March Madness: West Region (Phoenix) Team Profiles for 2012 NCAA Tournament

Now that the field has been set, I’ll be posting team profiles of all 68 teams, broken down by regions.  Next up is the Phoenix region, which is home to the Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East Tournament Champions.

Also see:

1. Michigan State Spartans

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Record: 27-7 (13-5 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 12-5
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Florida State, Gonzaga, Indiana, Lehigh, Michigan, Ohio State (2), Purdue (2), Wisconsin (3)
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State
  • Player to Watch: Draymond Green (6’7” F, Sr.) – 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 1.5 spg, 39.5 3P%
  • Bottoms Line: The Spartans lost their first two games to North Carolina and Duke, but they bounced back to tie for the Big Ten title and capped off the regular season with a win in the Big Ten Tournament.  With strong defense and relentless rebounding, this MSU team has two important characteristics of Tom Izzo’s best teams in his tenure in East Lansing.  The Spartans are third in defensive efficiency and rank in the Top 25 in two-point defense, three-point defense, and defensive rebounding percentage.  Of offense, the Spartans rank just outside of the Top 10 in overall efficiency and are 25th in offensive rebounding percentage.  Senior leader Draymond Green is the heart and soul of the Spartans.  He averages a double-double , leads the team in steals and blocks, and is second in assists.  Green has developed his game over his four-year career and hit nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc this season.  He has also played a role in the development of fellow frontcourt players Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.  Nix has slimmed down and shoots over 55 percent from the field, while Payne also makes a high percentage.  Both guys also have strong rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor, and Payne has an impressive block percentage as well.  Sophomore Keith Appling has had a solid season in the backcourt, scoring over 11 points per game and leading the team in assists.  Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood improved down the stretch and scored a season-high 21 points in the Big Ten Championship.  They need him to step up his scoring with freshman Branden Dawson out for the season, and the same goes for senior Austin Thornton who hits over 46 percent from beyond the arc.

2. Missouri Tigers

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Record: 30-4 (14-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 11-3
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor (3), California, Iowa State (2), Kansas, Notre Dame, Texas (3)
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Kansas, Kansas State (2)
  • Player to Watch: Marcus Denmon (6’3” G, Sr.) – 17.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 40.9 3P%
  • Bottoms Line: The Tigers excelled in Frank Haith’s first year on the job and overcame the loss of senior forward Laurence Bowers to a preseason knee injury.  That left Missouri with just two contributing players over 6-foot-6, which forced them to play small ball.  In the end, most teams found themselves adjusting to the uber-efficient Tigers, who also managed to hold their own against taller opponents thanks to their impressive toughness.  Marcus Denmon leads five double-digit scorers and cannot be left alone outside.  Like many other Tigers, Denmon has fantastic efficiency numbers, and he rarely fouls or turns the ball over.  Flip Pressey gives Mizzou a lightning-quick point guard who can beat people off the dribble and either finish in the lane or find open teammates.  Senior Kim English shot over 47 percent from beyond the arc and scored nearly 15 points per game, while fellow senior Michael Dixon gives the team instant offense off the bench.  The main inside threat is Ricardo Ratliffe, who is an effective rebounder on both ends and made an astounding 69.3 percent from the field.  Even though most of his shots come right around the rim, that’s a pretty impressive stat, and it’s landed him among the best in the country in overall efficiency. Overall, the Tigers lead the nation in offensive efficiency thanks to fantastic shooting percentages both inside and outside the arc as well as one of the lowest turnover rates in the country.  On defense, they do a solid job keeping their opponents off the line and forcing turnovers, but the others numbers don’t wow you.  The biggest concern for Missouri is depth, because with a seven-man rotation they can’t afford to get into foul trouble.

3. Marquette Golden Eagles

  • Conference: Big East
  • Record: 25-7 (14-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 7-3
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 9-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Norfolk State (2), South Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
  • Player to Watch: Jae Crowder (6’6” F, Sr.) – 17.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 50.5 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: Led by seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Golden Eagles finished alone in second place in the Big East.  They rank in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and with the exception of defensive rebounding percentage, Marquette is in the Top 100 in the four factors on both offense and defense.  Buzz Williams’ team pushes the tempo and focuses on “paint touches,” and that aggressiveness helped them to post an impressive 41.5 free throw rate.  Johnson-Odom personifies Marquette’s toughness, and he leads the team with 18.5 points per game and knocks down nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc.  Crowder is undersized but plays much bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame.  He is a true statsheet-stuffer who has the ability to carry the team if needed based on his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways.  Marquette has solid depth with five other players averaging at least 19.4 minutes and 6.5 points.  Vander Blue has improved after a disappointing freshman year, and Junior Cadougan ranks in the Top 50 in assist rate, while guys like Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson have also shown flashes this season.  Despite not having a lot of size inside, the Golden Eagles are as physical and tough as they come and won’t go down easily in the Big Dance

4. Louisville Cardinals

  • Conference: Big East
  • Record: 26-9 (10-8 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 6-4
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-7
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Lamar, Long Beach State, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Western Kentucky
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Marquette, Syracuse (2)
  • Player to Watch: Peyton Siva (5’11” G, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg
  • Bottoms Line: The Cardinals battled injuries and shooting woes for most of the season but pulled it together for an impressive four-game run in the Big East Tournament.  They rank in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency, thanks largely to a strong effective field goal percentage defense and their ability to force turnovers.  The offense numbers for the season are pretty ugly for the most part, with the exception of their high offensive rebounding percentage.  For the year, the Cardinals shot just 31.1 percent from beyond the arc to go with a high turnover rate.  Six players score at least 9.0 points per game, led by Kyle Kuric with 13.1.  Guard Russ Smith can get hot and score in bunches, but he is the definition of a volume shooter.  Peyton Siva struggled for much of the season but played some of his best basketball in the Big East Tournament, while Chris Smith is the team’s best long-range shooter.  Inside, Gorgui Dieng has really improved as a sophomore and shoots 54.9 percent from the field and grabs over nine rebounds per game.  He’s joined up front by freshman Chane Behanan, who also boasts solid rebounding percentages on both ends.

5. New Mexico Lobos

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Record: 27-6 (10-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams:
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, Saint Louis, San Diego State (2), UNLV (2)
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, New Mexico State, San Diego State, UNLV
  • Player to Watch: Drew Gordon (6’9” F, Sr.) – 13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 53.7 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Lobos tied with San Diego State for the regular season title in the Mountain West, but they settled things on the floor in the MWC Championship Game, which New Mexico won by nine.  Steve Alford’s team gets it done with defense and finished the season in the Top 15 in defensive efficiency.  They hold opponents to low shooting percentages from both two- and three-point range and rarely allow offensive rebounds.  The Lobos are also efficient on the on the offensive end, ranking in the Top 40 thanks in part to 38.5 percent shooting from long range.  Big man Drew Gordon will be a tough matchup in the NCAA Tournament and is a load in the post and on the glass.  In fact, he grabs nearly 30 percent of available defensive rebounds, which places him in the Top Five nationally.  New Mexico has six other players who score at least six points per game.  Sophomore Kendall Williams rebounded from a slow start to average 12.0 points and a team-high 4.1 assists, and fellow soph Tony Snell makes nearly 40 percent from downtown.  The Lobos finished the season by going 25-4 in their last 29 games, so they enter to tournament with plenty of momentum.

6. Murray State Racers

  • Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Record: 30-1 (15-1 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-0
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Memphis, Saint Mary’s, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: None
  • Player to Watch: Isaiah Canaan (6’0″ G, Jr.) – 19.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 47.3 3P%
  • Bottoms Line: The Racers earned headlines as the season’s last remaining unbeaten, and their only slip-up came at home against Tennessee State, who also gave them all they could handle in the OVC Final. First-year coach Steve Prohm did a terrific job with a team that had lost a lot of key contributors from last year’s 23-win squad. Guard Isaiah Canaan has been fantastic throughout the season, often going off for scoring binges during key stretches of games and finishing among the national leaders in overall offensive rating. Donte Poole (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 39.2 3P%) has had his share of big games as well, not to mention his contributions on the defensive end. Senior Ivan Aska (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 50.0 FG%) is one of few Murray State players over 6-foot-5, which means he is relied upon to hit the boards on both ends. Throw in Jequan Long (8.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 spg), who hit the game-winner in the OVC Title Game and shoots 44.9 percent from deep, and you have a team with a number of capable offensive weapons. Overall, the Racers rank in the Top 10 in three-point shooting, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate, and the only chink in the offensive armor is a subpar turnover rate. They also rank in the Top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency, thanks in large part to their ability to force turnovers and defend the three-point line. It’s easy for people to challenge their schedule, but Murray State has played well against other tournament-level teams this year, and Canaan’s play will be critical for them in a tournament setting. They could be in trouble if they face a team with a strong point guard and a tall frontline.

