NCAA Tournament Preview: 5 vs. 12 Games
VCU (26-8, 12-4 A-10) vs. Stephen F. Austin (31-2, 18-0 Southland)
VCU Strengths and Weaknesses
VCU has a relentless defense with one of the best forced turnovers rates in the country. Shooting is what falters the VCU offense at times and they struggle to create offense late in games.
Stephen F. Austin Strengths and Weaknesses
Stephen F. Austin is very well put together offensively averaging 76. 5 points per game and 16.6 assists per game which is eighth in the country. Despite the 31-2 record and the undefeated conference record, the Lumberjacks have played just one NCAA tournament team and that was Texas in a 10 point loss.
X-Factor: Stephen F. Austin Versatility
Both the offense and defense of Stephen F. Austin rank in the top 50 in the nation and their balanced scoring attack makes them tough to defend.
No. 5 Cincinnati (27-6) (15-3 AAC) vs. No. 12 Harvard (26-4) (13-1 Ivy League)
Cincinnati Strengths and Weaknesses
Cincy only gives up 58.3 points a game and has done it against the league’s best. The Bearcats have topped eight NCAA tournament teams this season including Louisville and Connecticut led by senior guard Sean Kilpatrick. Outside of Kilpatrick, a consistent threat is hard to find. Kilpatrick averages 20.7 points per game and the next leading scorer sits at 11.1 with Justin Jackson.
Harvard Strengths and Weaknesses
Multiple players average more than 10 points a game and those players know what it takes to win in the NCAA tournament as they did so one year ago. However, that is just about the only big win the Crimson have over the past few years as their strength of schedule doesn’t give them a 2013-2014 tough opponent to learn from.
X Factor: Harvard's Momentum
Harvard is riding an 8 game win-streak and has been down this road before in the NCAA tournament. Tommy Amaker’s squad knows the recipe for an upset in March.
No. 5 Oklahoma (23-9, 12-6 Big 12) vs. No. 12 North Dakota State (25-6, 12-2 Summit)
Oklahoma Strengths and Weaknesses
Oklahoma is seventh in the country in points per game and did it impressively this season in a very deep Big 12 conference. The defensive side is where the Sooners have problems, ranking 308th in the country.
North Dakota State Strengths and Weaknesses
NDSU is number one in the country in field goal percentage at 51 percent and top 50 in points per game at 76.4 percent. Ball distribution and rebounding have been a problem for the Bison at times, which allows teams to stay in games late. They also do not have any big time wins on their schedule or comparable opponents to the Oklahoma team they will see in the second round.
X-Factor: Oklahoma Forward Ryan Spangler
Spangler can be the x-factor in this game simply because of what he can do in the paint. He averages 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and could not dominate inside for the Sooners, but open up the outside game as well.
Saint Louis (26-6, 13-3 Atlantic 10) vs. NC State/Xavier
Saint Louis Strengths and Weaknesses
Jim Crews’ squad plays great defense and dominates on the defensive glass. Saint Louis is 17th in the country in points allowed at 61.2 per game and 39th in the country in defensive rebounding at 26 a contest. Their biggest weakness comes in the form three point shooting, as the Billikens have struggled at times shooting just 31.9 percent from downtown.
X Factor: Guard Mike McCall Jr.
Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett lead SLU, but McCall Jr. could be the much needed supplement to the two Billiken stars that could prompt a NCAA tourney march.
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