Bracket Prep: LIU-Brooklyn, South Dakota State, Valparaiso, Bucknell

Posted by BHayes on March 14th, 2013


Over the course of the last two nights, four more teams made their Big Dance dreams a reality. As each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets next weekend.


It's An NEC Tournament Three-Peat For The Blackbirds.  Welcome Back To The Big Dance!

It’s An NEC Tournament Three-Peat For The Blackbirds. Welcome Back To The Big Dance!

  • NEC Champion (20-13, 15-6)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #178/#184/#162
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. While it might be a bit of hyperbole to announce the Long Island Blackbirds as a NEC dynasty, three conference tournament titles in a row will get that conversation started. LIU may have found the transition under new coach Jack Perri to be slightly rougher than expected – they were just 5-10 before winning 10 of their final 13 games – but a familiar destination has appeared at the end of the road – the NCAA Tournament. And while the Blackbirds haven’t completely embarrassed themselves in the past two NCAA Tournaments (losing by 15 and 22 points, respectively), can this year’s team make the next step and put a real scare into one of the field’s top teams?
  2. Normally, a team playing at the 29th quickest tempo in the nation would be lauded for their freneticism, and yes, LIU does play fast. But after back-to-back years of holding a top three spot in the metric, things have slowed down a bit in Brooklyn. The offensive personnel on this team is impressive. Junior point guard Jason Brickman is the nation’s leader in assists at 8.5 per contest, while his backcourt mate CJ Garner has been on a scoring tear, going for 30+ in three of the Blackbirds last four. Neither is the team’s most talented player, however; senior Jamal Olasewere plays power forward for LIU at 6’7”, but would seamlessly fit in on most any power conference team at the two or the three. A phenomenal athlete who can both put the ball on the deck and score with his back to the basket, Olasewere is a match-up problem waiting to happen.
  3. It’s fun to watch LIU play offense. Too often though, it’s just as fun to watch their opponents play offense. LIU ranks 318th nationally in defensive efficiency, and gave up at least 89 points to each of their three power conference foes this season — Kentucky, Maryland, and Seton Hall (yes, the same Seton Hall that managed a total of 81 regulation points during its two-game Big East Tournament run.) None of those three games were particularly close. The offensive firepower gives the Blackbirds more bite than your typical #16 seed, but their profound inability to get stops is the reason they will likely be in that slot. LIU might have a little bit of fun at the Big Dance – maybe 20 minutes or so – but nothing they have done so far suggests they are capable of hanging with the nation’s elite for the full 40.

South Dakota State

Next Stop For The Jackrabbits: The Big Dance

Next Stop For The Jackrabbits: The Big Dance

  • Summit League Champion (25-9, 16-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #65/#103/#94
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +4.6
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. What can you say? Sometimes, Naters just gonna Nate. South Dakota State is headed back to the Big Dance on the shoulders of its transcendent senior leader, in what will be a fitting stage for the sunset of one of the greatest small-conference careers in recent memory. But for all the school records and program firsts the Nate Wolters era has borne witness to, there’s one thing it’s missing – an NCAA Tournament victory.
  2. We all know about Wolters at this point – Wooden award candidate, SDSU all-time leading scorer, averaging 22.7/5.6/5.8 on the season. Phenomenal stuff. But there are other guys who have helped the Jackrabbits back to the NCAA Tournament. All five starters average at least 30 minutes a game, with each also chipping in eight or more points per game. Three of the four “other starters” have made at least 45 threes this season, making them perfect recipients for the drive-and-kicks of Wolters. And if you are looking for the Robin to Wolters’ Batman, it’s junior Jordan Dykstra. The inside/outside threat averages 12.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest.
  3. The Pomeroy and Sagarin rankings say one thing about SDSU, the RPI says another. Don’t look to the non-conference results to offer a firm conclusion on how good the Jacks are either. There is a win at New Mexico which is as impressive a victory as you will find on the lower seed lines (shout-out to Florida Gulf Coast for the Miami scalp), but losses to Minnesota by 24 and Belmont by 27 are far less reassuring. Still, getting a win in this year’s NCAA Tournament will be no mission impossible for SDSU, especially if they can avoid an overwhelmingly athletic second round foe. Wolters and company have seen the bright lights before, and the senior superstar is overdue for that career-defining performance on the biggest stage. When you boil it all down, it may be as simple as this: Naters gonna Nate.


