Who? That’s everyone’s question when you mention the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. A member of the Sun Belt, this team is worthy of some fear if a team has them scheduled during the regular season. This means you, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Florida.
Yes, the Sun Belt Conference can be laughable at times and it is nearly impossible to make it to the NCAA Tournament unless a team wins the final of the conference tournament and even then, they usually fall into a playoff for a 16th seed. However, do not mark this team off as an auto-win if they are on your team’s schedule.
The run to semifinals of the NIT last year was no fluke. They return a majority of their scorers and rebounders and have the potential to pull some early upsets.
Middle Tennessee lost in its opening round of play against Arkansas State last season despite an overwhelming regular season domination of the conference, sending them to the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament. This is the first chance in a while a Sun Belt team has to make it to the NCAA tournament without winning the conference tournament because the non-conference schedule pits the Blue Raiders against some extremely tough and NCAA Tournament bound teams. Expect this team to fight hard because they will feel as if they deserved to make it to the NCAA Tournament last year.
SEC teams Florida, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will all play MTSU early in the season. If this squad can find at least two wins in these three games, then expect the Bracketologists to be scrambling to make room for MTSU in the NCAA Tournament.