Mar 4, 2013, 6:33 PM EST
The question as been posed a few times in Sun Belt Conference circles. Does Middle Tennessee State deserve an at-large bid to the Big Dance, should they fall in the conference tournament?
The Blue Raiders are 27-4 with a 19-1 mark in the conference. They’re far and away predicted to win the conference tournament next week and give coach Kermit Davis his first trip to the NCAA Tournament since he took over the program in 2002. But if that doesn’t happen, what’s left for the Blue Raiders?
At first glance, the schedule doesn’t paint the picture of an at-large candidate.
MTSU has one win over a team currently in the RPI Top 100, no. 58 Ole Miss according to RealTimeRPI.com. Other than that, they’ve whiffed, badly, at any other attempt at a quality win, with losses to RPI no. 6 Florida (66-45 on a neutral court), no. 46 Akron (82-77 on the road) and no. 23 Belmont (64-49 on the road).
But after digging a bit, there’s a legitimate case.
First, let’s concentrate on the bad losses. When it comes to a team in a league like the Sun Belt, those mainly come from within your own conference. The Blue Raiders worst loss is their lone conference defeat, at Arkansas State, a 17-11 team that is currently no. 155 in the RPI. Not really what anyone would call a ‘bad loss’.
In a season in which teams like Virginia are losing to Old Dominion and no. 1-ranked programs are falling like they’re in front of a firing squad, there’s something to be said about a team with no bad losses.
Also, while the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee doesn’t do precedents, there’s one set in the Sun Belt. In 2008, the conference got two bids out of automatic qualifier Western Kentucky and South Alabama lucking out with the at-large bid despite losing to, ironically, Middle Tennessee State in the semifinals. The Jaguars were the no. 1 seed entering the tournament.
That season, the Jaguars got a 10-seed with a 26-6 overall record and a 16-2 mark in-conference. Their best out-of-conference wins were over two tournament teams, San Diego and Mississippi State, both teams that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They also swept WKU in the regular season.
So in terms of “good wins”, South Alabama’s two don’t exactly make them jump off the page over the 2012-13 version of MTSU.
Then there’s the overall wins themselves. The Blue Raiders are at 27. If they, say, get to the conference title game, they’ll be at 29. Even in a largely-one bid league like the Sun Belt, how can the selection committee overlook 29 wins in a season?
If put on the spot, I’d say Middle Tennessee gets the at-large. They may not have the eye-popping wins that grab the committee’s attention, but they also don’t have the kind of losses that make a team look suspect.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten
Nov 27, 2014, 3:14 AM EST
A lot is riding on this season for St. John’s. Can they consistently be the ‘grown up’ team they claimed to be on Wednesday night?
Nov 27, 2014, 3:07 AM EST
Two Big East teams made statements in the Bahamas, and No. 3 Arizona won the Maui Invitational.
Nov 27, 2014, 2:07 AM EST
Arizona scored 22 points off of 14 San Diego State turnovers, and that along with good foul shooting proved to be the difference.
Nov 27, 2014, 12:56 AM EST
Georgetown committed 19 turnovers, but they shot 49 percent from the field and earned another quality win for the Big East.
Nov 26, 2014, 10:22 PM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 9:11 PM EST
Sir’Dominic Pointer picked off Minnesota center Elliot Eliason’s outlet pass and made the big man pay for his mistake.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:05 PM EST
Justin Reed was one of America East’s best guards in each of his first two seasons, but that hasn’t been the case in 2014-15.
Nov 26, 2014, 6:42 PM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 5:29 PM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 5:24 PM EST
Cameron Biedscheid averaged 6.2 points per game as a freshman at Notre Dame in 2012-13.
Nov 26, 2014, 4:37 PM EST
Joining Cullen Neal on the sideline is Arthur Edwards, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks thanks to a dislocated finger.
Nov 26, 2014, 3:51 PM EST
The importance of this win for Butler cannot be overstated.
Nov 26, 2014, 3:19 PM EST
JayVaughn Pinkston is the leader and go-to guy for Villanova. And he is not their star because … why?
Nov 26, 2014, 12:02 PM EST
Gordon is averaging 10.5 points this season.
Nov 26, 2014, 11:20 AM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 7:00 AM EST
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Nov 26, 2014, 12:28 AM EST
Pinkston made a couple of huge plays down the stretch.
Nov 26, 2014, 12:10 AM EST
Another busy night of college hoops as the Maui semifinals wrap up and Arkansas gets a statement road win.
Nov 25, 2014, 11:50 PM EST
Maryland pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the young season as they outplayed No. 13 Iowa State for much of the game in front of a pro-Cyclone crowd in Kansas City.
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