No. 24 Middle Tennessee makes history with first AP ranking

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders have vaulted into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in program history.

Middle Tennessee is ranked 24th in the nation, according to the wire service poll released Monday.

The Blue Raiders of Conference USA are coached by Kermit Davis, who has led the program to NCAA tournament’s round of 32 in each of the past two seasons.

“You feel so happy for your players with all the hard work they’ve put in,” Davis said in a statement. You also feel great for your fan base and your MT brand, especially when you get ranked this late in the year based on the long haul and what we’ve done.”

Laying the groundwork for their rise in stature, the Blue Raiders registered round-of-64 upsets in 2016 over second-seeded Michigan State and last year over fifth-seeded Minnesota.

This year, the Blue Raiders beat Vanderbilt and Ole Miss on the road in the pre-conference and then started a dominant roll in the C-USA, winning 14 out of 15 games.

Last week they posted double-digit victories at Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech, extending their winning streak to nine.

Middle Tennessee beat UTSA by 24 points on its home floor in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Jan. 25.

AP Top 25
Monday, Feb. 19, 2018

1. Virginia 24-2 ACC
2. Michigan State 26-3 Big Ten
3. Villanova 24-3 Big East
4. Xavier 24-4 Big East
5. Duke 22-5 ACC
6. Texas Tech 22-5 Big 12
6. Gonzaga 25-4 West Coast
8. Kansas 21-6 Big 12
9. Purdue 24-5 Big Ten
10. North Carolina 21-7 ACC
11. Cincinnati 23-4 American
12. Auburn 23-4 SEC
13. Wichita State 21-5 American
14. Arizona 21-6 Pac-12
15. Clemson 20-6 ACC
16. Ohio State 22-7 Big Ten
17. Michigan 22-7 Big Ten
18. Rhode Island 21-4 Atlantic 10
19. Tennessee 19-7 SEC
20. Nevada 23-5 Mountain West
21. West Virginia 19-8 Big 12
22. Saint Mary’s 25-4 West Coast
23. Houston 21-5 American
24. Middle Tennessee 22-5 Conference USA
25. Florida State 19-8 ACC

C-USA road test: UTSA takes on Middle Tennessee

UTSA forward Kendell Ramlal rises up to dunk off a pass from Byron Frohnen in last Saturday’s 65-61 victory over UTEP in San Antonio.

The UTSA Roadrunners have emerged with a few of their better performances this season on big stages.

They stayed with the Oklahoma Sooners well into the second half in Norman.

They battled the Nebraska Cornhuskers with explosive offense into the last few minutes.

The Roadrunners will need another strong effort Thursday night in a Conference USA test against the defending champion Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.

Middle Tennessee (14-5, 6-1) and UTSA (10-10, 3-4) are set to play at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Following back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the Kermit Davis-coached Blue Raiders are averaging 6,118 fans, second in the C-USA only to UTEP.

They’re stacked with talent again, as evidenced by victories against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in non-conference, not to mention a 66-62 victory last Saturday at Western Kentucky in conference play.

The Roadrunners will have their hands full with the C-USA co-leaders, who feature the likes of Nick King, Giddy Potts and Brandon Walters.

UTSA’s Keaton Wallace shakes a defender to hit a first-half three against UTEP.