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March 11, 2012

The Pains of Defeat

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Both the men's and women's basketball programs were having historic seasons, and as a result, the Blue Raider fan base was excited to see both of their teams make their runs. Adding to this success was the fact that both teams were riding high heading into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. They both easily won the Sun Belt in regular season.

Although both the men and women had some tough losses in the regular season they would always bounce back the next game. The men's team never had a losing streak in their season and the women only lost two games straight to tough SEC opponents. Many fans were not worried about Sun Belt tournament play.

The men's basketball program had lost some Sun Belt conference games down the stretch, but many fans chalked it up to fatigue from traveling or the bulls eye placed squarely on the Blue Raiders backs. Despite stumbling a bit to the finish line of the regular season, the Sun Belt tournament started with the Blue Raiders as the number one seed and having the easiest route to the championship.

Then the unthinkable happened. MT lost to Arkansas State in the quarterfinals of the tournament. It was just the fourth time in SBC history that a number one seed did not reach the semifinal game, but Blue Raider fans still had the Lady Raiders alive and were looking to them to bring home the championship.

The women's basketball program owned the Sun Belt and was undefeated in conference play during the regular season. It was basically guaranteed that they would be able to handle the pressure of a conference tournament. The Lady Raiders did not play their best ball, but nonetheless ran through the tournament and got into the championship game.

Awaiting the Lady Raiders was the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans in the championship game. MT struggled early on against the Trojans, getting down by double digits in the first half. MT continued to struggle into the second half, but a furious comeback led the game into overtime. MT came out hot in the extra frame, but they were unable to pull away from the Trojans, which came back to haunt them as the Lady Raiders lost in overtime, 71-70.

The men's and women's basketball programs were kings and queens of the Sun Belt, but all it took was one loss to dethrone them. Even though both programs still had an amazing season, the recent defeats overshadow this for most fans. The loss by both programs changes the way the season will look from the outsiders prospective.

The men's basketball season took the hardest hit from their loss. The Blue Raiders were, at times this year, projected to be a 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, but now they will likely not receive an invitation to the big dance and will probably be playing in the NIT.

After the season the Blue Raiders had this is not a scenario the players and fans are happy about.

Some fans have even gone as far as question coach Kermit Davis's future with the Blue Raider basketball program. In ten years as head coach, Davis has been unable to get the Blue Raiders into the NCAA tournament. Many feel like this was his best chance to finally get the team in. Coach Davis will likely be kept, but when it comes to job security, he may be coaching for it this next season.

As for the Lady Raiders, their loss isn't as bad, but still hurts nonetheless. The Lady Raiders will likely still be dancing their way into the women's NCAA tournament. However, they will likely be a lower seed and have to play one of the tougher teams in the tournament. MT will have a tough matchup, but will at least be taking part in the tournament.

As for Lady Raider head coach Rick Insell - he controls his own future. Coach Insell was one of the best kept secrets in women's athletics, but after the season he has had this isn't the case anymore. Insell has been loyal to the Blue Raiders, but it is hard to say no to more money and a better basketball facility. Insell's name has been linked to the job opening at Mississippi State, but so far nothing concrete has come out of it. Many fans of the Lady Raiders are hoping they will see coach Insell on the sidelines next season.

Both the men's and women's basketball program fell short of their goals in the season. The Blue Raiders fan base has had a tough sports season. Despite this, the Blue Raiders fans will continue to support their team. A statement MT has grown tired of hearing must be said again, though - hopefully next year will be more promising.



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