Games of Saturday, February
Commonwealth (20-6, 13-3 Colonial) at Akron (19-7, 9-4 Mid American), 11:00 a.m. EST, ESPN2
Rankings: Virginia Commonwealth, #80 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in Colonial); Akron, #95 (3rd of 12 in MAC)
Pomeroy Prediction: Akron, 66-63 in 64 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 40%
Prospectus: The VCU Rams, the team that beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, look very much like a vintage Duke team on defense this season. The Rams have held opponents to the lowest three-point field goal percentage in the nation, 27.5 percent, and have also discouraged foes from taking many long-range shots, as only 27.6 percent of field goal attempts against the VCU defense have been threes (the 14th-lowest rate in Division I). Furthermore, the Rams are also very good defending the two--43 percent shooting allowed--which gives them an eFG% against of 42.5, the fourth lowest in D-I. What keeps VCU from being a truly elite defense is a lack of defensive rebounding and a high free throw rate allowed (free throws shot per 100 field goal attempts). The Akron Zips, second in the Mid American Conference's East division behind Kent St., have an offense that will challenge the Rams' defense. Akron has the best offense in the MAC, by both raw and adjusted efficiency, scoring 1.10 points per possession, and boasts a strong three-point attack that will test VCU's excellent perimeter defense.
Matchup: Connecticut (21-5, 10-3 Big East) at Villanova (16-9, 6-7), 12:00 p.m., ESPN
Rankings: Connecticut, #22 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 16 in Big East); Villanova, #61 (9th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Connecticut, 73-71 in 71 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 41%
Prospectus: The Huskies last lost over a month ago, on January 17 at home to Providence, and have run off 10 straight wins since then, including victories over Marquette, Indiana, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The Wildcats picked up what was likely their biggest win of the season on Wednesday in beating West Virginia at home by 22. Villanova now plays three in a row against the cream of the Big East crop--after Connecticut, it has Marquette at home and Louisville on the road. The Huskies lead the nation in block percentage this season, as they have in each of the past four years. They are also first in two-point field goal percentage defense, as they were in 2007 and 2004; in both 2005 and 2006 they ranked sixth. As can be divined from those numbers, the way to beat the Huskies is from the perimeter, but Villanova doesn't have a strong three-point attack. The Wildcats' best offensive trait is their rebounding, and despite Connecticut's extreme size, the team is vulnerable on its opponents' offensive glass.
Matchup: George Mason (19-8, 11-5 Colonial) at Ohio (17-9, 8-5 Mid American), 1:00, ESPN2
Rankings: George Mason, #83 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 12 in Colonial); Ohio, #104 (5th of 12 in MAC)
Pomeroy Prediction: Ohio, 65-63 in 61 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 42%
Prospectus: The Patriots, most famous for their run to the Final Four in 2006, are second in the CAA behind VCU. This non-conference BracketBusters game is essential for building up George Mason's slim shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth should the Patriots not win the Colonial tournament. The Patriots have the best offense in the CAA, thanks mostly to a very low turnover percentage. But Geoge Mason's opponents are also excellent at holding onto the ball: the Patriots have forced foes to turn it over on just 18.5 percent of possessions. George Mason is an outstanding defensive rebounding team, however, ranking ninth in the nation with a 72.5 percentage. Ohio has no chance of an at-large berth, and so, being three games behind Kent St. in the MAC East, will have to make its hay in the conference tournament. This game features a great matchup down low between senior forwards Will Thomas of George Mason and Leon Williams of Ohio. Thomas has an offensive rating of 127.5, the fourth highest among players having used at least 20 percent of team possessions, while Williams ranks third in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (but strangely, is almost invisible on the defensive glass).
