FINDING NCAA

Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne is interviewed on-air after beating Morehead State 80-77 March 6 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne is interviewed on-air after beating Morehead State 80-77 March 6 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore point guard Cameron Payne is interviewed on-air after beating Morehead State 80-77 March 6 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Steve Prohm and his team have been making a passionate plea to the NCAA Selection Committee for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as they prepare for Selection Sunday. Much of their lobbying has been done over social media, but the content is of the utmost importance to players, coaches and fans alike.

“It isn’t a game for me,” said sophomore guard Justin Seymour. “This is our life. We put endless time in this. I was straight business. I want to be heard about the situation and I want people to know that we are deserving of a bid.”

With #RacersDeserveABid trending on Twitter and Seymour’s series of tweets landing him a guest spot on ESPN radio with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith of ESPN’s His and Hers, the Racers refuse to be overlooked.

Fumi Nakamura/The News Head Coach Steve Prohm contests a call during the March 7 loss to Belmont at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

Fumi Nakamura/The News
Head Coach Steve Prohm contests a call during the March 7 loss to Belmont at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.

“I basically did it for the sake of the team,” Seymour said. “I just feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick and people are overlooking what we did. We’ve won 25 games in a row. How are you just going to take that from us because of a fadeaway 3? That’s just not fair to us as a team.”

As of Tuesday night, Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology listed Murray State as third on the Next Four Out, ranking the team as the 79th pick to play into the tournament. Fans, coaches and players think the Racers are more than deserving of a bid, despite falling off both the AP and USA TODAY Coaches Polls this week. An undefeated regular conference season, a 25-game win streak and Naismith Trophy semifinalists for Player of the Year and Coach of the Year are just a few of the accolades the Racers have racked up during their 27-5 overall season.

“That’s what the committee has to sit down and say at the end of the day when they’re evaluating us,” Prohm said. “Look what they’ve done. Can the 10, 11 and 12 seeds that we’ve got – these bubble teams or these last teams in – can they do the same thing?”

Jenny Rohl/The News Junior forward Jeffery Moss dribbles during the OVC Championship game against Belmont.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Junior forward Jeffery Moss dribbles during the OVC Championship game against Belmont.

Supporters and critics alike are voicing their opinions online and on-air. College basketball analyst for ESPN, Dick Vitale, tweeted Tuesday that the Racers have a legitimate case, while CBS Sports bracket expert Jerry Palm spoke in a less positive light about Murray State on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney Monday.

“They won’t get more than about 30 seconds of discussion (from the selection committee),” Palm said. “There’s just absolutely nothing to talk about there.”

Palm, however, devoted more than 30 seconds of discussion to the Racers, adding to the media storm that has risen since their March 7 loss to Belmont. RPI rankings and strength of schedule are two main points criticizers are stating to argue against the Racers’ at-large bid, while supporters say Murray State is reminiscent of the 2006 Virginia Commonwealth University and 2011 George Mason teams, both of which advanced to the Final Four after receiving at-large bids to the tourney.

RPI rankings are just one of the tools the 10-person NCAA Selection Committee uses to make their final verdict, however. According to the NCAA’s website, it is up to the committee members to determine if the at-large teams have played their way into the tournament.

Jenny Rohl/The News Senior guard T.J. Sapp plays with his daughter outside the locker room after the Racers’ OVC Championship loss March 7.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Senior guard T.J. Sapp plays with his daughter outside the locker room after the Racers’ OVC Championship loss March 7.

“If you do your research and you’re diligent in the process, I really can’t see us not getting in,” Prohm said. “In my heart, I just can’t see it. We’ve got to stop punching numbers. You’d have never heard of Cardale Jones if they were punching numbers in football.”

The team does not plan to watch the NCAA Selection Show together when it airs Sunday at 4 p.m., but they will meet after to celebrate their selection or watch the National Invitation Tournament Selection Show together. With so much up in the air, Prohm is sure of one thing: People would love to see the story.

“You love to see it,” Prohm said. “Whether we get in and win, or whether we get in and get beat by nine or 11, or we go to the Sweet 16, it doesn’t change whether you were deserving or undeserving. We are deserving. Whether we get in or not, I don’t know.”

Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor