The Blue Raiders will have to overcome a challenging schedule that features 14 games against 2016 NCAA Tournament teams.
“It’s a difficult schedule again and it’s designed that way to reach our goal of getting into a regional and win a championship,” said McGuire. “The schedule is setup so our RPI could be very high if we have success in our non-conference games and get to the top of our conference, it sets us up to get an at-large bid as well.”
Middle Tennessee will open on the road for its first four contests in 2017. The Raiders will begin their season with a three-game series at Georgia Southern (Feb. 17-19), before traveling to Lipscomb for a mid-week game (Feb. 21).
“Going to Georgia Southern, they’re going to be one of the better pitching staffs in the Sun Belt. So I know it’s going to be a tough task right out of the gate,” McGuire said.
The team will be back for the annual Mule Mix where the Blue Raiders will play Northwestern in its home opener Friday Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. For the second straight year MT will open up at home with a Big 10 opponent, as last year it was Indiana coming to town for a three-game series. Middle will also host Bowling Green and Missouri State to close out the weekend.
The following weekend the Blue Raiders have a three-game home stand with Kennesaw State March 3-5. The squad will then travel to Memphis for the annual two-game mid-week series, before hitting the road against the aforementioned Indiana Hoosiers.
The Blue Raiders will return home March 14 to take on Tennessee, before traveling to Florida Atlantic for their first C-USA series.
Conference USA is coming off a year that produced four NCAA Tournament teams (Rice, Southern Miss, FAU, Louisiana Tech). The conference was ranked as the third-toughest conference in baseball behind the ACC and SEC in 2016.
“It’s very difficult to play in Conference USA, we have some tough road series,” stated McGuire. “We go to Rice, and Florida Atlantic, which are two 2016 regional teams. Week in and week out the conference is going to be very strong again. We’re going to have the opportunity to compete and be in the top part of the league and see what happens.”
The home C-USA slate begins when rival WKU comes to town March 24-26. The Blue Raiders will also host conference foes Old Dominion (Apr. 7-9), UAB (Apr. 13-15), Southern Miss (Apr. 28-30), and Louisiana Tech (May 18-20).
The toughest stretch for the Blue Raiders may come in their final seven games when they face three 2016 regional teams to close out the regular season. MT will first travel to conference juggernaut Rice (May 12-14) and then turn right back around May 16 to play at Vanderbilt. The team hosts La Tech for its final three games of the year.
MT will travel to Marshall (Mar. 31-Apr.2), Charlotte (Apr. 21-23), and UTSA (May-5-7) for its remaining conference road series.
Mixed into the conference schedule, the Blue Raiders will face all in-state opponents in the midweek with contests against Lipscomb (Feb. 21 and Mar. 21), Austin Peay (Feb. 28 and Mar. 29), Tennessee (Mar. 14 and Apr. 4), Belmont (Mar. 28 and Apr. 11) and Tennessee Tech (April 25 and May 9).
Following the regular season, the Conference USA Tournament will take place on May 24-28 at MGM Park in Biloxi, Miss.