7. Florida Gators

  • Conference: SEC
  • Record: 23-10 (10- 6 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 4-6
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama (2), Florida State, Vanderbilt
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Kentucky (3), Ohio State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
  • Player to Watch: Bradley Beal (6’3” G, Fr.) – 14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg
  • Bottoms Line: The Gators started the season as a Final Four contender in the eyes of some analysts, but they struggled to beat quality teams throughout the season.  Five Florida players score in double figures, led by Kenny Boynton with 16.3 points on 42.7 percent shooting from long range.  Freshman Bradley Beal has been solid as well, and in addition to his scoring ability, he does a nice job on the defensive glass.  The team also has a veteran point guard in Erving Walker, who scores 12.1 points per game and leads the Gators in assists.  On a guard-heavy roster, the big men don’t get many touches, but Erik Murphy and Patric Young both average at least 10 points, with Young shooting over 60 percent from the field and Murphy content to shoot from the perimeter.  The late-season loss of forward Will Yeguette hurts their frontcourt depth as well, particularly because of his high rebounding rates.  In all, the Gators rank third in offensive efficiency, because they shoot 39.0 percent from deep and have a low turnover rate.  However, their reliance on the three-point shot has come back to bite them in multiple games this season, because when they aren’t hitting from long range, Florida doesn’t really have a plan B.  They also struggle on the defensive end, which could ultimately be their undoing in the tournament.

8. Memphis Tigers

  • Conference: Conference USA
  • Record: 26-8 (13-3 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Belmont, Southern Mississippi, Xavier
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Georgetown (2), Louisville, Michigan, Murray State, Southern Mississippi
  • Player to Watch: Will Barton (6’6” G, So.) – 18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 51.1 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Tigers are playing as well as any team in the country heading into the Big Dance, as they steamrolled the competition in the conference tournament.  Their last 10 wins have all come by double-digits, and this is a team no one wants to see in their portion of the bracket.  Memphis ranks in the Top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency, and they rate out well in multiple statistical categories, including block and steal percentage.  Will Barton has had a phenomenal season, hitting 56.6 percent of his two-pointers, grabbing nearly 20 percent of available defensive rebounds, and posting a strong free throw rate.  His length and versatility make him a matchup nightmare for virtually any opponent.  Big man Tarik Black makes 68.3 percent from the field and is expected to be ok after suffering an arm injury in the C-USA Championship.  Guards Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford bot score at least nine points and dish out nearly four assists per game, with Crawford doubling as the team’s top three-point shooter.  Freshman Adonis Thomas returned from a knee injury to play in the Conference USA Tournament, so he would add even more depth to Josh Pastner’s already deep bench.

9. Saint Louis Billikens

  • Conference: Atlantic 10
  • Record: 25-7 (12-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-3
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Saint Bonaventure, Vermont, Xavier (2)
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: New Mexico, Temple, Xavier
  • Player to Watch: Kwamain Mitchell (G, Sr.) – 12.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg
  • Bottoms Line: Rick Majerus is going back to the Big Dance with the Billikens, who finished just behind for the A-10 Title.  Saint Louis is particularly strong on the defensive end, where they rank in the Top 15 in adjusted efficiency.  They rank in the Top 50 in effective field goal percentage defense, turnover rate, and defensive rebounding percentage, and the only area where they struggle is their opponents’ free throw rate.  The Billikens aren’t too shabby on offense either, as they rank in the Top 40 for efficiency there as well.  They take great care of the basketball and shoot well as a team, which helps make up for the fact that they struggle to get to the line and corral offensive rebounds.  Forward Brian Conklin leads the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game and makes over 53 percent from the field, while also posting a strong free throw rate.  In the backcourt, Kwamain Mitchell averages over 12 points and leads the team in assists, and Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett both score at least six points per game.  Forward Cody Ellis is the third double-digit scorer and can step out and knock down three-pointers to give the Billikens another offensive threat.

10. Virginia Cavaliers

  • Conference: ACC
  • Record: 22-9 (9-7 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 4-6
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 2-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Michigan, North Carolina State
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Florida State (2), North Carolina (2), North Carolina State
  • Player to Watch: Mike Scott (6’8” F, Sr.) – 18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 56.2 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Cavaliers haven’t beaten a tournament lock since November, yet somehow they largely managed to avoid the bubble conversation down the stretch.  Mike Scott had a really strong argument for ACC Player of the Year, and his efficiency numbers are magnificent across the board.  He shoots well, rebounds at a high rate on both ends of the floor, and does a nice job of drawing fouls and getting to the stripe.  If Virginia is going to make noise in March, their defense will be the reason.  The Cavaliers rank in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency and are particularly proficient at cleaning the defensive glass and defending the three-point line.  That said, Virginia has struggled down the stretch, and they desperately need someone other than Scott to become a consistent threat on offense.  That said, their slow pace of play could certainly frustrate opponents, and it should also allow them to keep the game close.

