Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
History was made Monday morning on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. The Blue Raiders received enough votes to rank in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in school history.
The Blue Raiders make their debut at 24, just ahead of the Florida State Seminoles. MT has earned its spot thanks to dominant play in Conference USA action, as well as their excellent play in true road games.
Middle Tennessee has won 14 out of their last 15 games with eight of those coming on the road. To add to those eight conference road wins, MTSU has won 12 true road games overall, something that no other team in Division I basketball has done this season.
For senior guard Ed Simpson, this ranking symbolizes the hard work and dedication that went into helping build a brand.
“It’s humbling,” Simpson said. “It kind of fuels that fire even more to see all of that hard work actually come to fruition. We’ve been through a lot in my four years here.”
For senior guard Giddy Potts, this ranking just adds to the list of his many career accomplishments at MT.
“It adds a lot (to legacy),” Potts said. “To me, it’s just another day, but for coaches and the school, it means a lot for our national brand.”
With the ranking will come another challenge of opposing teams trying their best to knock them out of the top 25.
“A lot of teams are going to come (in) here and try to give us their best shot,” Potts said. “We just need to come out here and continue to play like we have been … playing great on defense and moving the ball around on offense.”
With the C-USA and NCAA Tournament on the horizon, Head Coach Kermit Davis recognizes lofty expectations, the need for keeping a level head and a smaller margin of error due to their mid-major conference.
“If you enjoy the hard work and the benefits of hard work, it just makes you want more,” Davis said. “We all know that we don’t have much margin of error. We can’t be like Tennessee and Texas A&M and lose a couple of games and stay in the top 25. Our margin of error is almost zero, so we’ve got to be on edge every single day in practice because all of these games are huge down the stretch.”
With three games left remaining in the regular season against three of the best teams in the conference, the Blue Raiders certainly have a couple more opportunities to improve that ranking. MT will also be looking to secure the conference regular season title and number one seed for the C-USA tournament.
The 24th-ranked Blue Raiders will host UAB on Saturday night in their first game as a ranked team.
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