#91 Middle Tennessee Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

2017-2018 Overall Rank: #91
Conference Rank: #3 Conference USA

Middle Tennessee Logo
Middle Tennessee made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season after winning the Conference USA with relative ease. The Blue Raiders followed up their stunning upset of Michigan State in 2016 by winning 31 games last season, including a 17-1 campaign in conference play. They earned a 12-seed in the NCAA Tournament and were actually favored to defeat 5-seed Minnesota, which they did before losing to 4-seed Butler in the second round. This season, the Blue Raiders will have some rebuilding to do with their two senior leaders, JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, graduating from the program. Coach Kermit Davis will need role players from last season to step up in order for Middle Tennessee to get back to the Big Dance.
2016-17 Record: 31-5
2016-17 Postseason:
NCAA Tournament
Kermit Davis
Coach Record:
307-179 at Middle Tennessee, 378-229 overall
Who’s Out:
The Blue Raiders will be without two of their top three scorers from last season.  JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw have both graduated after combining to average 31.8 points per game last season. Williams was named Conference USA Player of the Year and Upshaw was on the all-conference second team. Williams played just one season for Middle Tennessee after transferring from Arkansas and made quite an impact in his lone season. Williams led the team in points and rebounds per game and was second in field goal percentage. Upshaw played all four years at Middle Tennessee, improving in each year. Upshaw stretched the floor as a 6-8 forward and will be difficult to replace. Xavier Habersham and Aldonis Foote also have graduated from the program. Habersham led the team with 45% shooting from three last season. Foote was a seldom-used reserve, playing eight minutes per game in 31 appearances. Back-up point guard Quavius Copeland decided to transfer after two seasons with the Blue Raiders in an attempt to see more playing time during his senior season.
Who’s In:
Nick King, a former Memphis and Alabama forward, will play for Kermit Davis this season as a grad transfer. King is a 6-7 forward who averaged 3.3 points last season in just seven games due to a lung infection, but he will be fully healthy this season. Middle Tennessee will also add two junior college transfers in David Simmons and James Hawthorne. Simmons scored 14 points per game for Tallahassee Community College last season and will provide depth at the guard position. Hawthorne is a versatile 6-7 forward who averaged 7.8 points at Southwest Mississippi last season. The Blue Raiders will also add three freshmen to their roster. T.J. Massenburg is a 6-8 forward from Georgia who can stretch the floor with his shooting. Therren Shelton-Szmidt is a 6-5 guard from in-state that should add to the Blue Raiders’ backcourt depth. Lastly, Donovan Sims is a 6-1 guard who stayed in his hometown to play for Middle Tennessee.
Who to Watch:
Senior Giddy Potts will be the star of the Blue Raiders this season. Potts was a member of the third team all-Conference USA and is the lone double-digit scorer returning from last season with 15.3 points per game. Potts is a knock down shooter who led the nation in three-point shooting percentage as a sophomore and followed that up by shooting 38.4% from deep as a junior. Potts can do a little bit of everything, also averaging 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Tyrik Dixon was the starting point guard as a freshman last season and should take a step forward as a sophomore. Dixon led the team with 3.3 assists per game while also shooting 39.7% from deep, but he needs to improve upon his 5.6 points per game. Senior Brandon Walters should become the starting center this season. Standing 6-10, Walters gives the Blue Raiders a big body to gather rebounds and score easy buckets at the rim. Ed Simpson will be back for his senior season after doing all the little things for the Blue Raiders last year. Simpson started 24 games and only averaged 3.5 points, but he shot 37.8% from deep and led the team with a 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Back-up guard Antwain Johnson should see more playing time this season as a junior after averaging 4.8 points in just 13 minutes per game off the bench as a sophomore.
Final Projection:
Middle Tennessee will be going through a rebuild this season with leaders JaCorey Willaims and Reggie Upshaw graduated. Senior Giddy Potts will have a lot on his plate and will need help from guys who were role players last season. The Blue Raiders will have a lot of new faces playing big roles this year. Karl Gamble, a 6-9 forward, could see more minutes this season and Davion Thomas will see playing time after redshirting last season. Players like Tyrik Dixon, Ed Simpson and Brandon Walters will need to increase their scoring production for Middle Tennessee to compete for another Conference USA title. Getting back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season will be a tall task, but it is certainly a possibility if everything comes together for the Blue Raiders.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Tyrik Dixon, Sophomore, Guard, 5.6 points per game

Ed Simpson, Senior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Giddy Potts, Senior, Guard, 15.3 points per game
Nick King, Senior, Forward, 3.3 points per game (at Alabama)
Brandon Walters, Senior, Center, 4.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.9 (129th in nation, 5th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 63.9 (23, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.8 (14, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (84, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (267, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (96, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.9 (183, 9)
Rebound Margin: 5.2 (36, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.4 (61, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.4 (13, 1)