Early NCAA exit does nothing to diminish Blue Raiders' sense of accomplishment

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 11:57pm
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Bruce Massey Jr. (left) and Marcos Knight

 

Middle Tennessee State’s appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was brief.

Blue Raiders players and coaches were confident, though, that what they accomplished would have a lasting effect on the program.

“It's just been fun to watch,” coach Kermit Davis said following Tuesday’s 67-54 loss to St. Mary’s in a First Four game at Dayton, Ohio. “It's been fun to see Blue Raider basketball and the program grow. The national attention we've kind of gotten … the MT brand the last two years is fantastic.”

MTSU lost its last two games, the first in the Sun Belt Conference semifinals, but set a school record with 28 wins one season after it set the previous mark of 27. The 55 combined victories in back-to-back seasons represent the best two-year stretch in the 99-year history of the program.

The Blue Raiders’ last NCAA appearance was in 1989, before any of the players on the 2012-13 roster, which included six seniors, were born.

“Those six seniors will be sorely missed, but we've got a top 25 recruiting class coming in and a good number of players coming back,” Davis said. “So we feel really good about the future.”

They also have a new conference waiting.

All of MTSU’s teams will join Conference-USA in the 2013-14 school year, which means increased competition but also more possibilities for at-large bids into the NCAA field such as the Blue Raiders secured this season.

“After a tough loss like this, you don't forget what you did the last two years for the program,” senior guard Bruce Massey Jr. said. “We helped MTSU get back on the rise, and hopefully it continues to make further steps into the future.

“It's been a great two years. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wish it ended differently, but we broke the drought for MTSU going to the NCAA Tournament in 20 plus years, so you hang your hat on that.”