NCAA college basketball is known for its unpredictability, its excitement, and for the emotion it generates from its fans. Whether those fans are students, alumni, or casual fans, no one can deny the passion that goes into this particular sport. That passion tends to amplify when the teams do well, and when they are ranked, it gives fans a figurative shot in the arm. This season has been more than a shot in the arm for one team: it’s been a full-blown injection of adrenaline. This past weekend, this team went on to become the final undefeated team in the nation in Division I.
Of course, I’m referring to the Murray State Racers. I’m also proud to say that this is the school I attend. This is also why I chose to write this piece about how this season has affected our campus. The Ohio Valley Conference has always been about its basketball more than anything else, and as far back as I can remember, Murray State has always been a major force in said conference. On this campus, as well as throughout this small community, Murray State basketball has always been well-supported and sponsored with basketball shoes for each player. Its fans have always been very passionate, and that passion is personified through the students who show up to the games regularly. One can go to a Murray State home game, and usually the student section is filled up completely.
Enter the 2011-2012 season.
20 straight wins without a loss. Murray State has had some notable seasons in past years, including:
1937-38, with a 27-4 record, and an NAIA Final Four appearance, making the semi-finals.
1951-52, with a 24-10 record, and a runner-up spot in the NAIA Final Four.
1997-1998, with a 29-4 record, and an NCAA Final Four tournament appearance, losing in the first round.
2009-2010, with a 31-5 record, this time making the NCAA Final Four Tournament with a loss in the second round.
Now, we come back to this season, where Murray State now stands as the final undefeated team in the nation. Morale on campus is higher than it’s ever been since I have been attending this school, and all fans, including students and alumni, have been more supportive than ever. This achievement has given this school a new sense of pride, and a very high confidence level. Now, not only is the student section packed, but the entire CFSB Center is now packed as well. In fact, this coming Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois is sold out.
As I stated, the entire campus is ecstatic over the team’s play, which has garnered them some leading statistics in the nation. The Racers rank 4th in the nation currently in three-point shooting percentage with a 41.8 accuracy, which is only 3.3% behind Creighton, who leads the nation in this statistic. They also rank 8th in the nation in steals with an average of 9.3 per game. These two top-ten statistics make for a good combination in the eyes of many, as Murray State is currently ranked 9th in the ESPN/USA Today poll, and ranked 11th in the AP Top 25. Of course, this could lead to overconfidence, but coach Steve Prohm has done a good job so far of keeping his players hungry. As the last undefeated team in the nation, this will now put a bulls-eye on the backs of this team, and it will create quite a lot of pressure as these final few games approach.
When one refers to talented teams in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, one tends to think of teams such as Duke, UNC, or Kentucky. At the end of this season, maybe Murray State will be used in the same sentence with these other teams. Can they remain undefeated for the entire season? Time will tell. I can’t predict the future, but I can predict this: the momentum from this season, no matter what the outcome, will be felt by Murray State for quite some time. Now it will be interesting to see how this success translates when March approaches.
Now…we just sit back, and enjoy the ride.