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Top-seeded Blue Raiders take on Louisiana in Sun Belt quarterfinal Saturday

Tipoff slated for 6:30 p.m. on Sun Belt Network

March 8, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The top-seeded Blue Raider men's basketball team brings the nation's longest winning streak into Saturday's Sun Belt tournament quarterfinal against No. 8 seed Louisiana. Middle Tennessee has won 16 in a row and will square off against the Ragin' Cajuns at 6:30 p.m. CT at Summit Arena in Hot Springs, Ark. The game will air on the Sun Belt Network, locally on CSS, with Tom Dore and Bob Donewald on the call.

GAME INFORMATION
Matchup: Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns (13-19, 8-12 SBC) vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (27-4, 19-1 SBC)
Date: Saturday, March 9
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
Location: Hot Springs, Ark.
Facility: Summit Arena

MEDIA INFORMATION
TV: Sun Belt Network (CSS)
Play-by-play: Tom Dore
Analysis: Bob Donewald

VIDEO
Men's Basketball vs. ULL
Radio: WNSR (560 AM)/WGNS (1450 AM, 101.9 FM, 100.5 FM)/WMOT (89.5)
Play-by-Play: Chip Walters
Analysis: Kyle Turnham

Tournament Central

Twitter: @MTAthletics, @MT_MBB

MT TOURNAMENT HISTORY

  • MT earned its second No. 1 seed for a conference tournament since 1989 as a member of the OVC. That was also the last time MT won a conference tournament. 
  • MT has earned a first-round bye for four straight years and six times since joining the Sun Belt.
  • MT has played in the Sun Belt tournament championship game twice (2003, 2008).

SERIES INFORMATION

  • Overall: MT leads, 12-6 // as Sun Belt foes: MT leads, 10-6
  • In the tournament: UL leads, 2-0
  • Under coach Davis: MT leads, 9-5
  • First meeting: MT 85, UL 79 (1/23/59 in Lafayette)
  • First Sun Belt meeting: UL 85, MT 57 (2/17/01 in Lafayette)
  • Last meeting: MT 82, UL 60 (1/19/13 in Murfreesboro)
  • Last tournament meeting: UL 71, MT 57 (3/6/05 in Denton, Texas)
  • Current Streak: MT, 9 games
  • Longest MT streak: 9 games (1/28/06-present) // Longest UL streak: 5 games (1/25/03-3/6/05)
  • Noteworthy: MT has not lost to UL since March 6, 2005, when the Blue Raiders suffered a 71-57 defeat in the second round of the Sun Belt Championship.
  • Noteworthy: This marks the first tournament between the two teams since 2005. The only other tournament meeting was a Louisiana 73-59 win in 2004 in Bowling Green, Ky.
PHOTOS
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BLUE RAIDER FASTBREAK POINTS

  • Kermit Davis has been named the Sun Belt's Coach of the Year for the second straight season and third time in his career (2003, 2012, 2013). Bruce Massey is the Defensive Player of the Year and also earned third-team all-conference honors. Marcos Knight was named to the first team and Raymond Cintron to the third team.
  • Kermit Davis is the Sun Belt's all-time winningest coach with 117 league wins. He broke the record at UALR in MT's 66-61 win on Feb. 16, surpassing Ronnie Arrow's (South Alabama) mark of 112.
  • MT clinched its second-straight Sun Belt regular-season title and third in the last four years, in addition to the No. 1 seed at the league tournament with the win over South Alabama on Feb. 23.
  • MT is eight votes outside of the USA Today Coaches' Poll. MT is receiving 51 votes, just behind No. 25 Oregon with 59.
  • MT is two wins shy of matching the Sun Belt record for overall victories, set by WKU with 29 in 1986-87 and again in 2007-08.
  • MT has won 16 in a row, the longest streak in MT history, longest nationally and third-longest for league games in Sun Belt history. MT has also won 20 of the last 21 games.
  • MT has won eight in a row on the road, also a school record, and the 11 road wins this year match the school-record of 11 from last year. Over the past two years, MT is 22-7 on the road and is tied for the second-most road wins nationally over the past two years, behind Bucknell's 24.
  • MT's 19 league wins are a school record and league record, breaking New Orleans' mark of 18 set in 1992-93. The 19 league wins are also the most in any conference this year.
  • MT is fifth nationally with an .831 winning percentage over the past two seasons and sixth with 54 combined wins in the last two years.
  • MT currently ranks 16th nationally in scoring defense (57.4) and 13th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.290).
  • MT has the second-most wins in the country, behind Gonzaga with 29.