11. Colorado State Rams

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Record: 20-11 (8-6 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 6-4
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, New Mexico, San Diego State (2), Southern Mississippi, UNLV
  • Player to Watch: Dorian Green (6’2” G, Sr.) – 13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 43.3 3P%
  • Bottoms Line: The Rams finished perfect in Mountain West play and were the conference’s fourth team in the tournament.  They are solid on the offensive end thanks to 40.5 percent shooting from deep and a high free throw rate.  It’s a different story on defense, where the Rams rank outside of the Top 200 in a number of categories, which could prove problematic in the tournament.  Wes Eikmeier leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while Dorian Green is one of two Rams shooting over 40 percent from three-point land.  On the inside, Greg Smith and Pierce Hornung both have strong rebounding rates, with Hornung ranking in the Top Five in offensive rebounding percentage.  He also makes over 68 percent of his two-pointers and has an impressive steal percentage.  Colorado State doesn’t play anyone over 6-foot-6, so a team with height could definitely give them trouble, particularly on the defensive end.

12. Long Beach State 49ers

  • Conference: Big West
  • Record: 25-8 (15-1 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-7
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Xavier
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Creighton, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Montana, North Carolina, San Diego State
  • Player to Watch: Casper Ware (5’10” G, Sr.) – 17.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.4 spg
  • Bottoms Line: The 49ers played a murderer’s row in the non-conference, and it seems to have paid dividends during their 18-2 run to close the season.  Guard Casper Ware leads a veteran team, and those who haven’t had a chance to see him play are definitely in for a treat.  He’s definitely one of the most entertaining players in the country and came up big with 33 points in the Big West Championship.  Four other players score at least 9.5 points per game, with T.J. Robinson averaging a double-double, hitting 53.0 percent from the field, and posting solid rebound percentages on both ends of the floor.  Throw in versatile players like Larry Anderson, James Ennis, and Eugene Phelps, all of whom contribute on the defensive end as well, and you have a well-rounded squad capable of excelling in March.  Anderson’s health is a concern, as he missed the conference tournament with a knee injury, and his status is unknown at this point.  In terms of efficiency, The Beach is in the Top 60 on both ends of the floor, and they are particularly adept at getting to the free throw line and keeping their opponents off of it.

13. Davidson Wildcats

  • Conference: Southern
  • Record: 25-7 (16-2 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-3
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Kansas
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Vanderbilt, Wichita State
  • Player to Watch: De’Mon Brooks (6’7″ F, So.) – 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 53.7 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Wildcats won the regular season title in the SoCon, but they need two overtimes to win the automatic bid against Western Carolina. They excel on the offensive end of the floor and rank in the Top 40 in overall efficiency, including an extremely low 17.2 turnover rate. Davidson makes 51.5 percent of its two-pointers, boasts a solid offensive rebounding percentage, and ranks eighth nationally in free throw shooting. De’Mon Brooks is one of many Wildcats with an impressive offensive rating and excels on both the offensive and defensive glass while drawing a lot of fouls. Davidson has four other players who score in double figures, including Jake Cohen (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg). He gives the team a solid presence on the glass and in the lane, but he can also step out and knock down long-range shots. Nik Cochran (11.0 ppg, 3.7 apg) leads the team in assists and has a strong free throw rate, while J.P. Kuhlman (11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg) gives the team another veteran guard. Outside of a strong defensive rebounding percentage, the numbers aren’t great for Davidson’s defense. They rank outside of the Top 300 in turnover rate and aren’t much better in opponents’ free throw rate, so if the Wildcats hope to spring a first round upset, they will need to rely on outscoring their opponent.

14. BYU Cougars

  • Conference: West Coast
  • Record: 25-8 (12-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 7-3
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-6
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Gonzaga
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor, Gonzaga (2), Saint Mary’s (2), Wisconsin
  • Player to Watch: Brandon Davies (6’9” F, Jr.) – 15.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.3 bpg, 51.6 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Cougars earned one of the final at-large spots in the first year of the post-Jimmer era.  Interestingly enough, the team was more efficient on defense than on offense, thanks in large part to solid three-point defense and strong work on the defensive glass.  Offensively, they have been much better inside the arc thanks to Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock.  BYU also has a low turnover rate, but they have struggled to get offensive boards and haven’t gotten to the line very often.  Hartsock leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game and makes 56.5 percent from the field.  He also does a great job of getting to the line, where he hits nearly 84 percent.  Frontcourt mate Davies has been terrific as well, and picked up where he left off after being suspended last season.  Like Hartsock, he is adept at drawing fouls and boasts a high defensive rebounding percentage.  Charles Abouo averages 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, while UCLA transfer Matt Carlino has been up and down in the backcourt.  Carlino has shown the ability to get hot and knock down shots, but his shot selection is questionable at times.  Still his 4.7 assists per game lead the team.  One of the issues for BYU has been a lack of bench production, but that hasn’t deterred them from continuing to push the pace.

