We are about 18 hours from the start the biggest annual predictable hit to the U.S. economy and the greatest sports orgy in the world. The NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow, and North Carolina A&T and Saint Mary's joined the Dance last night. There are still 2 more spots left in the field of 64, so let's look at the 4 teams fighting for those spots.
Game 1 - (16) Long Island U - Brooklyn v (16) James Madison 3:40 PT truTV
The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds were 20-13 and 12-6 in the Northeast Conference this year, and won their conference tournament for the third year in a row. Dang, three in a row! So no matter what happens over the next 5 years, that should be good enough for Blackbird fans, right? Now, I'm no New Yorker (and thank you, dear god), but following on yesterday's little quiz, even I can tell you where LIU Brooklyn is located. LIU averages almost 80 points per game, which is 5th in the country, but playing Quinnipac, Wagner, and Fairleigh Dickinson has to be good for your stats.
The James Madison Dukes were 20-14 and 11-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association and won their conference tournament to earn their invitation. Speaking of stats, per ESPN, the Dukes were 234th in the country in scoring, 254th in rebounds, 250th in assists, and 240th in FG%. While none of those is remotely impressive, it is awesome consistency if you ask me. JMU faces an uphill battle tonight though, as their best player will be suspended for the first half after being arrested at a college party last Saturday night. Does anyone remember JMU's first game of the season? It was a 100-70 loss at U.C.L.A. Tony Parker played 18 minutes and had 12 points. Josh Smith played 17 minutes and had 11 points and 6 rebounds. How long ago does that seem now?
The winner of this game gets the benefit of staying in Dayton but the punishing disappointment of facing #1 seed Indiana. But look at it this way, if you get dumped by Kate Upton on the second date, that means you were there in the first place. And for most of us, isn't that good enough? Shakespeare said that It is better to have played in the NCAA's and lost then to never to have played at all. Or something like that. Hmm. I guess maybe I can see why that English major didn't work out.
Game 2 - (13) La Salle v (13) Boise State 6:10 PT truTV
The La Salle Explorers went 21-9 and 11-5 in the Atlantic 10 and were bumped out of their conference tournament by Butler. This is the first tourney appearance since 1992 for the Philly-based school, and they earned an at-large bid based on their road record and strong schedule. Six of their nine losses this year were to teams that made the field of 64, and they had wins over both VCU and Butler in a 4 day period. The Explorers like to go small and will play a 4 guard offense. An interesting factoid is that despite the nickname Explorers, the school is not named after the famed French explorer Robert de la Salle, but after St. John-Baptiste de la Salle, who happens to be the namesake for the HS football powerhouse in No Cal that gave us the great Maurice Jones-Drew. Six degrees of U.C.L.A. Another nugget, Kobe Bryant's dad played at LaSalle.
The Boise State Broncos were 21-10 and 9-7 in the power conference that is the Mountain West. The Broncos, like the Explorers, received one of the final at-large bids to the tournament after they lost in the MWC tourney to San Diego St. The Broncos, like the Explorers, played a solid schedule this year, with 7 of their 10 losses coming to tournament teams. The Broncos, like the Explorers, will go small and employ a four guard offense. The Broncos, like the Explorers, play on a normal colored hardwood gym floor, but their gym is called Taco Bell Arena. Chalupas for scoring a hundred!
The winner of this game gets to travel to Kansas City on Friday to play Kansas State, at which time Wildcat head coach Frank Martin will try to burn a hole though their foreheads with his menacing glare. Good luck with that one.
Here's our Wednesday NCAA Tournament (and NIT) open thread. Have at it!