It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, when mid-majors rise and champions are crowned. Join your intrepid blogger on her third annual attempt to learn about ALL the teams. First up: some high-flying birds of prey.
Who? The Skyhawks of the University of Tennessee at Martin. UT Martin for short. Always Skyhawks, never Lady Skyhawks.
What? Specifically, red-tailed hawks, and Captain is explicitly non-gendered.
Where? Martin, Tennessee, which supposedly has a Peanut Brittle Museum.
When? March 8th, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Why? They won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.
How? Jasmine Newsome’s 25 points led five Skyhawks in double figures, and UT Martin was never threatened in a 78-64 win over Belmont. Newsome added six assists and seven rebounds.
Surprise? Predicted to finish first in the conference’s West division, they won the West by eight games over SIU-Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois. Whatever the opposite of a surprise is, UT Martin winning the Ohio Valley has been that these last few years.
Record: 23-7 (15-1 Ohio Valley)
Good wins: That win at Alabama looks a lot better than it did early in the season, with the Tide’s resurgence in conference play.
Bad losses: Northern Kentucky at Robert Morris’s tournament. The state of the Ohio Valley means that loss at Edwardsville is pretty putrid, too.
Who’s running this show? Kevin McMillan, since 2009. He studied math and business in college.
Extra, Extra! The Jackson Sun.
Fourth in the country in scoring with 84.4 points per game, the Skyhawks soar on the backs of senior guards Heather Butler (24.1 ppg) and Jasmine Newsome (19.2 points, 5.8 assists). The dynamic duo for UT Martin both play over 34 minutes per game. This year, they’ve been getting assistance from freshman forward Ashia Jones, who averages 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds.
All I ask of ESPN this year is that their first-round game is on at a time that I can watch and doesn’t get whipped out in favor of a different massacre.