BracketBusters Preview: 10 Games to Watch

Joshua GleasonContributor IIIFebruary 17, 2012

BracketBusters Preview: 10 Games to Watch

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    The 10th annual Sears BracketBusters is set to tip off tonight.

    This is an ESPN and Sears event that showcases some of the top mid-major college basketball teams in the nation. It’s a excellent chance for fans of the game who haven’t had a chance to view some of these teams to see them in a game that is going to challenge them near the end of the season, in the non-conference.

    I personally love this time of year. I appreciate it even more this season now that I work at the mid-major level (Western Illinois—Summit League) and have seen a couple of these teams in person.

    The BracketBusters helps to boil down some of these teams and determine who is a legitimate contender to make an NCAA Tournament run, and others who records are merely under the disguise of a poor schedule.

    To honor that this is the 10th year of this great event, I’ll be giving an in-depth breakdown of the top 10 BracketBusters games this weekend, in order of when they are going to occur.

    Without further ado, let me introduce you to 20 of the top mid-major schools in the country.

Northern Iowa at VCU

1 of 10

    Northern Iowa Panthers (17-11, 7-9) at VCU Rams (22-6, 13-3)Friday 7:00 PM ET ESPN2

    The opening game of the BracketBusters will be one of the more intriguing ones, as it features two teams coming off tough losses—the Northern Iowa Panthers and VCU Rams.

    VCU, a Cinderella team last season that made it all the way to the Final Four, is battling for position in the Colonial Athletic Association (currently third).

    They have accumulated a solid record thus far, but the CAA is looking to be a one-bid league this season.

    Northern Iowa looked good in non-conference play, picking up wins at Iowa State and versus Colorado State, but have slipped since Missouri Valley play started.

    Neither of these teams is in position to make the tournament unless they win their conference tournament, but both are capable of doing that.

    VCU is a very different team from last season, after losing the likes of Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell and Ed Nixon, four of their top five leading scorers.

    However, Shaka Smart is proving his worth as a head coach and has the Rams playing efficient basketball. They lack the type of offensive firepower they had last season, specifically from three, but they are playing with great efficiency, ranking 36th in the nation in turnovers per game and playing excellent defense.

    The Rams lost a lot of seniors from last season but still have four key guys back from last year, Bradford Burgess being the main guy.

    Burgess is a very well-rounded offensive threat. He possesses a long body, can slash to the hoop and will hit the three if you leave him open.

    UNI is a similar story. They rank 12th in the nation in turnovers per game and play tough defense. The thing that VCU lost from last year is something the Panthers have, and that’s the ability to hit the three.

    This game is poised with what should be a lot of interesting matchups, but the most interesting is the battle from behind the arc.

    Northern Iowa ranks 18th in the nation in three-point percentage, hitting 39.2 percent of their shots from downtown. VCU is limiting opposing teams to only 30.4 percent, good for 31st in the nation. However, in VCU’s most recent game, they did allow George Mason to shoot 35.3 percent from three, including one at the buzzer to give the Patriots the 62-61 victory.

    The Rams can’t afford to let any of the Panthers sharpshooters—of which there are plenty—to get hot.

    If VCU can limit the UNI three-pointer—UNI is 2-6 when shooting 31.3 percent or worse—then they should be able to escape with a win. If not, than the Panthers should be able to pull this one out.

    Either way, this should be an interesting game for both teams and a litmus test for VCU against a UNI team that is tough defensively and can hit the three.

    Stat (Per game)

    Northern Iowa

    Virginia Commonwealth

     

    Points

    Team: 66.0 (214th)

    Player: G Anthony James – 13.0

    Team: 67.4 (186th)

    Player: G/F Bradford Burgess – 13.0

    Rebounds

    Team: 31.5 (296th)

    Player: F Jake Koch – 5.5

    Team: 34.9 (153rd)

    Player: F Juvonte Reddic – 6.6

    Assists

    Team: 11.3 (285th)

    Player: F Jake Koch – 2.9

    Team: 12.2 (224th)

    Player: G Darius Theus – 4.7

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 43.6% (165th)

    Player: F Seth Tuttle – 66.0%

    Team: 40.7% (295th)

    Player: C D.J. Haley – 53.1%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 61.8 (49th)

    Team: 58.7% (14th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 44.0% (220th)

    Team: 41.4% (93rd)

    Last Ten

    4-6

    9-1

    Versus RPI Top 100

    4-6

    2-3

Valparaiso at Loyola Marymount

2 of 10

    Valparaiso Crusaders (19-9, 12-4) at Loyola Marymount Lions (17-10, 10-4)Friday 9:00 PM ET ESPNU

    This game features two teams who are right in the thick of things for their conference title, yet they don’t get anywhere near the publicity that other top teams in their conference get.

    Valparaiso is currently first in the Horizon League, which features Butler and Cleveland State.

    Loyola Marymount comes from the West Coast Conference, where they currently sit fourth behind Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU.

    Now, can you see why you most likely haven’t heard of either of these two until this week?

    Both of these teams have shown great resilience this season, constantly rebounding from tough losses to pick up key wins. The Lions are particularly battle-tested, as 10 of their games have come against teams in the top 100 in the RPI.

    What both of these teams lack in pure talent, they make up for in spades in toughness.

    Nothing is going to particularly jump out at you about either of these teams, but both have do-it-all upperclassmen who lead them.

    Ryan Broekhoff for Valpo and Drew Viney for LMU are two of the most important players to their teams in the entire nation. Hopefully, we will see these two matched up against each other in this one.

    Again, nothing stands out about these teams, which make them tough to separate. Loyola Marymount plays exceptional three-point defense, and when there isn’t much else to split between these two, it could make the difference if the Lions don’t allow any easy threes to Valpo.

    Expect this one to be a very tough, hard-fought game, but I give the slight edge to the Lions for playing more games against the RPI top 100 and their three-point defense.

    Stat (Per game)

    Valparaiso

    Loyola Marymount

     

    Points

    Team: 70.3 (122nd)

    Player: G/F Ryan Broekhoff – 15.0

    Team: 70.9 (109th)

    Player: F Drew Viney – 16.3

    Rebounds

    Team: 33.3 (236th)

    Player: G/F Ryan Broekhoff – 8.5

    Team: 35.0 (146th)

    Player: F Drew Viney – 5.3

    Assists

    Team: 14.3 (63rd)

    Player: G Griffyn Carpenter – 4.0

    Team: 12.3 (221st)

    Player: G Anthony Ireland – 4.8

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 47.6% (26th)

    Player: F Kevin Van Wijk – 61.5%

    Team: 43.0% (195th)

    Player: F Alex Osborne – 51.9%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 66.4 (160th)

    Team: 67.5 (189th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 42.4% (141st)

    Team: 42.3% (137th)

    Last Ten

    8-2

    7-3

    Versus RPI Top 100

    4-2

    3-7

Drexel at Cleveland State

3 of 10

    Drexel Dragons (22-5, 14-2) at Cleveland State Vikings (20-7, 10-5)Saturday 11:00 AM ET ESPNU

    The first game of the Saturday BracketBusters could be a season-saver for one team or just another boost to their ego for the other.

    Drexel is very hot right now and has looked great in CAA play.

    Cleveland State, on the other hand, has struggled lately and has a fairly average conference record in the Horizon League.

    Yet, this game should still be a good one.

    Both of these teams have similar profiles. They play excellent defense, don’t have a real big man yet have good length on the perimeter, can hit the three when needed and have a trio of starters who are all very capable basketball players.

    I got to see Cleveland State against Butler, a game they ended up losing. I noticed, though, that the Vikings play great defense, know how to get their hands up and display great awareness. I also noticed they struggle to rebound and lack a true point guard.

    So, what is going to separate these two? Turnovers.

    Drexel is 48th in the nation in turnovers per game, only coughing it up 12.1 times per. Cleveland State ranks 216th in the nation, with 14.1 turnovers per game.

    Against a team like Drexel that is very suffocating on defense, this could really be what turns the tide.

    Expect a hard-fought defensive battle, but I see Drexel winning by two or three possessions in the end.

    Stat (Per game)

    Drexel

    Cleveland State

     

    Points

    Team: 64.1 (257th)

    Player: G Frantz Massenat – 13.7

    Team: 66.1 (210th)

    Player: G Trevor Harmon – 12.3

    Rebounds

    Team: 34.9 (153rd)

    Player: F Samme Givens – 7.5

    Team: 31.5 (296th)

    Player: F Anton Grady – 6.1

    Assists

    Team: 12.4 (213th)

    Player: G Frantz Massenat – 4.4

    Team: 13.9 (93rd)

    Player: G Jeremy Montgomery – 3.1

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 43.7% (155th)

    Player: F Samme Givens – 51.8%

    Team: 45.5% (86th)

    Player: F Devon Long – 60%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 55.2 (5th)

    Team: 58.7 (14th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 39.2% (22nd)

    Team: 41.2% (86th)

    Last Ten

    10-0

    6-4

    Versus RPI Top 100

    2-2

    4-3

Wichita State at Davidson

4 of 10

    Wichita State Shockers (23-4, 14-2) at Davidson Wildcats (20-6, 14-2)Saturday 12:00 PM ET ESPN2

    Wichita State and Davidson will be a game among teams that many have already heard of this season, as both have victories over Top 25 teams (Shockers over Creighton, Wildcats defeated Kansas).

    Plus, I’m sure many of you have yet to forget about Stephen Curry and Davidson’s magical run a few years ago.

    One thing is still around from that Davidson team, though, and that’s Coach Bob McKillop.

    Wichita State also has an excellent coach in Gregg Marshall, who has an NCAA tournament win and NIT Championship.

    Both of these teams currently lead their conference, but one of these two is much more prepared for this game.

    The Shockers have already played 10 games this season against RPI Top 100 teams, with an excellent 7-3 record. The Wildcats are only 1-3 against RPI Top 100 opponents.

    Davidson has a balanced offense and has shown the ability to score, but people have said the same thing about Creighton, and Wichita State demolished them recently.

    Honestly, I see Davidson as severely outmatched in this game. The Shockers has proven they are one of the better teams in the nation. They play very tough, physical defense and at the offensive end are very efficient, can hit the three and are excellent from the free throw line (29th in the nation).

    De’Mon Brooks is what keys the Davidson offense, much like Doug McDermott for Creighton. Wichita State knows this and will do what they did against Creighton, and that’s shut down the opposing team’s best player.

    Finally, good luck to Jake Cohen in shutting down Garrett Stutz. If Cohen can find some success, this game will be close. If not, expect the Shockers to roll with this one.

    For those that have heard of Stutz, keep an eye on two other Shockers players, Toure’ Murray and Joe Ragland. Murray has a good body and the ability to slash to the hoop, whereas Ragland is a good point guard with the ability to hit the deep shot.

    Don’t be surprised if Wichita State wins by double digits.

    Stat (Per game)

    Wichita State

    Davidson

     

    Points

    Team: 78.1 (19th)

    Player: C Garrett Stutz – 14.3

    Team: 78.8 (15th)

    Player: F De’Mon Brooks - 15.7

    Rebounds

    Team: 37.6 (42nd)

    Player: C Garrett Stutz – 8.0

    Team: 38.7 (26th)

    Player: F De’Mon Brooks – 6.3

    Assists

    Team: 15.0 (41st)

    Player: G Joe Ragland – 3.5

    Team: 13.9 (93rd)

    Player: G Nik Cochran – 3.5

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 48.7% (15th)

    Player: C Garrett Stutz – 58.3%

    Team: 44.8% (113th)

    Player: G Will Reigel – 57.1%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 62.9 (74th)

    Team: 68.0 (209th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 39.8% (34th)

    Team: 43.2% (177th)

    Last Ten

    9-1

    8-2

    Versus RPI Top 100

    7-3

    1-3

Buffalo at South Dakota State

5 of 10

    Buffalo Bulls (16-7, 9-3) at South Dakota State Jackrabbits (21-7, 13-3)Saturday 1:00 PM ET ESPNU

    Here is the first game involving a team I have seen in person (South Dakota State).

    This should be an attractive game because it is between two teams that play two different styles of basketball.

    Buffalo is a team that has done a nice job of controlling the speed of games this season.

    They play a slower-paced game and rely on efficient offense and tough defense to win games.

    South Dakota State very much lives up to its nickname, though. The Jackrabbits are a fast-paced team that scores a lot of points.

    They give up a fair amount as well, but usually rely on their ability to outscore opposing teams. SDSU is also very efficient, as they are tied for 12th in the nation in turnovers per game.

    Whoever can play this game at the pace they want to play at will end up winning this game.

    The edge goes to the Jackrabbits, as they have the best player on the floor, Nate Wolters (pronounced like Walters).

    Wolters has an NBA future and is one of the deadliest scorers in the nation. He has range and is also an excellent passer. The Bulls will try to limit him, but it’s incredibly difficult to stop such a hot (26.4 points per game over his last five) and well-rounded player.

    Stat (Per game)

    Buffalo

    South Dakota State

     

    Points

    Team: 72.4 (78th)

    Player: F Javon McCrea – 15.6

    Team: 78.6 (17th)

    Player: G Nate Wolters – 21.8

    Rebounds

    Team: 41.8 (3rd)

    Player: F Mitchell Watt – 7.8

    Team: 34.8 (163rd)

    Player: G Griffan Callahan – 5.1

    Assists

    Team: 16.4 (12th)

    Player: G Jarod Oldham – 6.2

    Team: 14.2 (68th)

    Player: G Nate Wolters – 6.0

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 45.8% (77th)

    Player: Javon McCrea – 58.5%

    Team: 46.5% (60th)

    Player: F Marcus Heemstra – 52.3%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 64.6 (108th)

    Team: 68.6 (221st)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 37.8% (8th)

    Team: 45.1% (273rd)

    Last Ten

    8-2

    8-2

    Versus RPI Top 100

    3-5

    2-2

     

Akron at Oral Roberts

6 of 10

    Akron Zips (19-7, 11-1) at Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (24-5, 16-1)Saturday 2:00 PM ET ESPN2

    Here would be the other team I have witnessed live this season (Oral Roberts).

    This should be a great game, because both come into this game playing very well lately, on top of their respective conferences, have a key win (Akron @ Mississippi State, Oral Roberts @ Xavier) and are built to exploit the other team’s weakness.

    Akron possesses great size inside, with 7'0" center Zeke Marshall and 6'8" forward Nikola Cvetinovic starting, with 6'7" forward Demetrius Treadwell coming off the bench.

    Oral Roberts has multiple scoring options. Forward Dominique Morrison is one of the best in the nation, but he isn’t the only one for the Golden Eagles that can score. Guard Warren Niles and forward Steven Roundtree are both serviceable as No. 2 scorers on this team, but you also can’t forgot about forward Michael Craion inside and point guard Roderick Pearson Jr.

    This game should be very close the entire time, but I do give the edge to Oral Roberts.

    Oral Roberts simply has too many options for Akron to focus on. While the Zips should find success down low against the Golden Eagles, ORU is very smart with their shot selection and rarely waste a possession.

    Whoever wins this game will continue to show that they pose a threat of winning an NCAA Tournament game.

    Stat (Per game)

    Akron

    Oral Roberts

     

    Points

    Team: 73.4 (60th)

    Player: C Zeke Marshall – 10.5

    Team: 73.9 (52nd)

    Player: F Dominique Morrison – 20.3

    Rebounds

    Team: 36.5 (81st)

    Player: F Nikola Cvetinovic – 5.7

    Team: 31.8 (289th)

    Player: F Michael Craion – 6.2

    Assists

    Team: 13.7 (103rd)

    Player: G Alex Abreu – 4.6

    Team: 13.9 (93rd)

    Player: G Roderick Pearson Jr – 3.7

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 46.8% (53rd)

    Player: C Zeke Marshall – 54.6%

    Team: 48.9% (12th)

    Player: F Steven Roundtree – 59.1%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 64.5 (105th)

    Team: 66.1 (152nd)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 40.5% (59th)

    Team: 47% (320th)

    Last Ten

    9-1

    9-1

    Versus RPI Top 100

    4-6

    3-3

Drake at New Mexico State

7 of 10

    Drake Bulldogs (15-12, 8-8) at New Mexico State Aggies (19-8, 7-3)Saturday 3:00 PM ET ESPNU

    This is arguably the least important matchup of these 10, but it’s a great chance for people out there to see the New Mexico State Aggies.

    Drake has struggled lately, and while they have a nice win against Wichita State, they have been wildly inconsistent.

    New Mexico State has shown flashes of inconsistency in their strength (against Nevada and a road game against Idaho), but are still in a very good position in the Western Athletic Conference (behind Nevada).

    Drake does play very tough defense despite their average rankings, whereas New Mexico State has an explosive offense.

    The shocking thing about the Aggies is how bad they are from three—31.6 percent—yet still manage to score so much. Due to this, I don’t see them as a real threat come tournament time, but they are still a threat to Nevada in the WAC.

