|This week marks the final week of the regular season for both the men’s and women’s Blue Raider basketball teams.
It tips off tonight with both teams heading to Troy for a doubleheader, and then the season finale is Saturday against rival, Western Kentucky.
Both MTSU teams are battling for another Sun Belt Conference title, and even a NCAA tournament spot, so they know the importance of each game this weekend.
The men’s team has already clinched the No. 1 seed in next week’s SBC tournament and is in the middle of a 14 game winning streak, which included two dominating home wins over South Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe last week.
Right now, the Blue Raiders have a 25-4 (17-1) record. More importantly, the latest RPI has the Blue Raiders at 27, and they are second in the nation in wins, two behind No. 2 ranked Gonzaga.
Most experts believe the Blue Raiders have an excellent chance of receiving at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks, even if they lose early in next week’s SBC playoffs.
At the same time, MTSU still has not cracked either the Top 25 in the USA Today Coaches or Associated Press polls.
So both the players and coaches know it has to win both games this weekend to stay in the discussion for an at-large bid to the field of 68.
At the same time, the whole RPI issue was brought up after Saturday’s win against ULM, but it will be the only time the issue discussed before the end of the season, according to Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis.
“Our guys are already aware of it, so I did not make a big deal out of it,” Davis said. “If you are a team that has already wrapped up the No. 1 seed, and we have done a lot of really good things. We just wanted to let them know that these remaining two games are really important, and I think they realize that, so if something does not happen, you still got the conference tournament. We understand our margin of error is not like a Big Ten school”
A couple of days later, the Blue Raiders head to E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green for the season and conference series finale against Western.
Of course, MTSU was in this same position last season, which included already clinching the SBC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the SBC tournament with a 25-4 overall record and 14-1 in the SBC going into the Feb. 25, 2012 match up.
By now, everyone knows the ending to this story with the Hilltoppers winning the game, 73-67.
The following week in the SBC Tournament, MTSU fell to Arkansas State in the first round, while WKU won the automatic bid in the NCAA tournament with a losing record and MTSU made it to the quarterfinals of the NIT tournament.
Earlier this season, the Blue Raiders got a small measure of revenge Jan. 27 at the Murphy Center with a 79-57 win over the Hilltoppers. Now, this same group is hoping for a same result Saturday in Bowling Green.
Tonight’s game at Troy begins at 7 p.m., while Saturday game at Western is a 5:30 p.m. tip off and it will be shown locally on CSS, which is Channel 27 on Comcast.
While the Lady Raiders have the same goals in mind for this weekend, but first it is looking for payback against a Lady Trojan team, which upset them on Feb. 10, 74-71 in overtime at the Murphy Center.
In order to win this time, the Lady Raiders players and coaches believe it needs to play better defense to beat Troy this evening at 5:15 p.m.
“We watched film of the entire game, last time,” MTSU junior forward Ebony Rowe said on Feb. 25. “Our defense was atrocious. We had been holding teams to the fifties, but we let them get going offensively. So, we got to step our defense up.”
On Saturday morning, a regular season SBC title and the No. 1 seed in next week’s tournament could be on the line against the Lady Toppers at 11 a.m. on CSS.
The Lady Raiders won the season’s first meeting between the schools, 79-57.