Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor // Managing Editor
Middle Tennessee State University pulled off one of the most improbable upsets in NCAA tournament history, beating national champion favorite Michigan State, 90-81, Friday evening.
The Blue Raiders advanced to the round of 32 for the first time since 1989, drawing a matchup with No. 10 seed Syracuse, who beat N0. 7 seed Dayton, 70-51, Friday afternoon.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim held his scheduled press conference on Saturday afternoon, and had nothing but high praises for his round-of-32 matchup against the Blue Raiders.
“I had talked to a pro scout, and he had told me, and some people had told him, that this was a very, very good [MTSU] team,” Boeheim said. “And when you watch them play, it’s pretty obvious that they’re a very, very good team.”
And Boeheim isn’t one to give praise where praise isn’t due.
“If [MTSU] were bad I’d be saying that, too,” he said. “Or if they were lucky, I would be saying the same thing. But the truth is they’re a really, really good offensive team. I didn’t see any weaknesses on that team.
“They made shots when they had to. And they did it multiple times. Michigan State came at them multiple times. It wasn’t like they were ahead the whole game and Michigan State made a little run. They answered five or six times. And a different guy answering almost every time.”
Boeheim has already began to watch film on the Blue Raiders, saying he’s worried about all of their shooters. Typically, he creates a game plan around an opposing player that can’t score, but Boeheim said every MTSU player, one through five, can score at least 20 points a game.
“The shooters,” Boeheim said when asked about what stuck out on tape. “For us, it’s always the shooters that we worry about… But they don’t have a spot that’s weak, because to me, I look at teams and we try to look for a weak offensive spot that our zone can not worry about too much. They can score at all five positions.”
Indeed, the Blue Raiders’ starting five have stepped up, especially against Michigan State in their opening-round game.
MTSU’s starting lineup accounted for 81 of its 90 points against the Spartans.
“The five guys on that team can score 20 points,” Boeheim added. “And they probably have. I don’t even have to look at [the statistics]. But they’re all capable of scoring 20, 25 points. And those are the teams that from a defensive standpoint, no matter what defense you play, those are the teams you always worry about.”
The Blue Raiders take on Syracuse on Sunday at 5:10 p.m. CT for a chance to advance to the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history.
Follow Caleb Luketic on Twitter for more MTSU basketball coverage.
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