OVC tournament benefits from interest in Murray State

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 8:51pm

Murray State brings its show to the Music City this weekend and the Ohio Valley Conference couldn’t be more excited.

The 12th-ranked Racers (28-1) headline the OVC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which begin Wednesday at Municipal Auditorium. League officials expect to reap the benefits of one of the college basketball’s biggest stories when Friday and Saturday roll around.

As the top seed, Murray receives two byes and won’t play until the semifinals, 6 p.m. Friday. That evening also features some local flavor as No. 2 seed Tennessee State — the only team to knock off Murray — plays in the other semifinal at 8 p.m.

By Tuesday, advance ticket sales already had surpassed previous years and OVC spokesperson Kyle Schwartz anticipated a near sellout for Friday’s men semifinals. Capacity at Municipal Auditorium is 7,500.

The men’s championship game, with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament at stake, is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2.

“If the right teams are playing on Saturday, maybe the same thing [a sellout] as well,” Schwartz said, alluding to a possible Murray-TSU showdown.

The largest turnout for an OVC championship game at Municipal was 5,875 in 1994. The league drew a neutral-site record 8,145 fans for the title game in 1993, which was held at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. The championship game between Morehead State and Tennessee Tech last year attracted a crowd of just 2,769.

Murray, which went undefeated longer than any other team in Division I, has drawn sellouts or near capacity crowds every where it has played since the beginning of January. Last Thursday, TSU’s Gentry Center set an attendance record for a basketball game as 10,125 showed up for Murray State’s 862 win.

Tickets can be purchased at the Municipal Auditorium box office or online at ticketmaster.com. Single session tickets are $30 for men’s game and $15 for women’s. All-session reserved tickets cost $80 and may only be purchased through school ticket offices.

OVC Tournament Schedule

(all games at Municipal Auditorium)

WOMEN
Wednesday

Game 1: No. 5 Morehead State vs. No. 8 Austin Peay, noon
Game 2: No. 6 Eastern Kentucky vs. No. 7 Tennessee State, 2 p.m.
Thursday
Game 3: No. 4 Murray State vs. Game 1 winner, noon
Game 4: No. 3 Tennessee Tech vs. Game 2 winner, 2 p.m.
Friday
Game 5: No. 1 UT-Martin vs. Game 3 winner, noon
Game 6: No. 2 Eastern Illinois vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
Saturday
Championship game, 4:30 p.m.

MEN
Wednesday

Game 1: No. 5 Southeast Missouri vs. No. 8 Eastern Kentucky, 6 p.m.
Game 2: No. 6 Austin Peay vs. No. 7 Jacksonville State, 8 p.m.
Thursday
Game 3: No. 4 Tennessee Tech vs. Game 1 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 4: No. 3 Morehead State vs. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m.
Friday
Game 5: No. 1 Murray State vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 6: No. 2 Tennessee State vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
Saturday
Championship game, 1 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)