    There is still a chance New Mexico State could win the WAC Tournament and end up in the "Big Dance," so this is a good chance for people to see one of the best interior players not only on the west coast but in the nation (Wendell McKines) and this Aggies offense against a tough Bulldogs defense.

    Stat (Per game)

    Drake

    New Mexico State

     

    Points

    Team: 67.6 (182nd)

    Player: G Rayvonte Rice – 16.3

    Team: 77.7 (23rd)

    Player: F Wendell McKines – 18.1

    Rebounds

    Team: 32.7 (263rd)

    Player: F Jordan Clarke – 6.9

    Team: 39.6 (13th)

    Player: F Wendell McKines – 10.3

    Assists

    Team: 10.7 (312th)

    Player: G Karl Madison – 2.7

    Team: 13.4 (127th)

    Player: G Hernst Laroche – 3.7

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 44.8 (113th)

    Player: F Kraidon Woods – 67.3%

    Team: 47.0% (48th)

    Player: C Hamidu Rahman – 62.1%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 66.7 (165th)

    Team: 68.7 (225th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 42.9% (164th)

    Team: 43.1% (173rd)

    Last Ten

    5-5

    7-3

    Versus RPI Top 100

    2-8

    1-5

Nevada at Iona

8 of 10

    Nevada Wolfpack (22-4, 10-1) at Iona Gaels (21-6, 13-3)Saturday 4:00 PM ET ESPN2

    For fans who love offense and haven’t seen Iona, this will be quite the treat.

    The Nevada Wolfpack is the leaders of the Western Athletic Conference right now and is a solid, balanced team.

    However, this Gaels team is one of the most exciting in basketball.

    Iona plays at arguably the fastest pace in the nation. They do allow a lot of points, but they are constantly in attack mode.

    They will use the full-court press early and often, as this is a well-conditioned team that loves to wear out opposing teams.

    The Gaels aren’t as bad on defense as I believe the numbers suggest. Like I said, they play a fast-paced game that is going to yield some easy buckets for the other team as well.

    Iona plays with a very high effort all the time. They do need to improve their communication and rotation on defense, but those are correctable over time.

    This will be a good test for Iona to see if they have corrected that yet.

    Deonte Burton is the leader of the Wolfpack and a quality point guard. If Burton can remain efficient in this game, Nevada should stand a chance.

    However, it’s going to be very difficult to limit the trio Iona possesses.

    Point guard Scott Machado is one of the best pure passers in the nation but also possesses the ability to score. Iona has another ball handler on the court in LaMont “Momo” Jones, who many may remember from playing at Arizona with Derrick Williams.

    Mike Glover rounds out the trio, a very tough and effective inside player who makes up for his lack of size with smart basketball.

    I fully expect Iona to win this game, as they are the much more talented team. They are still fighting in what’s been a surprisingly tough Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but have one of the best offenses in the nation and the ability to win games come Tournament time due to excellent guard play.

    Stat (Per game)

    Nevada

    Iona

     

    Points

    Team: 70.3 (122nd)

    Player: G Deonte Burton – 14.9

    Team: 82.9 (2nd)

    Player: F Mike Glover – 18.6

    Rebounds

    Team: 36.6 (77th)

    Player: F Dario Hunt – 9.5

    Team: 35.9 (100th)

    Player: F Mike Glover – 9.3

    Assists

    Team: 12.9 (166th)

    Player: G Deonte Burton – 4.3

    Team: 19.2 (1st)

    Player: Scott Machado – 9.9

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 45.3 (96th)

    Player: G Jordan Finn – 64.7%

    Team: 49.4% (5th)

    Player: F Mike Glover – 64.3%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 63.4 (87th)

    Team: 72.5 (294th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 40.6% (62nd)

    Team: 44.3% (235th)

    Last Ten

    9-1

    8-2

    Versus RPI Top 100

    2-3

    5-3

     

Saint Mary's at Murray State

9 of 10

    No. 16 Saint Mary’s Gaels (23-4, 12-2) at No. 14 Murray State Racers (25-1, 13-1)Saturday 6:00 PM ET ESPN

    Here is the game that many have been waiting for.

    For those on the east coast, it’s finally a chance to see Saint Mary’s this year without having to stay up to catch their games.

    For those that lack ESPN3, it’s finally a chance to see the Murray State Racers.

    Unfortunately for all of you, I believe you will walk away seeing two of the more over-hyped teams in college basketball.

