So we got through yesterday, where twelve auto-bids were handed out, and now we’re down to four remaining conference championships today. Let’s give our brief synopsis on each as they day moves on…
#28 – Stephen F. Austin (23-7, 16-3 Southland). SFA got 20/6 from their center Matt Kingsley as the Lumberjacks (there are trees in Texas?) defeated UT-San Antonio 68-57 to advance to their first-ever NCAA Tournament today.
Projected Seed: #14
Something to Remember: #2 nationally in defensive efficiency – these guys get after it. They held Texas A&M to 34% shooting earlier this year, one of their worst outputs of the season.
#29 – Duke (28-6, 14-5 ACC). Duke ran all over Florida St. today to win their seventeenth ACC title this afternoon, tying UNC for the most all-time. Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were superb today, combining for 56 pts on 15-27 FG and 8-13 from three.
Projected Seed: #2
STR: You may have heard this team’s name once or twice before. The perception is that the Devils are great three-point shooters, but that’s only a perception. At 34.4% on the year, they are middle of the pack nationally in that statistic (#154). However, because Duke plays such stifling defense on the perimeter, when they do hit a fair number of threes (like today), they’re very difficult to beat.
#30 – Mississippi St. (23-12, 13-7 SEC). MSU outlasted Tennessee 64-61 in a game that saw not one, two, three, but FOUR straight turnovers on an out-of-bounds play with ten seconds remaining. And that coming off of a mishandled rebound off a missed FT. Great basketball there. The SEC will definitely get three teams in this year, and it’s a league that has made itself easy to pile on, but all three of these SEC squads are extremely athletic and well-coached. Nobody will want to play these guys.
Projected Seed: #12
STR: Jarvis Varnado. His 4.6 blocks per game leads the nation, even ahead of Hasheem Thabeet at UConn. MSU’s overall defense isn’t as good as it usually is, but Varnado can change a game by himself. Keep an eye on MSU as an upsetter if they play an undisciplined team that won’t work the ball for the best available shot (someone like FSU or USC, for example).
#31 – Purdue (25-9, 14-7 Big 10). Purdue fought hard in a typical bruiser of a Big 10 game to get their first Big 10 Tourney win in the decade-plus of the event. Robbie Hummell is just outstanding – he had an all-floor game of 9/11/5 assts, but it was E’Twaun Moore’s five threes, including several timely ones in the mid-second half that led to the Boilers coming back from a deficit and taking control of the game.
Projected Seed: #3
STR: Like most Big 10 teams, Purdue is driven by its defense, but in our eyes, unlike most of the others, Purdue can actually boast several offensive playmaking options in Johnson, Moore and Hummell. Plus, they’re balanced – their offense mostly comes from the point, the wing and the post. This will be a difficult team for most to handle, and Matt Painter has proven that his teams are tough (Purdue gave 2007 Florida its toughest game in the back-to-back season, for example).
#32 – #65. That’s it. Everyone else has to get an invitation to the Dance. Join us over at RTC Live for the Selection Show right now, and let’s talk about it.