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TBT Preview: Middle Tennessee squad loaded with decorated Blue Raiders

Two former POY’s and NCAA Tournament participants lead the group.

Saint Mary's v Middle Tennessee Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One of the most popular and successful mid-major programs of the past two NCAA Tournaments has formed a seven-player alumni team for this year’s The Basketball Tournament. The team, donning the moniker “Blue Zoo,” was deemed officially eligible by the tournament this past Sunday.

Before the “super Raider” team can participate in the tournament, they must first garner fan votes on TBT’s site to be among the nine teams that will be selected based on popularity. In addition to those nine, six teams will receive at-large bids, and one team will play-in through the TBT Jamboree.

In the previous three years of the tournament, a team comprised of nearly all mid-major players has never reached the finals. The past two tournaments have been won by Team Overseas, which has been made up of a mix of high and mid-major level players, as well as a few European players.

If the Blue Zoo does in fact make it to the big show this summer, you’ll want to keep an eye on them. Over the last six seasons, the Blue Raiders’ have seen tremendous postseason success and collected a bevy of individual awards.

Let’s take a look at some of the key players.

Shawn Jones

The Blue Zoo team will be anchored by the 6’8 former Conference USA Player of the Year Shawn Jones. Jones played in 131 games during his four years in Murfreesboro, and helped transition the program from the Sun Belt to CUSA during his senior season. Jones had preseason stints with the Heat and Clippers before signing a three-year deal with a professional team in Jerusalem in 2016.

Jones is a banger in the paint with a knack for offensive rebounds. He’ll be a force at the five position for the Blue Zoo.

Darnell Harris

Two seasons ago, Harris helped lead the Blue Raiders’ in their massive upset of Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 6’8 forward is currently playing professionally overseas with Spirou out of Belgium.

Harris brings a unique skill set that was on display when he scored 15 points against the Spartans. The versatile forward is also a tremendous three-point shooter, as well as an excellent finisher and defensive presence in the interior.

Laron Dendy

If nothing else, the Blue Zoo will not be lacking in interior size. Dendy, who is 6’9 with an enormous wing span, is another big man that had a lot of success during his time at Middle Tennessee. He played just one season with the Blue Raiders, leading a 27-win team in points and rebounds per game in 2011-12. After stints with many different European squads, Dendy now resides in Israel playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Marcos Knight

The back court will be led by Knight, a point guard currently playing in Spain with Basket Zaragoza. As a senior, he led the Blue Raiders to 28 wins and the 2013 NCAA Tournament, where they lost to a pesky Saint Mary’s team featuring Matthew Dellavedova. Knight will be joined by former teammate Bruce Massey Jr. in the back court.

Other Blue Zoo Members

Stephen Hurt

Jason Jones