Assessing the First Four matchups.
All games in Dayton, Ohio
16. North Carolina A&T (19-16) vs. 16. Liberty (15-20): Neither one truly belongs, but they got hot in their respective conference tournaments. They’re true misfits. A&T didn’t win consecutive games until the MEAC tournament and Liberty started 0-8. A&T holds opponents to 38 percent shooting, but only makes 39 percent of its own shots. Liberty’s not much better, shooting 42.9 percent and holding teams to 41.9. First one to 50 wins?
11. Middle Tennessee (28-5) vs. 11. Saint Mary’s (27-6): I still find it shocking that Middle Tennessee received an at-large bid, but the Blue Raiders have had a tremendous season dominating the Sun Belt Conference until they were upset in the tournament. They also hold victories over Mississippi and Vanderbilt. Coach Kermit Davis is a veteran and he uses up to 10 players with only one double-figure scorer, guard Marcos Knight (12.5). Saint Mary’s lost three times to Gonzaga, but did have unfortunate losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech on a neutral court. Both these teams play uptempo, Saint Mary’s has the point guard, the dynamic Matthew Dellavedova who leads the Gaels in scoring (15.8) and assists (6.4), to handle Middle’s pressure. If Dellavedova was in the Big East, he’d be an All-American candidate.
16. LIU (20-13) vs. 16. James Madison (20-14): James Madison seems better than a 16 seed; they defend well and will look to clog things up and not let LIU run wild. The Blackbirds average nearly 80 points per game, but Madison is athletic enough – especially A.J. Davis and Andre Nation – to slow them down. If Madison controls tempo, it wins. A problem surfaces Monday when it was reported that Madison's leading scorer Rayshawn Goins was arrested and will not play the first half.
13. Boise State (21-10) vs. 13. LaSalle (21-9): Boise has dealt with the tough competition of the Mountain West all season and fared well, especially at home. One could argue that the Broncos were too much of a home team, going 5-8 in road games. In contrast, LaSalle was 8-6 on the road. The Explorers rely on perimeter play with a great set of guards, Ramon Galloway (17.0), Tyreek Duren (15.0), Tyrone Garland (12.9), and Sam Mills (7.7). Sometimes coach John Giannini will play all four at the same time.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell