Rushed Reactions: #16 North Carolina A&T 73, #16 Liberty 72

Posted by IRenko on March 19th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Tuesday’s play-in game between North Carolina A&T and Liberty. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Game One of 67 Came Down to the Final Play (photo credit: NCAA)

Game One of 67 Came Down to the Final Play (photo credit: NCAA)

  1. The Madness Is Here – A thrilling finish to this game made for a thrilling start to the NCAA Tournament. Down 73-67 with under two minutes to play, Liberty scored five straight points, and NC A&T missed two front ends to give the Flames a chance at a last second winner. But point guard John Caleb Sanders’ drive to the basket resulted in a wild, off-target shot attempt that clinched the win — just barely — for the Aggies. March Madness has arrived.
  2. NC A&T’s Supporting Cast Found The Team’s Offense – Coming into the game, NC A&T was shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from three-point range. Their adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy, ranked them 317th in the nation. But on the strength of some unlikely contributions, the Aggies managed to shoot 52 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range. Adrian Powell, Lamont Middleton, and Jean Louisme led the Aggies in field goal attempts on the year, but it was a different threesome that led the attack tonight. Backup guard Jeremy Underwood (19 points), center Bruce Beckford (16 points), and forward Austin Witter (eight points) combined to shoot 17-of-22 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range.
  3. Liberty Handled the Pressure and Hit Their Threes, But It Wasn’t Enough – Coming into the game, the Flames had two main offensive tasks: take care of the ball against the Aggies’ aggressive pressure, and take advantage of the Aggies’ ball-oriented defense to bombard them from the three-point line. Well, they managed both. While they were pressed into some inopportune turnovers, they coughed it up a total of 10 times, for a strong turnover rate of less than 16 percent. And they shot 10-of-23 from three-point range. But it wasn’t enough. In the end, the Flames’ 303rd ranked defense was their undoing.

Star of the Game:  Junior guard Jeremy Underwood ranks seventh on the Aggies in field goal attempts, but he took center stage tonight. Coming off the bench to replace an ineffective Jean Louisme, Underwood scored 19 points on a perfect 6-of-6 field goal shooting and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. After giving the Aggies a big boost with two big first-half threes, his effective dribble penetration and composure in the second half were the key to the Aggies’ offense. Underwood also had what may have been the game’s most impressive and most important play. With under 5:30 to play in the second half, and Liberty within four points, Underwood converted a conventional three-point play on an off-balance jump shot to push the Aggies’ lead to 68-61.

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by BHayes on March 19th, 2013

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 North Carolina A&T vs. #16 Liberty — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

Nothing says NCAA Tournament like a match-up between North Carolina A&T and Liberty now, does it? Like it or not, the First Four is the official tip-off for the Big Dance, and this year’s opening act pits the tournament champions from the MEAC against one of the unlikeliest Big Dance participants ever –- the 15-20 Liberty Flames. The Big South Champs aren’t the only party crashers here, however.  Having entered the MEAC tournament under .500 and as the #7 seed, A&T was nearly as long a shot to make this field. The Aggies are easily the worst offensive team in this field of 68, choosing instead (a generous explanation) to hang their hat on the defensive end, where they rank 81st nationally in defensive efficiency. Springy senior Austin Witter is the key to the stingy defense, having blocked 11.8% of opponents two-point field goal attempts, the 16th highest rate in the country. Unfortunately for he and the Aggies, Liberty does most of their offensive work from beyond the arc and at the line. With guards John Caleb SandersDavon Marshall and Tavares Speaks all averaging at least 13.0 PPG, Liberty has proven to be a capable offensive unit, especially of late. The same praise cannot be afforded their defense, however, as LIU-Brooklyn is the only team in the field with a worse defensive efficiency rating than the Flames. So yes, it will be a titanic battle between Liberty’s 303d ranked defense and NC A&T’s 317th ranked offense. Ultimately though, I think the difference-making happens when Liberty has the ball. A&T’s tough defense notwithstanding, we like the Flames to continue their hot shooting and extend a postseason life that they could have never expected to have.

The RTC Certified PickLiberty

 #11 Middle Tennessee vs. #11 Saint Mary’s — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV.

