NCAA Bracket Preview: Midwest & Play In Teams

Peyton Siva

N Carolina A&T – (19-16, 8-8 MEAC) For the first time in 18 years, the Aggies of North Carolina A&T will be dancing in the NCAA Tournament. After earning the no. 7 seed in the MEAC tournament with an 8-8 conference record, the Aggies would defeat Morgan ST in the championship game 57-54. The MEAC tournament champions are led by Senior Forward Adrian Powell (Conover NC) who averages 12.5 PPG and 5 RPG. The Aggies have made the dance 9 times but will be playing for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory Tuesday night.

Liberty (15-20, 6-10 Big South) After opening regular season play with an 0-8 record, the Flames would finish the year out winning 7 out of their last 10 games. Getting hot at just the right time, the Flames would become only the second 20-loss team in NCAA history to earn a bid to the Big Dance(Coppin St 2008). The Flames are led by junior guard John Caleb Sanders(Sugar Land TX) who averages 14.4 PPG and 4 RPG.

Middle Tennessee State (28-5, 19-1 Sun Belt) During the past two seasons, Head Coach Kermit Davis has a combined record of 56-12, including a Sun Belt Conference record this season of 19-1. Considering the fact that Davis inherited a program that just completed its third losing season out of the previous four years, he is perhaps one of the country’s most underrated coaches. Davis won the Sun Belt’s Coach of the Year Award for the second straight season, and third of his career. His Blue Raiders are loaded with talented guards who can score in bunches, and none more potent than senior guard and Rentz Georgia native Marcos Knight. Knight leads the Raiders offense with 12.5 PPG, and is one of the country’s most ferocious rebounders from the guard position with an average of 6 RPG. The Raiders also rely on a very deep bench which contributes to 42% of their offensive production. MT also has one of the country’s stingiest defenses allowing only 57.8 PPG. Guard Bruce Massey JR. (Germantown MD) was named the 2013 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. MT earned an At-large bid and the University’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 24 years.

St. Marys– (27-6, 14-2 WCC)- The Gaels are no stranger to the Big Dance, making their third appearance in the last 4 years, which included a trip to the sweet 16 in 2010. They are led this season by senior guard Matthew Dellavedova (Maryborough, Australia) who helped his team rank 23rd in scoring by draining 80 threes and averaging 15.8 PPG. With Dellavedova’s 6.4 Assist per game, the Gaels have 4 players who average double digit scoring. The Gaels lost only 3 games in their final 22 appearances this season, all three were to Gonzaga. The Gaels were an At-Large bid according to most experts, and were pushed to the 11 seed play in game when Ole Miss defeated Florida in the SEC Championship.

Boise St– (21-10, 9-7 MWC)- After losing in the first round of their conference tournament, Boise State had to sweat it out as the committee was deciding on which bubbles to burst. But as the brackets were unveiled, the Broncos were rewarded with a NCAA Tournament at-large bid, the first in school history. The Broncos are led by two Sophmores in Forward Anthony Drmic (Endeavor Hills, Australia) who averages 17.3 PPG, and Guard Derrick Marks (Chicago, Ill) with 16.3 PPG and dishing out 4 APG.

La Salle– (21-9, 11-5 A 10)- One of five Atlantic 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, the Catholic based Philadelphia school earned their first bid to the Dance since 1992.They play a very perimeter oriented style of basketball and rely heavily on the scoring of Senior guard and Philly native Ramon Galloway, who averages 17 PPG. With 6’11 post player Steve Zack injured, the Explores will need to be offensively efficient as ever as rebounding the basketball will now be an even greater task.

