On the cusp on the bubble

For the second time in as many seasons, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are poised to do something they have not done in over two decades - make the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, nothing is set in stone for a team that all but demolished their conference mates in route to a 27-4 regular season showing and a 19-1 conference record.
More on that later.
MT is certainly on the cusp. They are on the cusp of breaking into the top 25, on the cusp of potentially running through Hot Springs and cutting down the nets, and are on the cusp of making some serious noise on the national stage.
For their efforts, three Blue Raiders found themselves on the all conference team in one way or another.
Senior guard Marcos Knight landed first-team honors after posting team-leading numbers with 12.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game whilst only averaging 26.3 minutes per game.
Senior guard Bruce Massey landed Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as third-team recognition. Massey led the Blue Raiders with 48 steals and was a driving force for a defense that limited opponents to below-average shooting percentages from both the floor and beyond the arc this season.
And finally, Raymond Cintron - more affectionately known as the Puerto Rican Assassin - also garnered third-team honors. The senior guard led the league with a 44.1 percent three-point shooting average and led the Blue Raiders with 67 treys on the season. On the season, Cintron averaged 8.9 points per game (second on the team) while logging an average of just 21.8 minutes per game.
And then there is head coach Kermit Davis. What more can you say about a guy who has turned a good program into a dominant one these past few years. Davis has changed things up from years past. He adapted his coaching style to reflect the players that he had on his roster and that, in large part, helped him take home his second consecutive Coach of the Year award.
But this team knows that they are far from finished, and sadly, their spot in the NCAA Tournament is far from a lock. Despite reaching milestones that Blue Raider teams of yesteryear never came close to sniffing, the only sure fire way for this team to make it to the dance is to win their conference tournament in Hot Springs.
MT's RPI ranges anywhere from 24th to 26th depending on which trackers you peak at and the Blue Raiders are currently riding a 16-game winning streak - the longest streak in the nation.
MT's staunch defense, which ranks 13th nationally, only allowed their opposition to shoot 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. To top it off, the Blue Raiders only gave up an average of 57.4 points per game - good enough for 15th best in the nation.
Want more proof of their worthiness? Ok, here we go.
The Blue Raiders 19 conference wins this year beat the record of 18 set by New Orleans 20 years ago. Yes, 20 years ago. MT's 27 wins matched the mark set by last year's team, who needed two postseason wins to reach that mark. This team accomplished that feat in the regular season. And aside from their conference slate, the Blue Raiders went out and scheduled the ninth-toughest OOC schedule in the country.
But alas, if MT were to bow out of the SBC Tournament quarterfinals like they did last year, their spot in the big dance would be in serious jeopardy.
It could happen - hell it happened last year - but this team, who only lost two players from a season ago, remembers the sting that they felt when the selection committee turned them away. They know that another trip to the NIT would be considered a major disappointment. All of those feelings and emotions have not faded away - it is quite the contrary.
This squad, chalked full of seniors and upper classmen, knows what they have in front of them. They need three wins to erase over two decades of suffering. They need three wins to secure the first 30-win season in program history. But most importantly, get three wins and you are in.
Middle Tennessee is undoubtedly on the cusp of something great, but sadly, they are also still on the bubble. The dust will settle before too long, though.
And with that, it is time to let March Madness begin.