    Don’t get me wrong—both of these teams are good and do have the ability to win a tournament game. However, I don’t view them as a four or five seed like their rankings suggest.

    Onto the game though, this should be a good battle. Saint Mary’s has much better size than Murray State does, but the Racers possess the X-factor in this game—point guard Isaiah Canaan.

    What doesn’t help Saint Murray’s, either, is that they will be missing point guard Matthew Dellavedova, their leading scorer and assist man, and guard Stephen Holt.

    The Gaels have been an efficient squad and will pose matchup problems for the Racers, but Canaan and Murray State’s three-point shooting give them the edge in this one.

    The Racers are seventh in the nation, hitting 40.8 percent of their three’s. Saint Mary’s has been terrible defending the three this year—36.7 percent against, 285th in the nation—and that will be their demise in this game.

    It is a big chance for Murray State to make a statement to the national crowd. However, losing to a team like Saint Mary’s missing two of its best players would be a huge letdown.

    Stat (Per game)

    Saint Mary’s

    Murray State

     

    Points

    Team: 75.9 (32nd)

    Player: G Matt Dellavedova – 15.5

    Team: 75.2 (40th)

    Player: G Isaiah Canaan – 19.2

    Rebounds

    Team: 37.1 (54th)

    Player: F Rob Jones – 10.8

    Team: 34.0 (210th)

    Player: F Ivan Aska – 6.0

    Assists

    Team: 16.3 (14th)

    Player: G Matt Dellavedova – 6.4

    Team: 13.2 (143rd)

    Player: Isaiah Canaan – 3.8

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 47.6% (26th)

    Player: F Brad Waldow – 66.2%

    Team: 47.2% (38th)

    Player: F Ed Daniel – 55.9%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 62.1 (60th)

    Team: 62.0 (58th)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 42.4 (141st)

    Team: 42.1% (130th)

    Last Ten

    8-2

    9-1

    Versus RPI Top 100

    6-3

    3-0

     

Long Beach State at Creighton

10 of 10

    Long Beach State 49ers (19-6, 20-0) at Creighton Bluejays (22-5, 12-4)Saturday 10 PM ET ESPN2

    The last game of the BracketBusters should be very similar to the Saint Mary’s-Murray State game.

    Long Beach State made a lot of noise early in the season when they defeated Pittsburgh and Xavier, and they held their own against the likes of San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina.

    The 49ers play a fast-paced game of basketball, which highlights point guard Casper Ware’s abilities.

    Ware has unbelievable quickness and is nifty with the basketball when he cuts to the hoop.

    T.J. Robinson and Larry Anderson are two very solid supporting players as well, but I still don’t think this will be enough for them.

    Creighton has struggled a lot recently, losing three of their last four. It’s no coincidence that those four games against tough defensive teams in Northern Iowa, Evansville and Wichita State.

    I’ve noticed in particular that the Bluejays struggle when dealing with physicality. It’s not that they are necessarily a weak team, but they get very out of sync and can’t hit shots.

    Long Beach State doesn’t typically play that physically, though. Creighton also has better size and is deadly from three, something the 49ers aren’t particularly good at stopping.

    I expect Doug McDermott to have a big game in this one and Creighton to take it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Long Beach State keeps it close. They play with a lot of swagger and are winners of 12 straight.

    Look for a lot of scoring in this one.

    Stat (Per game)

    Long Beach State

    Creighton

     

    Points

    Team: 74.1 (49th)

    Player: G Casper Ware – 17.1

    Team: 79.9 (10th)

    Player: F Doug McDermott – 22.7

    Rebounds

    Team: 35.2 (133rd)

    Player: F T.J. Robinson – 10.3

    Team: 36.1 (94th)

    Player: F Doug McDermott – 8.1

    Assists

    Team: 14.0 (83rd)

    Player: G Larry Anderson – 3.3

    Team: 18.4 (3rd)

    Player: G Grant Gibbs – 5.6

    Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 47.3% (33rd)

    Player: F Nick Shepherd – 55.0%

    Team: 51.1% (1st)

    Player: C Will Artino – 64.7%

    Points Allowed

    Team: 65.1% (123rd)

    Team: 68.6 (221st)

    Defensive Field Goal Percentage

    Team: 42.9% (164th)

    Team: 43.3% (183rd)

    Last Ten

    10-0

    7-3

    Versus RPI Top 100

    2-5

    5-4

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