Aggies, Flames, Gaels, Blue Raiders, Blackbirds, Dukes, Broncos and Explorers are featured in the "play-in" games for the NCAA basketball tournament and here are my predictions on the outcome of each game.
Midwest Regional - Can a team with a losing record advance?
The North Carolina A & T Aggies (19-16) play the Liberty University Flames (15-20) on Tuesday night in Lexington, Kentucky and the winner gets to play No. 1 seed Louisville.
The Flames are the Big South tournament champions. Though they finished with a losing record, Liberty has five consecutive wins.
They are a classic "guards shoot and forwards rebound" team. Junior guard John Sanders is the leading scorer with 14.2 points per game (PPG) and is tops in assists with 3.5 per game. Fellow junior guard Davon Marshall averages 13.4 PPG and 2.8 assists per game (APG). Junior forward J.R. Coronado is the leading rebounder with 8.2 per game and sophomore forward Tomasz Gielo is second with 4.3 rebounds per game (RBG).
The Aggies are the MEAC tournament champions. They have won six out of their last seven games.
North Carolina A & T is led by a trio of players. Senior forward Adrian Powell is the leading scorer with a 12.5 PPG average and second in rebounding with 5.0 RBG. Junior guard Lamont Middleton averages 12.4 PPG and leads the team in assists with 2.3 APG. Senior forward Austin Witter is first in rebounding with 7.1 RBG and second in assists with 2.1 APG.
Pick - Despite their losing record, Liberty is on a roll and they are statistically better than the Aggies. I am picking Liberty to advance and face Louisville on Thursday.
Mdiwest Regional - Which balanced attack will win?
The Saint Mary's Gaels (27-6) play the Middle Tennessee (28-5) in the second game of a Tuesday doubleheader in Dayton, Ohio and the winner gets to play No. 1 seed Indiana.
If you are looking for two unselfish teams where every member contributes to the game, you should tune into the Saint Mary's-Middle Tennessee game. The Gaels finished second in the West Coast Conference and half of their losses this season were to conference rival Gonzaga.
Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova is the leading scorer with 15.8 points per game (PPG) and leads the team in assists with 6.4 per game. Junior guard Stephen Holt is second in scoring with 11.8 PPG, third in rebounding and third in assists. Sophomore forward Brad Waldow is third in scoring and Saint Mary's top rebounder with 6.1 rebounds per game (RPG). Senior forward Mitchell Young is second in rebounding with 5.5 RPG and junior guard Jorden Page is second in assists with a 1.8 APG average.
The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee are the Sun Belt Conference's regular season champion. They amassed a 17-game winning streak before losing to Florida International in the conference tournament title game on March 10th.
Middle Tennessee is led by senior guard Marcos Knight who averages 12.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. His younger brother, junior guard Trantell "Tweety" Knight, is second on team in assists with a 2.5 APG average.
Senior guard Bruce Massey is the assist leader at 3.3 APG. Senior forward Raymond Cintron is No. 2 in scoring with 8.7 PPG. And junior forward Shawn Jones is second in rebounding with a 5.4 RPG average.
Pick - I am expecting a close game with St. Mary's winning it and earning the right to play No. 6 seed Memphis on Thursday night.
East Regional - Olasewere or Goins?
The Long Island University-Brooklyn Blackbirds (20-13) play the James Madison Dukes (20-14) in Dayton, Ohio and the winner gets to play No. 1 seed Indiana.
The Blackbirds are the Northeast Conference tournament champions. If you like to watch a "run-and-gun" team, then watch the LIU-Brooklyn-James Madison game. The Blackbirds are No. 5 in the nation with a 79.5 points per game (PPG) average.
Senior forward Jamal Olasewere is the leading scorer with 18.9 points per game (PPG) and leading rebounder with 8.5 rebounds per game (RPG). Senior guard C.J. Garner is second in scoring with 16.1 PPG, second in rebounding with 4.1 RPG and second in assists with 2.6 APG. Junior guard Jason Brickman is the triggerman with 8.5 assists per game.
The Dukes of James Madison University are the Colonial conference tournament champions. They have won six out of their last eight games.
James Madison is led by senior forward Rayshawn Goins. Unfortunately, Goins was arrested for obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct after the NCAA tournament selections were announced Sunday night. Both charges are misdemeanors and it is unclear on whether Goins will be able to play in Thursday's game against LIU-Brooklyn.
The Dukes have enough trouble scoring points with Goins in the lineup, so his absence would give the Blackbirds a distinct advantage. He is James Madison's leading scorer with a 12.7 PPG average and leading rebounder with 7.4 RPG.
Pick - Regardless of Goins' status, Olasewere and the Blackbirds' potent offense will be too much for the Dukes. LIU-Brooklyn flies into a Friday matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers.
West Regional - Which pair of guards do you prefer?
The final "Play-in" game will feature the La Salle Explorers (21-9) and the Boise State Broncos (21-10). If you are interested in a game featuring high-scoring guards, then tune into this matchup on Wednesday night.
The Explorers tied with Butler and Temple for third place in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth were the conference's top two teams,
Senior guard Ramon Galloway leads the team in scoring with a 27 points per game (PPG) average and assists with a 3.8 per game average. Junior guard Tyreek Duren is right behind his teammate with 15 PPG and 3.3 assists per game (APG). La Salle's rebounding efforts are led by junior forward Jerrell Wright (6.9 RPG) and sophomore forward Steve Zack (6.4 RPG).
If you thought Boise State is only a football school, then you haven't been paying attention to the Broncos' strong performance in the Mountain West Conference. They tied for fourth place with San Diego State and the three teams ahead of them are New Mexico, Colorado State and UNLV.
The Broncos are led by sophomore Anthony Drmic who can play forward or guard. Drimic averages 17.3 points per game (PPG) and 2.4 assists per game (APG). Sophomore guard Derrick Marks leads the team in assists with 3.9 APG and is second in scoring wtih a 16.3 PPG average. Boise State leans on junior forward Ryan Watkins at 6.8 rebounds per game (RPG) and senior forward Kenny Buckner at 5.3 RPG to control the boards.
Pick - It should be another tight game, but I am going with the Boise State Broncos to win and play the No. 4 seed Kansas State Wildcats on Friday night.
Next Article - Thursday night game predictions.
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