Matchup: New Mexico (21-6, 8-4 Mountain West) at Utah (15-9, 6-5), 2:00
Rankings: New Mexico, #27 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 9 in Mountain West); Utah, #56 (4th)
Pomeroy Prediction: New Mexico, 65-64 in 63 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 48%
Prospectus: Despite their 21 wins, the Lobos aren't getting any love in the current NCAA Tournament projections. If they can win out in their final four games, and beat Mountain West stalwarts Utah, BYU and UNLV along the way, that will likely change. The toughest game of the group is this road contest at Utah (the games vs. BYU and UNLV are at home). In the teams' first meeting this year, the Lobos won 77-67 in overtime at home. The Utes, fourth-tallest in the nation by Effective Height, are the country's best defensive rebounding team, while New Mexico tops the land in three-point field goal percentage, thanks mostly to junior Chad Toppert and his 70-of-143 shooting from long range. Utah has gotten unlucky this season,
with two overtime losses and another three-point loss in regulation during the conference schedule, and is therefore a dangerous team heading into the Mountain West tournament.
Matchup: Arkansas (18-7, 7-4 Southeastern) at Kentucky (14-10, 8-3), 2:00
Rankings: Arkansas, #30 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 12 in SEC); Kentucky, #69 (7th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Arkansas, 66-65 in 67 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 46%
Prospectus: The Wildcats recovered from getting clobbered by Vanderbilt on the 12th to beat Louisiana St. and Georgia, and are on pace for a 10-6 SEC season after going 6-7 in their non-conference schedule. To be considered for a NCAA Tournament at-large berth, however, Kentucky will have to do better than that, beginning with this tough home assignment against the Razorbacks. Arkansas has the second best defense in the SEC behind Mississippi St.'s. While Kentucky is a taller team, with an Average Minutes Weighted Height of 77.9 inches, the Razorbacks are taller where it counts most for defense, the frontcourt, as measured by Effective Height. The Wildcats don't have any players 6'10" or above in their rotation, while Arkansas has 6'10" forwards Darian Townes and Michael Washington and 7'0" center Steven Hill, who is ninth in the country in block percentage.
Matchup: Maryland (17-10, 7-5 Atlantic Coast) at Miami FL (18-7, 5-6), 2:00
Rankings: Maryland, #38 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 12 in ACC); Miami FL, #48 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Miami FL, 75-72 in 71 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 39%
Prospectus: After losing three straight to fall to 2-6 in ACC play, the Hurricanes have stormed back, winning at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech and then picking up a huge 96-95 win over Duke at home on Wednesday. Now, Miami is very much in the NCAA Tournament picture, and if it can take care of business by winning its final three home games to finish conference play at 8-8, should be in good shape for an at-large berth. Despite a bad loss at home to Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Terrapins also look to be in line for an at-large bid, although with upcoming road games against Miami and Wake Forest and then at home versus Clemson, Maryland must be careful not to suffer an extended losing streak late in the season.
Matchup: Creighton (18-8, 9-7 Missouri Valley) at Oral Roberts (20-6, 15-1 Summit League), 3:00, ESPN2
Rankings: Creighton, #60 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 10 in MVC); Oral Roberts, #84 (2nd of 10 in Summit)
Pomeroy Prediction: Oral Roberts, 65-64 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 44%
Prospectus: Oral Roberts lost its big showdown with IUPUI last Saturday, then won its next two Summit League games and, after IUPUI's loss to Oakland Thursday, now has a magic number of one to clinch the Summit League with two conference games left. Creighton is in a much more precarious position--despite being the second-best Missouri Valley team by the stats, the Bluejays are in fourth place in the conference in a season in which it looks like the Valley might not get a single at-large bid, assuming that first-place Drake also wins the conference tournament. Creighton is a unique squad in that its bench plays 45 percent of the team's minutes, the third-highest total in Division I. The Bluejays' best player, senior forward Dane Watts, plays around 24 minutes a game. Watts leads the Bluejays in eFG% (58.4) and rebounding on both ends of the court.
Matchup: Oklahoma (18-8, 6-5 Big 12) at Texas (22-4, 9-2), 3:30
Rankings: Oklahoma, #35 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 12 in Big 12); Texas, #13 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Texas, 73-63 in 63 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 17%
Prospectus: The Longhorns have won six games in a row, while the Sooners, after their overtime defeat of Baylor on Tuesday, have won three straight. This is the second edition of the Red River Shootout this season, with the first going to Texas by a score of 64-54 in Norman. The Longhorns held Oklahoma to a 39 eFG% in that game, and only gave it away on 8.4 percent of their possessions. Texas is the best team in the country at protecting the ball, but even that rate was outstanding for them, and indeed was their second lowest turnover percentage of the season and lowest in conference play. Oklahoma has a solid offense which has an adjusted efficiency of 1.14 points per possession, so the Sooners should do a better job of putting points up in this rematch. Freshman 6'10" forward Blake Griffin played well in the first game, scoring 19 points on
6-of-9 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the line. In Oklahoma's last game, against Baylor, Griffin had a season-high 29 points and also grabbed 15 rebounds.
