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2017 NCAA tournament preview: Middle Tennessee State

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders: 30-4, 17-1 in Conference USA

Head coach: Kermit Davis (15th season)

Players to watch: JaCorey Williams (17.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 54.1 FG%); Giddy Potts (15.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 39.2 3FG%); Reggie Upshaw (14.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.4 APG)

Season recap: Following an ugly 11-point home loss to Tennessee State in late November, Middle Tennessee began to show its teeth and establish itself as the dominant force in Conference USA. Despite back-to-back defeats against VCU and Georgia State in December, the Blue Raiders ran through conference play with just one loss. But with a weak schedule, Kermit Davis' team has not played a NCAA tournament-caliber side since its loss to the Rams.

After pulling a shocking upset against then-No. 2 seed Michigan State in the first round last season, Middle Tennessee has maintained its confidence thanks to the duo that propelled them to victory last March. Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw—who combined for 40 points in the win against the Spartans—are averaging more than 30 points and 11 rebounds between them and they are now joined by JaCoreyWilliams, a transfer from Arkansas who sat out all of last season. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds or more, Williams and Upshaw have the athleticism and size to give major conference teams trouble on both ends of the floor.

How they make a run: As they did last season, the Blue Raiders pull yet another first-round shocker, with Potts' energy spreading throughout the team and Middle Tennessee State's leading trio showing it can play with the best. 

How they falter: After having nothing to lose last season, the Blue Raiders struggle with the pressure of trying to better their surprise run from 2016, bowing out early when opponents key on Potts and Williams.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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