TEAM MEETS MEDIA, PRACTICES AT BRADLEY CENTER
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The Middle Tennessee men’s basketball team held its first press conference on Wednesday ahead of its NCAA Tournament first round matchup with Minnesota at Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The mood around the presser was slightly different than last year before the Blue Raiders pulled an improbable upset of second-seed Michigan State. This time around, the feeling wasn’t that MT is just happy to be here – now, they expect to be in the tournament and are expecting, not hoping, to play well enough to win on Thursday.
“I think our team has great confidence,” Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis said. “We know we’re playing a really, really good team, and I expect our team to play well tomorrow.”
That expectation has helped Middle Tennessee enter the national spotlight and expand its brand nationally, a goal Davis has been working towards in his 15 seasons in Murfreesboro.
“You can only be a national program if you can beat national teams, and we’re 7-5 against SEC teams in the last five years, won on the road at UCLA and obviously beat Michigan State,” he said. “But, in order to be a national program, you have to have a fan base.
“We took a big step in Birmingham last week. For our [Conference USA] championship game, we took right around 3,000 people to Birmingham. I think when a fan base starts to follow your team, you start to resemble a national program. I’m proud of the progress; we still have a lot of work to do, though.”
With its brand expanding, MT has come onto the radar of more than just national writers and analysts. It also has entered the minds of its opponents, and the Blue Raiders know they won’t sneak up on anyone in this year’s tournament.
“We’re going to get Minnesota’s very best shot,” Davis said. “I think it’s great for Middle Tennessee that our national branding is getting better in college basketball and for our whole university. For people around the country to notice us and start think of us as a national program and picking us to win, I think that’s great for basketball and shows how far we’ve come in the last 10-12 years.”
Regardless of if they are becoming a household name, the Raiders’ focus is staying on the court. And that won’t change.
“We’re just coming out here to play our game like we’re supposed to,” junior guard Giddy Potts said.