Matchup: Oregon (15-11, 6-8 Pacific 10) at UCLA (23-3, 11-2), 3:30
Rankings: Oregon, #40 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 10 in Pac 10); UCLA, #2 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: UCLA, 81-64 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 7%
Prospectus: The Ducks have lost their last two and are beginning to sink away from the at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament that seemed to be well within their reach. A win over the Bruins on the road would turn that around, and likely propel Oregon, which also has wins over Kansas St., Stanford and Arizona, into the field of 64. The Ducks sport a dangerous offense that by adjusted offensive efficiency is virtually the equal of UCLA's attack, at 1.206 points per possession to the Bruins' 1.208. Oregon is last in the conference in defense, however, and the 1.066 points per possession they have allowed on the season ranks 281st in the nation. The Ducks gave the Bruins a good game in the first meeting between these two, falling 80-75 in Eugene. Freshman Kevin Love proved too much for Oregon's smaller front line in that one, as the 6'10" center scored 26 points on 8-of-11 from the field and snagged 18 rebounds, eight of the offensive variety.
Matchup: Nevada (17-9, 9-4 Western Athletic) at Southern Illinois (15-12, 10-6 Missouri Valley), 4:30, ESPNU
Rankings: Nevada, #106 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 9 in WAC); Southern Illinois, #66 (4th of 10 in MVC)
Pomeroy Prediction: Southern Illinois, 69-61 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 19%
Prospectus: Nevada stands one game back of Boise St. for the WAC lead with three conference games to play, including a big one next Thursday against second-place New Mexico St. Southern Illinois has no chance at catching Missouri Valley leader Drake with two conference games left, but the Salukis did beat the Bulldogs to begin the three-game winning streak they are currently riding. Southern Illinois was picked to win the Missouri Valley this season by Basketball Prospectus, and it does sport the conference's best defense by adjusted efficiency, so the Salukis are a team that is very capable of winning their conference tournament and heading to the Big Dance for the 11th time. Whether the Wolf Pack can get to the tournament will depend to a large extent on how far senior Marcelus Kemp can carry the team. Kemp is currently the 16th best offensive player in the country among those using at least 28 percent of team possessions. It will be interesting to see how the Salukis defense Kemp's tall teammate, 6'11" Wolf Pack center JaVale McGee, as the Salukis' top six in minutes played are all 6'7" or shorter.
Matchup: Drake (23-3, 14-2 Missouri Valley) at Butler (25-2, 14-2 Horizon League), 5:00, ESPN2
Rankings: Drake, #32 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 10 in MVC); Butler, #43 (1st of 10 in Horizon League)
Pomeroy Prediction: Butler, 64-62 in 57 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 42%
Prospectus: Two of the best stories in college basketball intersect in a battle of first-place Bulldogs with 14-2 conference records. Butler comes into this game having won nine games in a row, while Drake, which had its 21-game winning streak snapped by Southern Illinois February 13, has now lost two of its last three games. Both of these teams are characterized by their offenses, with Drake's being a bit better--an adjusted efficiency of 1.19 points per possession as compared to 1.14 for Butler. Each squad also plays at an extremely slow pace--Drake at 62.5 possessions per 40 minutes, and Butler at 60.3--so the game should be a low-scoring offensive struggle. Butler's best all-around player is 6'7" freshman Matt Howard, who is fourth in offensive rating among players who use at least 24% of possessions (he uses 27.4), while also leading the team in rebounding and block percentage. Despite the presence of Howard, Butler is a very experienced team, as it plays five seniors and ranks 29th nationally with a weighted average of 2.2 years. Drake has even more experience, so those who like to factor in veteran leadership and experience in predicting NCAA tournament Cinderellas should have a field day with both of these squads.
