Danny Johnston, Associated Press
Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell watches the second half of an NCAA final Sun Belt Conference Tournament college basketball game against Arkansas-Little Rock in Hot Springs, Ark., Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Arkansas-Little Rock defeated Middle Tennessee 71-70 in overtime.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are heading into the NCAA tournament with a second straight at-large berth expecting a much different outcome from a year ago.

Then, the grief-stricken Blue Raiders mourned the stabbing death of teammate Tina Stewart and huddled at their coach's house to hear of an at-large berth that ended with a first-round loss.

Monday night, they celebrated with their fans an at-large berth capping a season dedicated to Stewart. Coach Rick Insell says it's been a tough season with lots of tears behind the scenes.

No. 10 seed Middle Tennessee will play Sunday at seventh-seeded Vanderbilt in a game it took the NCAA selection committee to schedule. These teams are separated by about 45 miles but haven't played since 1992.