Nickname: Blue Raiders
Conference: Conference USA
Last in NCAA: 2013
Head Coach: Kermit Davis
Record at School: 208-139
Middle Tennessee is 8-4, but their last two wins have come against non-D1 competition. They have lost three straight games against D1 competition heading into the Dr Pepper Classic. The five best teams they have played were Florida (lost by 20), Belmont (lost by 12), Ole Miss (lost by 9), Cincinnati (lost by 21) and Akron (won by 7). This is a team that was 28-4 last year prior to losing their last two games and finishing 28-6, including a loss to Saint Mary's in the NCAA Tournament and return three starters from that team. They have moved up to Conference USA this year, which will start on January 11.
Middle Tennessee is an odd team. They are not a remarkably big team, but they have just one player that plays regularly plays that is not between 6-4 and 6-8. That means they are roughly an average height team on the national scale. According to KenPom, they are the tallest team in the Dr Pepper Classic, ranked 82nd in the country. (By comparison, the Mocs are ranked 229th in the country out of 351 teams.)
This is not a Blue Raiders team that wins by shooting threes. Just 21.5% of their points come three point range. Kerry Hammonds II has made 20 of 57 threes on the year and Jaqawn Raymond has made 16 of 40. They are the only two to have made double digits in the number of threes. Hammonds is averaging 11.9 points per game, third on the team and 2.6 assists per game, second on the team. He also leads the team in minutes.
Shawn Jones is shooting 61.9% from the field. He leads the team in scoring, with 13.4 points per game. He also leads in rebounding with 7.7. Neiko Hunter is averaging 12.8 points per game. Tweety Knight leads the team in assists at 4.8 per game. He commits 2.6 turnovers per game.
They rank 51st in OR% and 108th in DR%, which makes them a very good rebounding team. They commit way too many fouls, but opponents are only shooting 45.7% from two point range.
Middle Tennessee is the clear favorite in this tournament. They should dominate Maine in the opening game of Dr Pepper Classic. The second day will be more interesting. Grand Canyon is a capable opponent, but would have already beaten Chattanooga on their home court and then have to beat Middle Tennessee. If Chattanooga beats Grand Canyon, they will have home court advantage and be hungry to beat the best out of conference team to play in McKenzie this year. That would be a challenge. They are the favorite to beat the Mocs for sure, but they could lose that game.
They have an interesting team, and are the best defensive team in the field. That's why Maine will have virtually no shot of beating them in the first game. They are likely to finish either first or second, and while Grand Canyon and Chattanooga are virtually equal teams, playing the Mocs in McKenzie would be tougher than playing Grand Canyon. They are the favorite and fans should get out and watch this team.