The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament begins tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.
#16 Albany vs. #16 Mount St. Mary’s — South Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.
It may be too late to fill in that blank space under Florida in the brackets floating around the office, but Mount St. Mary’s and Albany will battle Tuesday night for a space in the official field of 64. The First Four foes took a similar path to Dayton: Both bumbled through 9-7 league seasons, earned the #4 seed in the conference tournament, then won three games (including one over the regular season champion) to advance into the field of 68. It was the same route for the Great Danes and Mountaineers, but they drove different vehicles along the way. Albany relied on a stout defense – particular against the two-point shot – and timely three-point shooting to claim the America East crown, while Mount St. Mary’s sprinted through a NEC Tournament final where the Mounts averaged 1.28 points per possession in a 17-point win at #1 seed Robert Morris. If Mount St. Mary’s (32nd nationally in possessions/game) can maintain that quick tempo against the Great Danes, they have to like their odds of advancing, but Albany (313th in possessions/game) will be doing everything possible to play a game featuring 65 possessions or fewer. KenPom gives the Great Danes a slight edge to seize victory in the NCAA Tournament opener, but we’ll put our faith in Mount St. Mary’s to move on to face Florida. Not only did the Mountaineers emerge from a tougher conference, but their up-tempo attack should allow them to fully capitalize on the adrenaline rush that the national spotlight will surely provide.
The RTC Certified Pick: Mount St. Mary’s