Set Your TiVo: 03.06.12Posted by bmulvihill on March 6th, 2012
Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
We are knee deep in Championship Week and the bigger conferences kick things off today. However, the mid-majors are fighting for their tournament lives in championship games around the country. We’ll stay focused on the smaller guys for one more day. What an amazing time of year!
Pennsylvania at Princeton – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN3 (****)
- If Penn can pick up a road win tonight, they will force a one game playoff with Harvard to determine the Ivy League champion and who will get the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. To say this game is a must-win for the Quakers is an understatement. Penn knocked off Princeton at the end of January with an 82-67 win at home. While both teams shot over 60% eFG for the night, the Quakers dominated the offensive glass and the free throw line. They posted their highest offensive rebounding rate and highest free throw rate of the season. It turns out that Penn has one of the worst OR% rates (#299) and one of the worst free throw rates (#303) in the country. Inconceivably, Princeton is worse in both categories, coming in at #313 and #304, respectively, so the Quakers took advantage. Keep a close eye on Penn’s ability to get to the line, as it will play a huge factor in their ability to win one on the road.
- Princeton has shot the ball 41% from downtown in conference play, ranking first in that category in the conference. Watch to see if the Tigers can pick up some timely threes against the top three-point defense in the Ivy League. Princeton is no slouch on defense either. They have been able to hold teams to 45.5% eFG in league play. However, they must play good defense without fouling, which they struggle to do. Princeton is 3-10 when their opponents have a free throw rate above 36%.
- This game will be won at the free throw line. While it’s a little more complicated than that, watch the foul situation closely. The Tigers have the field goal defense to slow down the Quakers. However, if they are putting Penn on the line because they are fouling on second chance opportunities, they will lose like they did in the first game, and we’ll be treated with another Ivy League playoff game with a bid on the line later this week.
Horizon League Championship: Detroit at Valparaiso – 9:00PM EST on ESPN (****)
- Detroit has already lost to Valpo twice this season, but you can ask Cleveland State how much that means. The Vikings found out on Saturday that it’s very difficult to beat a team three times in one season. Detroit has turned things around, having only lost twice since the beginning of February. They are going to have to improve their field goal defense if they want to beat a solid-shooting Valpo squad on its home floor. The Titans allowed Valparaiso to shoot an eFG% of 58% and 68% in its first two matchups this season. Detroit was able to keep the previous games close by winning the battle on the boards and getting to the free throw line. Keep an eye on those indicators as this game progresses.
- Valparaiso has been a solid shooting team throughout the season. They excel at hitting shots inside the arc, where they are making 54.1% of their two-point attempts. The Crusaders should be able to outshoot the Titans in this matchup, and they have proven they can knock down shots in the last two meetings. It is imperative that they maintain some presence on the boards too, though. Second chance points and fouls could make Valpo the latest victim of the Titans.
- This game hinges on Valpo’s shooting. If they can shoot like they did in the previous games against Detroit, they will win the game. However, if they come out cold, this one could be very, very close.
Other Games to Watch:
Sun Belt Championship: North Texas vs. Western Kentucky (7:00 PM EST on ESPN2) – While it doesn’t seem right to have a team with a losing record in the NCAA Tournament, the story of a team playing its way into the Dance never, ever gets old. Western Kentucky has a chance to do it tonight. They are going to have to do so at the free throw line.
Summit League Championship: Western Illinois vs. South Dakota State (9:00 PM EST on ESPN3) – Western Illinois knocked off the league’s most dominant team in Oral Roberts last night and has a chance to play its way into the Tourney as well. It won’t be easy as they go heads up with the league’s best player, Nate Wolters. Wolters needs to be in the Tournament, as he could put a scare into one of the big boys next week.