The MTSU men’s basketball team closed another chapter in its history book Tuesday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Members of the Blue Raider basketball team and coach Kermit Davis celebrate March 18, 2013, after learning they were selected in the first round of the NCAA tournament during a viewing party at MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo submitted)
The season may have come to an end with a 67-54 loss to Saint Mary’s in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, but the Blue Raiders hope to use this experience to help them prepare for the 2013-14 season, their first in Conference USA.
In today’s world, it seems when one season ends there is only a short time to digest what happened and relive the success of it.
Then, it’s off to preparing for the next season.
For Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis, he is going through this process right now after a historic season, which included a regular season conference title with a final record of 28-6.
“Next week, we go right into the weight room four days a week with strength and conditioning. And then April 1 will start with individual workouts,” Davis said. “We’ve got to replace great leadership, and that is my question: Whose team is it going to be? We feel good about the seven guys on scholarship and two walk-ons coming back. We are excited, it’s going to be different, sometimes the influx of new players helps you.”
As for next season, the Blue Raiders will have to replace six seniors, who helped with the record-setting program that saw three postseason appearances in four seasons.
The six pack of outgoing seniors comprise Raymond Cintron, James Gallman Jr., Jason Jones, Marcos Knight, Bruce Massey and JT Sulton.
Their careers ended as a part of an MTSU team that broke a 24-year NCAA tournament drought.
In the past two seasons, the Blue Raiders had a combined record of 55-13, including trips to the NIT and NCAA tournaments.
For Massey the program’s recent success is something that will be remembered by everyone associated with MTSU athletics for a long time.
“It’s been a great two years,” Massey said. “I would not trade it for anything. I wish it ended differently, but we broke the drought for MTSU going to the NCAA Tournament (for the first time) in 20-plus years, so you can hang your hat on that. ... We helped MTSU get back on the rise, and hopefully it continues to take further steps in the future.”
As for Davis, he hopes the overall changes with the program will continue to keep the Blue Raiders in the national conversation, like during the past two weeks when this year’s team was on the bubble for an at-large berth into the Big Dance.
“It was a great experience and our guys will be better for it,” Davis said. “Hopefully, some of those returning players will use it to help us next year.”
Those returning players will be joined by a top-25 recruiting class, which includes forward Josh Phillips who played at Pope John Paul II, JUCO guard Marcus Tarrance from Memphis, forward Reggie Upshaw from Chattanooga, and guard Eric Wortham Jr. from Georgia.