Set Your TiVo: 03.05.12Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2012
Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Four conference tournament titles will be decided this evening. The most important game may be in the Colonial where the loser of the game needs to make a good impression for the NCAA Selection Committee. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.
Colonial Athletic Association Championship: Drexel vs. VCU (at Richmond, VA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- This is a huge game because the loser is going to be sweating it out for the next week. Drexel won the first and only meeting between these teams way back on January 8. The Dragons bring the #4 eFG% defense to the table along with one of the slowest tempos in Division I. That combination could really frustrate a VCU team that likes to play faster and score in transition. The Rams are the best team in the nation when it comes to defensive turnover percentage but creating turnovers against Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is going to be very difficult. It’s always easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up and that’s exactly what Drexel has to do in order to win in Richmond tonight. Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat will have to play a complete game and set the tone for his team in front of what should be a quasi-road atmosphere.
- The one problem an aggressive team like Shaka Smart’s group can have is foul trouble. Drexel is a solid free throw shooting team (76% in CAA play) so VCU needs to avoid fouling and putting the Dragons in the bonus early and often. VCU’s defensive free throw rate is not good and Drexel had a remarkable 89.7% free throw rate when these teams got together in Philly in early January. VCU simply can’t afford another effort like that if it hopes to win the CAA’s automatic NCAA bid. The Rams are not a particularly great shooting team but Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels pose major perimeter threats. Burgess has last year’s experience to fall back on in a pressure situation and you have to believe that helps when faced with what should be a very close elimination game.
- The point guards could decide this game. Massenat can distribute and shoot with the best of them in this conference while VCU’s Darius Theus must play the role of facilitator and not as the go-to scorer. Theus went 1-6 from the floor in the first meeting but did record six assists. A few less shots and a couple more assists could be the difference for VCU tonight. For Drexel, Samme Givens has to come up big on the boards. The 6’5” swingman is a terrific rebounder for his size and should look to take advantage of VCU’s weakness on its offensive glass. We think this is going to be a contest that comes down to the very end. With an NCAA bid on the line and no guarantees for the loser, it should be quite an atmosphere in Richmond on this night.
West Coast Conference Championship: #20 Gonzaga vs. #24 St. Mary’s (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)
- These teams will meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series, each winning at home. Gonzaga smashed BYU on Saturday night behind 30 points from Kevin Pangos and the Bulldogs will look to do more of the same against a St. Mary’s defense that is vulnerable to the three-ball. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37.5% from deep and that’s not something Randy Bennett wants to see when going up against a shooter as talented as Pangos. While the SMC defense is a concern, the Gaels shoot more threes than Gonzaga and can gain an edge because of it. When Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova are knocking down triples, St. Mary’s is tough to beat. Gonzaga’s defense is pretty good on the perimeter but it will be tested significantly by the Gaels’ guards and forwards.
- The one area where Gonzaga is at a major disadvantage is ball-handling. The Zags are eighth in WCC play in turnover percentage and average 14 giveaways per game for the season. Mark Few’s group can’t afford to give St. Mary’s extra possessions and easy baskets simply by being careless with the basketball. In the front court, Gonzaga has an edge with Robert Sacre inside. Sacre is among the best players in the nation at drawing fouls and he makes opponents pay by hitting 76.2% of his free throws. As a unit, Gonzaga is the fourth best team getting to the charity stripe. The Bulldogs get 24.3% of their total point production from the foul line and must take advantage of that in this game. Free points are always good, especially against a team like St. Mary’s that has the potential to light you up from deep.
- Keep an eye on St. Mary’s Rob Jones in this game. He was a no-show offensively in both regular season games against Gonzaga but is the best rebounder on the floor for either team. Rebounding is pretty even overall so something like that could determine the outcome of the game. In late game situations you always want someone around the rim who can get an offensive board and a key putback. Jones could be that guy for St. Mary’s, as could Sacre for Gonzaga. We think the Zags are the better team but don’t forget the fact that the Gaels blew the Bulldogs out in the WCC title game two years ago after losing both regular season meetings. Since they split their two meetings this time around, we’re just hoping for a good game that comes down to the last few possessions.
Two other automatic bids will be handed out in these games:
MAAC Championship: Fairfield vs. Loyola (Maryland) (at Springfield, MA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***) – These teams split the season series with each winning on the other’s home floor. Sydney Johnson has a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament in his first season with the Stags after taking Princeton to the dance last season.
Southern Conference Championship: Western Carolina vs. Davidson (at Asheville, NC) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***) – Western Carolina was 10-17 just three weeks ago but has won its last seven games heading into tonight’s SoCon title game. Davidson took the only meeting between these schools back on January 12 and has won 17 of its last 20 games since starting the season 7-4. A Western Carolina win would be a huge upset.
The Official RTC Star System
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2014
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game