Mid-Major Outlook

With Middle's at-large chances on the wrong side of the fence, the Blue Raiders are going to need conference tournaments to go as expected to keep at-large bids open. From my research, there are about 10 bids up for grabs and one of those could be Middle's. That said, here's a few conference tournaments to keep a rooting interest in this week.

Ohio Valley Conference
This one is pretty simple. Murray State is the only team in the Ohio Valley that could even sniff an at-large bid. Throw in only having one loss and the number nine ranking in the country, and a loss in their conference tournament just means they get a lower seeding in the NCAAs. Obviously the Racers have the #1 seed in the conference tournament (played in Nashville for those of you still in the Boro), but a talented Tennessee State team will have the home court advantage if they can make it to the championship game. Even though Murray has already beaten TSU in Nashville, they are a very beatable team.

Atlantic Sun Conference
Belmont could actually help Middle by sweeping this tournament. Belmont both beat and lost to the Blue Raiders, so adding an conference champion, and NCAA tournament team to Middle's resume can only help an at-large bid. However, this isn't Belmont from 2011. No conference championship, means no resume boost for Middle.

Missouri Valley Conference
Creighton and Wichita State are easily the favorites in the Valley. This one is fairly simple. Keep the best two teams in the conference in the championship game, and keep another unwanted team out of the tournament.

Colonial Conference
Nobody can forget Virginia Commonwealth's Cinderella run from last year. However, this season, the Colonial might have two teams knocking on the door for an NCAA bid with Drexel hoping to dance too. Neither team has a better resume than Middle, and the Blue Raiders' strength of schedule and RPI are both higher. VCU went 0-7 against the RPI top 25, while Drexel only played one RPI top 50 team.

However, the best bet for Middle is an early loss for Drexel, and VCU winning the tournament. Don't count on the early exit from the Dragons though, they've won 23 of 24 over the past two months.

West Coast Conference
This is possibly the biggest conference tournament in the mid-major weeks. With Gonzaga and St. Mary's solidly in, BYU still has the hope of grabbing a signature win in the tournament to punch their ticket. BYU has a 49 RPI and sits at 111 in strength of schedule. However, they are 1-6 against the RPI top 50, and don't really have a "nice" win all season. While they have a number of "good losses" to St. Mary's (twice), at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Baylor (by 3). Not being able to capitalize on those opportunities should prove to be their downfall.

A darkhorse in the tournament might be Loyola Marymount. MT fans will remember the Blue Raider's win in their second game of the season at home. With just one win in the conference tournament, LMU will be just a game away from the semi-finals where they would play St. Mary's, who they've beaten once this season. For Middle, having LMU get to the title game, but not win, could help their strength of schedule in the long run.

So to recap, an early loss from BYU, Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga in the championship game with Gonzaga winning helps Middle Tennessee land an at-large bid in 2012.

Make sure to stay tuned to BlueRaiderZone.com in the coming weeks for more Middle Tennessee hoops coverage.

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