Blue Raiders continue climb in Sagarin Ratings, RPI Report

December 13, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee, which returns home from a long three-game road trip when it faces Freed-Hardeman Sunday at 2 p.m., has continued to make a move in the Sagarin Ratings and RPI Report throughout the inception of the 2005-06 season.

The Blue Raiders (4-2) are ranked No. 67 (of 334 Division I men's basketball teams) in the latest Sagarin Ratings, while their strength of schedule is currently regarded as the 26th most difficult in the country. Middle Tennessee is the highest-ranked men's basketball team in the Sun Belt in terms of overall rating and strength of schedule.

Western Kentucky (5-2) is second in the Sun Belt with a 88 Sagarin Rating, while Florida International is second among SBC members in relation to strength of schedule at No. 51.

"We talked about the strength of our schedule during the preseason and it is has proven to be a very difficult one as this season has unfolded," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. "We didn't need rankings or polls to tell us how difficult this schedule was because we already knew the quality of teams we were playing and how tough it was going to be, but these rankings do validate what we already knew.

"What pleases me most is how our young team has approached the stretch of tough games. Not only have we played some quality opponents, but we have played them on the road at places where it is tough to win. I have been able to see progress and with a young team that is always promising against a challenging schedule such as this one. We still have a lot of work to get done, but I like the direction of our team. We still have a very difficult road ahead of us."

The schedule strength will only increase as the Blue Raiders are set to face Louisville (Dec. 20), and Memphis (Jan. 4), currently ranked No. 4 and 5, respectively, in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25Coaches Poll, in the coming weeks.

Not only is Middle Tennessee's Sagarin Rating the best among Sun Belt members, but the Blue Raiders also are the league's highest-rated team in the The RPI Report. Middle Tennessee enters the week No. 33.

TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY: Middle Tennessee will put one of the nation's longest home win streaks against non-conference opponents on the line when it plays host to Freed-Hardeman Sunday at 2 p.m.

The Blue Raiders have won 18 straight home games against non-conference opponents, which is currently the 17th longest such streak in the nation. Oklahoma has the nation's longest home win streak against non-conference foes with 44, while Illinois is second with 43 straight. Middle Tennessee's streak is the longest among Sun Belt members.

"We really don't talk about the home streak against non-conference teams or put any emphasis on that," said junior forward Kyle Young, who has never lost at home to a non-conference opponent in his two-plus seasons on the court. "Our team takes great pride in playing at home and that's the case every time we step on the court, whether it is against a non-conference team or a conference team. The streak is nice to have and it's good to see your team up there with some of those others."

The last non-conference team to beat Middle Tennessee at the Murphy Center was Murray State, 79-72, Dec. 16, 2002.

INJURY UPDATE: Junior guard Marques Dawson has become the latest Blue Raider to be hit by the injury bug. Dawson will be out four-to-six weeks after suffering broken fingers on his right hand during practice, Dec. 9. Dawson joins a long list of Middle Tennessee players who have been unable to participate due to injuries at the outset of the season.

Freshman Dino Hair will take a redshirt in 2005-06 after sustaining a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. Hair underwent reconstructive ACL surgery on his right knee, Nov. 25, and is currently working on rehabilitation.

Freshman Calvin O'Neil, who has missed the last two weeks, remains sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot. He had played in the team's first two games prior to suffering the injury, which is expected to keep him out of action for at least two more weeks.

Additionally, Davis has announced that freshmen Darren Avery and Desmond Yates will redshirt in 2005-06.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Several Middle Tennessee players are among Sun Belt leaders entering action this week.

Junior forward Kyle Young leads the Sun Belt in field goal percentage with a 73 percent clip (30-of-41), he's tied for ninth in rebounding (6.0 rpg), and eighth in blocked shots (1.17).

Newcomer Adam Vogelsberg has continued his nice all-around start to the season and is 14th in the Sun Belt in scoring with a 13.7 average. The junior guard also is third in the SBC in free-throw percentage at 88 percent (29-of-33), and he's 14th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (42 percent).

Senior guard Fats Cuyler is 16th in scoring (13.0) and he is tied for 10th in steals (1.67), while junior newcomer Bud Howard is eight in the SBC in assists (3.4 per game), and sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.13).

CHRISTMAS CAMP SET: The annual Kermit Davis Blue Raider Christmas Basketball Camp will be held Dec. 23 at Murphy Center from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

The camp is for boys and girls 5-years-old to current eighth graders. NCAA rules prohibit high school players from attending. Cost of the camp is $69 and lunch is provided. The camp is an opportunity for parents to finish Christmas shopping while the youngsters play with the Blue Raiders. It's a great Christmas gift for your son or daughter as they have the opportunity to learn basketball skills from the Middle Tennessee staff.

An downloadable application is available on the men's basketball page at GoBlueRaiders.com, or, for more information, contact Dan Weisse at 898-5228.

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