• 64°

Hair making strides at MTSU

 When the NCAA Basketball Tournament field is announced today, Picayune’s Dino Hair knows his Middle Tennessee State University team won’t be in that number of 65.

But if Hair and the Blue Raiders can continue the improvement that the former Maroon Tide standout and his teammates made over the last year, then next season the term March Madness could have a whole new meaning to them.

Hair and MTSU fell in the finals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to Western Kentucky Tuesday night 67-57 at the Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

The Blue Raiders of head coach Kermit Davis finished the season at 17-15, and one win shy of earning the automatic bid to the Big Dance that goes to the winner of the event.

Despite the loss, the end of the year was a pretty good run for MTSU, as the Blue Raiders had won four straight games and 10 of their last 13 including knocking off top-seed South Alabama on its home court in the SBC semifinals Monday.

“We played pretty good basketball down the stretch,” Hair, a 6-foot-9, redshirt sophomore power forward, said after a quarterfinal win over Troy last week.

And Hair was a big part of that run, as many times he was the first guy off the bench late in the season for Davis.

Hair played in all 32 games this season, starting six and averaging almost 16 minutes on the court per game.

“I started out kind of slow, but I got a chance to get more time and some other guys got hurt and I was able to get in a grove and prove I could help the team. It’s all about being ready when you get your chance.”

Hair averaged four points and three rebounds per game this year. He twice led the team in rebounding, grabbing a career high eight in a January loss to UNO and six in a win over Denver last month.

He also led the team in scoring with eight points, tying a career high, in a loss to Memphis in December. The Tigers went on the be the number one ranked team in the country for a while.

“I knew I had to step up because I was going to be playing a bigger role this year,” Hair added. “I had gotten some experience last year and that helped me get adjusted to the college game and carried over into this season.”

After redshirting his first season due to a knee injury, Hair came back last season and steadily made progress as he saw action in 26 games including two starts. He scored eight points in a win over Troy that year.

Hair hopes the progress he has made from one year to the next continues in the future.

“I got two more years left, and I feel like I will play an even bigger role next year,” he added. “Coach Davis has done a good job with the team and myself, and we just have to keep working. We want to get to that next level.”

Something it look like Hair is on his way o doing as well.