Middle Tennessee State Projected as Sun Belt Champ, No. 12 Seed in NCAA Tournament

By Ryan Darcy


Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Bracketology. It’s all speculation at this point, but it’s certainly nice for prognosticators to think about. The kids who suit up for the blue and white know it isn’t worth a hill of beans.

The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders aren’t concerning themselves with any of this. They’re focused on the task at hand–today. And right now, they’re leading Arkansas-Little Rock 28-18 at the half. There’s no looking forward to or past any practice or game. It’s all about the here and now.

As for the major sports outlets, well they’ve started releasing their versions of bracketology weeks ago, though fans (and teams) shouldn’t put much stock in it, but again, it’s fun to speculate.

According to ESPN’s resident bracketology guru Joe Lunardi, the Blue Raiders are a 12-seed in the South region. Their opponent? A date with the Big Ten‘s Wisconsin Badgers, a team that plays smart basketball and solid defense. Could this matchup work in favor of the 12-seed? It always seems to work out that a 12-5 matchup goes in favor of the underdog. Both teams rebound well but Wisconsin’s been pretty inconsistent all season, proof in their latest loss at Minnesota, a game they were in complete control of. It’s won’t be a home-game atmosphere for either team, as MTSU and Wisconsin are 900 and 1200 miles away, respectively. MTSU has been on a roll and if they keep winning leading up to the Big Dance, an upset is brewing.

If you take a look at CBS Sports’ bracketology expert, Jerry Palm’s brackets, he also has the Blue Raiders as a 12-seed but has them taking on another Big Ten squad, the aforementioned Gophers of Minnesota–in San Jose. That doesn’t exactly sound like solid scheduling by the committee, but it is what it is, a ticket to the dance. At 18-7, Minnesota doesn’t seem to be getting the respect they deserve. They’re a matchup nightmare for anyone in the country if they bring their A-game, which for them is a big “if”. MTSU probably stacks up better against the Gophers thanks to their inexperience in the tourney. Tubby Smith’s squad has only one loss outside the Big Ten, against No. 5 Duke.

Finally, CNNSI’s Andy Glockner’s picks. Another 12-5 matchup, this time with the hottest team in the Big East, the Georgetown Hoyas in Salt Lake City. Georgetown has shown it’ll give up outside shots (a la the Cincinnati game last night) but teams need to make their shots, something the Bearcats have struggled with all season. Middle Tennessee has proven all season they can hit shots from the outside, hitting an even 38 percent of their three-point attempts. They can beat the 1-3-1 zone Georgetown implements from time to time, so here’s another opportunity at an upset.

Wherever it is they go–and it sure looks like they’ll go somewhere–they’ll be a dangerous. The dreaded 12-5 matchup should spell doom for whatever 5-seed draws the Blue Raiders.

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