Last night went from 68 to 66 at the First Four in Dayton (we’re 2-0!), and here’s our analysis for tonight’s two games.
#16 UT-San Antonio vs. #16 Alabama State – East Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 6:30 pm ET on truTV.
The UT-San Antonio Roadrunners finished just 9-7 in the Southland, but enter the NCAA Tournament winning six of their last seven games after pulling off an upset of favorite McNeese State in the final. UTSA boasts one of the best guards in the conference in Devin Gibson, a 17 PPG scorer who also ranks 30th in the nation in assist rate and lives at the free throw line. He’s clearly the centerpiece of the Roadrunner attack and will be vital to contain if Alabama State hopes to pull off the upset. The SWAC champion ranks in the 300s in both points per game and offensive efficiency, but they do enter the tournament just as hot as their opponent, having won 11 of 12. The Hornets employ an incredible rotation of 13 players averaging double-digit minutes, the most effective weapon being senior forward Tramayne Moyer, a 12.5 PPG scorer who shoots 50% from the floor but only plays 21 minutes per contest. Alabama State does grab an astounding 37% of their misses. If UTSA just limits that strength, they should be in the clear to advance and take on Ohio State in Cleveland on Friday. UTSA shoots fairly well from both the three point and free throw line at 36% and 72%, respectively, while Alabama State is incredibly porous at defending both. Despite their hockey-line style substitution patterns, the Hornets simply don’t have the firepower to down the Roadrunners.
The RTC Certified Pick: UT-San Antonio.
#11 USC vs. #11 VCU – Southwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 9 pm ET on truTV.
These two teams were undoubtedly surprised to not only see their names on the bracket released Sunday, but also as #11 seeds. USC and VCU — the battle of the acronyms — come into tonight’s game on decidedly different paths. The Pac-10 Trojans came on strong in the second half of the season, winning seven on their last ten games including nice victories over conference leaders Arizona and Washington. They doing so through the play of the best power conference big man you’ve never heard of, Nikola Vucevic (17/10), and the steady guardplay of mid-season transfer Jio Fontan (4 APG, 1.6:1 ATO ratio). Head coach Kevin O’Neill has his team playing its typically sturdy defense, and they’ll need it to counter the offensive talents of the Shaka Smart’s quartet of double-figure scorers, Jamie Skeen (15 PPG), Bradford Burgess (14 PPG), Brandon Rozzell (11 PPG) and Joey Rodriguez (11 PPG). The matchup between Fontan and Rodriguez is particularly interesting because both players are the centerpieces of their respective offense, and while not big individual scorers, they make their systems run smoothly. The question is whether the VCU team that ran through the CAA Tournament to the finals before bowing out to Old Dominion will show up, or will it be the Ram team that lost four of five to close the regular season? It says here that with VCU’s inability to defend the post or the perimeter very well, USC will advance on the back of Vucevic’s talents inside and just enough support from his guards.
The RTC Certified Pick: USC.