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary's Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary’s Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

The nightcap on Tuesday features two of the final teams to make the NCAA Tournament field, with Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary’s facing off for the chance to meet Memphis on Thursday in Auburn Hills. The Gaels are no strangers to the big stage, as Matthew Dellavedova and company are making their third appearance in the last four years. Saint Mary’s shoots the ball both well and often from deep. The Gaels convert on 37% of their tries from distance, with those points accounting for nearly a third of their total points scored this season. Dellavedova is the leading scorer and unquestioned leader of this bunch, but Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque are both double-figure scorers capable of carrying the offensive load for a night. Middle Tennessee is not a bad offensive team in its own right (73rd nationally in offensive efficiency), but Kermit Davis has concocted a decidedly different recipe for success. Do not be surprised if you see 11 different Blue Raiders touch the floor on Tuesday night, and among that group are seven players who average at least six points a contest, with just one (Marcos Knight at 12.5 PPG) in double-figures. The Middle Tennessee depth is clearly impressive, and it has also helped the Blue Raiders on the defensive end. Middle Tennessee is 20th nationally in defensive efficiency, also ranking in the top-25 in a slew of important defensive categories. The most relevant of those metrics for its match-up with the Gaels is three-point percentage defense, where MTSU ranks 14th nationally, allowing just 29.5% shooting from behind the arc. It’s a particularly damning piece of evidence for believers in the Gaels, and the Middle Tennessee statistical profile would suggest that the Blue Raiders have more than just a fighting chance in this one. Call me a sucker for the sentimental story, but despite the aforementioned statistical evidence, I can’t pick against Saint Mary’s here. A brilliant career lives to see another day, as Dellavedova is the difference in what could be a thriller in Dayton.

The RTC Certified Pick:  Saint Mary’s

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Bracket Prep: Albany, Memphis, Southern, North Carolina A&T, Kansas & New Mexico

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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Championship Week reached a crescendo on the eve of Selection Sunday, as thirteen automatic bids were handed out. 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 this week.

Albany

How About A Court Storming On An Opponent's Home Floor? Completely Legal, Especially If A Trip To The Big Dance Is On The Line.  Congratulations Albany.

How About A Court Storming On An Opponent’s Home Floor? Completely Legal, Especially If A Trip To The Big Dance Is On The Line. Congratulations Albany.

  • America East Champion (24-10, 12-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #143/#152/#172
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +2.0
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Albany, but Saturday’s ticket-punching win at Vermont means the ride will roll on to the Big Dance. The America East champs put together an impressive 11-3 non-conference campaign that included a win at Washington, but conference play proved trying for Will Brown’s team, as a 9-7 finish left them as the fourth seed in the America East tournament. Albany lived the familiar March mantra “survive and advance” to the fullest this week, winning three games by a total of eight points to earn the bid.
  2. In a fashion quite typical for these Great Danes, Albany won games this week in which they scored 50, 61 and 53 points, respectively – not exactly “grab some popcorn and take in the show” territory here. The tempo is predictably slow (279th nationally), and with national ranks of 170th offensively and 144th defensively, Albany is very much middle of the road on both ends of the floor. Where the Great Danes do excel is on the glass. They are an above average offensive rebounding team and rank 40th nationally in collecting caroms on the defensive end, aided in part by a relatively big lineup, especially for the America East.
  3. The Albany offensive blueprint is not especially refined, but they rely heavily on a small senior duo of three-point shooters. 6’0” Mike Black leads the Danes in scoring at 15 a contest and towers over his backcourt mate, 5’10” Jacob Iati, who chips in 12.2 PPG. The two have combined to make 139 threes this season, and they would be well served to keep chucking come next week, because unless Albany gets slotted for the First Four in Dayton, it will take a hot shooting night and then some (and then some more, and some more…) to keep the Danes surviving and advancing.

Memphis

Rulers Of Conference USA For The Final Time, Memphis Is Dancing Again

Rulers Of Conference USA For The Final Time, Memphis Is Dancing Again

  • Conference USA Champion (30-4, 19-0)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #15/#38/#27
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.0
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #7-#9

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