Matchup: Arizona St. (16-9, 6-7 Pacific 10) at Washington (15-12, 6-8), 6:00
Rankings: Arizona St., #44 in Pomeroy Ratings (7th of 10 in Pac 10); Washington, #50 (9th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Washington, 68-65 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 37%
Prospectus: The Huskies, with wins over Arizona and UCLA in their past four games, are officially making a late bid for the NCAA Tournament. It will not be easy for Washington to get to .500 in the conference--after this game, the Huskies finish with three road contests against Stanford, California and Washington St. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are moving further and further towards the edge of the bubble, having lost two in a row to California and Washington St. to fall below .500. Washington beat Arizona St. 72-61 on the road January 24. The Sun Devils had no answer for Huskies junior forward Jon Brockman, who scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with 16 rebounds. Brockman ranks in the top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. The Sun Devils have a strong attack, but are very weak on the offensive boards, so Brockman shouldn't have much trouble piling up the rebounds again. On the other hand, Washington is allowing opponents a 50.5 eFG% on the season, so there likely won't be as many defensive caroms for the Huskies to collect in this contest as there were in the first, when Arizona St.'s eFG% was a season-low 36.8.
Matchup: Brown (15-8, 7-2 Ivy League) at Cornell (17-5, 9-0), 7:00
Rankings: Brown, #157 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 8 in Ivy); Cornell, #144
Pomeroy Prediction: Cornell, 71-66 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 29%
Prospectus: This is the game of the season in the Ivy League. If Cornell wins, it would be three games up on Brown with four to play, virtually locking up the Ivy title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth. If the Bears pull off the upset they would be within a game of first. Brown would then have to win its four remaining games--home against Princeton and Penn and away at Harvard and Dartmouth--and hope that Cornell drops one of its final four versus that same group of teams in order to force a one-game playoff. Say what you will about the Ivy League being the last Division I conference without a tournament, but the old-school format does infuse games like this one, in the freezing north of upstate New York, with a great deal of meaning. Cornell beat Brown 75-64 in Providence February 1. In that game, Cornell's great three-point machine got going to the tune of 9-of-18 from deep. The Big Red's strength plays right into Brown's weakness, as the Bears struggle to limit both three-point field goal attempts and percentage. Brown did get to the line very efficiently in the earlier loss to Cornell, putting up a 75 free throw rate (75 percent as many free throws as field goal tries). Getting to the line has been the Bears' forte this season and in the past several years.
Matchup: Wagner (20-6, 13-2 Northeast) at Robert Morris (22-6, 13-2), 7:00
Rankings: Wagner, #230 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 11 in Northeast); Robert Morris, #146 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Robert Morris, 79-68 in 73 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 14%
Prospectus: These two teams are tied for first place in the Northeast with just three conference games remaining. How Wagner has gotten to this point is stunning. The Seahawks have won four games in overtime this season. Wagner has won five straight games, and four of those have come in overtime. The Seahawks' last two wins have been in double overtime. Such a streak is particularly astounding when you consider that Wagner is the fourth-worst team in the country at free throw shooting, with a 59.2 percentage--you would expect a team that has been so good in close games to be excellent at the line. The Seahawks' luck is at +6.3 wins so far over what would be expected based upon their points scored/allowed, and the season isn't even over. The next luckiest team from 2006-08, Jackson St. last year, finished at +4.3 wins over a full season. Maybe it's just Wagner's year. Or maybe the Seahawks' string of good fortune will end in a blowout loss to the Colonials, winners of 10 straight.
