By JOE KAY AP Sports Writer DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - It's fitting that Middle Tennessee has to make an early trip to play in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Raiders' prowess on the road got them in the field of 68. Middle Tennessee (28-5) was a bubble team after suffering an upset in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament. But the Blue Raiders landed in the NCAA field anyway. They'll play Saint Mary's (27-6) on Tuesday night in the First Four.
The winner will play Memphis on Thursday. Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski, who chaired the NCAA selection committee, says Middle Tennessee's strong road record set it apart. Middle Tennessee went 11-3 on the road and 1-2 at neutral sites, along with a perfect record at home. Half of Saint Mary's six losses this season came against West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga, including in its conference tournament final. The Gaels will help open the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday night, facing Middle Tennessee. The winner will play Memphis on Thursday. The Gaels (27-6) lost to Gonzaga 65-51 in the West Coast Conference title game, the third time they fell to the Zags during the season. Gonzaga got the No. 1 see in the West on Sunday. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.