Middle Tennessee’s Davis has depth
by Scott M Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Kermit Davis hasn’t seen better chemistry in more than 30 years of coaching.
That’s how the Middle Tennessee State coach feels about Marcos and Tweety Knight, calling the pair the “closest brothers I’ve ever seen.”
It’s also how Davis feels about his team collectively, as the Blue Raiders (14-4) have started Sun Belt Conference action 6-1 after winning the league last year and returning its core players.
Davis, who goes by the nickname “Froggy” for obvious reasons, believes his team has the right ingredients to become an NCAA tournament darling this season. But he also knows Middle Tennessee needs a ticket before the team can dance.
Despite a 27-win season, the Blue Raiders failed to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to punch a coveted automatic bid into the NCAA tournament last year. Instead, Middle Tennessee settled for the NIT and upset Tennessee before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
One ingredient for every NCAA tournament team is depth, and Davis isn’t shy in suggesting his team might have the deepest bench in the country — often playing 12 players significant minutes with 10 players averaging over 10 minutes per game.
“I base playing time on effort in practice. Our guys have accepted that,” Davis explains. “Everybody wants to play, that’s their competitive nature, but they want to win. Not a lot of teams have 12 players capable of starter minutes. That’s our team’s biggest strength. We can wear teams down.”
The last time Davis had this luxury of depth, it was more of a predicament. Back in the late 1980s, he was the youngest coach in Division I at Idaho as a 28-year-old. Now, in his 11th year at Middle Tennessee, the veteran coach knows exactly how to use his weaponry.
Davis on his team’s potential to beat BCS-level teams:
“We’ve played really tough non-conference schedule that I think gives us necessary experience. We played Florida and lost, we beat Ole Miss, we beat Vanderbilt, we played at two great mid-majors—Belmont and Akron. We have the confidence to play anyone.”
Davis on grading his team’s success this season:
“Well, we returned 11 of our 13 … [For more on Mid-Major Coach Diary: Middle Tennessee's Davis has depth, click here.]