Team preview: Middle Tennessee State

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:07 PM ET
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Middle Tennessee State could complete the transfer of Sun Belt power in coach Kermit Davis' third season. The Blue Raiders nearly did so last year, beating defending champion Western Kentucky in the league tournament before losing in overtime to eventual champion Louisiana-Lafayette.

And that was without leading scorer Mike Dean (16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), who broke his hand two days before the tournament. The 6-3 guard will be back this year, and he'll be joined by former Georgia teammate and fellow senior Steve Thomas (10.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), a 6-9, 245-pound center who started during Georgia's aborted finale under Jim Harrick in 2002-03.

Dean left long before the turmoil surfaced. Tired of contending for minutes on the perimeter with the likes of Rashad Wright, Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes, Dean decided to leave at mid-semester after playing in eight games as a sophomore.