Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

As we move through the next eight days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  As of Sunday morning, there have been four auto-bids handed out.  Here are those primers.

#1. Cornell Big Red (27-4, 13-1 Ivy) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Cornell is the nation’s top three-point shooting team, hitting 43.4% of their attempts from deep and scoring nearly 39% of their total points from outside the arc.  The Big Red hit twenty in their bid-clinching game against Brown on Friday night.  They have five players who have made 30+ this year; you simply cannot leave these guys open.
  2. In their five games against BCS teams this year, Cornell was 2-3.  The wins were against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and St. John’s in NYC. Digging deeper, though, we find that two of the three losses were to #1 seeds Syracuse (by 15) and Kansas (by 6).  In those losses, Brandon Triche and Sherron Collins tore them up, exposing a vulnerability to athletic, scoring point guards who attack the basket.
  3. The core trio of Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale will not get rattled — they’re all seniors playing in their third straight NCAA Tournament.  They have proven they can score with anyone; the problem will be if they are matched up against a team that is equally offensive minded, as the Cornell defense has trouble getting stops.

Good Matchups: Wisconsin; Gonzaga

Bad Matchups: Baylor, Georgetown

#2. Winthrop Eagles (19-13, 12-6 Big South) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #16

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Don’t confuse this Eagles team with some of the really good Winthrop teams of the last decade.  They didn’t come within fifteen points of the three BCS teams they played, and the only NCAA-quality team they faced (Clemson) beat them by 36 points.
  2. The gang that can’t shoot straight is second-to-last in the nation in three-point field goal percentage at 26.5%.  If they get down early, the three-ball will not get the Eagles back into the game late.  They win games with defense by slowing the pace, shutting down the opponents’ threes and controlling the boards.  All three of the BCS teams mentioned above, however, were able to hit at or near 50% for the game against the Eagles.
  3. There are only two seniors in Randy Peele’s regular rotation, so there’s a great chance we’ll see this core group of sophomores and juniors grow together the next couple of years.

Good Matchups: none

Bad Matchups: all of the #1 seeds

#3. East Tennessee State Buccaneers (20-14, 13-7 Atlantic Sun) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #15-#16

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. ETSU is another familiar name entering the NCAA Tournament, but again, this isn’t one of the Bucs’ best offerings.  Three key seniors are gone from the #16 seed that gave top seed Pittsburgh all it wanted in last year’s first round, but the backcourt trio of Tommy Hubbard, Micah Williams and Justin Tubbs have picked up the slack.
  2. Murray Bartow does a good job preparing his teams for the postseason, though.  In two NCAA and one NIT appearance against Pitt, Cincinnati and Clemson, respectively, his teams have lost by 10, 3 and 7 points.
  3. The Bucs win with their defense, mostly by causing turnovers (almost sixteen a game) with their pressure defense.  Their size, however, is limited.  When they compete on the boards, they can surprise, as when they beat Arkansas 94-85 in Fayetteville earlier this season.  When they don’t, it can get ugly, as when UAB throttled them, 74-52.

Good Matchups: none, but would prefer a more TO-prone team like Kansas State or Syracuse

Bad Matchups: any of the #1 seeds, really

#4. Murray State Racers (30-4, 17-1 OVC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #12-#14

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. This is a familiar name, but it’s a name that no #3-#5 seed should want to see opposite it come Selection Sunday.  All five starters (plus Isaiah Canaan off the bench) can score and defend, and the Racers’ high level of athleticism is surprising for a mid-major.
  2. The Racers shut down the paint as well as anyone, holding teams to 41.2% from inside the arc, and limiting passing angles and clean looks with the long arms of center Tony Easley, who averages nearly three blocks per game.  The offense is equally effective, as Murray is one of three teams hitting at 50% or better for the season (Syracuse and IUPUI are the others).
  3. The difficulty is in making an apples-to-apples comparison because the only NCAA-worthy team Murray played all year was Pac-10 champion California where the Bears won by five in the very first game of the season for both teams.  For what it’s worth, it’s extremely rare for a mid-major team from a conference such as the OVC to enter the NCAAs with 30 wins, but Utah State did so last year and lost by one point to Marquette.

Good Matchups: Vanderbilt, Ohio State

Bad Matchups: Michigan State, Tennessee

rtmsf (3720 Posts)


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2 Responses to “Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State”

  1. William says:

    Um, awesome. Keep these up–fantastic format.

  2. G. Floyd says:

    Great article

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