Can Bryce Drew's Team Capture Some Of That Old Valparaiso Tournament Magic?

Can Bryce Drew’s Team Capture Some Of That Old Valparaiso Tournament Magic?

  • Horizon League Champion (26-7, 15-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #60/#67/#66
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +7.8
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. If a moment from 1998 feels like just yesterday, why does 2004 seem so long ago? For many, many springs, this has been the question on the forefront of Valparaiso fans’ minds. The Crusader faithful have joined the rest of the country each March in remembering Bryce Drew’s stirring March Madness moment, but it’s been nine full years since their team last danced. Until now. Valparaiso is headed back to the NCAA Tournament, and March darling and former star Drew is now at the helm. On the floor is a poised, veteran team, headlined by the Summit League POY Ryan Broekhoff.
  2. A big part of the Crusader attack comes from beyond the arc, as Drew’s squad spreads the floor well with Broekhoff (81 3FG) at the four spot. Kevin Van Wijk (12.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG) is the only other double-figure scorer, but the Crusaders go nine deep, with seven players averaging at least six points a game. The lone offensive weakness is ball-handling, as this veteran outfit somehow manages to turn the ball over on 22% of possessions, despite playing a conservative tempo (65.9 possessions per game, pretty close to the D-I average).
  3. Per KenPom’s experience rankings (the quotient factors in class and playing time), this is the single most experienced team in the nation. Granted, all of that experience has come in non-NCAA Tournament games, but these Crusaders have waited a long time to get here, so don’t expect them to waste the opportunity. They have come up short in games against their tournament brethren thus far this season (losses to New Mexico and St. Louis), but if Valpo can limit turnovers, defend the three-point line, and also knock down a few threes of their own (a requisite for any upset), they will give themselves a chance to extend their stay. In an ideal world they could draw a second round match-up with a team lacking a real defensive identity, but that type of team is an increasingly endangered species in March, especially on the higher seed lines.


The Bucknell Bison Pulled The Patriot League Sweep To Get Back To The NCAA Tournament

The Bucknell Bison Pulled The Patriot League Sweep To Get Back To The NCAA Tournament

  • Patriot League Champion (28-5, 15-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #52/#61/#70
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +8.9
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. If Mike Muscala and Bucknell are still one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball, they won’t be much longer. The Bison capped off a brilliant Patriot League season with a win over Lafayette in the league final on Wednesday night, and now find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Before I get any further, let’s get this out there: This is a really good basketball team. Having won 28 games and lost just once by more than three points, the Bison would be as scary a #13 seed as you will ever find.
  2. This NCAA Tournament will miss CJ McCollum, but the Patriot League is sending a team featuring a player every bit his equal. Muscala is probably better known now than he was at this time a year ago, but the Bison star still deserves a little more pub. First, consider that Bucknell plays a low-possession brand of basketball, averaging just 63.4 possessions a game, good for 282nd in the nation. Now look at Muscala’s stat line – 19.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG – eye-popping contributions if you are playing 75 possessions game, much less 63. Do not be shocked if you hear his name called in this June’s draft. Oh, and if you are looking for any pre-Tournament recommendations for the big man, maybe try Alex Oriahki and Mizzou? Muscala went for 25/14 in Bucknell’s two-point loss to the Tigers in January.
  3. There’s a lot to love about Bucknell beyond Muscala. Bryson Johnson and Cameron Ayers make up a veteran, efficient backcourt, as both upperclassman rank in KenPom’s top-150 in the country for offensive rating. Dave Paulsen’s bunch also plays tough on the defensive end, ranking fifth nationally in effective field goal percentage against, and what’s more, they clean up the misses — only Colorado State rebounds a higher percentage of opponent’s bricks than do the Bison. Lehigh shocked everyone a year ago by beating Duke. If seeing the Patriot League champion in the third round this year comes as a surprise, shame on you. This team is for real.
BHayes (244 Posts)

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