MORE MT QUICK HITTERS

  • MT has tied the school-record of 27 wins, set last year.
  • MT finished a perfect 16-0 at home this season, including one at Bridgestone Arena. MT holds a 30-2 record at Murphy Center over the past two seasons. The Blue Raiders have won 28 straight regular-season home games, which is second-longest streak in the country.
  • MT is one of four teams in the country 16-0 or better at home this year. Only Michigan has a better record at 17-0. It is the best home record in school history. 
  • The four opponents MT has lost to have a combined winning percentage of .767 (89-27). 
  • MT is out-scoring Sun Belt opponents by 16.5 points per game.
  • JT Sulton became the 30th Blue Raider of the 1,000-point club with 17 points against WKU. He currently has 1,007 career points. 
  • MT has back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons.
  • With the 35-point win over South Alabama and 41-point win over ULM, MT registered its largest back-to-back victories since 1977-78 when the Blue Raiders beat Culver-Stockton 81-34 (47) and Urbana College 84-48 (36).
  • With the 18-4 start this year and the 20-2 start last year, MT is off to its best back-to-back starts in 26 years. Prior to the past two seasons, MT's best starts included an 18-5 in 1985-86 record and 19-3 in 1986-87.
  • Raymond Cintron was rated as the No. 39 shooter in the country according to CBSSports.com's Top 50 shooters.

LAST TIME OUT
Middle Tennessee's 16-5 run in the closing minutes propelled the Blue Raiders to a 70-62 win over the WKU Hilltoppers on March 2 at E. A. Diddle Arena. JT Sulton's season-high 17 points led MT, 11 of which came in the second half. Entering the contest with 990 career points, Sulton became the 30th Blue Raider to crack 1,000 career points, finishing the day with 1,007. He also grabbed a game-best seven rebounds as MT knocked off WKU for the seventh time in the last eight meetings.

Free throws proved crucial down the stretch, and the Blue Raiders were up to the challenge, going a perfect 13-for-13 in the second stanza and finishing the game 18-for-19 from the line (94.7%). In all, the Blue Raiders made their last 16 free throws in the contest. Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter were both 4-for-4 from the line, knocking down two apiece in the final 12 seconds when MT was up, 66-62, to seal the victory.

DAVIS NAMED SBC COACH OF THE YEAR
Head coach Kermit Davis was named the 2013 Sun Belt Coach of the Year. It marks his third SBC coaching accolade, as he also won it in 2003 and 2012. He is one of just three coaches to earn the honor three times, along with Gene Bartow and Ronnie Arrow. Davis becomes the first SBC coach since Matt Kilcullen in 1994 and 1995 to earn back-to-back honors. Kilcullen, however, took home honors with two different teams - Jacksonville and WKU. The last time a coach took home two straight honors with the same school was J.D. Barnett (VCU) in 1983 and 1984.

ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS
Bruce Massey was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Senior guard Marcos Knight was named to the All-Sun Belt First Team, while Massey and senior guard Raymond Cintron each took home third-team honors. The Blue Raiders earned three all-conference nods for the second time since joining the Sun Belt in 2000-01, matching the three selections from last season. Prior to that, the last time at least three Blue Raiders were named to all-conference teams was in 1989 when MT had two on the All-OVC First Team and one on the second team.

