Rushed Reactions: #12 Middle Tennessee 81, #5 Minnesota 72

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 16th, 2017

Middle Tennessee proved that last year was not a fluke in knocking off a higher-seeded Big Ten team for the second consecutive year. The Blue Raiders enjoyed a balanced attack with four players scoring in double-figures. Minnesota made a nice second half run to cut the lead to four points before Middle Tennessee eventually pulled away.

Middle Tennessee Beat a Big Ten Team in the First Round for the Second Year in a Row (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways. 

  1. Foul trouble and a lack of depth killed Minnesota. It’s apparent at this point for anyone that Minnesota center Reggie Lynch is an elite shot blocker who is the reason why this team performed so well in a multitude of defensive categories this year. If Lynch picks up quick early fouls, Gophers’ defense becomes merely adequate. Lynch, Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry all had three fouls, so multiply this effect threefold. There was little defensive aggressiveness on the Minnesota side for the rest of the game, and therefore no comeback.
  2. Middle Tennessee can make the Sweet Sixteen. This was not a fluke result by any stretch of the imagination. The Blue Raiders were athletic, smart and tough in a game against a power conference team that didn’t play that poorly. They aggressively attacked the rim and got mostly whatever they wanted over the last 17 minutes. They looked just as good if not better than Butler earlier today, which should make for a very interesting match-up on Saturday.
  3. Minnesota will be back next year. The Gophers’ core aside from Akeem Springs is expected to return next season. A First Round NCAA Tournament loss obviously hurts now, but Richard Pitino‘s club — assuming it stays together and makes a normal level of improvement —  should be just as good, if not much better, in 2017-18.

Star of the Game. Middle Tennesseee’s Brandon Walters saved the day for the Blue Raiders in the first half with eight points and six rebounds seemingly out of nowhere, but Reggie Upshaw was dominant in the second half en route to 19 points and nine rebounds. The senior saved his best work for when Minnesota had cut the Blue Raiders lead to four with about 6:30 remaining — Upshaw went on a personal 5-0 run, scoring seven points in a row for his team and basically cementing away the victory. He was bold and aggressive all night, setting the tone throughout the game with his clutch play.


  • “He’s a volume shooter and can fill it up in a hurry. So of course it’s gonna effect us. ” – Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy, discussing how the loss of Springs affected the team.
  • “They didn’t seem fazed by anything; the approach was sound. We just kind of ran out of gas. – Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino.
  • “I don’t think so at all. ” – Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis, when asked whether the win was an upset.

Sights and Sounds. The Middle Tennessee crowd, while small in number, made a big impact on the proceedings by loudly (and fairly) questioning some of the officials’ calls. Nothing was off base or “homerish” about it, but they made it clear that they know their basketball. There’s just something outstanding about someone who literally sounds like Kenny Powers screaming about the principles of verticality.

What’s Next. Middle Tennessee moves on to play Butler on Saturday here in Milwaukee.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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