Nashville, Tenn. - In a vote of Ohio Valley Conference head men's basketball coaches and sports information directors, Tennessee State University was picked ninth in the Preseason Order of Finish receiving 44 points.
Last season, the Tigers finished 9-9 in conference play (6th place), 12-18 overall, and was eliminated by Murray State in the first round of the OVC Tournament. Down the stretch the Tigers won six of their last seven games.
Morehead State and Murray State each received 154 points and were named co-favorites. Austin Peay State followed with 114 total points. Eastern Illinois was picked fourth (105 points) and was followed by Eastern Kentucky (93), Jacksonville State (86), Tennessee Tech (76), UT Martin (55), with Southeast Missouri State (19) rounding off the list.
Returning are four Tigers who saw action a season ago. Darius Cox, Jeremiah Crutcher, Lonnie Funderburke and Wil Peters accounted for 25.8 percent of TSU's scoring and 33.6 percent of its rebounding in 2008-09. That group is led by preseason All-OVC selection and returning starter Darius Cox who averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds/game last season while hitting 52.2 percent from the field.
Crutcher returns as one of two starters after leading the team in assists with 121 last year, averaging four per contests along with four points/game. Peters averaged 2.8 points/game but led the team at the charity stripe with a .808 average. Funderburke gathered more playing time down the stretch, making seven starts in which the Tigers won six straight to move up the team standings to secure a spot in the OVC Tournament.
Nash finished the 2008-09 season as the NJCAA leading rebounder with 14.2 per game at Redlands Community College. Peguero averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds at Colby Community College. Sain played in 33 games and scored 206 points at Chipola Community College. Before Chipola, Sain averaged 6.7 points per game for Middle Tennessee State and was a high school Mr. Basketball finalist in 2006.
Head Coach John Cooper's first freshmen recruiting class is comprised of a host of talent. Freshmen Robert Covington, Marcus Cowan, Tashan Fredrick, Martell Buie and Jacquan Nobles were all area standouts in their high school careers either making all-city, district or state teams.
A Preseason High School All American, Covington averaged a double-double with 18.1 points and 11.0 rebounds a game. Cowan and Fredrick will add more depth to the forward position. Cowan averaged a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Fredrick averaged 17.1 points/game. Buie and Nobles will see time at the guard position. Buie averaged 10.1 assists/game with Nobles averaging 20.2 points/game shooting 63 percent from the field.
TSU's 2009-10 season kicks off with an exhibition game against Trevecca Nazerene on Nov. 3. The regular season begins on Friday, Nov. 13 against No. 28 Siena. Both games will be played at the Gentry Center with start times scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Tigers will also play four games on national television with two on ESPNU against Austin Peay State (1/16) and Jacksonville State (1/21). The Tigers will appear on the BigTen Network versus Northwestern (11/22) and Iowa (1/12).
The first Conference game will take place on Thursday, Dec. 3 against Eastern Illinois at the Gentry Center. The 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held March 2, 5-6. The first round (3/2) will be held at campus sites (the top four seeds will host games) and the semifinals and finals will be held at the Sommet Center in Nashville. The semifinals will be carried live on ESPNU with the championship game being broadcast to a national audience on ESPN2.
2009-10 Preseason Predicted Order of Finish
1. Morehead State (10 first-place votes) - 154
Murray State (10) - 154
3. Austin Peay - 114
4. Eastern Illinois - 105
5. Eastern Kentucky - 93
6. Jacksonville State - 86
7. Tennessee Tech - 76
8. UT Martin - 55
9. Tennessee State - 44
10. Southeast Missouri - 19