NCAA March Madness Preview – Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Conference USA (30-4, 17-1)

 by Joel Welser

Middle Tennessee shocked the college basketball world last season by beating #2 seed Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Raiders lost their next game to Syracuse 75-50, but that did not deter the Cinderella story. Coach Kermit Davis returned much of the talent from that team and this is a group ready for a little more March magic.

Big Wins: 11/25 vs UNC-Wilmington (68-63), 12/8 Vanderbilt (71-48), 12/14 at Belmont (79-66)

Bad Losses: 11/19 Tennessee State (63-74), 12/21 Georgia State (56-64), 2/4 at UTEP (54-57)

Coach: Kermit Davis, Jr.

Why They Can Surprise:

MTSU relies heavily on their big three players. Giddy Potts is again the team’s top shooter. He averages 15.8 points per game and connects on 39.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Potts may be a shooter, but he is also extremely tough and will attack the basket effectively and help out on the glass. But most of the rebounding is done by Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams. Upshaw is the dynamic scoring threat who can bang in the paint and step outside and knock down some jumpers. Williams, who leads the team with 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, is the more traditional post player. He transferred in from Arkansas and has really helped with his experience and interior toughness.

Why They Can Disappoint:

With wins against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and the domination of Conference USA, the Blue Raiders are in a good position to make things interesting again in the postseason. There are some concerns though. This is not a good rebounding team and there is not much size on the perimeter. Last year Coach Davis had big wings that could help rebound and use their length to cause havoc on defense. That is no longer the case and the defense has suffered because of it.

Probable Starters:

Giddy Potts, Junior, Guard, 15.8 ppg, 1.9 apg

Tyrik Dixon, Freshman, Guard, 5.8 ppg, 3.3 apg

Edward Simpson, Junior, Guard, 3.5 ppg, 2.2 apg

Reggie Upshaw, Senior, Forward, 14.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.4 apg

JaCorey Williams, Senior, Forward, 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Key Role Players:

Brandon Walters, Junior, Forward, 4.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg

Xavier Habersham, Senior, Guard, 5.4 ppg, 1.8 apg

Antwain Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 4.4 ppg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 74.2 (155th in nation, 5th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 63.1 (20, 2)

Field-Goal Percentage: 48.7 (15, 1)

Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (85, 3)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (272, 8)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (114, 5)

Free-Throw Percentage: 69.7 (188, 9)

Rebound Margin: 5.4 (37, 2)

Assists Per Game: 15.1 (74, 4)

Turnovers Per Game: 10.5 (17, 1)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2016    NCAA Round of 64 win over Michigan State

2016    NCAA Round of 32 loss to Syracuse

2015    CIT      First Round loss to Kent State

2013    NCAA Opening Round loss to St. Mary’s

2012    NIT     First Round win over Marshall

2012    NIT     Second Round win over Tennessee

2012    NIT     Quarterfinal loss to Minnesota

2010    CIT      First Round loss to Missouri State

1989    NCAA Round of 64 win over Florida State

1989    NCAA Round of 32 loss to Virginia

1988    NIT     First Round win over Tennessee

1988    NIT     Second Round win over Georgia

1988    NIT     Quarterfinal loss to Boston College

1987    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Notre Dame

*all team stats through 3/5

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