Outgoing MTSU senior Shawn Jones was named the C-USA player of the year in 2013-14. He was part of a class that won 95 games. Photo courtesy Bradley Lambert/MTSU media relations
The MTSU men's basketball team played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, and it clinched a share of the Conference USA title in its first year in the league.
However, it still was not enough as the Blue Raiders were left out of postseason play for the first time in three years. A group of seven seniors leave as the top class in school history with 95 wins.
After being left out of the NIT on March 16, the senior class voted and decided as a team not to pursue the other postseason tournaments, the College Basketball Invitational or the Collegeinsider.com Tournament. So, the Blue Raiders last game of the season was a 76-69 loss to Tulsa on March 14 in the 2014 C-USA tournament semifinals. It finished the season with a 24-9 record and its third consecutive regular season conference championship.
“This group of players set a very high standard over the last three years,” MTSU coach Kermit Davis. “We were really proud of our third consecutive conference championship and had a goal of making the NCAA tournament. We were really confident that our 24 wins and RPI of 64 would have been enough for an NIT bid.
“I met with our seniors before the NIT selection show and they decided if we were not selected, we would not participate in any other postseason tournament. I cannot tell you how proud we are of our players in our inaugural year of Conference USA and the job they did to win the regular season championship. We are extremely excited about the players returning and our top-20 recruiting class and look forward to going to work this week in preparation for an exciting 2014-15 season.”
This year's Blue Raiders were led by C-USA Player of the Year, senior forward Shaun Jones. He led the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game, and rebounds at 8.5 per game. A player who would crash the glass, he was a great shooter from 15 feet out.
Another MTSU player who received postseason honors was senior guard Tweety Knight, who was named to the league’s All-Defensive team. He ranked second in the league in steals with 64. Knight also helped the Blue Raiders rank second in total defense by only giving 62.7 points per game.
The other five seniors included fellow starters, forward Neiko Hunter, former Siegel star and guard Kerry Hammonds and key role players like center Torin Walker and guards Tavarres Jefferson and Zane Gibson. Jefferson joined the basketball team after the Christmas break when the football season ended with a trip to a bowl game. Overall, this senior class had a total of 95 wins, which is the most in school history.
“They are all quality people,” Davis said. “They all are going to graduate in May. They handled their business in a first-class way. They have done outstanding things in our community for community service. I am proud of their wins and championships, and the exposure they have given to MTSU as a whole. I am more proud of who they are and how much fun they were to come to the gym with everyday.”
The 2014-15 team hopes to use the snub from this year's postseason as motivation heading into off season. The top returning players will include freshman forward Reggie Upshaw Jr., sophomore guard Jaqawn Raymond and junior forward Jacquez Rozier.