great seniors, two really good juniors," Prohm said. "We've got five guys who've been there, you know, that lost to Butler in the second round."

That loss still sticks in the minds of Poole, Long and the rest of the Racers, who lost by two points and then watched the Bulldogs march into mid-major history as a five seed.

The Racers insist they won't linger on where they're seeded Sunday because the best teams in the tournament will separate themselves.

"At the end of the day, if we want to get to where we want to go, which is the Final Four, you have to play some of the best teams anyway," Long said. "That's how you've got to look at it."