Women's squad picked to finish last in the 11-team conference
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team is expected to take another step up the Ohio Valley Conference standings, while Southeast's women are expected to finish at the bottom.
That was the result of Tuesday's OVC media day in Nashville, Tenn., where the preseason polls and all-conference squads were announced based on voting by the league's coaches and sports information directors.
Southeast's men were picked sixth in the 11-team conference, while the women were selected dead last.
Both Southeast coaches took the predictions in stride.
"We don't really pay a lot of attention to it. Those polls don't really mean much," third-year Southeast men's coach Dickey Nutt said. "But it's great for the fans to talk about, to get everybody excited for the season."
Nutt's squad went 10-22 overall and 6-12 in the OVC last year, good for seventh place, despite being shorthanded.
That performance bettered the Redhawks' overall and OVC win totals in Nutt's first year, when he inherited a program coming off a 3-27 season and saddled with NCAA probation.
Southeast made the OVC tournament for the first time since 2006-07 and won an OVC tournament game for the first time since 2004-05.
"We are taking some good steps. We feel like we've put ourselves in a position to make a move," said Nutt, who has a full roster for the first time at Southeast. "We're excited about the season."
Southeast senior forward Leon Powell was voted to the all-OVC preseason team.
Powell, who made second-team all-OVC last year, ranked among the league's top three in scoring (14.1), rebounding (7.7) and blocks (50). He led the nation in field-goal shooting at 63 percent.
"Leon is a guy that has bought into my vision of turning this program around here at Southeast," Nutt said. "He is a top-notch player who gives us the same effort day-in and day-out. He is first class both on and off the court."
Austin Peay is the preseason favorite, receiving 10 of 22 first-place votes. Coaches and sports information directors were not allowed to vote for their own squads.
Tennessee Tech garnered eight first-place votes and was picked second. Also receiving first-place votes were No. 3 Murray State (three), the defending conference regular-season champion, and No. 5 Morehead State (one), the defending conference tournament champion.
Tennessee State was tabbed fourth, followed by Morehead State, Southeast, Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin, Eastern Illinois, Jacksonville State and first-year OVC member SIU-Edwardsville.
"I think OVC basketball has really taken a jump," Nutt said. "From top to bottom you've got a lot of good teams that are very capable."
Tennessee Tech senior guard/forward Kevin Murphy was voted the OVC preseason player of the year.
Southeast's women have nowhere to go but up as first-year coach Ty Margenthaler tries to rebuild a program that was an OVC power before falling on hard times.
The Redhawks are a combined 15-42 over the past two seasons, with identical 4-14 conference records. Southeast was ninth in the OVC a year ago after finishing last in 2009-10.
"It wasn't a major surprise," Margenthaler said about the last-place prediction. "It really doesn't matter. To me a preseason pick is just that.
"We would obviously like to be higher, but our main focus is to be at the top toward the end of the season. It's a little more motivation for us."
Margenthaler sees potential from a group that returns five starters.
"I tell the team that this is a process and it's not going to happen right away for us," he said. "However, we feel that the hard work we're putting in on and off the court will pay off, and when the final standings are up, we'll be right where we need to be."
Defending OVC regular-season champion Tennessee Tech is the favorite. The Eagles received 13 first-place votes.
Tennessee-Martin, which beat Tennessee Tech in last year's OVC tournament final, was picked second and garnered the remaining nine first-place votes.
Eastern Illinois was tabbed third, followed by Austin Peay, Morehead State, Murray State, Tennessee State, SIU-Edwardsville, Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky and Southeast.
Tennessee Tech senior guard Tacarra Hayes is the OVC preseason player of the year.
Both Southeast teams play their only exhibition games Nov. 7 at the Show Me Center, the men against Harding and the women against Harris-Stowe.
Southeast's men open the season Nov. 11 at Missouri. The women tip off the same day at North Carolina State.