Blue Raiders unveil challenging nonconference slate
MT men's basketball releases full 2013-14 scheduleSeptember 1, 2013 · @MTAthletics
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team released its 2013-14 nonconference schedule Sunday morning with six NCAA Tournament teams from last season on the docket, including Elite Eight participant Florida.
The season-opener at Murphy Center will feature a battle between a pair of 2013 NCAA Tournament teams as the Blue Raiders welcome Southern University, who nearly knocked out top-seeded Gonzaga, dropping a 64-58 decision in the round of 64.
"We have put together a nonconference schedule that includes six NCAA Tournament teams from last season in Florida, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Belmont, Akron and Southern University," said head coach Kermit Davis. "We are starting a series with an old OVC rival in Murray State, while continuing our series with Tennessee State and look forward to playing two excellent teams out of the Sun Belt Conference in South Alabama and UALR."
The 2013-14 schedule features 17 home games for Middle Tennessee, including the exhibition against Truman State Nov. 4, giving fans plenty of opportunities to see the Raiders in Murphy Center. MT was one of three teams in the country last season to finish 16-0 or better at home. The Blue Raiders are currently enjoying the second-longest regular season home winning streak in the nation at 28 games. MT begins the 2013-14 campaign with a four-game homestand, the longest of the season.
Middle Tennessee reached the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 1989 and seventh time in program history, when the team took on Saint Mary's in a First Four matchup.
The contest against Southern Nov. 10 will be part of the Global Sports Exempt Tournament. MT will also host Atlantic Sun Conference member North Florida Nov. 13 and Arkansas Little-Rock Nov. 18 as part of the Global Sports Tourney.
The Blue Raiders will face their second NCAA team, when Akron comes calling Nov. 16. The Zips fell to VCU in the second round of the Big Dance last year. This will mark the third-straight year MT and Akron have gone head-to-head.
Middle Tennessee closes out the Global Sports Exempt Tournament, traveling to Florida Nov. 21. The Gators reached the Elite Eight last season after defeating tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet Sixteen.
MT then heads to Murray State Nov. 26, before returning to the friendly confines of the Murphy Center to face South Alabama (Nov. 30), nearby Belmont (Dec. 3) and Fisk (Dec. 9). Belmont fell to Arizona in the round of 64 last year, marking the Bruins' sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last eight years.
The Blue Raiders head south Dec. 14 to square off with reigning SEC Champions Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated Florida in the SEC Tournament last season to secure an NCAA berth. Ole Miss went on to the reach the round of 32, before being edged by La Salle 76-74.
MT has won its last two meetings with the Rebels, claiming a 65-62 decision in the Murphy Center last year and a 68-56 victory in Southaven, Miss., Dec. 21, 2011.
The Murphy Center opens its doors again Dec. 17 as the Blue Raiders return home to take on Tennessee Temple, before hitting the road again for a pre-Christmas trip to Cincinnati Dec. 21. The contest will be MT's sixth of the season against a 2013 NCAA Tournament team and third on the road. The Bearcats received an at-large bid to the Big Dance last season, where they dropped a close 67-63 decision to Creighton in the round of 64.
The Blue Raiders then return to the Volunteer State, heading to Chattanooga Dec. 29-30 for the Dr. Pepper Classic. MT will open the tournament Dec. 29, taking on Maine, while Chattanooga and Grand Canyon round out the four-team tournament.
"Our trip to Chattanooga after Christmas allows Blue Raider fans more opportunities to see our team play in person," Davis said.
Middle Tennessee wraps up its nonconference slate Jan. 7, traveling to Music City to face Tennessee State, before opening Conference USA play Jan. 11 at home against UAB.
"Our nonconference opponents coupled with a fantastic C-USA home and away slate makes for the most challenging schedule we have played in my 12 years at Middle Tennessee," Davis said. "We look forward to some outstanding opportunities at home and on the road."
MT went 28-6 during the 2012-13 campaign with a 19-1 mark in Sun Belt Conference play. The Blue Raiders claimed the regular season conference crown, before making an NCAA Tournament appearance. They return eight players from last year's squad, including starters Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds II. Middle Tennessee will look to continue its success in 2013-14 during its inaugural C-USA season.
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