MT MBB to host Vermont Tuesday in NIT opener

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Middle Tennessee earned its fourth consecutive postseason berth Sunday following a 24-7 season that saw the program's first ever Associated Press Top 25 ranking. The Blue Raiders earned a No. 3 seed in the National Invitational Tournament and will host No. 6 seeded Vermont in Murfreesboro on Tuesday.

HEAR THE GAME ON NEWSRADIO WGNS BEGINNING AT 6:30PM PREGAME, 7PM TIPOFF

"I've prepared our guys for being in the NIT and told them this could be a really good field," head coach Kermit Davis said. "I told them there is a real good chance we get to face another conference champion that has won a lot of games and that's exactly what we got with Vermont."

The 2018 NIT appearance is the seventh trip to the postseason in the last nine years for the Blue Raiders, who last appeared in the NIT in 2012. Middle Tennessee went 2-1 in that postseason appearance, downing Marshall in Murphy Center and Tennessee in Knoxville before falling to Minnesota at home, 78-72.

Middle Tennessee is making its fourth NIT appearance and is 4-3 all-time in the tournament. The Blue Raiders previously made trips to the NIT in 1986 and 1988 under head coach Bruce Stewart, reaching the quarterfinals in 1988 with wins over Tennessee and Georgia in Murfreesboro.

Middle Tennessee finished its 2018 conference slate with a 16-2 record, earning its second consecutive C-USA regular season title. The 16 league wins are one shy of the Conference USA record which MT set just a season ago with a 17-1 mark in conference play.

The Raiders are led by Conference USA Player of the Year Nick King and senior guard Giddy Potts alongside double-digit scorers Brandon Walters and Antwain Johnson.

King, a graduate transfer for MT in 2017-18, has been dominant all season long while boasting 21.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on his way to the league's top honor. He was also named a USA Today Third Team All-American and Karl Malone Award finalist last week.

"I feel like we have a chance to prove people wrong," King said. "As a mid-major we have to come in with that chip on our shoulder show people what we're really capable of and this is still an opportunity to do that."

Potts, a four-year veteran from Athens, Ala., reached the 1,600 career point mark on Thursday, becoming just the fourth Blue Raider all-time to do so, and also boasts an impressive 575 career rebounds at the shooting guard position.

"The season's not over," Potts added. "We have a chance to play more basketball still. Having a chance to win a few more games and make a trip to Madison Square Garden is something we'd really like to do."

Middle Tennessee and Vermont will be facing off for the first time in the history of the two programs. The Catamounts were regular season champions in the America East before losing to UMBC in their conference championship game.

"I have a ton of respect for Vermont basketball," Davis said. "(Head coach) John (Becker) has done an incredible job with that program. They have five guys that average double figures and they are a really talented team."

The Blue Raiders and Catamounts will tip at 7:00 p.m. CT on Tuesday in the Murphy Center.

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basketball, Middle Tennessee State University, MTSU, Murfreesboro news, Murfreesboro sports, NIT
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