The Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders received their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1989 on Selection Sunday. The Blue Raiders (28-5 overall, 19-1 in the Sun Belt) were among the first four in predicted by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi before the official bracket was released.
Though MTSU has an excellent record of 28 wins overall and only one conference loss, the Blue Raiders play in the Sun Belt – a conference not known for basketball. With a league record of 19-1, it was predicted that MTSU would win the Sun Belt and get the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
However, MTSU lost in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinal to an 18-14 Florida International team, and Western Kentucky was given the automatic NCAA Tournament bid after winning the conference tournament.
When Selection Sunday finally arrived, Middle Tennessee was considered a bubble team along with other schools, including Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Southern Miss.
Among all of those teams on the bubble, only Middle Tennessee was invited to the big dance. Many fans and analysts took their confusion and frustration out on Twitter.
— Stephen (@sm_jarrett) March 17, 2013
— Geoff Synco (@sinkohh) March 18, 2013
How does a Middle Tennessee team who has 1 top 100 win get in over a Virginia team who has 8 and plays in the ACC #IDontGetIt
— Nick James (@NickkkJames) March 18, 2013
Looking at Middle Tennessee’s 28 wins, some highlights include a 65-62 win over the Ole Miss Rebels, and a 56-52 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores. The rest of Middle Tennessee’s wins are over teams such like Central Florida (20-11 overall), Texas Southern (17-14 overall), Louisiana (13-20 overall), and other mediocre competition.
Only one of Middle Tennessee’s wins was over a top 100 team, when other bubble teams including Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky all had three or more top 50 wins over power teams such as Florida and Duke.
La Salle, MTSU and St. Mary’s have four Top 50 wins, combined. UVa has six, by itself. Tennessee has three. Maryland has three. UK has four.
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 18, 2013
The Blue Raiders’ blemishes included an overtime loss to Akron (26-6 overall) along with losses to Belmont (26-6 overall), Arkansas State (19-12 overall) and Florida International (18-14 overall) in the Sun Belt Tournament.
When comparing Middle Tennessee’s losses to those of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky, it’s hard to imagine how the Blue Raiders got the nod over them. The level of competition just isn’t the same.
The Twitter universe was so shocked by the Blue Raiders bid into the NCAA tourney, that “MTSU” and “Middle Tennessee” were trending topics last night.
With the bracket already set, there’s nothing fans and analysts can do now. But ESPN’s Brett McMurphy is already looking forward to fans’ reactions once the NCAA college football playoff begins in 2014. Something tells me whoever is on that committee will get a few complaints, too.
Can’t wait ’til December 2014 when everyone goes ballistic over what team left out of football playoff by selection committee
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) March 17, 2013