CHAMPS AGAIN
With the 85-50 win over South Alabama on Feb. 21, MT clinched its second-straight Sun Belt regular-season title and third in the last four years. MT was the first team in the country to clinch its conference title. The Blue Raiders earned the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament and a first-round bye.

RECEIVING VOTES
MT is receiving votes in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls. MT received votes in the coaches poll for the seventh straight week with 51 and AP Poll for the third straight week with five.

ALL THEY DO IS WIN
With 27 wins, this is the ninth winning season under Davis and fifth in the last six years for MT. MT has also cracked double-figure wins for six straight seasons. The Blue Raiders have won double-digit games at home in each of the past six years and nine of 11 seasons under Davis. MT now has back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1987-88 and 1988-89 seasons. Ironically, in 1987-88, MT finished 23-11, went to the NIT and won two games, including one over Tennessee. The Blue Raiders followed that up with a 23-8 record and NCAA tournament berth where they beat Florida State before falling to Virginia.

SUN BELT'S WINNINGEST COACH
Kermit Davis became the Sun Belt's all-time winningest coach with MT's 66-61 victory at UALR on Feb. 16, 2013 with his 113th league win. Davis surpassed South Alabama's Ronnie Arrow who had 112 league wins. Davis currently has 117 league wins.

RANKINGS
MT ranks the highest in the Sun Belt in all of the following:
NCAA RPI: 26
ESPN Daily RPI: 23
ESPN BPI: 41
Pomeroy: 27
Sagarin: 51
ESPN Mid-Major Poll: 2
Bleacher Report Top 25: 25
AP Poll: RV (5) // USA Today Coaches Poll: RV (51)

HOME DOMINANCE
MT has made a habit of winning big at home in Sun Belt action. The Blue Raiders have won 11 straight conference home games by double figures, dating back to an eight-point victory over UALR on Feb. 11, 2012.

STIFF COMPETITION
MT's four losses this season have come against some tough competition. The four teams that have beaten the Blue Raiders have a .767 (89-27) combined winning percentage and three of four won their respective conference regular season title - Florida (SEC), Akron (MAC) and Belmont (OVC). The only other loss came at the hands of the Sun Belt's West Division champion, Arkansas State. Florida currently ranks No. 9 in the coaches poll and No. 11 in the AP poll, while Akron and Belmont are each receiving votes in both polls.

HEADED TO C-USA
MT will join Conference USA for the 2013-14 season. Next year will feature a 16-game schedule for with each school playing every team in the league once and a geographic opponent twice (no divisions). MT's home and away opponent will be UAB. The 2014 C-USA men's and women's basketball tournaments will take place at UTEP.

SUSTAINED LEADERSHIP
On Jan. 5, MT women's basketball head coach Rick Insell earned his 183rd win to become the program's all-time winningest coach. Insell joined MT men's basketball head coach Kermit Davis, who set the school record on Dec. 29, 2011, as an all-time wins leader. MT is just one of four schools (Gonzaga, Sacred Heart and UALR) to have both their current men's and women's basketball coaches as all-time wins leaders.

HOME SWEET HOME
MT continued to defend its home court this season after finishing 15-2 at home last year. The Blue Raiders are 16-0 in home games, including a win at Bridgestone Arena, and haven't lost a regular-season game in Murphy Center since Nov. 20, 2011 when MT dropped an 87-84 double overtime decision to Belmont. That's 28 straight regular-season home victories for the Blue Raiders. MT is 30-2 over the last two seasons in Murphy Center.

EXPERIENCED SQUAD
According to Ken Pomeroy, MT is tied as the second-most experienced team in the country with an average of 2.53 years, behind only Valparaiso (2.69) and matching Savannah State. The roster features a combined 13 juniors and seniors compared to four freshmen and sophomores.

DEEP BENCH
The Blue Raider bench accounts for 42.0 percent of the minutes, which ranks 11th nationally according Pomeroy. MT currently has nine players averaging more than 12 minutes per game. Seven of those are averaging more than 18 minutes. Ten different Blue Raiders have been the leading scorer and 11 Blue Raiders have combined for 90 double-figure scoring performances.