14. Iona Gaels

  • Conference: MAAC
  • Record: 25-7 (15-3 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-2
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: LIU Brooklyn, Loyola (MD), Vermont
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Loyola (MD), Purdue
  • Player to Watch: Scott Machado (6’1” G, Sr.) – 13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 41.1 3P%
  • Bottoms Line: The Gaels were one of the more surprising at-large selections on Sunday, but they certainly have the talent to compete in the NCAA Tournament.  They have a tough post man in Mike Glover, who averages 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while hitting 64.4 percent from the field.  He has strong rebounding rates on both ends and has earned nearly 200 trips to the line.  They also have a fantastic point guard in Scott Machado, who dishes out nearly 10 assists per game and owns an absurd 44.2 assist rate.  This year they also added Arizona transfer Lamont “Momo” Jones, who scores 16.0 points per contest.  The net result of that talent is an offensive ranked 16th in adjusted efficiency and the fourth-ranked effective field goal percentage.  The Gaels rank in the Top 25 in two-point shooting, three-point shooting, and turnover rate, so they can score with just about anyone.  Defense has been a struggle though, as Iona ranks just inside the Top 200 in adjusted efficiency.  They rarely send their opponents to the line and do a decent job of forcing turnovers, but they routinely allow high shooting percentages and struggle on the defensive glass.

15. Norfolk State Spartans

  • Conference: MEAC
  • Record: 25-9 (13-3 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-2
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: LIU Brooklyn
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Marquette (2)
  • Player to Watch: Kyle O’Quinn (6’10” C, Sr.) – 15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 58.3 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: I’m not 100 percent sure, but the Spartans are probably the first team to ever make the NCAA Tournament after losing to Elizabeth City State.  From a statistical standpoint, Norfolk State ranks in the Top 25 in free throw rate, holds its opponents to a low effective field goal percentage, and shoots very well from two-point range.  Most of their other numbers aren’t particularly impressive, and their overall efficiency numbers both rank outside of the Top 150.  Three Spartans score in double figures, but the focal points on both offense and defense is big man Kyle O’Quinn.  He’s an efficiency marvel with high rankings in effective field goal percentage, offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, block percentage, and free throw rate.  Most small conference teams don’t boast such a talented big man, and he has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor.  Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams both score at least 11.8 points per game, and neither one is shy about hoisting shots from long range.  Despite playing just 18.6 minutes per game, Jamel Fuentes leads the team in assists and has actually attempted more shots from the free throw line than the field.

16. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

  • Conference: Northeast
  • Record: 25-8 (16-2 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-2
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Vermont
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Iona, Norfolk State
  • Player to Watch: Julian Boyd (6’7″ F, Jr.) – 17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 55.7 FG%
  • Bottoms Line: The Blackbirds ran through both the regular season and tournament titles in the NEC, and when I say ran through, I mean that literally. LIU plays at the third-fastest tempo in all of Division-I, which accounts for the fact that they score better than 80 points per game. Five Blackbirds average at least 9.6 points, led by Julian Boyd. He boasts a ridiculous 25.6 defensive rebound percentage and draws nearly seven fouls per 40 minutes, which is one of the top rates in the country. Teammate Jamal Olasewere (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg, 57.7 FG%) actually has the 6th-best mark nationally at 7.5 fouls drawn though. He makes over 61 percent of his two-pointers and has gone to the line 217 times this year, good for a free throw rate of 65.2. Point guard Jason Brickman (9.7 ppg, 7.3 apg, 40.5 3P%) runs the show, and his assist rate speaks to his passing ability. As a team, LIU ranks second in the nation in free throw rate at 49.8, and the Blackbirds also have strong shooting percentages on two-pointers, three-pointers, and free throws. Throw in a solid offensive rebounding percentage, and you have an efficient offense, minus a relatively high turnover rate of course. On defense though, LIU ranks outside of the Top 250 in efficiency, and outside of an extremely low opponent’s free throw rate, the numbers are pretty ugly.


About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms


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