Flashback to 1989, San Francisco was rocked by an earthquake, a stamp was .25 cents, unemployment was at 5.5 percent, and a gallon of gas was only 1.12, and the national debt was 2,868 billon. That year was also the last time the MTSU men’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament.
Those Blue Raiders upset Florida State in the first round, and lost to Virginia in the following round. Fast forward to this season as MTSU has set numerous school records including most wins 25. Now, they want to go back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since then.
MTSU opens the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas today at 6 p.m. against yesterday’s winner of the Florida Atlantic/Arkansas State contest. Just named SBC Player of the Year and All-SBC First team member, senior forward LaRon Dendy feels that the team has something to prove in the upcoming playoffs.
“We just got to take care of business, because we want to play in the NCAA tournament,” Dendy said to the Murfreesboro Post on Wednesday.
The six-foot-nine Iowa State transfer leads a Blue Raider squad that is coming off a tough 73-67 loss at Western Kentucky to end the regular season on Feb. 25. However, MTSU has not had back-to-back losses this season. SBC Coach of the Year Kermit Davis believes the team has learned from its mistakes in the loss.
“Hopefully, we learned something from the film session on Feb. 27,” Davis said. “We just got to take care of the ball down the stretch. We had way too much turnovers. However, our team has reacted well from losses this season.”
Along with Dendy and Davis, several other Blue Raider players earned conference postseason honors on Wednesday. Junior guard Marcos Knight was selected All-SBC second team, and junior forward JT Sulton was named to the All-SBC Third team.
Tournaments are a new beginning for everybody in the conference since all of them will be on a fresh start. Dendy knows the intensity will pick up, but he feels the Blue Raiders are ready for it.
“We just tell ourselves that everyone is 0-0 right now. We just need to go out there and try to win three games to become champions.”
Davis added, “That’s what makes tournaments so exciting, a lot of these things gets balanced. We will be playing teams for either the second or third time this season, so everybody knows each other. The team that makes the most shots, and are the most physical rebounders will win the tournament.”
Since joining the SBC in 2000, the Blue Raiders have played in the SBC title game on two separate occasions both times losing to Western Kentucky in 2003 and 2008. This year, MTSU wants to win the title and go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since George Bush was president of the United States.
Today’s quarterfinal game will be shown on CSS, along with Monday’s semifinal game at 6 p.m. The finals are Tuesday at 6 p.m. and it will be televised on ESPN2.