Lady Raiders and Lady Vols square off Sunday afternoon

Mar 16, 2021 at 09:00 am by Voice Wire

Players with the MTSU Women's Basketball team learn their bracket in the 2021 NCAA National Tournament. (TONY STINNETT, MT Athletic Communications)

Middle Tennessee will face cross-state rival the legendary Tennessee Lady Vols in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the River Walk Region at 1 p.m. Sunday on ABC, marking the first time the Lady Raiders have played on a national network.

The Lady Raiders (17-7) drew a No. 13 seed and will face the 13th-ranked and third-seeded Lady Vols (16-7) for the 15th time in program history at a venue in the San Antonio area.

This marks Middle Tennessee's 19th NCAA Tournament appearance and 10th under Head Coach Rick Insell. Tennessee is making its 39th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and is the only Division I basketball team - men or women - to play in every event.

Middle Tennessee is making its 17th consecutive postseason appearance and 15th straight under Insell.

"We are excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament," Insell said. "We face a very good Tennessee team, and we are excited about that challenge. Kellie (Jolly) Harper has done a great job everywhere she has been, and she's done a great job at Tennessee."

Tennessee and Middle Tennessee have played 14 times in program history, including the 1984 NCAA Tournament when the Lady Vols captured a 70-52 win in Knoxville. The two squads played six times in seven seasons from 2006 to 2013, but they have not met on the hardwood since 2013 when Pat Summitt was still leading the charge on Rocky Top.

"Pat Summitt signed a contract to play us when I got the job at Middle Tennessee," Insell said. "She played us in Knoxville and in Murfreesboro. We played more times in Knoxville, but she was willing to bring her team to Murfreesboro too. For whatever reason, we have not been able to get them back on the schedule since 2013, but we have tried."

Middle Tennessee earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament after winning the C-USA Championship Saturday. The Lady Vols received an at-large berth after falling to South Carolina in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, 67-52, Saturday.

Tennessee's leading scorer and rebounder is Rennia Davis, who averages 17.3 points and 9.0 boards per game. Rae Burrell adds 16.6 points per game.

The Lady Vols allow just 62.2 points per game, while the Lady Raiders average 74.5. When Middle Tennessee reaches the 62-point mark, it is 16-3 this season.

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