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Blue Raiders open Paradise Jam against No. 10 Alabama

Middle Tennessee faces second ranked team in three games

November 16, 2006 · MT Media Relations
ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - After two days of rest and relaxation, sight-seeing, and team parties, it's time to get down to the business at hand for the Middle Tennessee men's basketball team.

The Blue Raiders face No. 10-ranked Alabama in the opening game of the 2006 Paradise Jam Tournament at the Sports and Fitness Center at the University of the Virgin Islands Friday at noon. The game can be viewed on via web cast on the tournament Web site, Paradisejam.com.

Middle Tennessee (1-1) will be facing its second-ranked opponent in three games after opening the season at No. 24 Tennessee, and Blue Raider Head Coach Kermit Davis expects his team to be more competitive than it was in the opening game against a nationally-ranked foe.

"Alabama is ranked No. 10 in the nation for a reason," Davis said. "In Ronald Steele, they have a point guard many people think may be the best in the country. They have a very talented and deep team but I expect our guys to compete and give themselves a chance in this game. We had a great practice (Thursday) and our staff talked about it afterwards. We really believe our team got better and I told them that. Our players have had a good time but they realize what this trip is about for us - it's about the games and I like their approach."

Alabama (1-0) is one of the favorites in the loaded field, which includes four NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago, as well as a collection of eight teams that all fashioned winning records last season. In addition to Middle Tennessee and Alabama, other participating teams include Iowa, Toledo, Virginia Commonwealth, Xavier, Villanova, and College of Charleston.

"It's a great tournament with some quality basketball teams," Davis said. "Outside of the Maui Invitational this may very well be the next best tournament of this type in the country and we are excited to be part of it. It is very organized and well ran. It should be a good experience for our players and I know it will make us better for the rest of the season. We wanted to play great competition and that's why we are here. There's no doubt we will be facing quality teams every game."

Middle Tennessee and Alabama are in the upper half of the bracket along with Iowa and Toledo. The Blue Raiders have struggled offensively in the absence of Adam Vogelsberg, the team's leading scorer and best perimeter shooter; however, players say it is more of a matter of execution than who is absent.

"Obviously we miss having Adam on the court but we have talented players and we need some guys to step up and make a difference, including myself," said sophomore point guard Kevin Kanaskie. "When players go down you have to have other people step up and that's what we have to do. We know we are capable so we just need to put a complete game together and give ourselves a chance to pull off the win."

Sophomore guard Calvin O'Neil has been the team's most consistent player out of the gates. He is averaging 12.5 points and seven rebounds, while Kanaskie is averaging 11 points and six assists in the first two games.

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