Matchup: Kansas St. (18-7, 8-3 Big 12) at Baylor (17-8, 5-6), 8:00
Rankings: Kansas St., #7 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 12 in Big 12); Baylor, #41 (8th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Kansas St., 83-78 in 77 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 33%
Prospectus: The Wildcats, despite their fantastic season, have shown that they are very vulnerable on the road in Big 12 play, as they have lost their last three away from Manhattan: to Nebraska, Texas Tech and Missouri. In each of those three games, the team's normally stalwart defense has given up at least 1.11 points per possession and a 54 eFG%. The Bears have a better overall offense--fourth in the conference--and better eFG% than all three of those teams that ripped the Wildcats' defense. Baylor badly needs a win in this one after losing its last four games, the most recent of which was an overtime defeat at Oklahoma on Tuesday. A victory over Beasley and Co. would go a long way towards ensuring that Baylor goes to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since
Matchup: Tennessee (24-2, 11-1 Southeastern) at Memphis (26-0, 12-0 Conference USA), 9:00, ESPN
Rankings: Tennessee, #16 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in SEC); Memphis, #3 (1st of 12 in C-USA)
Pomeroy Prediction: Memphis, 81-71 in 78 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 18%
Prospectus: The Pomeroy system doesn't see this game being as close as many are projecting it to be, because the numbers show that the Volunteers are an overrated team. Ken Pomeroy discussed Tennessee's chief problem on Wednesday, which is that its defense is heavily dependent on the one out of the four factors over which it has the least control (opponents turnover percentage). Memphis does an excellent job protecting the ball--it ranks 14th in the country in that category--so, as Pomeroy outlined in his article, Tennessee's main defensive weapon could be effectively neutralized. Furthermore, Tennessee has gotten lucky to post the record it has, having picked up three close wins in conference play. The real fun matchup will be between Tennessee's offense, which scores 1.13 points per possession, and Memphis' defense, which gives up only 0.84. The game should be a great one to watch as well because of the fast pace that both teams play at, with the Tigers averaging 72 possessions/40 minutes and the Volunteers 74. Should the game come down to free throw shooting in the final minute, it could get ugly for either team: Memphis is third-worst in the country with a 58.8 free throw percentage, and Tennessee is 302nd out of 341 with a 64.1 percentage. If Memphis can beat Tennessee, it should coast through the remaining four games on its conference schedule and enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated, the first team to do so since UNLV in 1991.
Matchup: Rider (18-9, 11-5 Metro Atlantic) at Cal St. Northridge (18-6, 10-2 Big West), 9:00, ESPNU
Rankings: Rider, #127 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 10 in MAAC); Cal St. Northridge, #141 (3rd of 9 in Big West)
Pomeroy Prediction: Cal St. Northridge, 81-77 in 79 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 38%
Prospectus: Rider is in the middle of the most muddled top of any conference in Division I. The Broncs are one of four teams with an 11-5 league record (Siena, Niagara and Loyola MD are the others), while Fairfield is one back at 10-6, and Marist sits two behind, with two conference games remaining for all the teams. Over in the Big West--which is one spot behind the Metro Atlantic in the Pomeroy Conference Rankings--the Matadors are holding on to a precarious half-game lead over Cal St. Fullerton. Cal St. Northridge plays Fullerton in a big game next Thursday, but first the Matadors will try and help boost their conference ahead of the MAAC by beating Rider. While the Broncs are in the top 30 in both three- and two-point shooting percentage, and therefore 13th in D-I in eFG%, the M.O. of the Matadors is defense (no Matador D here, as Clyde Frazier might say), and, more specifically, the ability to force turnovers (ninth-best in the country) and hold down three-point field goal percentage (20th).
Matchup: Siena (16-10, 11-5 Metro Atlantic) at Boise St. (20-6, 10-3 Western Athletic), 10:00
Rankings: Siena, #130 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 10 in MAAC); Boise St., #116 (3rd of 9 in WAC)
Pomeroy Prediction: Boise St., 83-77 in 75 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 30%
Prospectus: Siena, just like Rider, is a Metro Atlantic team tied for first traveling to take on the leader of a western conference. The Saints had the opportunity to be at least a game up on their three conference co-leaders, but lost an overtime game against Loyola MD at home and fell by a point at Manhattan in its last two games. After playing Boise St., Siena closes with games against Niagara at home and St. Peter's on the road. The Broncos have three conference games remaining, but even if they win out they might still finish in a tie for first atop the WAC, for New Mexico St. is 9-3 in the conference with four games left. Boise St. has the highest team eFG% in Division I, so things could get ugly for the Saints, who have allowed opponents a 52.5 eFG%, if they don't get steals and force turnovers. The Saints are 10th in the country in steal percentage, led by junior guard Kenny Hasbrouck. The Broncos have two players in the top 10 in eFG%--senior forwards Tyler Tiedeman (68.1) and Matt Nelson (65.7).
