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Blue Raiders Madness Begins With Gophers

The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team is making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history following a second-straight Conference USA Tournament championship on Saturday. The Blue Raiders earned a No. 12 seed and will face No. 5 seeded Minnesota in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Thursday.

“We know Minnesota is going to travel really well, it’s kind of Big Ten country in that area,” MT head coach Kermit Davis said. “It would make our players feel really good to have a great contingent of Blue there on Thursday.”

MT has now made the field of 68 three times in the last five seasons, and its No. 12 seed is the second highest in school history.

Middle Tennessee is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and is 3-8 all-time in the tournament, with its last win coming against No. 2 seeded Michigan State in 2016. The other Blue Raider wins came against No. 4 seeded Florida State in 1989 and No. 6 seeded Kentucky in 1982.

“We’re excited,” senior forward Reggie Upshaw said. “Every year you see a 12-5 upset, and to have that 12 seed, we know the history behind it. There’s nothing but excitement from us, because we know what we can do when we get into the national spotlight in the NCAA Tournament.”

Head coach Kermit Davis will be making his fifth trip to the dance and third as the head man of the Blue Raiders. Davis took the Idaho Vandals to the tournament in back-to-back seasons in 1989 and 1990 after winning the Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament championships both years.

Middle Tennessee currently stands at 30-4 and finished the conference slate with a 17-1 record, good for the No. 1 seed in the Conference USA Tournament in Birmingham. It is just the fourth C-USA school all-time to reach 30 wins in a season, joining Memphis (five times), Louisville (once) and Cincinnati (once), and the 17 league wins are the most in a Conference USA season. The Blue Raiders were the outright regular season conference champs and tournament champs for the first time since 1975, when they were in the Ohio Valley Conference.

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