MTSU women's coach Rick Insell cuts down the net after his team won the Conference USA Tournament on Saturday.
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -
Middle Tennessee's women's basketball team is glad to be playing a first-round opponent on a neutral floor after playing the hosts the last two years.
The No. 8 seeded Blue Raiders (29-4) will play ninth-seeded Oregon State (23-10) on Sunday in the first round in Seattle, WA.
"The last three years we've had to play someone on their home court so I'm excited to play on a neutral court," said senior Ebony Rowe, the Conference USA player of the year.
The Blue Raiders, who have reached the NCAA Tournament six straight seasons, have played Vanderbilt and Louisville on its home courts in the first round the last two seasons.
"I won't say we've had back luck. I'd say that our draws and things where we've had to play Louisville at Louisville and play Vandy at Vandy and at Michigan State," said head coach Rick Insell. "We can't look back on that and say we're playing someone on their home floor this year."
Rowe was named the conference's player of the year after leading the Raiders with 21.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. She is the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Senior Keke Stewart joined Rowe as a double-digit scorer with 10.2 point per game.
Olivia Jones, named the C-USA freshman of the year, added 8.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
The NCAA Tournament appearance is the 17th for Middle Tennessee. Insell's teams have advanced to the tournament eight of his nine seasons at the helm.
"This is a special day every year because when Dr. Sidney A. McPhee and Chris Massaro hired me. I came on board to make this an elite program in the country," said Insell, who has won 1,003 games combined at Shelbyville Central and MTSU. "Part of that next level is being able to sit her on selection night and seeing your name come across the board. Our program has been to the NCAA Tournament 17 times. There aren't many programs that can say that."
The No. 8 seed for MTSU is the third time the school has been a single-digit seed, though Insell was disappointed after the school posted 29 wins, the second most in program history, and being ranked No. 20 in the latest USA Today/Coaches' poll and No. 22 in the Associated Press poll.
"I thought we had done enough to be a five or six seed," said Insell. "You just take it and go because there are a lot of teams that are left at home.
"I like where we are right now, but I don't like playing that far away from our fans."
Oregon State compiled one of its best seasons in program history. The Beavers reached the 23-win mark for the third time and first since 1982-83. They finished tied for second in the Pac-12, matching their best finish (1996) and played for the conference championship for the first time.
The Middle Tennessee-Oregon State winner will play the winner of top-seed South Carolina and 16-seed Cal State Northridge on Tuesday.
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