NCAA Tournament Preview: Play-In Games
No. 16 Albany (18-14, 9-7 America East) vs. No. 16 Mt. St. Mary’s (16-16, 9-7 NEC)
Albany Strengths and Weaknesses
The Great Danes play solid team defense and are ranked 39th in the nation in points allowed per game (63.8). Their scoring output is relatively low at 66 points a game. Peter Hooley is their only sharp shooter, averaging 15.7 points per game.
Mt. St. Mary’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Mount Saint Mary’s played a tough non-conference schedule, taking on WVU, Villanova, Michigan State, and Texas Tech, so they should be ready for a big stage game. The Mount allows 78 points per game and have trouble defending the perimeter.
X Factor: Winning Streaks
Both teams are coming in hot, but Albany is hotter. The Great Danes made 21 of 47 three-pointers and will have open shots against a weak Mountaineer defense.
No. 12 N.C. State (21-13, 9-9 ACC) vs. No. 12 Xavier (21-12, 10-8 Big East)
N.C. State Strengths and Weaknesses
The Wolfpack’s strength is relatively obvious with ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren, who has gone for 40-plus points twice in March. Warren doesn’t have much help, though. Behind Warren’s 24.8 points per game, second in scoring is Ralston Turner, who only averages 10.2
Xavier Strengths and Weaknesses
Semaj Christon is a NBA prospect that averages 17.1 points per game and 4.2 assists and is one of those players that can takeover a game in a matter of minutes. Xavier didn’t finish the season very strong though, going 5-5 in their final 10 regular season games and exiting early from the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
X Factor: The Better Scorer
This matchup will come down to Warren vs. Christon. Warren comes in as the hotter player, but many draft scouts feel Christon is the most talented.
No. 16 Cal Poly (13-19, 6-10 Big West) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern (19-14, 12-6 SWAC)
Cal Poly Strengths and Weaknesses
The Mustangs protect the basketball, turning the ball over on only 14.8 of their possessions. That slower style of play plays into their biggest weakness, averaging only 63.2 points per game.
Texas Southern Strengths and Weaknesses
Senior center Aaric Murray has carried the team, averaging 21.2 points per game, and has been a dominating post presence. There is not much help around Murray and Texas Southern’s best win is against a Southern squad with a RPI of 171.
X Factor: Momentum
Neither one of these teams is talented enough to knock off a bigger school after this game. However, Cal Poly got hot at the right time and will be able to carry that momentum into this matchup against Texas Southern.
No. 11 Iowa (20-12, 9-9 Big Ten) vs. No. 11 Tennessee (21-12, 11-7 SEC)
Iowa Strengths and Weaknesses
The Hawkeyes are averaging 82 points per game, good for 10th in the nation. They have been one of the most consistent offensive teams in the nation all year. Iowa has lost six of its last seven games, mostly due to a defense that has been one of the worst in college basketball over the last month.
Tennessee Strengths and Weaknesses
Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are strong rebounders for the Volunteers, allowing many second-chance opportunities. Their defense allows 61.1 points per game. They have struggled offensively at times, averaging only 71.3 points per game.
X Factor: Playing Hot
These two teams are going in opposite directions Tennessee won five straight games before losing the Florida in the SEC Tournament, while Iowa is reeling. The Hawkeyes will need to turn things around against a hot Volunteer squad.
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.