Bracket Prep: Delaware, Manhattan, WoffordPosted by Bennet Hayes on March 11th, 2014
As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. None of the bids handed out Monday night were easily earned, but Delaware, Manhattan and Wofford all ended up on the right side of close margins to punch their tickets to the Big Dance. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners.
- Colonial Champion (25-9, 17-2)
- RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #74/#107/#111
- Adjusted Scoring Margin = +4.2
- Likely NCAA Seed: #13
Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.
- Another dangerous mid-major earned a Tournament bid on Monday night when Delaware eluded William and Mary to earn the Colonial’s auto-bid. The Blue Hens profile is heavily deficient in good wins – their most notable victory is a home conquest of Towson (Ken Pom rank of 130) – but take a closer look at their nine losses. Six of them came to top-100 teams, including a four point defeat at possible #1 seed Villanova, a two-point loss at Richmond, and a 12-point loss at Ohio State. Delaware has proven they can hang with some of the nation’s best teams, but can they finally put one in the win column next week?
- The Blue Hens are not especially stingy defensively, but they show little mercy on the other end of the floor. Coach Monte Ross’ team loves to get out and run (8th nationally in possessions/game), but at little expense to efficiency (55th nationally in offensive efficiency). Delaware is the only team in the country with three players averaging at least 18 PPG – Devon Saddler (19.8), Davon Usher (19.7), and Jarvis Threatt (18.1) – and all five starters average double figures. Delaware opponents will struggle to target any one Blue Hen in particular, but keep a special eye on Jarvis Threatt. The junior missed eight February games after being suspended for a violation of athletic department policies, but the Blue Hens were undefeated in the CAA when their floor general – and his eye-popping stat line (18.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.6 SPG) was in the lineup.
- That indifferent defensive effort (196th nationally in defensive efficiency) could prove problematic as Delaware seeks the first Tournament win in program history, but a lack of depth should also be a concern for Blue Hen believers. Few coaches used their bench less frequently than Ross did (17, to be exact) this season, which is an odd trait considering the up-tempo assault that Delaware prefers to employ. The margin for error will always be slim for the higher-seeds looking to craft the next great March upset, which means a bit of Blue Hen foul trouble could easily steer a well-intentioned upset bid off course.
Best Case Scenario: Sweet Sixteen. If Delaware draw a pod with a slow-footed power conference team or two, the jets are there for the Blue Hens to improbably race into the Sweet 16. This team can score with anybody.
- MAAC Champion (25-7, 18-5)
- RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #77/#68/#75
- Adjusted Scoring Margin = +6.6
- Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14
Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.
- For the first time since the Bobby Gonzalez era, the Manhattan Jaspers are dancing. Steve Masiello’s team made some national headlines early in the year year when they opened the season with a victory at La Salle, then a presumed Atlantic-10 title contender. The Jaspers darted back under the radar for much of the rest of the year in a crowded MAAC, but closed the regular season strong with victories over league regular season champion Iona and Canisius. Validation was sweet for the Jaspers in the MAAC title game last night, where Manhattan again defeated Iona, ending the Gaels bid for a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
- The Jasper recipe for success has had three main ingredients: a good dose of George Beamon (19.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG), a deep, capable rotation, and a firm commitment to defending. Beamon, an All-MAAC first-team selection, continued to expand his offensive game in 2013-14,making 52 threes (at a 37% clip) just two seasons after going 6-40 from behind the arc. He’s a legitimate game-breaker. Ten Jaspers average double-figure minutes per game, and it would seem that each has received a clear memo from coach Masiello: Play defense! Manhattan is 36th nationally in effective field goal percentage against, yet still forces turnovers at a higher rate than all but 19 teams in D-1. Excessive fouling has been an issue at times for the Jaspers, but depth and an otherwise stellar defensive profile are powerful assets for the Metro Atlantic champs.
- Beamon’s contributions aside, the Jaspers aren’t a particularly explosive offensive outfit. They do get to the line a whole bunch (2nd nationally in FTA/FGA), but to claw their way into the round of 32, Masiello will surely have to find a volunteer not named George to assist in shouldering the offensive load. They aren’t a bad three-point shooting team percentage-wise (36.7%), but only three Jaspers (including Beamon) have made more than twelve three-pointers on the season. Those other two capable long-range gunners, Shane Richards (77-188 3PFG) and RaShawn Stores (33-88 3PFG), are as good a bet as any Jasper to step up and provide an appreciated extra offensive jolt for Masiello.
Best Case Scenario: Round of 32. The superstar+defense blueprint employed by the 2014 Jaspers is eerily similar utilized by the 2004 squad that took down Florida in the first round. These Jaspers may be capable of inducing a little more déjà vu by winning their first-round game, even if both the star (Luis Flores) and defense of that 04’ team was slightly better than Steve Masiello’s versions.
- Southern Conference Champion (20-12, 14-5)
- RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #164/#181/#191
- Adjusted Scoring Margin = +.2
- Likely NCAA Seed: #16
Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.
- Wofford knocked off Western Carolina on Monday night to win the SoCon, but it was the Catamounts who did much of the Terrier’s heavy lifting when they knocked off regular season champion Davidson a day earlier. Wofford surely preferred the title game matchup with WCU, although their three-point victory was hardly a walk in the park. 2014 will mark Coach Mike Young and Wofford’s third Tournament appearance in five seasons, but this iteration of the Terriers will have far duller teeth than their pair of predecessors.
- Wofford is must-see TV…except not. Like, at all. The Terriers’ tempo registers well below the speed-limit even for Young’s notoriously slow-paced teams, ranking 341st nationally in possessions per game. They also don’t do that whole offense thing very well, either, as their offensive efficiency rating of 101.1 (235th nationally) would indicate. Need a couple positives to walk away with here? The Terriers protect the ball well (TO Rate of just 16.4%) and All-SoCon performer Karl Cochran (15.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.6 SPG) does a little bit of everything for Young’s squad.
- When sizing up potential Cinderellas, we look for something – anything – on their resume that gives us hope. Beyond Young’s solid track record and some decent (read: average) work on the defensive end, there’s really nothing to grab hold of here with Wofford. The Terriers are young (no player on this team was a part of the program’s last Tournament team in 2011), offensively challenged, and showed little in their opportunities against power conference teams in the non-conference. Best results from that segment of the schedule are 15-point losses to A-10 powers VCU and Saint Louis. And then there’s this – Wofford earned their best win of the season last night – against the 229th best team in the country. Things are trending in the right direction? Maybe?
Best Case Scenario: Ten-point loss in Round of 64. If Wofford ends up in Dayton, the Terriers could easily show up as favorites to advance into the 64-team field, but once there, moral victories will be the only variety of win this Terrier team is capable of collecting.