The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders were 4-0 on the season before facing the No. 16 Florida Gators. As expected, the Blue Raiders were crushed. MTSU just couldn’t stop one of the best players in the SEC, Patric Young. Young had been struggling all season, and the Blue Raiders were unlucky to catch him on a good day.
The loss is damaging to a team that was looking to possibly jump into the top 25 with a win against a ranked opponent, but isn’t that big of a deal in the long run. Unlike their old conference, the Sun Belt, it’s a lot easier to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament as a member of Conference USA.
MTSU still faces several good teams in their non-conference schedule that will help their tournament resume. Their next strongest non-conference opponents are the Murray State Racers, the Belmont Bruins, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Cincinnati Bearcats. If they can win any two of these games, they should be well on their way to a 2014 NCAA Tournament berth, as long as they win a majority of their conference games.
Although highly underrated as a new team coming into C-USA, the Blue Raiders definitely have a chance to compete for and even win the C-USA tournament, gaining an automatic berth to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Middle Tennessee State is a lot better than many people realize. They may have gotten unlucky against a rejuvenated Florida team, but Kermit Davis is an extraordinary head coach and will have MTSU competing, and potentially winning, against every tough opponent for the rest of the season.