Opponent Preview: Middle Tennessee St.

Tip-off at the Murphy Center is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.

Minnesota (21-14, 6-12) vs. Middle Tennessee State (27-6, 14-2)
Murfreesboro, Tenn. – Murphy Center
6:00 p.m. – ESPN2 (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes)


Storyline: With two wins in the NIT thus far, both teams are eyeing a trip to New York to play in historic Madison Square Garden. Not only do the Blue Raiders and Gophers want to extend their season, MSG is one of the top basketball venues in the world. A victory on Wednesday means a trip to the Big Apple and a meeting with Washington on March 27th.

Regular Season Review: MTSU had a great season, winning the Sun Belt Conference regular season title with an overall record of 25-5 and an impressive 14-2 mark in conference play. The Blue Raiders picked up two big victories over NCAA Tournament team, Belmont, and also had wins against UCLA and Ole Miss.

First Round Matchup: Middle Tennessee State, a No. 4 seed in the NIT, moved on with an 86-78 victory over fifth-seeded Marshall on March 13. Senior forward Laron Dendy led the Blue Raiders with 18 points and 14 rebounds, and MTSU shot 53.3 percent from the field overall. Sophomore forward Shawn Jones averaged 7.2 points per game entering the NIT, but he posted 15 in the opening-round win over Marshall, connecting on 7-of-9 shots on the night.

Last Time Out: In a battle with the in-state Tennessee Volunteers, MTSU came back in the second half to pull out the victory over the top-seeded team in Region 2 by a score of 71-64. Blue Raider guard Bruce Massey had a dominant game with 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block. Massey was also a spark late in the game, netting a layup at 1:30 of the second half to give MTSU a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

Coaching Preview: Kermit Davis is in his 10th season as coach of the Blue Raiders. He has found recent success, winning the SBC as well as being named the 2012 Conference Coach of the Year. With 180 wins at Middle Tennessee he has set a record for most career coaching victories. Davis runs a fast-paced offense that averages nearly 72 points per game. Look for Davis to have his Blue Raiders ready to run when they square off against the Gophers.

Series History: The Gophers and Blue Raiders have met twice in non-vacated contests. Middle Tennessee State won the first meeting in 1985 by a score of 92-79. The Gophers won in their next meeting in a game at Williams Arena that saw Minnesota win easily, 88-65. Minnesota is a combined 6-2 against Sun Belt Conference opponents.

Home Sweet Home: Middle Tennessee State is currently riding a 13-game winning streak at Murphy Center. The streak is the longest since MTSU won 14 in a row spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.

Struggling From the Line: MTSU was last in the Sun Belt in free-throw shooting at 60 percent, and it showed in the first-round SBC Tournament loss to Arkansas State, especially as the Blue Raiders missed their last five free throws. That ugly trend reared its head again March 13 in the Blue Raiders' win over Marshall in the first round of the NIT. MTSU made just 58.1 percent of its tries from the charity stripe in the 86-78 victory, but the Blue Raiders were bailed out by a strong 53.3-percent shooting performance from the field.

Projected Starters:
F 1 LaRon Dendy (6-9, 235, Sr.) - 14.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg
G 3 Bruce Massey (6-3, 195, Jr.) - 6.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G 15 Marcos Knight (6-2, 225, Jr.) - 11.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg
G 35 Raymond Cintron (6-0, 200, So.) - 8.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg
F 42 JT Sulton (6-8, 230, Jr.) - 10.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Enrollment: 24,660
Conference: Sun Belt Conference
Mascot: Blue Raiders
Colors: Royal Blue and White
Coach: Kermit Davis (10th Season)

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