Two days after shocking the world, the MTSU Blue Raiders tried to do it again.
MTSU was the talk of the NCAA tournament after knocking off No. 2 Michigan State in the first round, but Kermit Davis saw his team’s magical run halted by Syracuse on Sunday.
Although the Blue Raiders were able to hang with the Orange for a half, in the end, the unusual zone defense allowed Syracause to walk away with a 75-50 victory.
After doing the unthinkable as a No. 15 seed, many around the college basketball world wanted to see this team do even more. Upsets are what make March Madness the spectacle that it is today, so adding another would have put MTSU in an improbable position in the Sweet 16.
However, the NCAA tournament is all about matchups.
Style of play matters, and Syracuse’s style of play just wasn’t the type of style that MTSU could overcome.
Head coach Jim Boeheim has pushed his 2-3 zone defense on teams for many years now, and it’s simply tough to prepare. Especially when you only have one day to prepare between games.
That’s the roadblock that MTSU ran into. The Blue Raiders still played with a lot of energy, but the defense made shots harder.
After seemingly being unable to miss from the floor in the win over the Spartans, MTSU was only able to shoot 29.7% against Syracuse. Meanwhile, the Orange couldn’t miss in shooting 55.1%, making it impossible for Davis’ team to catch up.
But while MTSU will exit this tournament wondering what might have been, there’s no way that anyone will ever forget what the Blue Raiders did during their short stay.
Michigan State entered the field of 68 as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Houston, and there was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that the Big Ten tournament champions would easily dispose of the team from Murfreesboro.
That didn’t happen. MTSU brought the effort and energy early on, and Tom Izzo’s squad just didn’t have an answer the entire night.
Every time you thought the Spartans were going to finally take control of the game, the Blue Raiders had an answer.
It was an entire team effort. It was the kind of effort that gives underdogs a chance every single year in the biggest tournament in college basketball.
It’s not always about who has the most talent, or who had the most stars in recruiting. Sometimes it’s just about who wants it more.
MTSU entered the tournament with a lot of confidence. It was going to play hard for every possession and not back down. And good things happened.
Sure, the Syracuse game is one that will sting for a little while. Many thought that the Orange didn’t belong in the tournament, so it felt like a winnable game for the Blue Raiders.
But again, it’s all about matchups.
Still, at the end of the day, MTSU’s incredible run to the second round is one that the team and its fans will never forget. It managed to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in NCAA tournament history and completely change the entire dynamic of the tournament itself.
With Davis at the helm, the Blue Raiders will be back.
And you can bet that next time around, they’ll be looking to shock the world once again.