Matchup: Arizona (16-10, 6-7 Pacific 10) at Washington St. (21-5, 9-5), 10:00
Rankings: Arizona, #23 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 10 in Pac 10); Washington St., #8 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Washington St., 65-57 in 58 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 20%
Prospectus: Arizona has lost four out of its last five after starting the Pac-10 schedule 5-3, and now is in danger of finishing with a sub-.500 conference record. The Cougars, meanwhile, have won four in a row to reestablish themselves as an elite team. By adjusted efficiency, Washington St. is now also in complete harmony, with the 11th-ranked offense and defense. The Wildcats won the first meeting over the Cougars, 76-64 on January 24. Arizona went for a 70 eFG% in that one, the highest figure that Washington St. has allowed all season, and hit 12-of-21 three-point attempts. The Wildcats rank seventh in the nation with a 40.3 three-point percentage. Both of these teams are very weak offensive rebounding squads, and they combined for only seven offensive rebounds in the first game, which was played in 61 possessions. With three seniors and three juniors among its top six in minutes played, the Cougars are the ninth-oldest team in the nation at a weighted average of 2.4 years of experience, and Washington St. relies heavily on its upperclass starters. The Wildcats are even a little more reliant on their starters--these two teams play their bench less than all the other Pac-10 squads--but are a much younger team, with sophomores Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise, and freshman Jerryd Bayless all getting significant minutes.
Matchup: Portland St. (18-8, 11-2 Big Sky) at Cal St. Fullerton (17-7, 10-3 Big West), 10:30
Rankings: Portland St., #153 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 9 in Big Sky); Cal St. Fullerton, #117 (1st of 9 in Big West)
Pomeroy Prediction: Cal St. Fullerton, 87-79 in 76 possessions
Upset Possibility: 24%
Prospectus: The Vikings and the Titans face off in a battle to determine which abstract entity is bigger, the sky or the west. The west is the early favorite thanks to Cal St. Fullerton's 55 eFG%, the 14th-best mark in Division I. Portland St., however, has won nine games in a row to take control of the Big Sky, and the Vikings have a strong eFG% of their own (53.8). Portland St. gets 36.8 percent of its points from deep, while Fullerton gets 33.8 percent, and both teams are bad at defending the three-point line, so there will likely be quite a few three-pointers made in this one. Titans 5'11" junior Josh Akognon has shot 219 of them, or 9.5 per game, and connected on 38 percent. Portland St. will counter with sophomore guard Jeremiah Dominguez, who has hit 59-of-142 threes (41.5 percent). Dominguez stands only 5'6, but he has managed to hit 56 of his 95 two-point attempts in addition to his three-point shooting for a 60 eFG%. Cal St. Fullerton plays no one taller than 6'6", which raises the question of how the team will defense Vikings 6'11" senior Scott Morrison, who has made 99-of-161 two-pointers this season.
Matchup: Kent St. (22-5, 11-2 Mid American) at St. Mary's (23-3, 10-1 West Coast), 11:59, ESPN2
Rankings: Kent St., #77 in Pomeroy Ratings (1st of 12 in MAC); St. Mary's, #31 (2nd of 8 in WCC)
Pomeroy Prediction: St. Mary's, 72-63 in 67 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 16%
Prospectus: The Golden Flashes and Gaels get together in a midnight
BracketBusters pairing. This game is a must-watch, if not because both of these teams will very likely appear in the NCAA Tournament, then because it offers the chance to see Kent St. senior forward Haminn Quaintance play. Possibly the best defensive player in the country, Quaintance has block and steal percentages of 9.0 and 4.0, respectively, putting him well above the Renaldo Balkman Threshold. Quaintance has stepped his already-excellent rebounding percentages up on both ends of the court from last season, and he has also improved his offensive game, bumping his offensive rating from 105 to 113 and his eFG% from 55 to 63. While Quaintance and Co. have the best defense in the MAC, it is St. Mary's that has the better overall defensive unit, as it has held opponents to a 44.1 eFG%. The Gaels also have an offense that has put up a 54.6 eFG%, 21st highest in the country.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.