Middle Tennessee men’s basketball hasn’t danced in an NCAA Tournament since 1989. Many, if not most, of the current students weren’t alive to witness that No. 13-seeded Blue Raiders team upset No. 4 Florida State, 97-83.
Barring a monumental collapse, that 24-year drought is about to end.
On Feb. 23, Middle Tennessee continued their trend of home dominance with an 87-46 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Excluding a neutral-site victory against Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee has enjoyed double-digit victories in all but one of their home games. That one game was a 65-62 win over Ole Miss, an SEC team with a 20-7 record.
Middle Tennessee (25-4, 17-1) has won three of their last four games by more than 35 points. One of those wins came against South Alabama (16-10, 13-5), arguably the second-best team in the conference. Middle Tennessee won 85-50.
It has been an impressive stretch for Middle Tennessee men’s basketball. However, they know all too well what can happen if they don’t take care of business at the end of the season.
In 2012, Middle Tennessee was also 25-4 before they lost their last two games. One of those losses came in their first game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Because of the poor conference, Middle Tennessee didn’t earn an at-large bid. They had to settle for the NIT, where they earned victories over Marshall and Tennessee.
The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament lasts from Mar. 8-11 at Hot Springs, Arkansas. While Middle Tennessee has won most of their games on the road, they’ve been much closer than at home. Their only conference road loss came at Arkansas State, the team who knocked them out of the tournament last year.
Middle Tennessee has already clinched an opening-round bye. Their first game comes during the quarterfinals round on Mar. 9. At the least, they’ll need a deep conference tournament run. Due to the lack of strength from this conference and Middle Tennessee’s unimpressive showing against Florida earlier this season, they might need to win it.