Middle Tennessee Set to Take on Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament

Conference USA


By Ryan Nelson

MILWAUKEE, WI -- The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (30-4) are just hours away from the start of their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, this year facing No. 5 seed Minnesota (24-9). The Blue Raiders suffered just one Conference USA loss on the season, dropping a game to UTEP 57-54 on Feb. 4. Middle Tennessee has won ten straight games since that loss. 

MTSU will rely heavily on C-USA player of the year JaCorey Williams. Williams, a transfer from Arkansas, averaged 17 points per game this season. 

But Williams is just of one of trio of explosive players on Middle Tennessee's roster. Joining him are Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw. Potts can get hot in a hurry, as evidenced by two 30-point performances in his last four outings. Upshaw averages 14.5 ppg, and has an active streak of ten straight games with double-digit scoring performances. 

Scouting the Golden Gophers

Minnesota averaged 75.3 points per game, and allowed the opponent 69.1 points per game in the 2016-17 season. The Golden Gophers made an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament after losing to Michigan 84-77. Including the loss to Michigan, Minnesota has gone 3-2 in the last five outings. 

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino (son of famed Louisville head coach Rick Pitino) led the Gophers a 24-9 record. A season ago, this went 8-23. This is Minnesota's first NCAA Tournament appearance since getting bounced in the third round in the 2012-13 season under then head coach Tubby Smith.

Four Minnesota Golden Gophers average double-digit points per game -- Nate Mason (15.5), Amir Coffey (12.1), Jordan Murphy (11.2), and Dupree McBrayer (10.9). 

Where to Watch

Tip off is set for 4 PM ET on TNT.