Is this your first dance too?
I remember my first dance
like it was just yesterday; yes, that memorable eighth grade dance. I
was dateless, just entering an awkward stage of my life, and couldn’t
keep a beat in my head, so you can only guess what I was doing on that
dance floor. Pure embarrassment now that I think about it. However,
for seven teams this year in the NCAA Tournament, their first dance
might be less, or more, embarrassing than mine.
In a little game I’ve named
“Get to know them before their 40-miutes are up”, we’ll be looking at
these seven new faces to the NCAA Tournament.
Big South Conference
The Bulldogs, coached by
Eddie Biedenbach, won their conference automatic bid by beating
Radford, 85-71, in the Big South Tournament final. The Bulldogs are
the 17th team, all-time, to qualify for the NCAA Tournament with
a losing record. The last team to do was Siena in 2002, who actually
won the play-in game.
As a team, the Bulldogs
average: 72.2 points/game; 35.7 rebounds/game; 13.5 assists/game; 7.2
steals/game; 3.1 blocks/game; 16.4 turnovers/game; .435 FG%; .764 FT%;
.366 3-point %.
Starters: 10 Andre
Smith, G (6-2)
11 Alex Kragel, G (6-2)
15 Bryan McCallough, F
41 Ben McGonagil, C (6-11)
42 Joseph Barber, F (6-9)
The Bulldogs will play
(16b) Texas Southern in the play-in game, Tuesday, March 18.
IUPUI Jaguars (20-13)
The Jaguars, coached by Ron
Hunter, gain an automatic bid into the NCCA Tournament by upsetting
Valparaiso, 66-64. In case you’re wondering, IUPUI is short for
Indiana University-Purdue University - Indianapolis. The Jaguars’
guard, Matt Crenshaw, is also the oldest play currently in division
one basketball, 26.
As a team, the Jaguars
average: 71.5 points/game; 32.9 rebounds/game; 13.5 assists/game; 8.5
steals/game; 1.8 blocks/game; 16 turnovers/game; .452 FG%; .699 FT%;
.345 3-point %.
Starters: 21 Matt
Crenshaw, G (6-3)
24 Josh Mullins, F (6-5)
25 Josh Murray, F (6-7)
33 Chris Sander, F (6-5)
40 Odell Bradley, G (6-4)
The Jaguars will play (1)
Kentucky, Friday, March 21, 12:30 p.m. (EST).
Sam Houston State
No, Bearkats is not a
spelling error. Bearkats is the official spelling of the school’s
mascot. Coach Bob Marlin and the Bearkats earned their automatic bid
into the NCAA Tournament by beating Stephen F. Austin, 69-66, in the
The Bearkats are average
(on the season): 73.4 points/game; 37 rebounds/game; 16.4
assists/game; 8.7 steals/game; 5.8 blocks/game; 15.8 turnovers/game;
.464 FG%; .707 FT%; .359 3-point %.
Starters: 4 Jay
Oliphant, F (6-5)
20 Robert Shannan, G (5-11)
32 Felton Freeman, G (6-5)
33 Eddy Fobbs, C (6-11)
44 Donald Cole, F (6-8)
Sam Houston State will play
(2) Florida, Friday, March 21, 9:40 p.m. (EST).
America East Conference
The Catamounts received
their automatic bid with a major upset over Boston University, 56-55,
in the American East final. Their 21-win season ties a school record;
and maybe there’s no other coach that deserved this kind of Cinderella
season like coach Tom Brennan. Seventeen season with the Catamounts,
and this is his first chance to dance. Congrats, coach Brennan!
On the year, the Catamounts
are averaging 69.5 points/game; 39.4 rebounds/game; 14.5 assists/game;
6.9 steals/game; 3.1 blocks/game; 14.1 turnovers/game; .451 FG%; .663
FT%; .347 3-point %.
Starters: 22 Taylor
Coppenrath, F (6-9)
24 David Hehn, G (6-5)
32 German Hjila, F (6-4)
42 Grant Anderson, F (6-7)
52 Matt Sheftic, C (6-8)
The Catamounts will face
(1) Arizona on Thursday, March 20, 3:10 p.m. (EST).
Wagner Seahawks (21-10)
The Seahawks, coached by
Derek Whittenburg, advanced to the NCAA Tournament by defeating St.
Francis (NY), 78-61. Senior, Jermaine Hall, is forth among all active
Division 1 players in career scoring. Senior, Dedrick Dye, is the
Seahawks all-time three-point shooter, and a third team academic
On the season, the Seahawks
average: 75.5 points/game; 34.4 rebounds/game; 16.1 assists/game; 7.5
steals/game; 2.8 blocks/game; 15 turnovers/game; .472 FG%; .729 FT%;
.384 3-point %.
Starters: 5 Dedrick
Dye, G (6-0)
12 Courtney Pritchard, G
21 Nigel Wyatte, F (6-9)
24 Jermaine Hall, F (6-5)
33 Teoine Carroll, G (6-2)
The Seahawks will look for
an upset again (2) Pittsburgh, Friday, March 21, 7:10 p.m. (EST).
Troy State Trojans
Atlantic Sun Conference
Coach Don Maestri and the
Trojans won their conference championship over Central Florida, 80-69.
The Trojans lead the nation in 3-pointers made. The Trojans may be one
of the best-conditioned team in the country. The Trojans will run you
off the court if you’re not ready.
One the season, the Trojans
are averaging: 80.5 points/game; 40.4 rebounds/game; 15.5
assists/game; 9.8 steals/game; 5.2 blocks/game; 15.8 turnovers/game;
.464 FG%; .707 FT%; .339 3-point %.
Starters: 10 Greg
Davis, G (6-1)
15 Ben Fletcher, G (6-3)
25 Marcus Milhouse, F (6-4)
31 Rob Lewin, F (6-7)
32 Lacedrick Pettway, C
The Trojans will take on
(3) Xavier, Friday, March 21, 7:25 p.m. (EST).
Coach Bruce Pearl’s
Panthers advance to the NCAA Tournament by upsetting Butler in the
Horizon Conference championship game. The Panthers will play
full-court defense, the entire game. Honestly, there might be a reason
I saved the Panthers for last. They might just be the best newcomer to
the NCAA Tournament this year; and with their 12-seed in the West
Region, they might have the best shot to make it to the second round,
On the season, the Panthers
average: 77.3 points/game; 34.5 rebounds/game; 17.9 assists/game; 8.8
steals/game; 3.6 blocks/game; 14.9 turnovers/game; .476 FG%; .691 FT%;
.354 3-point %.
Starters: 5 Ronnie
Jones, G (5-9)
15 Dylan Page, F (6-8)
24 Jason Frederick, G (6-4)
30 Clay Tucker, F (6-3)
33 Justin Lettenberger,
The Panthers will take on
(5) Notre Dame, Thursday, March 20, 9:40 p.m. (EST).
Getting to your first dance
is only half the battle, the rest is what you do with this
opportunity. Maybe we’ll see the first ever upset when a 16-seed beats
an 1-seed out of this group, don’t hold your breath though. The only
team that I think has a chance making it to the second round out of
these seven is Wisconsin-Milwaukee. However, I don’t want to take
anything away from all the other teams that has made their first
appearance ever in the NCAA Tournament, this is a great feet; the
players before these kids can tell you what a one in a lifetime
experience this is. Have fun, good luck to all teams, and let the