LIU-Brooklyn-(20-13, 12-6 NEC)- The Blackbirds of LIU captured their third consecutive NEC title as they defeated Mount Saint Marys 91-70. LIU has battled through adversity this season, losing their top performer in Julian Boyd (San Antonio TX) to a torn ACL. Senior forward Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring , MD) rose to the occasion for his team as he has averaged 18.9 PPG. The Blackbirds also get outstanding play from their junior point guard Jason Brickman (San Antonio TX), who presently leads the nation with 8.5 APG

JMU– (20-14, 11-7 CAA)- It has been 19 long years for the men’s basketball program at JMU, but all that misery came to an end as the Dukes earned their first conference championship, and a berth into the NCAA Tournament by defeating Northeastern 70-57. The last time the Dukes went dancing it was former Maryland great Lefty Driesell residing as Head Coach. That year Lefty entered his team as a 14 seed, and his ball club would give Florida all they could handle with a 64-62 scare. Florida would eventually make its way to the final four.

Louisville– (29-5, 14-4 Big East) Louisville and head coach Rick Pitino earned the number 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. After capturing the Big East Tournament, Pitino now sets out to get his 7th final four appearance, and perhaps add another National Title to what is already a hall of fame resume. The Cardinals reflect Pitino’s up tempo offense and pressure defense about as well as any team he has coached. Junior guard Russ Smith (Brooklyn, NY) leads the Cardinals in scoring with 18.1 PPG and the play of Senior guard Peyton Siva (Seattle, Wash) has been outstanding. The Cardinals will try to capture the school’s third NCAA Championship, and first since the freshman sensation “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison (Savannah GA) would help his team to a 3 point win over the Duke Blue Devils in 1986.

Colorado St– (25-8, 11-5 MWC) Back to back NCAA bids have the Mountain West Rams headed on the right path. This marks first-year Head Coach Larry Eustachy’s fifth appearance in the NCAA Championships. The Rams are one of the nation’s top rebounding programs as they are ranked fourth in the country. Leading the way is senior center Colton Iverson (Hankton SD) who averages close to a double double with 14 PPG and 9.8 RPG.

Missouri– (23-10, 11-7 SEC)- The Missouri Tigers come into this dance as the second best rebounding team in the country. Elon graduate and Head Coach Frank Haith leads Missouri into its school record fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Senior forward Lawrence Bowers (Memphis TN) leads the Tigers averaging 14 PPG and 6 RPG. Missouri’s roster includes 6 players who average double digit scoring and 4 players who average 5 RPG or better. Their first round match up should be a war among the glass as they face the number 4 rebounding team in the country Colorado State.

Oklahoma ST– (24-8, 13-5 Big 12) With one of the country’s best backcourts, Head Coach Travis Ford is all set to take the Cowboys back to the NCAA Tournament after a 2 year absence. Freshman guard Marcus Smart (Flower Mound TX) leads Oklahoma State average 15.1 PPG and 5.7 RPG. The 2010 berth into the dance was short lived as Georgia Tech defeated the Cowboys 64-59.

Oregon– (26-8, 12-6 Pac-12)- Many feel that Oregon was the one team that was greatly under-seated. After winning the Pac 10 Tournament, the Ducks were looking at a 6 or 7 seed according to most experts, but instead were seeded as a 12. The Ducks are led by E.J Singler (Medford OR), brother of former Duke star Kyle Singler, and a first-team All-Pac 12 pick, he’s just the 13th player in Oregon history to total more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Singler averages 11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Head Coach Dana Altman is in his third season and has combined a record there of 71-36.

ST. Louis– (27-6, 13-3 A 10)- A very solid defensive team that makes you earn every basket. They play a style of basketball that tends to frustrate teams that are use to getting out in transision. Offensively, the Billikens can score from all 5 positions and run a high post offense that makes teams guard for a good basketball. He would be proud of his former student athletes and the patience on offense, along with the stifling defense that they have demonstrated this season.

New Mexico ST.– (24-10, 14-4 WAC)- The Aggies come in to the dance winning 18 of their last 20 games. It will mark the second consecutive year the Aggies have earned a NCAA berth, though their last Tournament win came 20 years ago defeating Nebraska in the NCAA first round. New Mexico St. is a great rebounding team that has a very big interior presence. They are also led in scoring by sophomore guard Daniel Mullings (Toronto ON) who averages 14 PPG. The Aggies are 10-21 overall in NCAA tournament play.

