Tag Archives: Middle Tennessee

MTSU women’s coach: ‘I’d like to see three Sun Belt teams in NCAA tourney’

Just a couple more quick things to pass along before we close the book on the 2010 women’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Middle Tennessee women’s coach Rick Insell had some interesting things to say about the state of the Sun Belt after his Lady Raiders beat Arkansas-Little Rock for the conference title Tuesday.

Insell said that both MTSU and UALR belonged in the NCAA Tournament, but he also said that it’s important for other programs in the Sun Belt to not think that two teams is the limit.

“We just need to get the rest of the league doing that,” Insell said. “That’s going to get our RPI up. Instead of being somewhere around 13 or 14, we can move that up to about seven or eight. That’s going to help the league, and that’s going to help us get more than two teams into the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m a little selfish – I’d like to see us get three teams in.”

But Insell didn’t put all of the blame on Sun Belt teams. He also said that teams in the conference struggle to find big-time opponents who are willing to play them.

“They won’t allow us to go into the NCAA Tournament, but (nobody) will play us, and I’m talking about Little Rock, Western, Middle Tennessee, and you can come right on down the line,” Insell said. “We’re not an easy out for anybody, and most of those teams in those power conferences – what they’re trying to do is, they’re trying to line some wins up before they get in conference.

“Really and truly, we’ve got to come up with some type of solution where we can get a fair shake, and when I’m saying a fair shake, I’m talking about the Sun Belt Conference. We’ve got great coaches, we’ve got great teams, great players, and we can’t raise that RPI if we can’t get some of these teams from around the country to start playing us.”

According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Sun Belt currently ranks 16th in women’s conference RPI.

-Zach Greenwell

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Lady Tops WNIT update, and how good is Alysha Clark?

Middle Tennessee just held on to beat Arkansas-Little Rock 70-68 in overtime in the women’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament final, and it’s time to take a look at how this shakes out for Western.

I can only assume the Lady Toppers would have preferred that this game go the other way.

Had UALR secured an NCAA Tournament berth, Middle Tennessee would have been hard to leave out of the Big Dance at 24-6 with an RPI of 23. With both of those teams in, No. 3 Western would have received an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament as the highest Sun Belt team not headed to the NCAA tourney.

But with Middle Tennessee winning the Sun Belt, things become a little murky. Sure, UALR boasted a 21-game win streak heading into Tuesday’s final. But the Trojans’ RPI of 51 isn’t doing them any favors, especially coming from a weaker mid-major conference.

The bottom line is that the Lady Toppers will now have to wait to see UALR’s fate before they know theirs. Although, Western could still very well pick up an at-large bid to the WNIT with a 21-10 record.

We’ll just have to wait until both fields are announced on Monday night. For more on Western’s WNIT chances, click here.

  • One more observation from the Sun Belt final, and it’s an obvious one – how good is MTSU senior forward Alysha Clark?

Clark broke her own Sun Belt Tournament single-game scoring record Tuesday with 48 points, including the game-winning basket with three seconds left in overtime.

In fact, Clark broke the single-game scoring record in each of MTSU’s three games in the tournament. She averaged 44 points and 14.7 rebounds over that span.

According to ESPN.com, Clark was tied for first in the nation in scoring at 26.9 points per game on Feb. 28th, but it would seem that her Sun Belt tourney performance had to vault her into sole possession of first place.

Clark is a likely first-round pick in April’s WNBA Draft. DraftSite.com projects her going fourth overall to Chicago.

For those interested, ESPN.com’s Graham Hays wrote a good article a few weeks back in 2009 on Clark’s journey from Belmont to Middle Tennessee to one of the best players in the nation.

UPDATE (10:54 p.m.) – Thank you to the reader who pointed out to me that my date on Graham Hays’ article was incorrect. For a more up-to-date look at Clark, check out The Tennesseean’s profile on the MTSU senior from this past Sunday.

-Zach Greenwell

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Early Morning Outlook: Lady Tops move on; one team pulls big upset

Sunday’s action in the women’s Sun Belt Conference tournament saw things shake out mostly like they were expected to – with one big surprise. A quick recap of the quarterfinals:

The Lady Toppers (21-9) now meet No. 2 Middle Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. Monday. The Lady Raiders (23-5) cruised past 10th-seeded North Texas on Sunday, 106-66.

Western lost both of its games against MTSU in the regular season, falling by an average of 19.5 points. But senior forward Arnika Brown said during the Lady Toppers’ postgame news conference that the team just wants to let its effort speak for itself.

“As far as getting back, we’re pretty much going to let the playing kind of take over, and we’re just going to get out there and play our hearts out … and take it one possession at a time,” Brown said. “That’s about all we can do.

“We’re not going to sit here and speak on it, but we’re just going to get out there and play like we know how.”

MTSU Head Coach Rick Insell said that he was much more concerned about momentum than resting his players and that the Lady Raiders are in good enough shape to play 30-plus minutes each game.

So even though MTSU and Western have history, Insell said the Lady Toppers are simply a road block now.

“Western’s just another team that’s in our way,” he said. “We know where we’re headed – they are our rival school, but it’ll be a great game. They’ve got a great team, lot of good players, very well coached. We’ll just go out and play the game. I think they’ll lose a little sleep on us also tonight.”

  • Top-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock didn’t have much trouble Sunday in a 73-60 win over No. 8 Arkansas State. The Trojans will meet No. 12 New Orleans at 12:15 p.m. Monday.
  • Yep. Once again, you read that right. New Orleans continues to be the Cinderella of the women’s bracket, upsetting fourth-seeded Denver 55-48.

This will be the first semifinal appearance for the Lady Privateers since 1998. The program hadn’t won two games in the same postseason since 1988.

“Yesterday, I opened this conversation with ‘Wow,’ and I think it’s probably the same thing tonight,” UNO Head Coach Amy Champion said in her postgame news conference. “This team amazes me day in and day out. This team is real, they’ve been real all year … and this is no surprise to me.”

Herald Sports Editor Jonathan Lintner will once again have full coverage of the Lady Toppers’ game Monday, and he will also be on the scene for the men’s semifinal matchup with top-seeded Troy at 6 p.m.

Be sure to visit wkuherald.com for game recaps as well as www.twitter.com/chheraldsports for live updates from both games. You can also find the latest Western news on the Herald Sports Facebook page.

-Zach Greenwell

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