Cleveland State Vikings
Horizon League (25-10, 12-6)
Big Wins: 12/15 at Syracuse (72-69), 3/7 vs Wisconsin Green Bay (73-67), 3/10 vs Butler (57-54)
Bad Losses: 1/17 at Wisconsin Milwaukee (75-77), 1/23 at Youngstown State (60-64), 2/21 at Wichita State (59-70)
Last NCAA Tournament: 1986, Sweet Sixteen loss to Navy
Coach: Gary Waters (1-2 in 2 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
The Vikings win games by sharing the ball, taking smart shots and playing solid defense. Point guard Cedric Jackson is a big reason for all of those things. The 6-3 senior dishes out 5.4 assists per game and he will almost always set up his teammates in a good position. Jackson is also a superb defender and he averages an amazing 3.0 steals per contest.
Fellow backcourt starters Norris Cole and D’Aundray Brown are also decent passers who can handle the ball. Cole and Brown, along with forward J’Nathan Bullock also tally at least one steal per contest. The team as a whole ranks 21st in the nation with an impressive 8.8 steals per game and, especially on a team that does not turn the ball over much themselves, those extra possessions are huge. Those four players will do a bulk of Cleveland State’s scoring and combine to average 46.1 of the team’s 66.4 points per game. However, Brown’s status is uncertain after he sprained his knee. Brown missed a majority of the Horizon League Tournament and could miss the NCAA Tournament too.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Part of their success has been from taking good, smart shots, but at some point CSU will need to make some three-pointers if they want to win a game or two in the tournament. At times the entire offense is a bunch of talented wings or guards attacking the basket. That can be very effective, but it would make the offense much more difficult to defend if somebody could at least be a threat to hit the outside shot. Bullock and Cole hit about one per game, but their percentages leave something to be desired. Jackson and roleplayer Trevon Harmon are the only other two shooting threats and they both shoot around 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Who To Watch:
In order get open shots from outside, the Vikings need 6-9 center Chris Moore to score in the paint. Moore is a solid defender and a big body who can eat up space in the paint, but he is not much of a scorer. He has only scored in double digits five times this year and, not coincidently, Cleveland State has won all five of those contests. Moore will struggle offensively against stronger centers, but if the opposing defense is worrying about Bullock, Cole and Jackson attacking the basket, Moore could get a few open looks. George Tandy is the other candidate to score in the paint. The 6-8 senior is mostly on the floor for his defense, but he is capable of scoring 15 points in a game.
Cedric Jackson, Senior, Guard, 10.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.0 spg
Norris Cole, Sophomore, Guard, 12.9 ppg, 2.4 apg
Trevon Harmon, Freshman, Guard, 5.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg
J’Nathan Bullock, Senior, Forward, 15.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg
Chris Moore, Senior, Center, 5.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg
D’Aundray Brown, Sophomore, Guard, 7.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 5.7 rpg
Jeremy Montgomery, Freshman, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 1.0 apg
George Tandy, Senior, Forward, 5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.4 (194th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.1 (14, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.2 (201, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.6 (48, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.7 (295, 9)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: na
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.5 (115, 5)
Rebound Margin: 0.8 (162, 4)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (96, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (67, 4)
Following the Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!