Blue Raiders Open CBI Tournament Against California Baptist


NCAA CUSA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP AT THE STAR IN FRISCO, TEXAS MARCH 8-12 2022 (Photo courtesy of C-USA)

Story by Calvin White / Contributing Writer

The MTSU men’s basketball team is set to open the 2022 College Basketball Invitational as the number two seed. Amid such a special season in Murfreesboro, the Blue Raiders look to avenge their loss in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament with an early statement against California Baptist.

When you suffer an early exit in your conference tournament, it can be hard to regroup and focus on another shot at a postseason championship.

“Prep has been good,” MTSU head coach Nick McDevitt said. “Ever since we got back from Texas we’ve had a good week of practice. For the first couple of days it was just us vs us, working on what we do and today we started prepping for California Baptist. I think any time that you can enjoy postseason play that’s a good thing. It’s a reward for a really good season, but obviously there’s disappoint from not being in the NCAA tournament. I think that’s everybody’s goal but not everybody gets to participate. There’s 358 total teams and 68 teams get to participate in the NCAA tournament, so to be invited to another tournament is good for our program and our team’s excited about playing at Daytona.”

California Baptist hails from the Western Atlantic Conference where they finished 18-15 overall with a 7-11 record in conference play to finish in 8th place in their conference. CBU is not a terrific offensive of defensive team but they do know how to move the ball and find their teammates for open looks. The Lancers average 16 assists per game and were third in the country in assist rate.

“They are really good offensively,” McDevitt said. “They have a really high assist rate. Their assist rate is third in the country. They assist on roughly 2/3 of their made baskets so you’ve got to be sharp defensively any time you play them.”

Fifth year senior Donovan Sims will be playing in potentially his final game as a Blue Raider. His veteran leadership is something that this Blue Raider team depends on night in and night out.

“Playing in a lot of tournament games in my career, being on both sides of the win and loss column, it’s my job to keep everyone focused,” Sims said. “After the loss in the conference tournament it’s my job to just keep everyone’s spirits up as much as possible because not a lot of teams get the chance to keep playing in the postseason. We’re blessed to be in one of the three main postseason tournaments, and we’re going to go down there and try to win the whole thing.”

Deandre Dishman was voted to the Conference USA all-tournament team for his efforts against UTEP and UAB after averaging 21 points and eight rebounds per game in the conference tournament.

“It’s a great feeling to keep playing especially coming off a loss in the conference tournament,” Dishman said. “You get the feeling that it might be your last game playing with some of these guys but to get this opportunity is always a good feeling. Not everyone gets the opportunity to keep playing. Even though it’s not the NCAA tournament, not everyone gets to compete in this tournament either. So to get the invitation to participate in a tournament like this is big time.”

After a 5-18 overall record last season, McDevitt and the Blue Raiders look to give their fans one more thing to be proud of and cap off their season with a CBI championship trophy.

“This postseason tournament is twofold,” McDevitt said. “One, it’s a reward for this season but can also serve as a springboard for next season. You look at a lot of the teams that performed well in this particular tournament over the last decade. It’s kind of spring boarded them for future years and that’s what we’re looking forward to. Anytime you can put your players in more and more postseason games, the more comfortable they are, particularly down the road.”

The Blue Raiders take on California Baptist at 4:00 p.m. Central time on Saturday at the Daytona Beach Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL.

Previous "Wednesday Night Live" Featuring Cassie Joy
Next Conference USA Clash: Blue Raiders open conference play with Old Dominion