BENCH PRODUCTION
The Blue Raider bench has outscored its opponent in all but one game this season, currently owning a 923-444 advantage, or an average of 39.8 to 14.3 points per game. MT's bench scored a season-high 55 points against Troy on Feb. 9.

MAINTAINING THE LEAD
MT did not trail for three straight games from Feb. 2-9 or five of the last eight. MT has not trailed after halftime in 14 of the last 16 games. The Blue Raiders are 23-0 this season when leading at halftime.

SWITCHING IT UP
Head coach Kermit Davis has used 12 different starting lineups this year. In all, 11 different Blue Raiders have started at least one game this year.

DOMINATING DEFENSE
Pomeroy ranks the Blue Raiders 10th in 3-point defense at 29.0 percent and 14th nationally in defensive efficiency with a rating of 87.7. MT held North Texas to 18.5 percent shooting in the first half of the Dec. 31 contest. That is the best field goal percentage defense for the Blue Raiders since Feb. 1, 2007 when MT held Denver to 18.2 percent (4-for-22) in the second half. MT also held North Texas to five field goals in the first half, a season-low for an opponent. It was the fewest field goals for an opponent in a half since Arkansas State had five on Jan. 19, 2012 in the second half.

INTIMIDATION FACTOR
Opponents haven't had much luck at the line against MT. The opposition is shooting 62.9 percent from the stripe, lowest in the country.

OUT-REBOUNDING OPPONENTS
The Blue Raiders have out-rebounded their opponent in 23 contests this season. MT currently owns a 1136-950 rebounding advantage, or 36.6 compared to 30.6 rpg.

TAKING ON THE SEC
With the win over Vanderbilt on Dec. 21, MT has now beaten two SEC opponents in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. MT also beat Ole Miss on Dec. 8. The Blue Raiders defeated both Tennessee and Ole Miss last season.

The win over Ole Miss this year also marked the first win over an SEC opponent in Murphy Center since a 93-90 overtime victory against Vanderbilt on Feb. 1, 1995. MT is now 2-1 against the SEC this year (Lost to No. 10 Florida on Nov. 18) and has won four of the last six meetings against SEC opponents.

WINNING BIG
MT's 52-point victory over Troy on Feb. 9 was the largest margin of victory in a Sun Belt game in program history. MT's 82-50 win over UALR and 82-60 win over Louisiana marked the first time in 15 years the Blue Raiders beat consecutive conference opponents by at least 20 points. On Jan. 13, 1998, MT beat OVC foe Tennessee Tech, 80-60, then on Jan. 15 beat Austin Peay, 63-38.

TEAM OF THE WEEK
Middle Tennessee was named the Mid-Major Team of the Week by ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf on Dec. 13. The Blue Raiders earned the nod after knocking off Ole Miss, 65-62.

CINTRON RECEIVES RECOGNITION
Raymond Cintron was listed at No. 39 on CBSSports.com's Top 50 shooters for the 2012-13 season. The San Juan, Puerto Rico, native is currently tied for first in the Sun Belt with a 44.1 3-point field goal percentage and leads the team with 67 3-pointers this year. Against Akron on Dec. 2, Cintron sank four 3-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points. He hit a career-high six treys against Troy on Feb. 9.

BROTHERLY LOVE
The 2012-13 MT squad features two sets of brothers. Marcos Knight is the older brother of Tweety Knight, with both joining the Blue Raiders via Chipola Junior College. Zane Gibson is the older brother of Gavin Gibson, both coming to MT from Baylor School.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Kermit Davis, a former assistant coach at Idaho, is one of four current head coaches that comprised the 1986-87 Idaho staff.

Tim Floyd - Head Coach (now HC at UTEP)

Larry Eustachy - Assistant Coach (now HC at Colorado State)

Kermit Davis - Assistant Coach (now HC at Middle Tennessee State)

Randy Bennett - Graduate Assistant (now HC at Saint Mary's)

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.