Minnesota drew 25th ranked Middle Tennessee State for Thursday and instantly the national analysts said that MTSU is the team that can pull the upset. So, who is this MTSU?
The Blue Raiders are from Murfreesboro, Tennessee and this is a team that Minnesota has recently played in football so fans are somewhat familiar with their school. They are a Conference USA team that plays in an 11,000 plus seat arena so this is no low major program.
MTSU has been to nine NCAA Tournaments and they’ve made the second round five times. The past two seasons MTSU has won both the regular season conference title and the Conference USA Tournament title and their Head Coach Kermit Davis has been with the program for 15 seasons.
Your notable alums from MTSU? Al Gore, NFL QB Kelly Holcomb, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, and several others.
The Gophers have played MTSU five times previously including a three game series during the early 90s. Minnesota lost to MTSU the first year that Clem Haskins was Minnesota coach but the Gophers have won all games since. During the 2011-12 season Tubby Smith’s team won at MTSU 78-72 behind 24 points each from Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins.
MTSU are 30-4 this season with a 17-1 record in Conference USA regular season play plus they won all three of their postseason conference tournament games. The Blue Raiders beat Vanderbilt 71-48 where as Minnesota beat Vandy by just two scores.
MTSU also beat Ole Miss and all their league opponents at least once. The losses came to VCU, UTEP, Georgia State, and Tennessee State which is why their strength of schedule was pretty low compared to other tournament teams.
MTSU plays a three guard line-up (three guards that stand 6-foot-2) with a pair of 6-foot-8 220 pound forwards up front. Coach Davis goes nine deep as he brings his lone true center (6-foot-10, 265 pounds) off the bench along with a pair of 6-foot-5 forwards and another 6-foot-2 guard.
The Blue Raiders are a three weapon scoring team with 6-foot-2 Giddy Potts (a junior wing), 6-foot-8 JaCorey Williams (senior Arkansas transfer who was league player of the year), and 6-foot-8 Reggie Upshaw (senior forward) taking the varsity majority of the teams shots.
The team is a fast paced bunch that shots 37 percent at the arc, wins rebounding battles by five a night, and turns teams over consistently every night. Williams averaged 17.3 points and seven boards a game, Potts averages 15.8 points and 5.5 boards a game shooting nearly 40 percent at the arc, and Upshaw gives the team 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a contest.
Freshman point guard Tyrik Dixon leads the team with 3.5 assists a contest plus he’s their fourth leading scorer at just under six points a contest.