Marshall (21-13) at Middle Tennessee (25-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 13, 9:15 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Murphy Center (11,520) -- Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: Marshall 2-5, Middle Tennessee 2-2. Series Record: Middle Tennessee leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd return to the postseason to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at the Murphy Center in the 75th-annual National Invitational Tournament.
The winner of this first round matchup will advance to face either Tennessee or Savannah State. The Thundering and Herd and Blue Raiders have met five times in the past. Middle Tennessee holds a slight 3-2 advantage in the rivalry's history. The Thundering Herd won the last encounter, 63-60, in Huntington on Nov. 17, 2009.
Marshall came up just short of a trip to the NCAA Tournament after its unexpected run to the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament ended with an 83-57 loss to Memphis on Saturday. The Thundering Herd reeled off three big victories in a row, including a triple overtime win over Tulsa and an upset of Southern Miss on their way to the title game. Coach Tom Herrion to a great 10-2 start but the Herd could not keep the momentum up all season long. Marshall is making its first appearance in this event since 1988, with just a 2-5 tournament record.
Sophomore DeAndre Kane (15.8 ppg) had a terrific second year, as he led Marshall in scoring and managed to average 22.0 ppg during the four C-USA Tournament games. Junior forward Dennis Tinnon had a standout season as well, as he was near a double-double with 9.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Point guard Damier Pitts will look to continue the strong end to his career, as he has scored in double figures in each of his last 15 games to raise his season average to 14.5 ppg.
Middle Tennessee missed the Big Dance despite having its best season in program history. The Blue Raiders earned the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by going 14-2 in the league during the regular season. Coach Kermit Davis pushed his team through a very impressive run in its non- conference schedule as well, and picked up huge victories over Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Akron, and Ole Miss. Unfortunately, the Blue Raiders' run towards the NCAA Tournament ended in the quarterfinal round of the SBC Tournament when they were upset by the ninth-seed Arkansas State, 64-61. Middle Tennessee had the best scoring offense in the SBC with as it averaged 71.9 ppg, and the second best scoring defense with an allowed average of only 61.5 ppg.
The Blue Raiders will try to rally around SBC player of the Year, LaRon Dendy one last time. The senior forward averages team highs of 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds while leading MTSU through its stellar season. Marcos Knight and JT Sulton both provided excellent scoring and rebounding support around Dendy's post play. Raymond Cintron can be a big time factor with his threatening three-point shooting ability.
This has all the makings of an excellent postseason pairing. The Blue Raiders' ability for offensive outbursts and their homecourt advantage will give them a slight advantage. However, Marshall's hot streak in the C-USA Tournament might have only ended due to fatigue. Look for the Thundering Herd to come out rejuvenated and challenge the slumping Blue Raiders.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 73, Middle Tennessee 68
03/13 10:43:28 ET