At 8-0 Murray State wasn't a very impressive team. Three of their wins were against non-Division I opponents, three of their wins were against teams with a combined record of 6-20, and then they had a 3-point win over San Francisco and a double overtime win against Southern Mississippi. Then, on December 4th, Dayton went to Murray, Kentucky and promptly got waxed by the Racers. Suddenly Murray State was intriguing.
On Sunday the Racers travelled to Memphis for a game that had been circled on their schedule. Murray State jumped on the Tigers, taking an 11-2 lead and they never took their foot off the pedal. Memphis briefly led in the 2nd half (for about 2 1/2 minuntes), and they cut the game to 1 in the waning seconds, but a Zay Jackson free throw iced it. Steve Prohm's Murray State Racers are 10-0.
Haven't heard of Steve Prohm? You're not alone. Since his student assistant days at Alabama, Prohm has bounced around as an assistant for 13 years: Centenary, Southeastern Louisiana, Tulane and finally Murray State for five years. And then in May Gary Williams retired at Maryland and everything changed. Mark Turgeon left Texas A&M to take over the Terrapins, and Prohm's boss Billy Kennedy replaced Turgeon. That left the Murray State position open, and Prohm was given the promotion. Now he's 10-0 as a head coach and has a chance to run the table.
The Racers out-of-conference schedule isn't exactly a gauntlet, but they played a few decent teams and one really good one and beat them all. Now they just have Lipscomb and Arkansas State to handle. Then it's on to the Ohio Valley. The OVC is a one-bid conference. The Racers will play 16 conference games and they'll be favored in every one. According to Ken Pomeroy this gives them a 9.2% chance of going undefeated. Entering the game with Memphis that chance was 1.6%.
They are led by junior Isaiah Canaan. Two years ago his freshman season ended with him sitting on the floor watching Butler celebrate in the NCAA Tournament after Gordon Hayward stole the ball from him in the last seconds of a 2-pt game. Now Canaan is a star, leading the way with 19.8 points and 4 assists per game. His 53% on 2s, 48% on 3s and 84% on FTs has led to an impressive 124.9 offensive rating. For players that use at least 24% of their team's possessions, this is the 10th highest offensive rating in the nation. And though he struggled scoring against Memphis, they have other players who can step up. On Sunday it was senior Donte Poole. He's having an impressive season of his own, and has a 123 offensive rating by adding a 3-point shot to his slashing game. Poole was one of two returning starters for the Racers.
Three of Prohm's four predecessors have moved on to high major positions: Mark Gottfried went to Alabama (now at NC State), Mick Cronin made the jump from Murray State to Cincinnati, and Billy Kennedy went to Texas A&M. With the spotlight now on Murray State, Prohm could have the opportunity to join them, and sooon.