Story by Tim Carroll / Contributing Writer
Photo by Darwin Moore / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee men’s basketbal team enjoyed a highly successful 2016-17 campaign. It was a season that saw them go 17-1 in Conference USA and 31-5 overall. This included their second consecutive conference tournament title and the school’s first ever regular season C-USA title.
In the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Raiders defeated Minnesota for their second straight win over a Big Ten team in the Round of 64. Middle Tennesee’s season ended only a few days later in a loss to Butler, but it did nothing to dampen the future of the program.
With the loss of Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams to the NBA, here are the five players Blue Raider nation should watch in the upcoming season.
1) Giddy Potts – Guard
Potts has been instrumental in the Blue Raiders’ success on the court in the past few seasons, with 2016-17 being a banner year. The Athens, Alabama native averaged 15.3 points per game which was second on the team, and continued to show his impressive rebounding skills by grabbing 5.3 boards a game. In a February match-up against UTEP, Potts recorded his 1,000th point as a Blue Raider with a full season of eligibility left. Potts will be an interesting player to watch because after years of being the a reliable second option on offense, he will be the number one threat this year. If Middle Tennessee wants to make it three consecutive conference championships, they will have to lean heavily on the senior guard.
2) Nick King – Forward/Guard
King comes into this season as a highly touted transfer from the University of Alabama. He is the latest in a long line of hopeful transfer students who have made an impact for the Blue Raiders. Although he only averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds a game for the Crimson Tide, he did that in averaging only 12 minutes per game while also struggling with a lung infection. Middle Tennessee fans can expect to see his playing time increase, leading to increased production on the court.
3) Brandon Walters – Forward/Center
Walters transferred to Middle Tennessee in 2016 from Walters State Community College where he averaged 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game in only 19 minutes off the bench. He saw limited action last season but with Upshaw’s departure, he will likely become a starter this season. After his level of play improved during both the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament, fans can expect him to continue improving during his senior year.
4) David Simmons – Guard
Simmons is yet another JUCO transfer. While playing for Tallahassee Community College, he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds a game. He also won several accolades there, none more impressive than the Panhandle Freshman of the Year award. He brings strong offense and excellent rebounding to a team that can never have too much of either.
5) Tyrik Dixon – Guard
Dixon saw significant playing time as a freshman last season, playing 25 minutes a night in a starting role. After a slow start to the season, he became an excellent facilitator for the offense and finished with a solid 3.3 assist per game average. With a year of college ball under his belt and the likelihood of having a larger role, his growth and improvement should continue. He should become a bigger difference-maker on the court this season.
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