Memphis TN– (30-4, 16-0 C-USA)- After an undefeated season in Conference USA, the Memphis Tigers have lost one game out of their last 25, that being a 2 point loss to Xavier. Junior guard Joe Jackson (Memphis TN) leads the Tigers in scoring with 13.2 PPG. Memphis has gone dancing the last 7 of 8 seasons. A very athletic Memphis team and head coach Josh Pastner will await the winner of the 11th seeded play in game in the Midwest.

Michigan ST– (25-8, 13-5 Big Ten)- Tom Izzo enters his favorite time of the year seeking his 7th final four in just the past 13 seasons. He has guided his program to 15 straight NCAA appearances and his teams seem to always get better, and much tougher as the month of March begins to near. The Spartans displayed what they are capable of doing this regular season when they ran #4 Michigan out of their Gym, beating a very talented Michigan team by 23 and completely dominating the game. The Spartans are led this season by a tough group of players beginning with junior guard Keith Appling (Detroit MI). Appling is averaging 13.6 PPG and 3.5 APG. The junior forward Adreian Payne (Dayton OH) has rebounded the ball the way Tom Izzo expects and is averaging 7.5 RPG while scoring 10PPG.

Valparaiso– (26-7, 13-3 Horizon)- The Crusaders and Head Coach Bryce Drew earned an automatic bid to the NCAA by winning the Horizon Conference tournament. Valparaiso upended Wright State 62-54, giving the Crusaders its first invitation to the dance since 2004. Coach Drew’s club is very proficient on offense ranking 6th in the country with a shooting percentage of 48.9%. They will face a very tough challenge in the opening round facing Tom Izzo and the Spartans of Michigan State.

Creighton-(27-7, 13-5 MVC)-All-American Junior Forward Doug McDermott (Ames IA) leads his Jays into March Madness averaging 23.1 PPG while hitting the glass for 7.5 RPG. There is yet to be a spot on the floor that the talented 6’8 220lb junior cannot shoot from. The Jays also lead the country in field goal percentage, shooting an amazing 50.8% from the field. Creighton also ranks 5th nationally in assist with 17.5 per game.

Cincinnati– (22-11, 9-9 Big East)- The Bearcats have relied on good defense, along with rebounding the basketball to pull them through some offensive woes. There may not be two teams with more contrasting styles than when Creighton, who holds the nation’s best field goal percentage, squares off against Cincinnati, who is currently 304th in the same category. The Bearcats are battle tested and will rely on junior guard Sean Kilpatrick (Yonkers NY) to give them enough offense to “survive and advance”.

Duke-(27-5, 14-4 ACC)- With the sixth highest scoring offense in the country, the Duke Blue Devils enter the NCAA Tournament averaging over 78 PPG. For most of the season, Duke has had great production from big man Mason Plumlee (Warsaw IN) and sharp shooting guard Seth Curry (Charlotte NC). Both have provided Coach K major offensive production averaging 17 PPG. If Coach K has one concern, it has to be the inability to rebound the basketball. The Blue Devils were one and done in the ACC Tournament in which Maryland outrebounded the Devils by double digits. Even with a slight rebounding weakness, the Devils score in such spurts that they will be a threat to win it all, Seth Curry has looked as if he could not miss at times and when Coach K is on the sidelines, a final four seems to always be within reach.

Albany– (24-10, 9-7 Am. East)- Albany earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2007 by defeating the Vermont Catamounts in an exciting American East Championship game. Vermont had swept the regular season contest with the Great Danes, winning the first contest in a route 70-45. Albany would get two huge threes late from Senior guard Jacob Iati (York PA). Iati, who averages over 12 PPG, was a combined 1-17 shooting in the two previous contest. Albany faces Duke in what would be a monumental upset if they are victorious.

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